Why do powerhouse courses like Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2 and Pacific Dunes garner so much attention? They’re great designs, sure. But they also have great marketing departments with big advertising budgets. They can shout about themselves, which gives them a huge advantage over their less heralded brethren. For a new Gold series, we asked our well-traveled Gold Insiders to make the case for a hidden gem that they have discovered on their journeys: an under-the-radar course or “golf experience” that deserves more pub. Responses flooded in, and we’ve been rolling them out in groups of three. (Check out the first installment here.) Played a diamond in the rough of your own? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
GRANDE DEL MAR GOLF CLUB
SAN DIEGO, CALIF.
Par: 72, Yardage: 7,160
“Just north of San Diego, Grande Del Mar truly sets the bar high for outstanding service. Since it is about five miles inland, it is a little warmer than the La Jolla coast, which allowed for my wife to lounge poolside comfortably in April at the adult pool and spa while I played golf guilt free. A forecaddie is included in your greens fee, and the pace of play on the Tom Fazio course was outstanding. The course rambles interestingly through the canyons, and is similar to Fazio’s Canyons course at Barton Creek, in Austin. While playing my round there, I had my first career hole in one on the 9th hole. Four weeks later, I received in the mail a truly wonderful framed 16″ x 20″ photograph of the hole, complete with an inscribed plaque describing the event, with my name, date, and distance. It now hangs proudly and prominently in my office. The staff definitely went above and beyond in helping me document the event, for which I am quite grateful.” — Joel S. Dunn, M.D., Atlanta
BLACKHEAD MOUNTAIN LODGE & CC
ROUND TOP, N.Y.
Par: 72, Yardage: 6,076
“When you arrive at this ‘resort,’ you will not think the course is worth the drive up the winding mountain roads. We pulled into the parking lot there was only one person at the clubhouse and we were the only people staying at the resort. (It was a Tuesday afternoon around 5 o’clock in the middle of July!) But this quirky layout cut into the side of a mountain is well cared for and the owners take pride in its appearance; the fairways, greens, and sand traps were in excellent shape and very true. The holes are memorable, with ponds, creeks, doglegs, and elevation changes. Shotmaking is a must. Our foursome had a blast. If you are in the Catskill Mountains southwest of Albany, N.Y., I’d recommend dropping by.” — Anonymous
NORTH BERWICK (WEST LINKS)
EAST LOTHIAN, SCOTLAND
Par: 71, Yardage: 6,140
“We thought that North Berwick was not only a great course but also the best bargain we found in Scotland. It was an ‘add on’ after playing Muirfield and we enjoyed it so much more than Muirfield and some of the other big-ticket Open courses. From the world’s nicest clubhouse attendant to the old walls that go through the course (across holes!), North Berwick was an unexpected pleasure. We’ll go back again and play it twice, skipping Muirfield and using the 250 pounds we save on some 30-year-old scotch!” — Marc F. Lynnfield, Mass.
Note: The course is closed on Saturdays for member play.
The Gold Insiders are a group of more than 900 of our most well-traveled and discerning readers who contribute their opinions and expertise to the site. On average, they take seven golf trips per year and carry a handicap of 11.8. Want to join the Insiders? We’d love to have you on board! Click here to take our introductory survey.