Golf Courses & Travel

2013-14 Ranking: America's 100 Greatest Public Courses

The game's oldest ranking, established in 1966

Single Page | Methodology | By The Numbers | America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses | Best In State
February 2013
Pebble Beach G. Links
(Rank among 2011's 100 Greatest listed in parentheses)
Pebble Beach / 800-654-9300 /
6,828 yards, Par 72 | Points: 68.1169
Architecturally, there are a few better-designed courses than Pebble Beach. (After all, it's only No. 6 on America's 100 Greatest.) But no course tugs more at one's emotions. (Nine holes right on Carmel Bay -- the Nicklaus victories -- Watson's chip-in.) This is the course every fan wants to play, No. 1 on our ranking of Most Fun Public Courses last September. Our latest round took over 5 hours, as it seemed like every player wanted to film his every shot for memory's sake. Well, it's Pebble Beach. We relaxed and went with the flow.
Whistling Straits (Straits): Hole No. 13
Haven, Wis. / 800-344-2838 /
7,790, Par 72 | Points: 65.4037
Pete Dye transformed dead-flat two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan frontage (once slated for a nuclear power plant) into what many call the Pebble Beach of the Midwest, although it's more akin to Ireland's Ballybunion. Where the Straits is superior than either of those two iconic courses is in its par-3 holes. All four border Lake Michigan and are outstanding.
Pacific Dunes: Hole No. 4
Bandon, Ore. / 888-345-6008 /
6,633 yards, Par 71 | Points: 65.2226
Every hole causes your jaw to drop, every shot makes your pulse quicken. Plus, it's hard to believe that Pacific Dunes is not entirely natural, that some dunes were manmade, that some of the sand pits that edge fairways or greens weren't simply carved by ocean gales. Seamless architecture is what minimalist design is all about. Where the land was deficient, Tom Doak enhanced it in ways not readily detected.
The Ocean Course
Kiawah Island, S.C. / 888-854-2924 /
7,356 yards, Par 72 | Points: 64.9984
On the opposite coast from Pacific Dunes and far different. Some might call The Ocean Course a links, but water comes into play with annoying frequency and only some of the greens accept low, running approach shots, on Paspalum turf that is not conducive to bump-and-run. The Ocean Course is simply another example of the ingenuity and versatility of designer Pete Dye. Anyone who finds a resemblance to Dye's Whistling Straits in this course is pulling your leg.
Shadow Creek
North Las Vegas, Nev. / 866-260-0069 /
7,560 yards, Par 72 | Points: 64.0959
One of a kind, and maybe Tom Fazio's finest work ever. Shadow Creek plays like a musical composition in three movements, with alternating heavy beats and light moments, building to an resounding crescendo. Every golfer should experience Shadow Creek at least once. Few remember Shadow Creek started out as a private course. It was Golf Digest's Best New Private Course of 1990.
Bandon Dunes
Bandon, Ore. / 888-345-6008 /
6,732 yards, Par 72 | Points: 63.3770
Maybe not as visually mesmerizing as Whistling Straits (which it beat for Best New Upscale Public Course of 1999), but talented golfers consider Bandon Dunes to be the consummate shotmaker's course, as good a total examination of one's game as there is in America. What's more, the holes are a more natural fit into the windswept terrain than the mammoth-mounded Straits Course. Bandon Dunes is also ranked sixth among our 50 Most Fun Public Courses.
Pinehurst Resort (No. 2)
Pinehurst, N.C. / 800-487-4653 /
7,495 yards, Par 72 | Points: 63.2606
Pinehurst No. 2 has long been considered a great second-shot course because of its convex greens that demand precise iron play. After preparing the course for the 1999 U.S. Open, architect Rees Jones proclaimed No. 2 to be the greatest recovery-shot golf course in America. With Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw re-introducing hardpan rough and distressed turf off every fairway, No. 2 is now a great test of tee shots, too.
Bethpage State Park
Farmingdale, N.Y. / 516-249-4040 /
7,366 yards, Par 71 | Points: 63.1606
Gone are its rock hard tees, gravely bunkers, patchy fairways and thatchy greens. Bethpage Black now has the conditioning of a U.S. Open or Tour stop, both of which it has been in recent years. No need to sleep in the parking lot just to get a tee time anymore (just go online), but you may still have to verify your handicap. As a sign near the first tee states, Bethpage Black is an extremely difficult course recommended only for highly skilled players.
TPC Sawgrass
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. / 904-273-3235 /
7,215 yards, Par 72 | Points: 63.0514
When TPC Sawgrass first opened, most tour pros hated it. (Remember Jack Nicklaus's description of those original greens? Like hitting a 5-iron onto the hood of a Volkswagen, he said.) So Pete Dye ripped up 10 greens to make them fairer. No need for average players to dread this fantasy come to life. Dye insists he designed the course so high handicappers can shoot their handicap if they'll simply use the appropriate tees and tack their way around the course, ignoring the heroic carries where real disaster awaits.
Erin Hills G. Cse.
Erin, Wisc. / 866-772-4769 /
7,823 yards, Par 72 | Points: 62.9113
Despite the legend, Erin Hills wasn't designed initially to host a U.S. Open. Its original concept was a simple lay-of-the-land layout that would prove Mother Nature is indeed the best golf architect. The concept changed -- some greens moved, one blind par-3 eliminated -- as the quest for a U.S. Open grew. Erin Hills will host the event in 2017.
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