Best New Golf Courses You Can Play 2010

Best New Golf Courses You Can Play 2010

Old Mac demands controlled trajectory, ground-game prowess and a mastery of strategy.
Wood Sabold

To declare 2010 a better year for new public-course openings than recession-ravaged 2009 is to damn it with faint praise. Still, the past 12 months were an improvement, if not in quantity — at press, 43 18-hole equivalents had debuted in ’10 versus 43.5 through the same period in ’09 — then certainly in quality.

The runaway winner as best new course of the year hails from familiar grounds: Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Resort, whose Old Macdonald layout was unveiled this past June. In addition to Old Mac, both our first- and third-place international finishers take advantage of a seaside setting, and our U.S. runner-up, the Dunes course at The Prairie Club, feels genuinely linksy with its sand hills and rumpled terrain — even if it’s about 1,500 miles from the nearest ocean. Trend-spotters will note that four of our awardwinners incorporate the word “dunes” in their names, but make no mistake, our honorees, which hail from eight different states, offer great geographic and topographic variety — and value, too.

Four courses can be played for $80 or less, and three of our four Honorable Mentions cost less than $50. Those are numbers we can all appreciate.

1. Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes Resort
Bandon, Ore.
6,978 yards, par 71
Green Fees: $75-$275

If you’re not a student of Charles
Blair Macdonald, one trip
around Old Macdonald will
provide all the insight necessary
into America’s pioneer
architect. Spurred by Bandon
Dunes Resort domo Mike
Keiser and aided by a fistful of
Macdonald experts, architects
Tom Doak and Jim Urbina
conjured up a series of faithful
Macdonald reproductions and
inspired originals on a rumpled
parcel just north of top-ranked
Pacific Dunes.

Ocean access and
a gigantic dune that bisects
the property are highlights,
but most remarkable are the
football-field wide fairways that
lead to equally massive greens.

Beguiling contours, a minefield
of bunkers, firm,
almost crispy
turf, and perpetual
gusts demand controlled
and ground game
prowess, together
with a mastery of
strategy and angles — the very essence
of links golf.

All of the Macdonald
template holes
have a home here,
from a “Redan” to
an “Alps,” but the
most memorable
hole is a Doak/Urbina original:
the uphill par-4 7th called
“Ocean.” As Doak put it, “This
stout par-4 into the wind is not
modeled after any particular
Macdonald hole, but we were
sure that Macdonald would
have moved heaven and earth
to site a green on the dune ridge
overlooking the Pacific.”

2. The Prairie Club (Dunes)
Valentine, Neb.
7,583 yards, par 73
Green Fees: $135-$240

Ten miles south of the South
Dakota border, Tom Lehman
and design associate Chris
Brands draped 18 Sand Hills-style
holes onto a rolling, treeless
canvas, with firm, incredibly
wide fairways that still
manage to demand strategic
driving, thanks to the artistically
sculpted, well-placed
bunkers at every turn. Huge,
cunningly contoured greens
and ever-present winds off the
plains help narrow the targets
in a hurry.

3. The Golf Club at Harbor Shores
Benton Harbor, Mich.
6,861 yards, par 71
Green Fees: $80-$150

One of the year’s feel-good
stories is this short but stern
Jack Nicklaus Signature design
that weaves through
hardwoods, marshland and
massive white sand dunes that
edge Lake Michigan on holes
7, 8 and 9. Developers are
hopeful the course will help
kick-start this long-depressed
area of southwest Michigan.
They’re off to a good start:
both the 2012 and 2014 Senior
PGA Championships will be
contested at Harbor Shores.

4. Shining Rock Golf Club
Northbridge, Mass.
6,878 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $45-$70

Not every course needs a pedigreed architect to make its mark.
Construction superintendent Patrick Sullivan earns the design
accolades here thanks to an inspired layout dripping with Yankee
charm that overlooks the Blackstone River Valley between
Worcester and Boston. Rugged exposed rock, forest-framed
fairways, streams, and elevation changes are constant companions
in our Best Value winner of 2010’s Top New Courses.

5. The Old American Golf Club at The Tribute
The Colony, Tex.
7,174 yards, par 71
Green Fees: $150-$175

On the gridiron, the Red River Rivalry between Texas and
Oklahoma is a scorcher. Golf’s version is much more friendly,
at least for Sooner Tripp Davis and Longhorn Justin Leonard,
who teamed up to design Old American, 35 minutes north of
Dallas. The subtle, thought-provoking track evokes the bunkering
and risk/reward strategies of classics such as Prairie
Dunes and Shinnecock Hills and pairs them with eye-candy
views of Lewisville Lake.

6. Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club
Lewiston, N.Y.
7,016 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $55-$85

A mere 10 miles from Niagara
Falls, it’s no surprise that
water is the dominant feature
at this Robert Trent Jones II
creation. The liquid peril on
the closing hole takes the form
of a lake on a 152-yard par-3,
a petite, yet drama-filled end
to the round. This tranquil,
tribally owned track is named
for the rare Shellbark Hickory
trees on site. What you won’t
find are homes, forced features
or anything remotely

7. Lodestone Golf Club
McHenry, Md.
7,507 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $125

Three-time U.S. Open champion
Hale Irwin was a wizard
with his long irons and fairway
woods, and you’ll need some
long-game magic of your own
to tackle this hardy test from
the tips. Smartly, Irwin and codesigner
Todd Schoeder also
worked in generous landing
areas, multiple downhill tee
shots, and enticing mountain
panoramas over nearly 3,000
feet of elevation. The exposed
granite outcroppings and
handsomely etched bunkers
further spice the play.

8. The Prairie Club (Pines)
Valentine, Neb.
7,403 yards, par 73
Green Fees: $135-$240

The tree-lined sibling to the wide-open Dunes course is the
handiwork of Australian Graham Marsh. The layout conjures
up visions of Melbourne’s Sandbelt courses, though the most
compelling holes, such as the 5th, 11th and 12th, have a Pine
Valley feel to them, calling for pinpoint shots between the trees
and healthy carries over sandy scrub.

9. TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks)
San Antonio, Tex.
7,522 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $131-$175

Not everyone is in love
with the bunker that
designer Greg Norman
decided to carve into
the middle of the 16th
green, but the new home
of the PGA Tour’s Valero
Texas Open still proved
that it’s a worthy test
in its 2010 debut. Ernie
Els made mention of the
well-bunkered, narrow
fairways that wind
through the oaks, the
various slopes around
the greens that lead to
penalties, and the sectionalized
greens themselves — which could explain
why he didn’t win.

10. Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forest
Leland, N.C.
7,217 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $60-$110

Tim Cate authored this Wilmington-area layout that
merges typical Lowcountry traits such as low-lying
wetlands and fairways framed by crepe myrtle, pines
and oaks with modern flourishes that include rocky
creeks and tee-to-green bunkers that allow for cart
traffic. Despite a brutal opening trio of holes, the course
eventually melts the diverse design elements into a
memorable package.

Honorable Mentions

Meadow Brook
Richmond, R.I.
7,468 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $40-$70

1757 Golf Club
Dulles, Va.
6,542 yards, par 70
Green Fees: $49-$65

TPC San Antonio (AT&T Canyons)
San Antonio, Tex.
7,406 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $131-$175

Timber Banks Golf Course
Baldwinsville, N.Y.
7,331 yards, par 72
Green Fees: $35-$65