GOLF Magazine's biennial Top 100 Courses in the World Rankings are determined by a 100-strong international panel whose members include major-championship winners, architects, journalists and a cadre of connoisseurs who have played all of the world's top 100 courses. Panelists evaluate a ballot of 493 courses. Although there are no set-in-stone criteria they must follow, we have confidence in their sense of what constitutes "greatness" in a course.
Each course that places in the top three on a ballot earns 100 points; spots 4-10 earn 85 points, followed by 11–25 (70 pts), 26–50 (60 pts), 51–75 (50 pts), 76–100 (40 pts), 101–150 (30 pts), 151–200 (20 pts), 201–250 (10 pts) and 251+ (0 pts). Course owners can’t vote for their properties, and architects can't vote for their original designs.
Newtown Square, Pa.
Twenty years after Donald Ross designed Aronimink, he visited the layout and declared, “I intended to make this course my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize I built better than I knew.” Set into a rolling, wooded tract in suburban Philadelphia, Aronimink rose to prominence after hosting the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player.
Torrey Pines (South)
La Jolla, Calif.
This clifftop, city-owned venue overlooking the Pacific Ocean in suburban San Diego stretches 7,600 yards, following a 2001 Rees Jones renovation that also moved greens closer to canyon edges. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson have won Tour events here. Tiger Woods has dominated, with seven wins in the Farmers Insurance Open and one amazing U.S. Open victory in 2008.
Pete Dye’s earliest masterwork dates to 1964. This Indianapolis-area spread is where he first expressed his design aesthetic and philosophy in a major way, with his innovative strategies and railroad tie bulkeading that he borrowed from Great Britain. The watery 16th and 18th holes here set the stage for future Dye aqua-dramatics, but it’s John Daly who will forever be associated with Crooked Stick, due to his come-from-nowhere amazing performance to win the 1991 PGA Championship.
Country Club of Fairfield
Short on overall distance at 6,358 yards, but long on variety and fun, Fairfield illuminates its greatness through its scenery, on low-lying land adjacent to Long Island Sound and through its links-like shotmaking demands, due to its reliance on nature’s humps and bumps and to the ever-present breezes coming off the Sound. Seth Raynor and A.W. Tillinghast are the primary architects of this Golden Age great.
St. Louis, Mo.
Gary Player captured the 1965 U.S. Open here, Nick Price the 1992 U.S. Open and Peter Jacobsen the 2004 U.S. Senior Open. It follows, then, that a superior ballstriker will win the PGA when it returns to Bellerive in 2018. Robert Trent Jones Sr. produced Bellerive in 1959, employing his signature style of meaty par-4s leading to elevated greens well-fortified by bunkers and water. His son Rees has instilled more variety in subsequent renovations, while still maintaining the character.
A 1925 Seth Raynor design, Fox Chapel has always lagged in the shadow of its neighbor, Oakmont. However, after hosting three Champions Tour majors, it stands on its own, with Tom Lehman calling it one of the three best courses the tour plays. The course features the usual assortment of classic template holes, from a Redan (the par-3 6th), a Biarritz (the par-3 17th), a Punch Bowl (the par-5 2nd) and a Cape (the par-4 5th). Wildly contoured greens and 96 deep bunkers add further menace.
Blackwolf Run (River)
Often an afterthought to its sibling, Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run’s River is a major venue in its own right. It played host to the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, when nine of its holes paired with Blackwolf Run’s original front nine (now the back nine of the Meadow Valleys course). Dye’s typically penal hard edges along water hazards, ligament-snapping rough and nasty, steep, grass-faced bunkers are angst-inducing, but memorable holes abound, such as the remarkable short par-4 9th, with three legitimate options off the tee and the handsome, if brutal closing stretch of 16-18 that incorporates a twisting arm of the Sheboygan River.
Lake Wales, Fla.
This veritable museum piece of early Seth Raynor design is set into improbably rolling terrain in central Florida. There are likely 5,000 tougher courses in the U.S., fewer than five of them, however, enjoy Mountain Lake’s charm, grace and timelessness. In typical Raynor fashion—learned from his mentor, C.B. Macdonald--template holes make up many of the individually memorable tests. Many had seen their features decimated over time. In 2002, however, architect Brian Silva used old aerials and ground photos to restore the bite.
Trump National Doral (Blue Monster)
An extraordinary makeover from Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner took what had become a tired resort course and turned it into one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour, a fire-breather that once again lived up to its name. Newly installed teeth in the form of added yardage, altered angles, contoured greens and steeper slopes around the greens have dramatically altered the layout, strengthening it in every way.
Fort Worth, Texas
Annual site for the PGA Tour’s Crown Plaza Invitational, Colonial enjoys exalted status as host for the 1941 U.S. Open, the first ever held in the south. Known as “Hogan’s Alley,” as Ben Hogan won here five times, this well-treed, 1936 John Bredemus design also witnessed Annika Sorenstam’s appearance against the men in 2003. Perry Maxwell redesigned part of the course in 1940, notably the “Horrible Horseshoe” of holes 3, 4 and 5, where the Trinity River influences play.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Draped across the hills above Sunset Boulevard, overlooking Westwood and Century City, Bel-Air features a brilliant 1926 routing by George Thomas that weaves in and out of canyons. The back nine bows with the fabulous 210-yard par-3 10th that demands a 150-yard carry across a steep canyon to a two-tier, well-bunkered green. The uphill par-4 18th plays beneath one of golf’s iconic symbols, the Swinging Bridge, recently renamed for longtime pro Eddie Merrins.
