Top 100 Courses You Can Play: Pacific Dunes edges Pebble Beach for No. 1, while Pinehurst narrows the gap

6. Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort -- Bandon, Ore. One of the wildest walks in golf when the wind gusts to 3- and 4-club velocities, it is nevertheless one of the most rewarding in the world. Massive sand dunes, 75-foot-high cliffs overlooking the Pacific and a walking-only policy makes Pac Dunes a fantasy come to life for both traditionalists and artists alike.
Wood Sabold

Ali vs. Frazier. Magic vs. Bird. Pacific vs. Pebble. For course connoisseurs, the biennial slugfest between the two best public courses in the land is as compelling as any great sports rivalry.

In 2012, Pacific Dunes once again tops Pebble Beach —barely — as decided by our esteemed panelists. Nipping at Pacific and Pebble’s heels is Pinehurst No. 2, which surged four spots, to third place, thanks to Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s inspired restoration.

The five rookies on our list include The Links at Lighthouse Sound, in Maryland, which returns after a two-year hiatus, and Marquette’s Greywalls, in Michigan, a long-overlooked gem. The three other newcomers are once-private courses that turned public — in this challenging economy, a trend that you can expect to see more of in 2013.

Watch out, Pac Dunes — the pool of great public courses is about to grow deeper still.

The List: Top 100 You Can Play 2012

Best Public Courses in Every State

– Photos: 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-1

Interactive Map: Explore the Top 100 Courses

Rookie Class: Five New Courses in the Top 100

Special Section: More on the Top 100 Courses You Can Play