The Year's New Golf Courses\nA dozen new courses officially opened in North America in 2011\nFor pure risk and reward, Firekeeper in Kansas has plenty of alternate routes and options to encourage even average golfers to think strategically.\nIn sand dunes south of Kearney, Neb., Jim Engh's Awarii Dunes is all about ingenious green contours. Some are fabulous, others outrageous; all encourage creative shotmaking.\nThe year's most impressive Native American casino course was Salish Cliffs Golf Club in Shelton, Wash., a Gene Bates roller-coaster routing through a forest of fir trees, with splashy bunkering and great panoramas.\nThe usual Tom Weiskopf architectural elegance at The Club at Kukui'ula, atop Pacific bluffs on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, is enhanced by a landscaping plan that highlights different tropical vegetation on every hole.\nMetamora (Ill.) Fields Golf Club, a residential design by PGA Tour veteran D.A. Weibring and design partner Steve Wolfard, features "funnel bunkers." Every fairway extends down into its fairway bunkers, and shaved banks lead into all greenside bunkers.\nHighlight of the Rope Rider Course at Suncadia Resort near Roslyn, Wash., a Peter Jacobsen-Jim Hardy design built atop old coal mines, is Tipple Hill, an enormous gray spoil pile looming over the seventh through ninth holes. The clubhouse was designed to emulate an old portal building, complete with multiple mine shafts that lead to cart storage.\nOn the tropical 27 holes of Osprey Point Golf Course in Boca Raton, Fla., architects Roy Case and Jeff Grossman substituted humps and mounds around many greens and expanded the width of coquina-shell cartpaths in selected areas to serve as waste bunkers.\nThe Michael Nicklaus/Dave Heatwole design of Applecross Country Club in Downingtown, Pa., averages just three bunkers per hole (far fewer than Michael's papa, Jack, normally uses).\nSeveral courses went easy on the bunkering. At the high-plains TimberStone Golf Course in the Boise suburb of Caldwell, several bunkers on John Steidel's blueprint were built as grass hollows for drainage reasons.\nCanadian architect Shawn Watters relied more on rocks, pines and water as hazards at Oak Bay Golf & Country Club in Honey Harbour, Ontario, producing the year's most awesome new par 3, the 170-yard 15th over a lake cove to a green atop a granite outcropping.\nAnother Nicklaus Design project, Rock Creek near Lake Texoma, Texas, features a sterling layout by Nicklaus associate Chet Williams, who used trees in place of bunkers on holes 10 through 12.\nWildstone Golf Course in Cranbrook, British Columbia, is a Black Knight Design (a subsidiary to Gary Player Design), but architect Jeff Lawrence, a former Tom Fazio associate, produced a layout with the look of a Fazio model. Wildstone excels in scenery and strategies, particularly on the short par-5 ninth (where pines split the fairway into optional routes) and on the par-4 17th (cross bunkers stretch across the fairway some 50 yards short of a perched green that looks as if it was appropriated from Pinehurst, pictured here). Wildstone was my favorite round of the year.