Baltimore (Five Farms East)
Leo Diegel snapped Walter Hagen’s PGA Championship winning streak at four when he triumphed here in 1928. More recently, Loren Roberts captured the Senior Players Championship in 2007, by skillfully handling the severely breaking greens and memorable A.W. Tillnghast-designed par-5s such as the “Barn Hole” 6th and the endless 14th, with its “Hell’s Half Acre” bunker complex.
Among the most impressive architectural achievements of the past 15 years is this 2001 Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry design in southwest Florida, where a flat tract was transformed with astonishing skill. A man-made dune ridge six stories high dominates the experience, while transplanted vegetation, artfully sculpted bunkers and undulating fairways are impressive highlights.
Olympia Fields (North)
Olympia Fields, Ill.
Venue for the 1925 and 1961 PGA Championships, the 1997 U.S. Senior Open and for two U.S. Opens, in 1928 and 2003, when Jim Furyk captured his only major so far, this Willie Park Jr. design on Chicago’s south side is a handsome parkland track loaded with strong par-4s. The third hole, with its approach to an elevated green and the 14th, which calls for a shot across a gulley, are standouts. In August 2015, Bryson DeChambeau raised the U.S. Amateur trophy here.
Boston Golf Club
Gil Hanse’s inspired 2005 design takes elements of Pine Valley and The Country Club and blends them in a potent stew. Rugged, rocky terrain, pockets of wetlands and shaggy, irregular bunkers comprise the visual appeal and the drama comes from a stretch of holes, 5 through 8, that traverse an old gravel quarry.
Jack Nicklaus learned to play on this classic layout that Donald Ross crafted in 1916. Bobby Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open over its gently rolling parkland terrain and the club has also played host to the 1931 Ryder Cup and 1950 PGA Championship. Back in 1966, Sports Illustrated chose its par-4 2nd as the finest second hole in the U.S. Today, at 460 yards, with an elevated green, it’s still worthy.
The 1970 U.S. Open version of Hazeltine that Dave Hill excoriated is mostly a distant memory, now that Rees Jones has twice altered his father’s original design. Host to the 1991 U.S. Open, won by Payne Stewart and to the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships, Hazeltine will also be home to the 2016 Ryder Cup, where exciting challenges such as the 396-yard, watery par-4 16th will tempt and test the best.
Trump National (Old)
Co-host to the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur, won by Jordan Spieth, and venue for the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and 2022 PGA Championship, this 2004 Tom Fazio creation unfolds over rolling horse country terrain in rural New Jersey, on land that once housed the automaker John DeLorean’s estate. Its massive scale provides for a 7,560-yard layout, with huge bunkers, extra-large greens and plenty of risk/reward options. A very recent redesign in 2015 involving the closing holes has been well-received.
Today’s Interlachen is a Donald Ross design from 1921 that retains its flavor, even after several tweaks. Situated in a leafy suburb of Minneapolis, Interlachen achieved early renown as venue for the 1930 U.S. Open, won by Bobby Jones in his Grand Slam year. Not quite long enough these days to test the big bashers, its small ridges, cunningly placed bunkers and vexing greens have provided sufficient challenge at the 1993 Walker Cup, 2002 Solheim Cup and at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Inbee Park.
Turn Tom Fazio loose on a canvas that includes a beautifully treed valley, rocky bluffs that sprout 100-foot spires and dazzling vistas of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the results are typically stunning. Tattered-edge, small, shallow bunkers, a departure from Fazio, add to the distinctiveness.
Once better known as the club where Bobby Jones learned to play, and then as host to the 1963 Ryder Cup, East Lake is now a staple for golf fans as the 15-time host to the season-ending PGA Tour Championship. Rees Jones restored much of the Donald Ross flavor to a compact layout that finishes with three superb long-iron holes.
The classic argument at Ridgewood centers on which of the three A.W. Tillinghast-designed nines is best—the East, West or Center. Holes from each have been used at tournaments such as the 1935 Ryder Cup, the 1990 U.S. Senior Open, when Lee Trevino slipped by Jack Nicklaus and the 2001 Senior PGA, when Tom Watson closed the deal. Best of the bunch might be the 291-yard 6th on the Center, which offers a half-dozen routes to the elevated green. Vijay Singh, Matt Kuchar and in 2014, Hunter Mahan have won Barclays PGA Tour events here.
Old Town Club
A 2013 Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw renovation has sparked renewed attention to the low-key, yet dramatically undulating 1939 Perry Maxwell layout near Wake Forest University. Back in place are the lacy-edged bunkers, the classic tees and fairway lines and the double green shared by holes 8 and 17 (a Clifford Roberts idea). A brilliant routing and beguiling green contours were always in place.
Monterey Peninsula (Shore)
Pebble Beach, Calif.
The Shore course joined the rota for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2010, replacing Poppy Hills. The layout dates back to a handsome, if bare-boned 1961 Bob Baldock/Jack Neville design, but its current character is all Mike Strantz, the late designer who finished an amazing makeover in 2004. Strantz carved out 12 new holes and reworked six others and the rock formations, twisted trees and unimpeded ocean views make this a splendid alternative to the region’s more famous Big Three.
