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 first two installments here and here.) Played a diamond in the rough of your own? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
PACIFIC GROVE GOLF LINKS
PACIFIC GROVE, CALIF.
Par: 70, Yardage: 5,727
“‘The Poor Man’s Pebble Beach,’ as it’s known, is a hidden gem on the Monterey Peninsula. Overshadowed by the swankier, world-renowned (and justly so) courses just up the road in the Del Monte Forest — tracks such as Spyglass Hill, The Links at Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills, and, of course, Pebble Beach — Pac Grove offers Monterey Peninsula scenery and a unique course layout at a fraction of the price of the high-end resort courses in the area. The course is unique in having two distinctly different nines. The front side, built in 1932, is a typical parkland layout which winds through cypress trees on the low upland rising away from the coast, with a quirky 3-3-4-4-5-5 opening sequence. That odd start comes thanks to the rerouting that was put in place when the back nine was added in 1968. The back side lies across Asilomar Avenue from the new clubhouse, and comprises nine holes of links-style golf laid out on the sandy dunescape of Point Piños. With rates from $41 twilight to $68 primetime, Pacific Grove Golf Links is a real bargain in Monterey Peninsula golf.” — Gary McCormick, San Jose, Calif.
LAHINCH (OLD COURSE)
LAHINCH, COUNTY CLARE, IRELAND
Par: 70, Yardage: 5,727
“A big part of the experience of playing Lahinch is what you can do when you’re not on the course. The Cliffs of Moher are nearby; the village has a good assortment of pubs and shops; and Doolin, the center of traditional Irish music, is a taxi ride away. The gem of our time there was Eugene’s Bar in Ennistimon. It’s a small, cozy bar with a tremendous selection of Irish whiskey. It wasn’t busy, so the owner/barkeep educated us about the character of various whiskeys, which of course we had to sample. We still rely on his recommendations when we’re sitting at our clubhouse bar.” — Lyle Staab, Hawthorn Woods, Ill.
Par: 72, Yardage: 7,294
Tee times are available only to guests staying on property. Weekday packages start at $180; weekends start at $220
“Sometimes you make your way out to a course that someone told you about, you’ve read about, or you just thought you would check out, because you were in the area. I had read about Ballyhack, and I decided to check it out on my way to the Greenbrier for a conference a few years ago. They were allowing outside play to entice new members and they put my family and I up in one of their cabins and let me play with one of the assistant pros. They treated us like royalty. It was phenomenal and one of the most fun rounds I have ever played on a really cool course, with 70-foot elevation drops at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two other quick recommendations: (1) Ballyneal in Holyoke, Colo. We’re huge Tom Doak fans and Ballyneal is unquestionably one of my favorites (although I haven’t found one I don’t like). An amazing course with amazing views. (2) Dunes Club in Benton Harbor, Mich. I live in Michigan and we have some incredible courses, including my all time favorites, Crystal Downs, and my home course, Oakland Hills. But you want to talk pure golf and walking on cloud nine, Dunes Club is a pretty amazing place.” — Anonymous
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.