In these challenging times, the old saw that there's more business done on the golf course than in the boardroom may need some revising. Then again, it's hard to refute. Whether you're looking to impress or relax, a great golf course offers the perfect refuge. If you're lacking private club access, or you're on a schmooze-fest out of town, you'll need exactly the right kind of course to seal the deal. Here are 20 quality tracks in 10 of the top U.S. business centers.
\nAn hour's drive southeast of Manhattan into the rural highlands of north-central New Jersey sits this well rendered homage to Scottish and Irish links, complete with rumpled, near-treeless terrain, fierce, waving fescues framing the fairways and a bagpiper at dusk. Now 11 years old, this Roger Rulewich design sports enough water and sand to compel some serious shotmaking, but the be-knickered staff, superb grooming and handsome two-story clubhouse will make you and your associates forget about any double-bogies.
\nOK, so it's not the Black ... but it's the next best thing. Compared to the Black, you'll save nearly $30, have a much easier time getting on and have much more fun playing it. This 1935 A.W. Tillinghast Long Island creation opens with one of the region's toughest par-4s, but calms down considerably after that. After the round, you can kick back in the sprawling clubhouse and bask in the lingering U.S. Open aura.
\nDonald Trump is all about making memorable, lasting impressions, and the only public course in his growing portfolio does just that in spectacular fashion. While the 7,200-yard track is a tad claustrophobic in spots, its bluff-top location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, some 25 minutes south of LAX in Rancho Palos Verdes, is unforgettable as are the service, clubhouse decor, and dining.
\nIt's worth the hour drive northwest of L.A. to sample one of the nation's best bargains, a firm, fast shotmakers' delight that sports huge, undulating greens, massive tattered-edge bunkers and tons of strategic options.
\nSome 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta, Jack Nicklaus has replicated 18 holes of his own designs scattered about the globe. What could have been a messy gimmick instead is a seamlessly flowing track, thanks to Jack's wise choice of holes. Some are famous, others are not, but they all fit in nicely on the rolling, wooded tract. Two par-3s, one from Florida's PGA National, the other from Ohio's Muirfield Village, will leave you grinning, even as they wreck your scorecard.
\n An easy half-hour drive east of downtown, Stone Mountain boasts two solid 18s. The Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Stonemont course is the stronger test, but the newer Lakemont is more interesting and memorable, starting with the opening par-5 that's backdropped by a lake and by Stone Mountain itself, complete with Rushmore-style carvings of Confederate leaders.
\nThis 36-hole retreat 40 miles south of Boston is private-course posh without the initiation fees or monthly dues. Wayward hitters will find the Rees Jones course the slightly tougher of the two, while the Jack Nicklaus II design entertains with wider fairways. No matter your preference, the remarkable practice facility and clubhouse are guaranteed to wow.
\nOnly 10 minutes from downtown in Hyde Park, this conveniently located urban greenbelt may offer iffy conditioning due to heavy play, but its classic Donald Ross design has aged beautifully.
\nThe tree-lined, Arnold Palmer/Frank Duane-designed Old course, renowned for its cliff-top par-4 18th, dates to 1973, but it's the 11-year-old, Arthur Hills-designed Ocean course that captivates. Despite its cramped front nine, the Ocean roars with a closing stretch of holes that, when free of fog, rival anything you'll play on either coast. Toss in the oceanside Mullins Bar & Grill and the off-the-charts service and amenities next door at the Ritz-Carlton, and you'll see why Half Moon Bay shines so brightly for your business escape.
\nBlend equal parts trees, bunkers, elevation changes and mountain views with a rustic but convenient East Bay location, and you have Callippe Preserve. Native oaks, twisting Happy Valley Creek and postcard views of Mt. Diablo add further charm. It's a straight shot up I-680 from San Jose, and you get from Silicon Valley sprawl to fields of butterflies in a hurry.
\nA fistful of top tracks right outside your door, including the fabled Blue Monster a 47-year veteran of PGA Tour stops that was recently rebranded as a TPC facility make Doral a must for the golf fanatic. Unparalleled airport access, one of America's original luxury spas and the attractions of nearby South Beach add to the value. Still, it's the singular thrill of trying to make par at the watery 18th that makes Doral great for business.
\nThis 68-year-old muni that boasts jaw-dropping vistas of adjacent Biscayne Bay enjoyed an extreme makeover by Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates in 2008. A superb location near Miami Beach, strategic, risk/reward holes and Old World playability add up to superb savings in the Sunshine State.
\n Classic rock is piped into faux-stone speakers on the practice range, the beverage cart girls are nearly world famous for their hospitality and efficiency, and there are pre- and post-round libations to be had in Phil's (as in Mickelson) Grill. Toss in two terrific desert spreads, Talon and Raptor, the latter a Tom Fazio design that hosts a PGA Tour event in October, and you've got the ingredients for an instant business relationship.
The Stadium's little brother is all grown up, thanks to a 2007 makeover by architect Randy Heckenkemper that added 700 yards and gobs of character to a layout once known as the Desert course. Facilities are vastly improved as well. If you're looking for more, head right across the street for the maximum FBR Open vibe.
\nIt's only 15 miles north of O'Hare; it serves up a handsome, tournament-tested Tom Fazio design; and it's got all the service bells and whistles you could ask for. In other words, this former Naval Air Station is a Chicago modern classic. The 48,000-square-foot clubhouse houses a treasure trove of Illinois golf memorabilia and a restaurant to match. After a cool, breezy day, sample the Hunter's Chili, which features wild boar and duck sausage in a tomato-lager stew. Two thumbs up!
\nThis park district course west of the city in suburban Aurora is a stirring Ken Kavanaugh design that bursts with variety. Open holes, tree-lined tests, massive beach bunkers, tiny pot bunkers and a bevy of memorable risk/reward water holes spice the play. The waterfall-laced par-3 12th is worth a replay on its own. An excellent restaurant completes the experience.
A half-hour north of downtown but a world away in ambience sits architect Tripp Davis' homage to some of the greatest holes in the British Isles, starting with a startlingly accurate depiction of the opening (and adjacent closing) hole at St. Andrews' Old Course. A superb clubhouse and lodging experience successfully manages to blend equal parts Texas and Scotland, right down to the Nairn Nachos appetizer dished out in the restaurant.
\nHow they managed to find and preserve such a fetching plot of golfing ground just 10 minutes from DFW Airport is a happy mystery. The good news for golfers is that Texas Star, in suburban Euless, is a back-to-nature Keith Foster design that entertains throughout. Strategy, in zigzagging through oaks and creeks, is paramount. No matter how you fare, the post-round celebration at Raven's Grille is worth the wait.
\n You've got to stay at the resort to play, but it's well worth the tariff. First, Lansdowne is set into Virginia's Wine Country, but it's only 15 minutes from Washington's Dulles International Airport and 20 minutes from the Capital Beltway. Second, it could stake claim as the golf capital of the mid-Atlantic, thanks to its Robert Trent Jones II course, a Greg Norman layout and a 9-hole, par-32 track called Shark Bite. Both the Jones and Norman 18s are beautiful brutes that incorporate stone outcroppings and Potomac River views.
\nSituated 20 miles southeast of the Capitol in Upper Marlboro, Md., this walker-friendly layout eases through tumbling, forested, stream-slashed terrain before culminating both nines with spectacular challenges alongside the course's namesake 30-acre lake. A full-service restaurant overlooking the water is the perfect capper.
\nIf you have recommendations for other courses in these cities, or courses that are good for business in your town, share your thoughts in the comments field below.\n