University Place, Wash.
Controversial home to the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open, this 7,500-yard, walking-only, Robert Trent Jones II design unfolds atop an old gravel mine at the southeast tip of Puget Sound, 45 minutes south of Seattle. The eye candy commences at the first hole, a par-4 that shares a fairway with the 18th a la St. Andrews, amid 50-foot dunes.
River Hills, Wis.
Venue for the 1969 Walker Cup Match, this 1929 Colt/Alison creation rolls out a wooded back nine that tumbles down to the Milwaukee River. Thoughtfully placed bunkers and a strong uphill closing hole are among the course’s defining traits.
Founding member Frederic Hood teamed with Golden Age great William Flynn to create a breeze-fueled seaside test along Buzzards Bay. Best known is the par-3 third, which calls for a 170-yard shot over the bay to an elevated green completely encircled by sand. Gil Hanse has helped restore its classic virtues.
The Creek Club
Locust Valley, N.Y.
Stretching less than 6,500 yards from the tips, this C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor collaboration is a layout that radiates enjoyment rather than frustration. Following a quiet opening quintet, the Creek explodes with the 465-yard, par-4 sixth, a stunning hole that starts with a panorama of Long Island Sound, then plunges downhill to a punchbowl green, one that is guarded by low mounds and by a gargantuan fronting bunker. From there, it’s a carnival of breeze-fueled tests that embrace trees, reed-edged marshes and Frost Creek, an inlet of the Sound and which gave the club its name.
Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
One of William Flynn’s only designs west of the Mississippi River has hosted three U.S. Opens, including one of the best ever, when Arnold Palmer charged from seven back to win in 1960. Amid Rocky Mountain backdrops, the main defense comes from the tough-to-read, sloping greens, solved only by Billy Horschel in 2014 when he captured the BMW during the FedEx playoffs.
The brainchild of financial wizards Charles Schwab and George Roberts is this Hawaiian hideaway carved from a Big Island mountainside with views overlooking the Pacific on every hole. Nanea spreads out to 7,503 roomy yards, courtesy of Bandon Dunes architect David McLay Kidd, but they could shorten it by 3,000 yards and you still wouldn’t see anybody else. Echoes former Canadian Open champion Peter Oosterhuis, “You feel like it’s just you and the golf and nothing else.”
Bobby Jones and Robert Trent Jones Sr. collaborated on this hilly, forested track north of the city. Like that other top-ranked Georgia course, Augusta National, Peachtree features inspired green contouring, dogwoods and pines along the fairways and minimal fairway bunkering. It played host to the 1989 Walker Cup Match.
Myopia Hunt Club
South Hamilton, Mass.
Host to four very early U.S. Opens from 1898 to 1908, Myopia Hunt is nearly unchanged since then, making it a time warp for all who play there. Situated 30 miles from Boston and named for its nine co-founders who all wore glasses, Myopia today provides a sturdy, though not overwhelming test from the 6,539-yard tips, thanks to undulating ground, deep bunkers and topsy-turvy greens.
Architect Herbert Fowler of Walton Heath fame produced Eastward Ho! in 1922. It’s a lay-of-the-land, Cape Cod beauty that overlooks aptly named Pleasant Bay. Fescue-fringed holes tumble up and over small ridges, providing maximum variety and an Old World look. Restoration specialist Keith Foster and superintendent Frank Hancock recently teamed to yank out trees, expand greens, recover lost bunkers and firm up the course.
Essex County Club
Charm, intimacy and fiendishly contoured greens characterize one of Donald Ross’ early masterworks, a 1917 creation that unfolds over wonderfully rumpled terrain near the sea northeast of Boston. Its miniscule back-tee yardage of 6,401 yards strikes fear into no one. Instead, the course owes its stature to its superior mix of memorable holes, bunker variety and green sophistication. Lexi Thompson was one of the few who has solved the Essex putting riddles, posting a 4-0-1 record during the 2010 Curtis Cup.
North Las Vegas, Nev.
Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn demonstrated that with sufficient money and imagination, there’s nothing that couldn’t be accomplished in golf course design. Hewn from flat, featureless desert, Shadow Creek emerged with rolling hills, a forest of pines, bursts of flowers and a network of creeks and lakes.
Newport Country Club
One of the oldest clubs in the U.S., dating to 1894, is also among the most historic, having played host to the first official U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in 1895. One hundred years later, Tiger Woods captured the Amateur here. Newport was also venue for Annika Sorenstam’s 2006 U.S. Women’s Open victory. A.W Tillinghast substantially changed the original design; today, the course is an Old World delight, with wind, fescues and tawny-colored fairways.
If its brawnier sibling, the Lower, is considered the premier tournament track, this mountainside A.W. Tillinghast-designed layout is much more fun, with its beguiling set of sloping greens and sidehill lies all parts of the puzzle to be solved. Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen and Tommy Armour were all in the field when the Upper hosted the 1936 U.S. Open, but little-known Tony Manero emerged the winner.
Not far from the nation’s capital in suburban D.C., this Golden Age product has been revised and improved by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and later his son Rees. Now it is among the most respected tournament courses. Tree-lined and hilly, it’s best known for its long, downhill, par-4 closer with water short, left and long, and for its three U.S. Opens, most famously Ken Venturi’s 1964 win and most recently, Rory McIlroy’s dominant march in 2011.
