#46 U.S. and #77 World
A surprise pick to host the 2015 U.S. Open, this
sprawling muni sits an hour south of Seattle. Sculpted
from an old gravel mine by the Robert Trent Jones II
firm, Chambers Bay blends equal parts Ballybunion
and Bethpage Black. Giant sandhills, heavily contoured
fescue fairways, few forced carries, and stunning views
of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains make this
walking-only, 7,585-yard track a physically taxing but
infinitely playable test. Bring on Tiger!
Monterey Peninsula (Shore)
The Shore course joins the rota for the AT&T Pebble
Beach National Pro-Am in 2010, replacing Poppy Hills.
The layout dates back to a handsome, if bare-boned 1961
Bob Baldock/Jack Neville design, but its character is all
Mike Strantz, the late designer who finished an amazing
makeover in 2004. Strantz carved out 12 new holes and
reworked six others, and the rock formations, twisted
trees, and unimpeded ocean views make this a splendid
alternative to the region’s more famous Big Three.
Pete Dye Golf Club
Any course that features a cart path built through a coal
mine sounds more Disney than design genius. But at
Pete Dye’s namesake track, the coal seam, mine shaft
and other relics are native to the site, a former coal mine.
Located two hours south of Pittsburgh and home to a
Nationwide Tour event, the course is full of the master’s
risk/reward diagonals and exacting shot demands. It took
16 years to build the course and another 16 to reach the
Top 100, but our panelists agree it was worth the wait.
How good is Oitavos Dunes? It has “the potential to be
the best course in Europe,” said Irish Ryder Cup hero
Paul McGinley. Home to a European Tour event, Oitavos
is a 2001 Arthur Hills seaside design 30 miles west of
Lisbon. Lead architect Drew Rogers benefited from a
rolling landscape of scrub-covered dunes, umbrella pines
and open coastal areas, along with multiple views of the
Atlantic Ocean, but give him and his team credit for the
diversity of holes and required shots.
Valley Club of Montecito
The Valley Club not only leapt from No. 59 in the U.S. in
2007 to No. 51 in 2009, but it also snuck into our World
Top 100. This 1929 Alister MacKenzie/Robert Hunter
creation is a low-profile 6,700-yarder near Santa Barbara,
Calif. Its recent popularity can be traced to a restoration
by Tom Doak, who with colleague Jim Urbina brought
back the look and strategic aspects of MacKenzie’s
distinctive bunkering, reintroduced closely mown
chipping areas and restored subtleties within the greens.
Wales’ first entry into the World Top 100 is primarily
the work of H.S. Colt, who revised the course in 1913.
But it was Bob Hope who first put Porthcawl on the
map for Americans when he competed in the British
Amateur in 1951. Panelist Donald Steel observes that it
is unique among great links courses because the sea is in
full view on every hole. The approach to the par-4 18th,
its green dramatically backed by the sea, is one of the
U.K.’s most memorable, and frightening, shots.
Golf at Waterville dates to 1889, but it took a
21st-century Tom Fazio tweak to elevate it
to World Top 100 status. Set on a spit of land
hard by the Atlantic Ocean on southwest Ireland’s
fabled Ring of Kerry, Waterville is no longer just
pretty and tough. It’s pretty, tough — and absolutely
superb. Eddie Hackett’s 1973 design remains the
bones, but Fazio’s new 2004 holes, the 6th and
7th, along with his work at improving vistas and
interest elsewhere, has invigorated Waterville.
Amateur golf legend Marvin “Vinny” Giles — winner
of the 1972 U.S. Amateur — conjured up this tree-lined
private layout in his hometown of Richmond, Va., with
architect Lester George. Few courses present more split
fairways, which puts a premium on thoughtful decision-making.
The most memorable holes are the 586-yard,
par-5 9th, its fairway slashed by a creek, and the 471-yard,
par-4 16th, which calls for a daring drive over water.
But golfers without Giles’ pedigree, beware — from its
7,203-yard tips, Kinloch has a 76.9 rating and 145 slope.
Chalk up this 2003 Graham Marsh design 45 miles north
of Pierre, S.D., as yet another “if you build it, they will
come” Great Plains private retreat. Conditioning issues
and a shortage of panelist visits have held back Sutton
Bay in the past, but no longer. This 7,245-yard stunner
works its way across bluffs that overlook the peaceful
waters of Lake Oahe. The 660-yard opener, a downhill
par-5 that eases through tall dunes, golden prairie grasses
and bunkers that appear to be etched naturally into the
landscape, sets a remarkable and apt tone for the round.
Cog Hill (No. 4)
For many years after its 1964 opening, this Dick Wilson-
Joe Lee collaboration in the suburbs southwest of
Chicago was a certified brute, earning it the nickname
“Dubsdread.” It had 100 bunkers, half of them flanking
fairway landing areas, and it could stretch to 7,300 yards.
Then titanium-toting Tour pros started picking it apart,
culminating in Tiger Woods’ 22-under-par birdie barrage
at the 2007 BMW Championship. Enter Rees Jones, who
repositioned bunkers, rebuilt greens and added nine new
back tees that have put the dread back in Dubsdread.
Few sporting gestures can match the conclusion of the
1969 Ryder Cup, when Jack Nicklaus conceded a short
putt to England’s Tony Jacklin on the final green. In
2006, a golf course inspired by this act of sportsmanship
opened on Florida’s west coast. Co-designed by Nicklaus
and Jacklin, The Concession could probably host a Ryder
Cup right now, with its 7,500-yard length and plethora
of shotmaking demands. There are no interior roads and
almost no houses, just plenty of trees, bunkers, water
hazards and, on the 476-yard, par-4 18th, bogies.
Whispering Pines may give away money — half the
members’ dues are doled to charity, and owner Corby
Robertson Jr. covers the rest of the club’s expenses — but it’s not so generous with birdies. The nine-year-old
layout outside of Houston stretches to 7,480 yards, and
thanks to the work of Nicklaus Design’s Chet Williams,
it requires an arsenal of shots. The more daunting holes
include the island-green, par-3 15th and the forested
499-yard, par-4 18th, where water edges the left side
before curling in front of the three-tiered green.
Boston Golf Club
Blend subtle nods to Scottish quirk, Pine Valley-esque
forced carries and classic Yankee charm and you have
Boston Golf Club, a 2005 Gil Hanse design half an
hour south of Beantown. The low-profile, walking-only
private club sports dunes, scruffy bunkers, rock
outcroppings and a variety of shot options ranging
from a drive over a stone wall at the long par-4 12th,
reminiscent of Scotland’s North Berwick, to an aerial
test over sandy scrub at the 160-yard, par-3 6th, an
homage to Pine Valley.
Forty-five years ago Jack Nicklaus opened Hawaii’s
Mauna Kea by beating Arnold Palmer and Gary Player
in the “Big Three” match. Afterward, Nicklaus called the
Robert Trent Jones Sr. design “the most fun golf course
I’ve ever played.” Well, the fun is back. In late 2008,
Rees Jones restored one of his father’s most cherished
creations, updating and relocating bunkers, improving
drainage, and adding 200 yards. The new track is perhaps
just as tough as the old one, but more fair. Like old times,
Mauna Kea is once again golf’s beautiful beast.