The holiday season inevitably brings three things to bear — college football games with bowl implications, an overabundance of calories and family get-togethers. In the spirit of the season, we give you our “All in the Family” list: The Top 10 “Sister” courses you can play. Stick with these oft-overlooked siblings and you’ll have happy holidays indeed.
Whistling Straits (Irish Course), Sheboygan, Wisc.
800-344-2838, destinationkohler.com; $150-$207
Pete Dye, 2000
The Irish Course is nearly as stern as its older brother, the Straits Course, the formidable host of the 2004 PGA Championship and the 2007 U.S. Senior Open. It mimics classic Emerald Isle links layouts with its towering sand hills and a rolling landscape peppered with nasty bunkers.
TPC Sawgrass (Valley Course), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
904-273-3230, tpc.com/sawgrass; $130-$195
Pete Dye/Bobby Weed, 1987
If the island green and Tour cache are “must-haves” in your trophy collection, head next door to the Stadium course. Otherwise, the Valley Course is a scintillating sibling with all the golf you could want. There is water, water everywhere, but seldom a forced carry. More often it’s of the bite-off-as-much-as-you-can-chew variety, so tack your way around wisely and you’ll have a blast.
TPC Scottsdale (Champions Course), Scottsdale, Ariz.
480-585-4334, tpc.com/scottsdale; $41-$128.50
Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish, 1986; Randy Heckenkemper, 2007
Gone are the days when this layout (formerly known as the Desert Course) was a non-descript, if value-oriented, next-door neighbor to the Stadium, which is home to the largest, wildest galleries in golf every January at the FBR Open. Architect Heckenkemper added 700 yards and strategy galore, while keeping the desert ravines, mountain vistas and affordable pricing.
World Woods Golf Club (Rolling Oaks Course), Brooksville, Fla.
352-796-5500, worldwoods.com; $40-$145
Tom Fazio, 1993
Pine Barrens’ homage to Pine Valley generally grabs the glory here, but its oak-, magnolia- and dogwood-laced sibling, which tips its hat to the spaciousness and ambience of Augusta National, is a more than worthy alternative. Noteworthy is the creek-lined par-3 8th, which plays from an elevated tee to a two-tiered green.
Princeville Resort (Makai Course), Kauai, Hawaii
808-826-9644, Princeville.com; $95-$175
Robert Trent Jones Jr., 1971
Though nowhere near as fearsome as its jungle-strewn brother, the Prince Course, the three nines at Makai (Ocean, Lakes and Woods) satisfy fully with a marvelous blend of risk/reward options and local scenery. Panoramic Pacific vistas greet golfers on Ocean’s par-3 3rd, while the 7th at Woods serves up a black-lava-rock “Zen” bunker.
Pinehurst Resort (No. 8 Course), Pinehurst, N.C.
910-295-6811, Pinehurst.com; $250
Tom Fazio, 1996
It can’t approach the fabled No. 2 for history and lore, but it’s undeniable that for sheer beauty, variety and memorable holes, No. 8 holds its own. Lakes, wetlands, an abandoned sand pit and a man-made dune ridge add to the fun, but it’s the huge and fast crowned greens that can send scores soaring.
Bethpage State Park (Red Course), Farmingdale, N.Y.
516-249-0700, nysparks.com; $36-$82
A.W. Tillinghast, 1935
Nowhere near as brawny as the adjacent U.S. Open track, the Black, the Red nevertheless dishes out plenty of bogies, especially on its tougher-than-old-beef-jerky 1st hole, a monstrous 470-yard par-4. Yet, in the minds of some, the walkability and variety give this one the edge over its more famous sibling.
Blackwolf Run (Meadow Valleys Course), Kohler, Wisc.
920-457-4446, destinationkohler.com; $150-$207
Pete Dye, 1988
Sister course the River gets most of the ink, but on paper, Meadow Valleys is every bit the test. While it’s perhaps just shy of its sibling’s drama quotient, this layout does feature nine holes that made up part of the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open layout, including the rugged par-4 18th, known as “Salmon Trap.”
Grayhawk Golf Club (Talon Course), Scottsdale, Ariz.
480-502-1800, grayhawkgolf.com; $50-$225
David Graham/Gary Panks, 1994
Its younger brother (by one year), the Tom Fazio-designed Raptor Course, steals most of the thunder as a PGA Tour event host, but Talon actually ranks higher in most polls, due in part to its memorable par-3s. One is the 175-yard 11th, where players who traverse the swinging bridge to reach the back tee face an all-carry shot over a cactus-filled canyon.
Reynolds Plantation (Oconee Course), Greensboro, Ga.
800-800-5250, reynoldsplantation.com; $260
Rees Jones, 2001
The back nine at Jack Nicklaus’s Great Waters has rightly transfixed everybody for years, but Rees Jones’s big, bold Oconee matches up in virtually every way, from the rolling terrain that sweeps through giant pines to the sterling finish that mixes strategy-laden shotmaking options with eye candy views of Lake Oconee.