Valley Club of Montecito
One of the quietest of America’s great courses is this 1929 Alister MacKenzie creation that was recently restored by Tom Doak. Nestled in between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean north of Los Angeles, Valley Club is softer and shorter, at 6,650 yards than many so-called “Championship” tests, yet few anywhere offer more charm, nor sounder strategic bunkering.
Rock Creek Cattle Company
Deer Lodge, Mont.
Among Tom Doak’s finest work since he crafted Pacific Dunes, the aptly named Rock Creek Cattle Co. is surrounded by a 30,000-acre working ranch in southwestern Montana. The beefy 7,466-yard, par-71 layout plays shorter than its listed distance, due to the 4,567-foot elevation, though the horns come out via the deep, jagged-edge bunkers and the severely contoured greens. Doak routed a beguiling blend of holes across the rugged terrain and each hole benefits from majestic mountain backdrops.
Yeamans Hall Club
Yet another quiet Seth Raynor classic dating to 1925, this Charleston-area spread sprawls over a huge acreage, allowing for plenty of strategic options via width, angles and bunker placement. In the late 1990s, Tom Doak sensitively restored the massive, often squared-off greens, nay that feature wild undulations. The tranquility of the property is emphasized by the Lowcountry setting, complete with vast marshes and live oaks drenched in Spanish moss.
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak meshed their design skills to create a seaside gem that abuts the National Golf Links of America overlooking the Great Peconic Bay. Competitors at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open were bedeviled and bedazzled by undulating greens with false fronts and sides and by memorable holes such as the downhill, dogleg left 11th, the short, bunker-strewn par-4 5th and the superb par-5 18th along the Bay.
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Part of the rotation for the PGA Tour’s Bing Crosby (now AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) since 1967, this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design has been one of the Tour’s hardest layouts for nearly 50 years. Few have conquered its dune-flecked start nor its final 13 holes through the pines, except Phil Mickelson in 2005 and Luke Donald in 2006, when both posted astonishing 10-under-par 62s.
Piping Rock Club
Locust Valley, N.Y.
C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor team to craft this Long Island layout in 1913 and after a Tom Doak restoration, its Old World features remain intact. A mostly open front side yields to a back nine that climbs into the woods. The Redan-style par-3 3rd and the Biarritz-style par-3 9th are superb early examples of the design duo’s template holes.
Hewn from the remnants of old phosphate mines, Streamsong Blue features a distinctive sand-based canvas that puts an emphasis on ground-game prowess. Tom Doak crafted fairways that cling to the terrain as if they’ve been here for thousands of years. Greens melt into their surrounds. Imaginative green contouring forces players to think before approaching. After the dizzying panorama from the par-4 first, the next stunner is the203-yard, par-3 7th that demands a lake carry to a wildly undulating green cocooned in the sandhills. This is retro golf with modern trappings.
The Honors Course
One of Pete Dye’s less celebrated, yet greatest creations, this 1983 design in the northeast suburbs of Chattanooga is wooded, wetland-infused tract that might be the tightest 7,450 yards you’ll ever play. Tiger Woods captured the individual title at the 1996 NCAA Championship here, despite a final-round 80, which attests to the difficulty.
New Haven, Conn.
Students pursuing a Ph.D in golf course design appreciation could do no better than Yale. Designed in 1926 by C.B. Macdonald with Seth Raynor, Yale dishes out classic template holes that mimic the greatest examples of British links tests—that were somehow successfully transplanted to the hilly, rocky, wooded terrain of southern Connecticut. The Biarritz-style ninth and the Redan 13th are standouts.
Pasatiempo Golf Club
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Par has been shaved from 74 to 70 since Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s finest public access course first opened in 1929, yet it seldom takes a beating, even at the hands of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson or Tiger Woods, none of whom has bettered 67. How can such a pipsqueak in the yardage department play so difficult? Try rolling terrain that’s crisscrossed by barrancas, slender fairways hemmed in by trees, hordes of deep, artfully sculpted bunkers, Pacific Ocean breezes and nightmarishly quick, canted greens.
Tom Fazio’s gorgeous mountain masterpiece dates to 1987 and it has held up beautifully. Winding streams, graceful elevation changes and Chimney Top Mountain backdrops are among the attractions. The downhill par-3 17th, to a green tucked in pines and hardwoods and the option-laden par-5 18th, with a creek that twists up the left side, are standouts.
Plainfield Country Club
Despite its charm, intimacy and ingeniously contoured greens, big bashers have thrived at the Donald Ross-designed Plainfield, from Laura Davies, who won the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open here, to Dustin Johnson, who topped the field at the 2011 Barclays, to the late club member Bobby Thomson who hit the “Shot heard ‘round the world,” a ninth inning blast that sent his New York Giants to the 1951 World Series. Gil Hanse has worked for more than a decade on restoring as many Ross features as possible.
Unlike its elder Bandon siblings, “Trails” doesn’t cling to cliffs, but it’s no less spectacular. It opens in massive, scrub-covered dunes, then plunges into pine forest and touches linksy meadow before returning to dunesland. Along the way are stirring long views of the Pacific and a superb set of wildly different par-3s.
