#46 U.S. and #77 World
A surprise pick to host the 2015 U.S. Open, this sprawling muni sits an hour south of Seattle. Sculpted from an old gravel mine by the Robert Trent Jones II firm, Chambers Bay blends equal parts Ballybunion and Bethpage Black. Giant sandhills, heavily contoured fescue fairways, few forced carries, and stunning views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains make this walking-only, 7,585-yard track a physically taxing but infinitely playable test. Bring on Tiger!
Monterey Peninsula (Shore)
The Shore course joins 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 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.
Pete Dye Golf Club
Any course that features a cart path built through a coal mine sounds more Disney than design genius. But at Pete Dye's namesake track, the coal seam, mine shaft and other relics are native to the site, a former coal mine. Located two hours south of Pittsburgh and home to a Nationwide Tour event, the course is full of the master's risk/reward diagonals and exacting shot demands. It took 16 years to build the course and another 16 to reach the Top 100, but our panelists agree it was worth the wait.
How good is Oitavos Dunes? It has "the potential to be the best course in Europe," said Irish Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley. Home to a European Tour event, Oitavos is a 2001 Arthur Hills seaside design 30 miles west of Lisbon. Lead architect Drew Rogers benefited from a rolling landscape of scrub-covered dunes, umbrella pines and open coastal areas, along with multiple views of the Atlantic Ocean, but give him and his team credit for the diversity of holes and required shots.
Valley Club of Montecito
The Valley Club not only leapt from No. 59 in the U.S. in 2007 to No. 51 in 2009, but it also snuck into our World Top 100. This 1929 Alister MacKenzie/Robert Hunter creation is a low-profile 6,700-yarder near Santa Barbara, Calif. Its recent popularity can be traced to a restoration by Tom Doak, who with colleague Jim Urbina brought back the look and strategic aspects of MacKenzie's distinctive bunkering, reintroduced closely mown chipping areas and restored subtleties within the greens.
Wales' first entry into the World Top 100 is primarily the work of H.S. Colt, who revised the course in 1913. But it was Bob Hope who first put Porthcawl on the map for Americans when he competed in the British Amateur in 1951. Panelist Donald Steel observes that it is unique among great links courses because the sea is in full view on every hole. The approach to the par-4 18th, its green dramatically backed by the sea, is one of the U.K.'s most memorable, and frightening, shots.
Golf at Waterville dates to 1889, but it took a 21st-century Tom Fazio tweak to elevate it to World Top 100 status. Set on a spit of land hard by the Atlantic Ocean on southwest Ireland's fabled Ring of Kerry, Waterville is no longer just pretty and tough. It's pretty, tough and absolutely superb. Eddie Hackett's 1973 design remains the bones, but Fazio's new 2004 holes, the 6th and 7th, along with his work at improving vistas and interest elsewhere, has invigorated Waterville.
Amateur golf legend Marvin "Vinny" Giles winner of the 1972 U.S. Amateur conjured up this tree-lined private layout in his hometown of Richmond, Va., with architect Lester George. Few courses present more split fairways, which puts a premium on thoughtful decision-making. The most memorable holes are the 586-yard, par-5 9th, its fairway slashed by a creek, and the 471-yard, par-4 16th, which calls for a daring drive over water. But golfers without Giles' pedigree, beware from its 7,203-yard tips, Kinloch has a 76.9 rating and 145 slope.
Chalk up this 2003 Graham Marsh design 45 miles north of Pierre, S.D., as yet another "if you build it, they will come" Great Plains private retreat. Conditioning issues and a shortage of panelist visits have held back Sutton Bay in the past, but no longer. This 7,245-yard stunner works its way across bluffs that overlook the peaceful waters of Lake Oahe. The 660-yard opener, a downhill par-5 that eases through tall dunes, golden prairie grasses and bunkers that appear to be etched naturally into the landscape, sets a remarkable and apt tone for the round.
Cog Hill (No. 4)
For many years after its 1964 opening, this Dick Wilson- Joe Lee collaboration in the suburbs southwest of Chicago was a certified brute, earning it the nickname "Dubsdread." It had 100 bunkers, half of them flanking fairway landing areas, and it could stretch to 7,300 yards. Then titanium-toting Tour pros started picking it apart, culminating in Tiger Woods' 22-under-par birdie barrage at the 2007 BMW Championship. Enter Rees Jones, who repositioned bunkers, rebuilt greens and added nine new back tees that have put the dread back in Dubsdread.
Few sporting gestures can match the conclusion of the 1969 Ryder Cup, when Jack Nicklaus conceded a short putt to England's Tony Jacklin on the final green. In 2006, a golf course inspired by this act of sportsmanship opened on Florida's west coast. Co-designed by Nicklaus and Jacklin, The Concession could probably host a Ryder Cup right now, with its 7,500-yard length and plethora of shotmaking demands. There are no interior roads and almost no houses, just plenty of trees, bunkers, water hazards and, on the 476-yard, par-4 18th, bogies.
Whispering Pines may give away money half the members' dues are doled to charity, and owner Corby Robertson Jr. covers the rest of the club's expenses but it's not so generous with birdies. The nine-year-old layout outside of Houston stretches to 7,480 yards, and thanks to the work of Nicklaus Design's Chet Williams, it requires an arsenal of shots. The more daunting holes include the island-green, par-3 15th and the forested 499-yard, par-4 18th, where water edges the left side before curling in front of the three-tiered green.
Boston Golf Club
Blend subtle nods to Scottish quirk, Pine Valley-esque forced carries and classic Yankee charm and you have Boston Golf Club, a 2005 Gil Hanse design half an hour south of Beantown. The low-profile, walking-only private club sports dunes, scruffy bunkers, rock outcroppings and a variety of shot options ranging from a drive over a stone wall at the long par-4 12th, reminiscent of Scotland's North Berwick, to an aerial test over sandy scrub at the 160-yard, par-3 6th, an homage to Pine Valley.
Forty-five years ago Jack Nicklaus opened Hawaii's Mauna Kea by beating Arnold Palmer and Gary Player in the "Big Three" match. Afterward, Nicklaus called the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design "the most fun golf course I've ever played." Well, the fun is back. In late 2008, Rees Jones restored one of his father's most cherished creations, updating and relocating bunkers, improving drainage, and adding 200 yards. The new track is perhaps just as tough as the old one, but more fair. Like old times, Mauna Kea is once again golf's beautiful beast.