If you’re like us – and you are – your world changed over the last few weeks. Despite a lot of wishful thinking, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is here, very real, and the entire world is afflicted. We have to stay indoors, likely under a “shelter-in-place” ordinance, and among many other things, that means we can’t play golf. AC and I just cancelled a bucket list trip to Pinehurst. Don’t weep for us, there’s a lot of worse things going on (to say the very least), but it hurt.
And it made me think about how lucky I’ve been to play a lot of fantastic courses already in my life.
Which courses? Well, that’s what we’re here for. I’m going to write up a countdown post of my top-25 courses. It’s a lot, I know, but we all need content these days, right?
First, a few great courses that didn’t quite make the list:
TPC Harding Park, San Francisco – Some of this is because I have played Harding a lot, especially before it was restored and turned into the tournament quality course it is today. But I’ve played it as recently as last year and while it’s a good course, it’s just not all that interesting. The back nine is by far the superior part, and there several great holes with really good challenges and options. But overall, it feels much more like the muni it once was than a top tier course.
Gleneagles (PGA Centenary), Scotland – Sorry, Mr. Nicklaus. It’s a really great course on its own right, but it’s so out of place in Scotland that it feels like you’re playing TPC Atlanta or something. I gave it points off both due to this, and also the fact we played it the day after the Euro Championship and the setup murdered my soul.
PGA West (Stadium), Palm Springs, CA – I’m not a big fan of a course that asks me to hit a 240-yard or more carry with water to the right and sand to the left. It might be a great course, but I’m not a good enough player to play it. (Granted, my idiot friends – and yes, I’m talking to you, AC – made me play it from the back tees, which was and remains one of the worst golf decisions of my life.)
Wente Vineyards, Livermore, CA – I only include this one because I see it on a lot of lists as one of the great public courses in the Bay Area. It is a lot of fun, but I’m still trying to figure out what makes it distinctly better than a bunch of courses that feel similar. Poppy Ridge nearby also missed out, but is by far a better course (with three 9’s to mix it up).
And, now, Greebytimes’s Favorite Courses Played, 25-21:
25. Sharp Park, Pacifica CA – I’ve written about this course previously, so I won’t rehash it. And it’s frankly often in spotty shape, to say the least. But anytime you can play a seaside Alistair Mackenzie course for $50 or less, you have to do it. And some of the holes are truly, truly brilliant. And if you can, please help Save Sharp Park.
24. The Boulders Resort Golf Club (South/North), Carefree, AZ I’m cheating a bit because there are two courses there, but I honestly can’t remember which I liked more. This is obviously a desert course, but the routing is incredibly fun and (this should not shock you) lined with mammoth boulders without making it so narrow and tight to turn into a pinball machine. Staying on property is also a delight and while we didn’t partake in the spa, it certainly looked fantastic. This is the only Arizona course that made the list for me, but it’s well worth it.
23. Torrey Pines Municipal (South/North), La Jolla, CA — Again, I’m cheating here, but the rating is really here for the South, where the championships are played. The fact that an entire other 18-holes exist here (and in some ways is more fun, especially for the mid-handicapper) is just a tremendous bonus. It’s true that if this course were inland, it might not be that special, and that it gets a lot of juice from the ocean views. Well…sure. But those views DO exist, and it makes the entire place so special. Knowing that you’re playing the same holes that Tiger and Phil and others have had some legendary moments doesn’t hurt, either.
22. Grand Cypress (The New Course), Orlando, FL – I tend not to adore Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses, but this one is special. I’ve played it multiple times as my golf buddies and I used to visit Grand Cypress fairly routinely. While the resort also has (had? It’s going through some overhaul) three other nine-hole courses, the New Course stands out. It’s Nicklaus’ tribute to his favorite Scottish courses. The first and 18th holes are virtual replicas of the same at The Old Course, while other holes evoke memories of places like North Berwick and other classics. It’s by no means an actual links course as it’s not built on sand, and several other holes surround a lake, but the one thing that makes it standout is the creek/burn that runs throughout the course. Or, as one of our friends called it, the “Every Goddamn Time Creek” as that’s where his ball found itself …. well, every goddamned time.
21. St. Michaels Golf Club, New South Wales, Australia A few years ago I went to Sydney for work, and like any golf obsessed person I tried to figure out where to play golf. I knew I couldn’t get myself into any of the elite private courses, and I was somewhat stumped until I discovered St. Michaels (or “Saint Mike’s” as several locals referred to it). About a 30 minute cab ride south from Circular Quay, St Michaels runs along the coast and provides a true links-style course, complete with rugged bunkering and fairways. It played incredibly fun and fair, and was a challenge with plenty of rewards available to golfers of every stripe. It’s a true gem.
Next, we tackle courses that landed within my top-20.
In the meantime, PLEASE STAY INDOORS AND PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING WHEN YOU CANNOT. We’re all in this together.