This exclusive 2004 Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw creation occupies a prime piece of ground in the pine hills of eastern Massachusettes, not far from Cape Cod. Creatively contoured greens and their surrounds place an emphasis on short-game prowess while the sand dunes and fescues lend authentic coastal flair to the proceedings.
This 2010 Tom Doak/Jim Urbina collaboration features turnpike-wide landing areas and gigantic, heaving greens that are hard to miss. To get the ball into the hole, however, you’ll need to master angles, strategy, trajectory and the ground game, making for an Old World links experience second to none in the U.S. The course pays homage to the design style and template holes of C.B. Macdonald, American’s pioneer architect, though the most memorable hole is a Doak/Urbina original, the par-4 7th, where the elevated green peers down over the beach.
Streamsong dishes out a unique palette for Florida golf. Tall, odd-shaped sand piles, significant climbs and drops, firm, fast-running Bermuda fairways and lakes submerged in the sand spice the play on the Coore-Crenshaw-designed Red course. The uphill, 474-yard, par-4 opener sets the tone, with a drive over water and scrub. Most dramatic is the 208-yard, par-3 16th, a funky, stunning Biarritz hole, with a forced carry over water leading to a green that’s bisected by a massive hollow.
Medinah (No. 3)
Any course that’s undergone as many changes as Medinah No. 3 cannot claim to have an all-world design, but it’s flair for producing major drama at tournament time has been borne out again and again. Witness Hale Irwin’s 1990 U.S. Open heroics, Tiger’s unforgettable duel with Sergio in the 1999 PGA and the rash of critical putts the Europeans made at the 2012 Ryder Cup. Brutally long, this well-treed layout is mostly straightforward, with three par-3s that play over 30-acre Lake Kadijah.
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A favorite of PGA Tour pros for more than 40 years, Harbour Town boasts the iconic candy cane-striped lighthouse that backdrops the 18th hole—and so much more. A place of subtle beauty, this is a shotmaker’s paradise where power takes a backseat to precision. Mixing live oaks, lagoons, tiny greens, bunkers banked by railroad ties and a closing stretch along the Calibogue Sound, this Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaboration delights and terrorizes at every turn.
Winged Foot (East)
Neither as long nor as tough as its illustrious West sibling, the equally attractive East is preferred by many course connoisseurs for its superior pacing and variety. No stranger to big-time events, the A.W. Tillinghast-designed East witnessed Roberto DeVicenzo claim the very first U.S. Senior Open here in 1980. A 2015 restoration by Gil Hanse put back many of the most ingenious green contours that had been lost or changed over time.
California Golf Club of San Francisco
South San Francisco, Calif.
For most of its 80-year history, the Cal Club, as locals call it, served up a well-regarded Bay Area course, but one that clearly played third fiddle to Olympic and San Francisco. Not anymore. Following a Kyle Phillips re-do that was part restoration and part re-design, many feel this private A. Vernon Macan/Alister MacKenzie layout is now near-equal to its more venerated neighbors. Yanking out trees to restore city skyline and mountain views and reinstalling the sprawling, multi-lobed MacKenzie bunkers have elevated the Cal Club to rarified air.
A marvelous collection of Donald Ross-designed par-4s set the stage for two of Greg Norman’s most crushing defeats, the first when Bob Tway holed a bunker shot to win the 1986 PGA Championship, the second when the Shark lipped out putts on two straight holes, handing the 1993 PGA Championship playoff win to Paul Azinger. A recent renovation has restored Ross features, but also added length to test today’s tournament players.
Tom Doak’s 2006 design in the remote, treeless prairie of northeastern Colorado plays like a links, hard and fast, with sandhills, fescues and a different wind every day. The 335-yard, par-4 7th is one of golf’s great short holes, drivable for some, and with its skillfully placed bunkers and wickedly contoured, E-shaped green, interesting for all others, no matter the distance of the second shot.
This quiet club across the street from Winged Foot counts Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye as admirers. Its outstanding cluster of gently rolling par-4s, notably the 6th and the 11th, provided a terrific canvas for amateurs such as Justin Rose and Jason Gore in the 1997 Walker Cup Match. Dating to 1916, the course was made over by A.W. Tillinghast in 1926.
The Golf Club
New Albany, Ohio
One of Pete Dye’s early masterworks, circa 1967, this men-only domain in suburban Columbus was where Jack Nicklaus got his introduction to design, as an unpaid consultant. With bunkers and water hazards framed by railroad ties and tall native grasses scattered throughout, the distinctive Dye style began to take hold. A superb set of par-5s is a highlight.
A wonderful routing on a tight piece of property not far from the USGA headquarters showcases A.W. Tillinghast’s imagination, while his brilliant Redan-style par-3 2nd hole shows that he could adapt with the best of them. A restoration by Tom Doak and associate Brian Slawnik helped put back firm and fast conditions along with reestablished bunkers and green edges. Yanking out numerous trees has yielded better conditions, and a better appreciation for the marvelous terrain.
Oak Hill (East)
Host to three U.S. Opens, the 1995 Ryder Cup and a handful of PGA Championships, including 2013, when Jason Dufner triumphed, Oak Hill has witnessed numerous renovations since it debuted in 1924. Yet, its character is unmistakably Donald Ross, thanks to such holes as the 323-yard, par-4 14th, its vexing undulations yielding superb risk/reward opportunities.
