BEST NEW U.S. PRIVATE COURSE OF THE YEAR: TWINEAGLES CLUB (EAGLE)
7,634 yards, par 71
LPGA players at the season-ending CME Group Title holders at TwinEagles in November had to rub their eyes in wonderment at the "new" track they were set to play. No wonder. This is one old-looking new course. Well, let's make that "classic-looking."
Architect Steve Smyers, working with design associate Patrick Andrews, bulldozed a previous course on-site to create a modern Golden Age homage whose holes evoke the look of vintage 1920s designs, with special emphasis on the C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor style. Multiple options and strategic decisions define play, which conforms to Smyers's dictum that "great courses demand hitting not just good shots, but hitting the right shot for the occasion."
That virtue is illuminated by the "Reverse Redan" par-5 5th, the par-3 8th with its enormous putting surface, and the drivable par-4 16th (called "Short"). Serving as an ideal complement to its existing Nicklaus-designed course, which hosts the Champions Tour, the Eagle won't wow you with elevation change, but it soars with superior risk/reward choices.
BEST NEW INTERNATIONAL COURSE: TRUMP INTERNATIONAL GOLF LINKS SCOTLAND
7,428 yards, par 72
Forget the hype. Donald Trump has delivered a great course. This Martin Hawtree design has many hallmarks of greatness, such as massive sand dunes, 21st-century length, and shotmaking demands that test players of all levels. It's a supreme, walking-only experience that traverses shaggy sandhills and is loaded with stunning vistas.
Front-nine standouts include the par-5 1st, with its handsome amphitheater-style framing and strategically placed bunkers, and the par-3 3rd, with sublime sea views. Hawtree told me that his personal favorite is the par-3 6th. "It's got everything—a burn, dunes, the sea view and a demanding shot," he said.
Two of the most compelling consecutive holes in links golf are the par-3 13th, tucked into the hillsides and backdropped by the water, and the par-4 14th, its valley fairway cocooned by dunes. Only time will determine if Trump Scotland becomes a true classic. For now, the course's variety and memorability earn it a place among the world's top links and makes it our best new international course of the year.
BEST NEW INTERNATIONAL COURSE HONORABLE MENTION: SHANQIN BAY GOLF COURSE
Bo'ao, Hainan Island, China
6,887 yards, par 71
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's first effort in Asia is a stunner, draped atop a bluff overlooking the South China Sea. Westerners will relish the ever-present wind, fast-running turf, tattered-edge bunkers and semi-blind shots. This combination is a first for China, which typically embraces sharp, clean lines, lush landscaping and maximum visibility.
Most memorable is the finish, with two drivable par-4s among the final three holes. The par-4 17th's elevated back tee affords 360-degree sea views and a fairway that unfurls along the beach. With a stiff wind, Shanqin Bay's 17th offers one of the most heart-stopping tee shots in golf.