Spyglass Hill G.C.
Pebble Beach / 800-654-9300 / pebblebeach.com
6,960 yards, Par 72 | Points: 62.6363
What is surprising to first-time players at Spyglass Hill is how hilly the course is, even on dunes holes like the par-4 second. The Monterey Pines are far taller than they appear in photos, too. But there's an intimacy to the holes, like the tandem par 3s -- 12 and 15 -- with tiny greens fronted by deep pools of water -- and an element of whimsy -- like the skinny apostrophe of a green on the fourth.
Old MacDonald
Bandon, Ore. / 888-345-6008 / bandondunesgolf.com
6,978 yards, Par 71 | Points: 62.6150
When it opened three years ago, we predicted Old Macdonald would eventually become the most popular course at Bandon Dunes Resort, mainly because it has wide fairways and generous greens. At the urging of "Design Fairness proponent" Arthur Little, owner Mike Keiser installed a set of Royal Blue tee markers at 4,258 yards. That should just add to its popularity.
Arcadia Bluffs G.C.
Arcadia, Mich. / 800-494-8666 / arcadiabluffs.com
7,300 yards, Par 72 | Points: 62.2723
The rugged dunes-like topography of Arcadia Bluffs was always there, just hidden beneath a forest that was removed to construct the course. What makes this lakefront layout different than other lakeside ones, say Whistling Straits or Bay Harbor, are its distinctive stacked-sod bunkers. They're not circular pot holes found at most links. Arcadia's are curvaceous, with vertical faces that bend and roll around both concave and convex corners.
Blackwolf Run (River)
Kohler, Wis. / 800-344-2838 / blackwolfrun.com
7,404 yards, Par 72 | Points: 61.7320
The first encounter with the serpentine Sheboygan River is from the tee on the gorgeous par-4 fifth, so far right that it merely frames the picture. But it creeps ever closer on the next few holes, always in the slice zone, until the reachable par-4 ninth, where it taunts us to carry it and go directly for the green. The river hugs the next four holes too, then disappears, only to reappear on the last three holes, this time on the left. What a water park.
Karsten Creek G.C.
Stillwater, Okla. / 405-743-1658 / karstencreek.com
7,407 yards, Par 72 | Points: 61.5329
Karsten Creek, winner of Golf Digest's Best New Public Course title in 1994, was developed by Oklahoma State University and thus is also often at the top of rankings of the best collegiate courses in America. Bold in its features and contours, this is Tom Fazio in a surprisingly challenging mood. Karsten Creek is potentially one of the toughest layouts on America's 100 Greatest Public.
Bandon Trails
Bandon, Ore. / 800-345-6008 / bandondunesgolf.com
6,765 yards, Par 71 | Points: 61.5018
Bandon Trails is much like Spyglass Hill on the Monterey Peninsula, not directly adjacent to the Pacific Ocean but still a tremendous romp through coast terrain. Its opening and finishing holes are in more rugged sand dunes than Spyglass, and while its forest holes might lack the towering drama of the Monterey pines found at Spyglass, the tumbling topography of Bandon Trails provides a majesty all its own.
Pete Dye Cse. at French Lick
French Lick, Ind. / 888-936-9360 / frenchlick.com
8,102 yards, Par 72 | Points: 60.9761
If you're foolish enough to want to play Pete Dye at French Lick from the tips, you'll do a lot of walking back from previous greens to those tees. From the 6,400-yard white markers, however, you'll breeze though an 18. Pete Dye and his companions have twice played the course from those tees in under three-and-a-half hours. It's an incredibly easy walk for a mountain course. Pete Dye at French Lick was Golf Digest's Best New Public Course of 2009.
Harbour Town G. Links
Hilton Head Island / 800-955-8337 / seapines.com
7,101 yards, Par 71 | Points: 60.9168
The 16th at Harbour Town has contributed a term to golf. Back when Pete Dye was building the course, he was asked to dispose of a huge quantity of sewer sludge from housing developments on Hilton Head, so he dug a big pit to the left of the par-4 16th, had it dumped in there, then covered it with acres of sand. The late golf writer Charlie Price, who lived on the island, took one look at it and dubbed it a "waste bunker." Actually, that's the sanitized version of what he called it. But "waste bunker" is the term that stuck.
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii / 877-527-2582 / kapaluamaui.com
7,411 yards, Par 73 | Points: 60.8925
Here's a curious fact: Kapalua's Plantation Course, built on old pineapple fields, is irrigated by the same system used a hundred years ago to water those fields. A century-old stone aqueduct brings water from the top of a rain-soaked volcano down to a pond that sits 800 feet above the course. The pond supplies Kapalua's sprinkler system, which is pressurized solely by gravity.
The Quarry at Giants Ridge
Bibawik, Minn. / 800-688-7669 / giantsridge.com
7,201 yards, Par 72 | Points: 60.8816
It doesn't get the press that courses like Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Whistling Straits or Arcadia Bluffs, but The Quarry at Giants Ridge plays very links-like with its collection of fairway speed slots, greenside bankboards and backstops and reverse camber greens. Its very inventive design also demands some aerial play too, and its 13th is a drivable par-4 that's nearly as wide as it is long, with three alternate routes to a 100-yard-wide green.
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