East Hampton, N.Y.
One of the nation's oldest and most socially prestigious clubs has offered golf since 1891. However, its current layout is a Willie Park Jr. design (with help from brother John) that dates to 1924. Recently restored by Bill Coore, Maidstone's edge-of-the-Atlantic location is fully realized by the course's mid-section, which skirts the dunes and beach.
Bandon's original course is a David McLay Kidd design draped atop craggy headlands above the Pacific. Ocean views stun the senses, along with bluff-top sand dunes sprinkled with Scotch broom and gorse bushes, coastal pines, crashing surf, wind-whipped tall native grasses, and stacked sod bunkers. The most memorable seaside tests are the par-4 fourth, the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th, each with eye-popping scenery and enjoyable risk/rewards.
Southern Hills Country Club
Site of three U.S. Opens and a quartet of PGA Championships, this Depression-era Perry Maxwell design rolls out heat, humidity, wind and stern rough framing fairways and greens. Maxwell's oval and clamshell bunkers lack imaginative shaping, but they're perfectly placed. The 9th and 18th both climb steep hills to reach the greens, the latter being one of the game's toughest closing par-4s. Tougher still is the creek-guarded 12th, which Ben Hogan once called the greatest par-4 in the U.S.
Olympic Club (Lake)
San Francisco, Calif.
Laid out on the side of a hill overlooking Lake Merced, its fairways hemmed in by thousands of cypress and eucalyptus trees, its greens and landing areas bracketed by wrist-fracturing rough, Olympic has proved to be an imposing test for five U.S. Opens. On fog-free days, the 247-yard, par-3 third enjoys stellar views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Rivaling Pennsylvania's Oakmont as the course that has entertained the most U.S. Opens, this sturdy, leafy A.W. Tillinghast-designed test most recently threw its well-bunkered heft around during the 2005 PGA Championship when Phil Mickelson triumphed in the heat. Sports Illustrated once named its par-3 4th the best 4th hole in the U.S. Its unusual finish, back-to-back par-5s has twice ushered Jack Nicklaus into the U.S. Open winner's circle and will help crown another PGA champion in 2016.
Indian Hill, Ohio
This low-key 1926 Seth Raynor creation in suburban Cincinnati dishes out extremely deep bunkers and huge, squared-off greens on a property laced with valleys and ravines. The usual Macdonald/Raynor template holes are in place, from a Biarritz to a Redan, yet the two strongest par-3s might be the 5th and the 11th, modeled after the two one-shotters at St. Andrews.
Lake Bluff, Ill.
Steep ravines affect play throughout the back nine on this short but sweet 1921 Seth Raynor parkland design. Set into rolling terrain on Chicago's North Shore, alongside Lake Michigan, Shoreacres benefitted from a 2007 Tom Doak restoration that revitalized classic template holes such as Biarritz-style par-3 6th and the Redan-style par-3 14th.
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Venue for the PGA Tour's Players Championship since 1982, Pete Dye's imaginatively-designed, variety-filled and occasionally terror-inducing track has crowned winners such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Adam Scott. One of the wildest finishes took place in 2013, when Sergio Garcia, tied with Woods, splashed two tee shots at the infamous island-green 17th, made quadruple-bogey, and sunk to eighth place. Some sniff at its artificiality, yet for shotmaking options and memorable individual holes that require a blend of power and finesse, TPC Sawgrass has few peers.
Conceived by Jack Nicklaus in 1966 to be his hometown equivalent of Bobby Jones' Augusta National, this 1974 collaboration with architect Desmond Muirhead was an instant smash, as much for its strategic design as for its flawless conditioning. Equally impressive was how Nicklaus seamlessly integrated spectator areas into the closing holes, using hillsides and amphitheater-style mounding to provide patrons with clear views of the action.
Whistling Straits (Straits)
Venue for the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, this 1998 Pete Dye design on Lake Michigan was once a poker table-flat military training base in World War II. Eventually it became a site for illegal dumping of toxic waste. Dye and owner Herb Kohler engineered a mind-boggling cleanup, moved 3 million cubic yards of dirt, trucked in 7,000 loads of sand to create the hills and bunkers and relocated the bluffs farther back from the shore. All Kohler told Dye was "I want the course to look like it's in Ireland." Mission accomplished.
Garden City Golf Club
Garden City, N.Y.
This ancient, men-only Long Island layout dates to 1899. Devereux Emmet and Walter Travis most influenced the design, which today plays as firm and as fast as any British links, much as it did in the old days, with tall fescue and sea breezes constant companions. Laurie Auchterlonie captured the 1902 U.S. Open here with record scores, owing to the debut of the longer, more durable Haskell ball.
Kiawah Island (Ocean)
Kiawah Island, S.C.
A blend of tidal marsh carries, scrub-topped dunes and wildly undulating greens pair with 7,600 muscular yards to form a relentless mix of beauty and brawn. While architect Pete Dye has softened his greens and their surrounds over years, the Ocean Course remains among the toughest tests in the country. That's what competitors in the 1991 "War by the Shore" Ryder Cup maintain; Rory McIlroy, who decimated the course in winning the 2012 PGA Championship, might feel differently.
