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Travelin' Joe's Nifty 50: No. 1 Golf Moments in Each State

Crystal Downs
Evan Schiller
Michigan's Crystal Downs.

Maine (2001)
A morning sail, lobster rolls at lunch, afternoon golf on the Atlantic at Samoset Resort (I was smitten with nos. 3, 4, 14) and blueberry pie for dessert. That's a perfect summer day in my book. ($70-$140; 207- 594-2511,


Maryland (2007)
Caves Valley near Baltimore is a gorgeous, tidily groomed Tom Fazio design where they treated me like a member. Who needs a stroke-smoothing belly putter when they bring your cocktail to you on the practice green?

Massachusetts (1998)
As a golf history freak, I was overwhelmed with the aura at The Country Club in Brookline. I absorbed every detail that playing partner Rees Jones could impart about his restoration a decade earlier, but on that warm fall day, the ghosts of Ouimet, Vardon and Ray were powerful distractions.

Michigan (1997)
My quest to further my golf-architecture education never ends, so when I was able to join Tom Doak at Crystal Downs -- the fabulous Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell collaboration -- I felt like a seeker of enlightenment who had been given an audience with the Dalai Lama.

Minnesota (1993)
I learned a valuable lesson visiting the Brainerd Lakes region: Don't judge a course by its no-name architect. I'd never heard of designer Joel Goldstrand, but the former Tour pro sculpted 27 wonderful, wooded holes at Grand View. Just one downside: mosquitoes the size of commuter planes. ($94-$104; 218-963-8755,

Mississippi (2007)
I played 41 enjoyable holes in one day at Dancing Rabbit, whose two Tom Fazio/Jerry Pate designs, the Azaleas and the Oaks, were graced with superb closing holes and a kaleidoscope of colors. ($75-$130; 866-447-3275,

Missouri (1992)
When the heat is on, my game is off. I squeezed in two steamy August rounds at the Lodge of Four Seasons, in Lake Ozark. The par 5s on the newer Ridge course ate my lunch, and at the older, Trent Jones Sr.–designed Cove course, I rinsed a sleeve at the 227-yard, par-3 13th (now the 4th), with its daunting lake carry. A steak at H.K.'s took the sting out. ($80-$95; 573-365- 8574,

Montana (2007)
At Big Sky Golf Course, a mountain-ringed Arnold Palmer track, I met a man and wife who said they were the only private landowners within Yellowstone National Park, the result of the family's long-ago trade with the federal government. I accepted their invitation to visit, driving along the Gallatin River, where A River Runs Through It was filmed. The dwellings were modest, but their views of the Rockies were remarkable. You never know who you'll meet on the first tee. ($54-$72; 406- 995-5780,

Nebraska (2010)
Despite inhumane July heat and greens like ice, Sand Hills, my pick for the greatest course of the last 50 years, more than exceeded the hype. The 18 magnificent holes Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw crafted on the middle-of-nowhere canvas create the perfect blend of balance, strategy and scenery. I can't wait to go back.

Nevada (2005)
My first tour of the Wynn Golf Club was a pure joy. My sit-down with Steve Wynn that followed? Well, it merely changed how I think about golf design. This brilliant hotelier, who suffers from a degenerative eye disease, appreciates the role that light and shadows play in design and has remarkable theories on how the mind perceives images. It was...eye-opening. ($300-$500; 702-770-4653,

New Hampshire (2000)
Bretwood's South course in Keene has an array of brooks, ponds and wetlands -- and a collection of charming covered bridges out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The quintessential New England golf experience. ($36-$58; 603-352-7626,

New Jersey (2011)
Nope, not my two Pine Valley rounds. For pure memorability, sharing a cart for 18 holes with the charmingly full-of-bluster Donald Trump at his Bedminster (Old) course tops all of my Garden State golf experiences. (As curious as I was about his famously feathery hair, he never removed his red cap.)

New Mexico (2005)
Some courses should provide caddies. Others, compasses. I played solo at Black Mesa, near Santa Fe, an eerie high-desert course that feels isolated from civilization, with prehistoric sandstone cliffs and huge black birds circling. Hogan would have loved it. ($62-$87; 505-747-8946,

New York (2009)
This one's close, but I gotta go with my first round at National Golf Links of America, the cradle of American golf design, which I followed with the club's legendary lobster lunch. (Travelin' Joe's other nickname: Ravenous Joe.) Second place: At Winged Foot in 1996, I watched Tiger win his first Tour event on TV. Also in the grill room were Donald Trump and his guest, Sylvester Stallone, who tried to flip channels to football. Cooler heads prevailed.

North Carolina (1992)
You never forget your first round on Pinehurst No. 2. I had local legend Fletcher Gaines on my bag. Fletch looped for Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour and Curtis Strange. It's a fierce test of short-game nerves. As I strangled my club, his advice (“Slow it down -- we're in no hurry”) soothed me like a lullaby. ($360-$420; 855- 235-8507,

North Dakota (1999)
I enjoyed each of my six rounds in three days with architect Stephen Kay at his creation then called the Links of North Dakota at Red Mike Resort, a fescuefringed, wind-blown charmer overlooking Lake Sakakawea. ($74-$89; 701-568-2600,

Ohio (1996)
My No. 1 Buckeye State moment? I shot my best-ever round at a Pete Dye design now called Fowler's Mill, in suburban Cleveland. My even-par 72 included an ace with a 7-wood at the 192-yard, par-3 3rd. Cleveland rocks! ($44-$69; 440-729-7569,

Oklahoma (2001)
Tulsa in June? Too damn hot. So during the U.S. Open at Southern Hills, three colleagues and I played considerably cooler night golf under the lights at LaFortune Park's par-3 layout. We were still hacking away when -- click! -- closing time. Sheesh. How's the song go? “Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry...when the lights go out in a hurry”? ($14-$27; 918-496- 6200,

Oregon (2006)
When I first beheld Bandon Dunes, I thought it was easily the best thing since cavity-back clubs -- especially when a round of bonus golf was served up at the ultra-secretive Sheep Ranch. There, a Bandon staffer unlocked a gate to unleash the firmest, fastest-running seaside course I've ever played. ($75-$275; 888-345- 6008,


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