10 Golden Age Classics You Can Play

March 15, 2008

10 Golden Age Classics You Can Play
Golf course designers like MacKenzie, Ross and Tillinghast did some of their finest work between 1910 and 1940. This guide will point you to their best public layouts.

Classic courses tend to fit the land seamlessly, like your favorite pair of penny loafers. The PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing featured three — Pebble Beach, Riviera and Waialae. Each made its debut between 1910 and 1940, the period considered the Golden Age of golf course architecture. Riviera and Waialae are private, but while Pebble is pricey, at least you can play it. Here are 10 Golden Age classics you can play.

10. The Greenbrier (Old White)
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
800-624-6070, greenbrier.com
Architect: Charles Blair Macdonald, 1914
The father of American golf course architecture (Chicago Golf Club, National Golf Links, Yale), left few public designs, but this Old World masterpiece is a marvelous exception. Artfully restored in 2006 by Lester George, Old White is replete with forested hillsides and strategic bunkering.

9. The Broadmoor (East)
Colorado Springs, Colo.
719-577-5790, broadmoor.com
Architect: Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones Sr., 1918
One of Ross’ only ventures west of the Mississippi resulted in a wonderful mountain layout with slick, impossible-to-read greens that will host the 2008 U.S. Senior Open. While half the holes bear the design stamp of Trent Jones, the early holes and the closing stretch are the most graceful—and they belong to Ross.

8. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club
Southern Pines, N.C.
910-692-7111, pineneedles-midpines.com
Architect: Donald Ross, 1927
Three U.S. Women’s Opens have been contested on Pine Needles, in 1996, 2001 and 2007 and winners Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr, respectively, proved that it takes the best at their best to master the strategic options and beguiling greens presented here.

7. Linville Golf Club
Linville, N.C.
800-742-6717, eseeola.com
Architect: Donald Ross, 1924
Ross-aholics need to check into the Eseeola Lodge to play this mountain gem 90 minutes northeast of Asheville, but it’s worth the freight to tackle one of the most bucolic courses around—with the heart-pounding exception of the 472-yard, par-4 3rd, an early-round card-wrecker if there ever was one.

6. Taconic Golf Club
Williamstown, Mass.
413-458-3997, taconicgolf.com
Architects: Wayne Stiles/John Van Kleek, 1927
Among the most underrated of the Golden Age architects is the duo of Stiles and Van Kleek, who scattered their design imprint all over New England and for a time teamed with Hall-of-Famer Walter Hagen. Lovely Taconic, in the heart of the Berkshires, was the site of Jack Nicklaus’ first ace, a feat the 18-year-old achieved in the 1956 U.S. Junior Amateur.

5. The Homestead (Cascades)
Hot Springs, Va.
540-839-1766, thehomestead.com
Architect: William Flynn, 1923
Perhaps America’s finest mountain course, this Allegheny classic is renowned for its back-to-nature routing and variety of shotmaking opportunities. As local boy Sam Snead once said, “There isn’t any kind of hill you don’t have to play from or any kind of shot you won’t hit here.”

4. Pasatiempo Golf Club
Santa Cruz, Calif.
831-459-9155, pasatiempo.com
Architect: Alister MacKenzie, 1929
Perched on a barranca-slashed hillside 45 minutes north of Monterey, Pasatiempo dishes out one of the strongest collections of strategic par-4s anywhere, making it not only a favorite of shotmakers such as Ken Venturi and Juli Inkster, but of Dr. MacKenzie himself, who lived out his final years in a house along the 6th hole.

3. Bethpage State Park (Black)
Farmingdale, N.Y.
516-249-0700, nysparks.com
Architect: A. W. Tillinghast, 1936
While some dispute Tillinghast’s status as lead architect, what’s undeniable is that in 1998, Rees Jones restored this brawny, walkers-only muni to its rightful place among the nation’s greatest championship tests, illuminated best by the mammoth bunkers etched into the property’s natural slopes.

2. Pinehurst (No. 2)
Pinehurst, N.C.
800-487-4653, pinehurst.com
Architect: Donald Ross, 1907
Ross never stopped tinkering with his masterpiece until his death in 1948. What few realize is that his famous crowned greens at No. 2 were sand, not grass, until 1935, when Ross helped convert them in time for the 1936 PGA Championship.

1. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, Calif.
800-654-9300, pebblebeach.com
Architects: Jack Neville/Douglas Grant, 1919
Top amateur golfers Neville and Grant had never designed a course before, but they got the Figure 8 routing just right, providing for early encounters of the Pacific and then a crescendo of ocean-filled drama to conclude matters.