Bethpage ( Black)
In the education of a golfer, Bethpage Black is a bar exam. The Black scares golfers with a sign at the first tee: "Warning -- The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers." Among the highly skilled? Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, who captured the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens here. The "People's Open," as the 2002 U.S. Open came to be known, brutalized players with its Rees Jones-restored A.W. Tillinghast layout, owing to rugged, uphill par-4s, massive bunkers and wrist-fracturing rough. Woods was the only golfer to break par for 72 holes.
Oakland Hills (South)
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Ben Hogan called this course a "monster" in capturing the 1951 U.S. Open, thanks to a severe course setup and alterations by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Following events such as the 2004 Ryder Cup and 2008 PGA Championship won by Padraig Harrington, the brilliant Donald Ross routing and beguiling green contouring has restored its status to "great," as opposed to "hard."
The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel)
A Boston Brahmin society haunt for more than 100 years, this tree-lined track has played host to three U.S. Opens and the 1999 Ryder Cup. Its tournament course is a composite layout, comprised of 18 of the club's 27 holes. The Clyde/Squirrel combo was used for the 1913 Open when local lad Francis Ouimet stunned the Brits. The current "Open" course borrows several holes from the Primrose nine, designed by William Flynn in 1927.
Baiting Hollow, N.Y.
Tree-dotted dunes, open meadows and bluff-top views of Long Island Sound highlight play at this understated 2003 Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design. The fact that it's Phil Mickelson's favorite modern course is further enticement. Holes such as the par-5 14th that incorporate a dazzling combination of strategy and beauty call to mind an east coast version of Cypress Point.
Los Angeles (North)
Los Angeles, Calif.
Gil Hanse's team restored George Thomas' Golden Age classic to perfection in 2011.Bunkers were reshaped and relocated, fairways were widened and re-shaped to provide alternate routes and a natural barranca was brought back into play as a strategic hazard. LA North occupies valuable real estate on the edge of Beverly Hills and after selective tree removal, players now enjoy long-hidden vistas of the city skyline and Santa Monica Mountains.
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Architect George C. Thomas Jr. took strategy and bunker configuration to new heights in the 1920s, notably at eucalyptus-lined Riviera in suburban L.A. As proof of his magical skills, look no further than the 311-yard, par-4 10th. Thanks to the inspired positioning of the bunkers and the green, the options on how to play this hole are limitless. The long, uphill par-4 closer is stellar as well, with its green benched into an amphitheater.
After weeks of tromping around the yucca-choked sandhills of Hutchinson, architect Perry Maxwell pronounced, "There are 118 good golf holes here. All I have to do is eliminate 100 of them." He eliminated 109 of them. Only nine holes were built in 1937 (the present-day 1,2,6,7,8,9,10,17 and 18) and Maxwell's son Press added the other nine 20 years later. All that's missing is an ocean at this linksy-looking layout that played host to the 2002 U.S. Women's Open (Juli Inkster) and 2006 U.S. Senior Open (Allen Doyle).
Chicago Golf Club
One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association in 1894, Chicago Golf, as it's known, was also site of the nation's first 18-hole golf course, as well as the first to host the U.S. Open outside of the Northeast. Seth Raynor retooled his mentor C.B. Macdonald's course in 1923 and not much has changed since, as it serves up a parkland/prairie blend of classic British template holes that its designers favored.
San Francisco, Calif.
A.W. Tillinghast may have crafted his most gorgeous collection of bunkers at this low-key Bay Area hideaway dating to 1918 that avoids publicity as steadfastly as its neighbor the Olympic Club embraces it. The highlight is the drop-shot par-3 7th, Tilly's favorite hole that he ever designed. Called the "Duel Hole," it was the site of the last legal duel in California history in 1859.
Due to its remote location in northwest Michigan, Crystal Downs was long overlooked and underrated. This 1932 Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell collaboration became better known after Tom Doak introduced it to Ben Crenshaw in the 1980s and word began to spread. Don't be fooled by its miniscule 6,518 yards from the tips. Crystal Downs is perched on a bluff that peers down on both Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake, so the combination of strong breezes, thick fescue roughs, wildly undulating terrain and fiendishly contoured, firm and fast greens help keep the par of 70 an elusive target.
The highest ranking American links, this 2001 Tom Doak creation checks in as one of the greatest modern designs in the world. It fits so majestically into its billowing terrain, it looks like it's been there 100 years. Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens and Pacific panoramas are headliners.
Winged Foot (West)
Hale Irwin survived the 1974 "Massacre at Winged Foot" U.S. Open to win at seven-over-par. Geoff Ogilvy didn't fare much better in 2006, when his five-over total took home the trophy. 1996 PGA Champion Mark Brooks summed up this Golden Age A.W. Tillinghast design this way: "There are probably six hard holes, six really hard holes and six impossible holes." Frighteningly contoured, pear-shaped greens, cavernous bunkers and a procession of rugged par-4s define the trouble here. On a "difficulty" scale of 1 to 10, Jack Nicklaus once rated this a 12. Who are we to argue?
Juno Beach, Fla.,
This posh coastal retreat designed by Donald Ross challenges with palms, sea grape bushes, ocean breezes and a varied routing that encompasses two dune ridges. So impressed was Ben Hogan with Seminole's virtues, that he would play and practice here for 30 straight days each year leading up to the Masters. Architecture fans will get a rare glimpse inside the gates when Seminole hosts the 2021 Walker Cup.
