Merion Golf Club
• No. 7 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the U.S.
• No. 10 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the World
By today’s standards Merion is a short golf course, but the greens are so undulating that big hitters don’t have too much of an advantage. I like that. Back in 1971, Lee Trevino won the U.S. Open there, and Ben Hogan hit that amazing 1-iron to the 18th to win the Open in 1950. It’s slated to host the U.S. Open again in 2013, and I can’t wait to see it.
Oakmont Country Club
• No. 6 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the U.S.
• No. 9 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the World
To me, Oakmont is all about the greens. I played a Pennsylvania State Open there once and putted a ball off the green from only 20 feet away. Needless to say I was toast. The Church Pew bunker between the third and fourth holes is spectacular, and the course certainly proved its mettle again in the 2007 U.S. Open. Those of us who live in Pennsylvania are very proud to have Oakmont and Merion in our state.
Pine Valley Golf Club
• No. 1 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the U.S.
• No. 1 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the World
Every time you take out your driver or 3-wood at Pine Valley, you are taking your life in your hands. If you don’t hit the ball straight, or wind up missing the fairway, it is an automatic bogey. But visually, every hole is spectacular, and the whole experience is just unforgettable.
Baltimore Country Club (Five Farms East Course)
• No. 84 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 in the U.S.
This is an old A.W. Tillinghast course that in recent years has been restored to its former glory. The sixth hole is a long par 5 known as “The Barn Hole.” If you want to reach the green in two, you’ve got to clear a barn with your tee shot. It’s awesome. The par 4s are very, very tough, and the short par 3s are strategically challenging.
Pine Needles Lodge & Club
Southern Pines, N.C.
• No. 45 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play
The first thing I think about is Peggy Kirk Bell. She’s a member of the GOLF Magazine World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame and has been one of the owners of Pine Needles since the mid-1940s. As for the course, it’s one of the best second-shot courses I’ve ever seen. Because the greens are so tough on this Donald Ross design, you have to hit your approach shots to the proper area on the putting surface, regardless of where the hole is located. Miss that section and you’ll have a tough time making par.