Fishers Island, N.Y.
Accessible only by ferry, this exclusive retreat off Connecticut is populated by the oldest of the Old Money crowd, many of whom still enjoy hoofing it. Why wouldn't they, given the classic Seth Raynor design, the delightful tumbling terrain and the spectacular views of Long Island Sound. As Tom Doak put it, "I cannot deny that on a breezy summer's day, Fishers Island is one of the most idyllic places possible for a round of golf."
Pinehurst (No. 2)
Donald Ross' 108-year-old chef d'oeuvre rolls gently and spaciously through tall Longleaf pines in the Carolina Sandhills, with holes culminating in the legendary "inverted saucer" greens that have confounded the game's very best since they were first grassed in 1935. For the 2014 U.S. Open, a Coore-Crenshaw restoration brought back the tawny-edged fairways and native roughs last seen in the 1940s.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw had to move only teaspoons of dirt to construct the most natural, hew-to-the-land layout built in the past 50 years. Rolling, sandy terrain, rippled fairways crafted to accommodate ever-present winds, wavy prairie grasses and gigantic "blow-out" bunkers, which are in reality eroded dunes, create the sensation of being seaside in the middle of land-locked Nebraska. This 1994 design gave rise to the "If-you-build-it-they-will-come" generation of remote courses that would dominate course rankings for the next 20 years.
Jack Nicklaus once said of Merion, "Acre for acre, it might be best test of golf in the world." At less than 7,000 yards from the tips, what makes Merion so distinctive -- and testing -- is its remarkable variety. Some par-4s are short, others are monsters. One par-3 is tiny, at 115 yards. The other par-3s measure 236, 246 and 256 yards. Holes play uphill, downhill and along the sides of small ridges. The famous par-4 11th, where Bobby Jones clinched the 1930 Grand Slam, is slashed by a creek, while the par-4 16th demands a shot over an abandoned stone quarry that is filled with wild growth of trees and shrubs. In short, Merion has everything.
National Golf Links of America
Venue for the 2013 Walker Cup Match, NGLA, or "National," as it's known, offers the greatest variety of strategic holes and greens in golf. There are blind shots, links-style holes that feature firm, fast-running fairways, forced carries and a remarkable mix of short and long holes. Pioneer American architect Charles Blair Macdonald admittedly crafted holes alongside Great Peconic Bay to mimic the greatest he had seen in his travels across Scotland and England, yet in many cases, his are better. The presence of a windmill next to the 16th green and the legendary lobster lunch adds to the ambience.
No course on earth plays so much viciously harder than it looks than Oakmont. No trees, no water, few forced carries and huge greens normally add up to a sea of red numbers for the game's best, but not here. Not with the ferocity of these greens (which they actually slow down for U.S. Opens), a lethal combination of speed, contour and firmness, plus brutal rough and more than 200 bunkers. Gene Sarazen described Oakmont as possessing "all the charm of a sock to the head." Echoed Johnny Miller, "It's the most difficult test of golf in America." And that's coming from two guys who won majors here.
Pebble Beach, Calif.
The first great American public seaside course, Pebble benefited from an ingenious Figure-8 design that brought the player right to ocean's edge, then away into the woods, then back again. The pacing of the holes, the small greens and the heroic shots over the Pacific were revolutionary for their time. Even today, no more thrilling, spectacular stretch of holes exists anywhere than holes 7 through 10. And is there anything in golf that can compare with that final stroll up the par-5 18th as it curves to the left around Carmel Bay?
Venue for four U.S. Opens since 1986, with a fifth on the way in 2018, Shinnecock boasts a William Flynn design that combines parkland bunkering and greens with a seaside sensibility. Its location adjacent to Great Peconic Bay means wind is a near-constant factor and its fescue-framed fairways resemble a British links. Toss in a storied hilltop clubhouse and a remarkably varied routing among heaving undulations and you have what Johnny Miller calls, "Golf's Holy Grail -- a genius course."
Augusta National is the vision of Bobby Jones and his chosen architect, Alister MacKenzie. Both intended for Augusta National to reflect the spirit and strategic options of the Old Course at St. Andrews, the course that they admired most. They succeeded brilliantly. Nearly every hole at St. Andrews and Augusta National provides a safe route to the green and also a riskier one. Combine staggering beauty and Masters tradition and it's easy to see why Augusta National is so revered.
Pebble Beach, Calif.
As Alister MacKenzie himself must have felt about his 1928 design, it's almost inconceivable that land this stunning was made available for golf. For the lucky few who have access to super-exclusive Cypress, they're privileged to enjoy the best walk in the sport. The trek to the 15th tee, amid wind, waves, deer, gnarled Cypress trees and near-isolation is spiritual. And the over-the-ocean, 231-yard, par-3 16th is golf's ultimate heroic gut-check.
Pine Valley, N.J.
There's no secret as to why Pine Valley has been ranked No. 1 in the World by GOLF Magazine since 1985. As architect Tom Doak once expressed, "Deep down, it's still golf's most awesome experience, a shining example of golf architecture in the raw so that even the color-blind can understand it. The course possesses more truly outstanding holes than any other I've seen." Uniquely beautiful and brutal, 97-year-old Pine Valley serves up multiple forced carries on holes that hopscotch from one island of turf to the next. It's an unforgettable gallop through trees, sand and scrub.