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America's Best 18 Holes Since 2000

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August 19, 2020

In 1965, the great Dan Jenkins picked an All-Star team of golf holes for Sports Illustrated, The Best 18 Golf Holes in America, selected by a committee of one, although he allowed Ben Hogan a nod or two. What set Jenkins’ list apart from other pretenders was a self-imposed restriction. His All-Star team, he said, couldn’t have five quarterbacks and three tight ends. Each hole had to play the position it occupied on the real course: best first hole from among all starting holes in America, best second hole, and so on. His article later became an influential book, and today each club he featured still treats Dan’s selection as a papal blessing.

Jenkins joined Golf Digest in 1985, and in the early 1990s it was suggested that he reprise his list, selecting from among golf holes that didn’t exist in ’65. He was lukewarm, partly because he hadn’t played many of the newly built country-clubs for-a-day, or the hundreds of O.B.-laden tract-home layouts or even any of the ultra-private, guard-gated, one-owner Augusta National wannabes. But he soon returned to the game with renewed enthusiasm and finally agreed to pick a new Best 18, this time with some help, as there were some courses he wanted no part of. His Second-Generation list appeared in this magazine in early 2000, covering holes built from 1965-’99.

Sadly, Jenkins is gone now, but a good idea remains a good idea, even if it has been milked twice before. As Golf Digest is celebrating its 70th anniversary, we believe an updated list seems appropriate, this time choosing from among golf holes built from 2000-’19.

Our approach was a bit different than Dan’s. His original list drew from the usual courses, the architectural classics like Merion and Pine Valley, spiced with a few “modern” twists like Champions in Houston (definitely not a Hogan thumbs up) and The Dunes in Myrtle Beach. Thirty-five years later, he searched for holes that looked great on calendars and gave tour pros heartburn, hence his embracing of holes like the 14th at Muirfield Village and the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

In assembling version 3.0, we stayed true to the Jenkins requirement of comparing apples to apples. But we self-imposed two additional limitations: an architect or architectural firm could be listed only once, and a club or facility could not be represented more than once. Beyond that, no other strait jackets, no consideration of total par, hole length, scorecard balance, regional balance, grass type, bunker style or flag pattern. Ours was just a quest to identify the most memorable and meritorious holes that represent early 21st-century trends in golf architecture in America.

For instance, there’s a renewed emphasis on strategic lines and angles that incorporate far more width than 1990s housing-development courses could provide, so a couple of our holes are astonishingly wide. We mined rugged, far-flung regions of the United States, which is where present-day architects have been finding work. Sometimes it’s on great land, which resulted in a rustic aesthetic that’s represented in some picks, but sometimes it was marginal land, a landfill or abandoned quarry, where talented people rose to the challenge. But mostly, we focused on finding holes that are fun to play, because that’s the overwhelming trend thus far in this century.

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Illustration by Chris O'Riley

Speaking of fun, many of the most unique and fascinating holes built in the past 20 years have been short par 4s, those tantalizing, entertaining, match-swinging half-par holes: some days a cinch birdie, other days a hard par. That’s why four such creations made our 2020 list.

1. KINGSLEY CLUB

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LC Lambrecht

KINGSLEY MICHIGAN
PAR 5 602 YARDS
ARCHITECT MIKE DEVRIES
2001

Our opening hole, with its 90-yard-wide corridor, would seem to be a comfortable par 5 to ease us into the round. The first hole at the private Kingsley Club, near Traverse City, actually has two fairways, a high-right avenue and a lower-left route, the two separated by a cluster of bunkers. But here’s where Mike DeVries messes with our heads (the goal of every great architect), by making us pick and choose on the first shot of the day. Do we play up the narrow right side? Can we reach the crest? Or do we aim at the wider left side, at the risk of rolling down into the trees? Or do we split the difference and try to carry over that frightful field of pits? Kingsley’s wonderful glacial domes and hollows provide brain teasers and aggravating options throughout the round, demanding that our mental game be focused on the shot in front of us and nothing else. Which is good, as golf is meant to be an escape. —RW

Private
Kingsley Club
Kingsley, MI, United States
Expertly routed across glacial domes and over kettle holes, Kingsley Club opens with a split fairway, a high-right avenue separated from a low-left one by a cluster of sod-face bunkers. It’s an attention grabber than is repeated in various fashions throughout the round. For instance, the hilltop green on the short par-3 second seems tiny in comparison to the deep shaggy bunkers surrounding it. The long par-3 fifth plays over a valley with a tongue of fairway ready to repel any shot that comes up short. The par-4 sixth seems to slant in one direction, then cant in the other direction once past a lateral ridge that runs down the fairway. Every hole has its own character. With roughs of tall fescue and occasional white pines and hardwoods, Kingsley is all natural and all absorbing, a thoughtful design by Mike DeVries, who grew up in the area playing No. 14 Crystal Downs.
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2. GAMBLE SANDS

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Brian Oar

BREWSTER WASHINGTON
PAR 4 340 YARDS
DAVID MCLAY KIDD
2014

The “drivable” par 4 has been a wildly popular architectural conceit the past two decades. But typically, they’re only drivable if you slug the ball around 300 yards or more. With flexible tees playing off an elevated bluff—and 10-mile views across central Washington’s broad Columbia River Valley—this downhill hole delivers on the promise, offering players of various abilities the chance to get home with one swing, providing they hit from the right markers. But it’s no lay-up. The tee shot must challenge a centerline bunker 40 yards short of the green, either straight over it or curving around it on the right and then rolling in on the helping contours. Gamble Sands is where David Kidd, after remembering that golf should be fun, introduced the concept of defending birdie but offering par, and no hole epitomizes that come-hither ethos better than this one. —DD

Public
Gamble Sands
Brewster, WA
The winner of Golf Digest’s Best New Course of 2014 award, Gamble Sands sits atop a sprawling, treeless plateau of sandy desert overlooking Washington’s Columbia River Valley. The extremely playable layout is oversized in every respect, with enormously wide fairways, gigantic greens, no rough and some of the most panoramic vistas around. In using “friendly contours” that divert shots away from bunkers and toward targets, designer David Kidd wants everybody to have fun. He hopes good players will relish opportunities to score low and high handicappers will post their best round ever. With three reachable par 4s on the 18, that’s a possibility. Of course, Gamble Sands was Kidd’s inspiration for Mammoth Dunes.
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3. TOT HILL FARM G.C.

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Brian Oar

ASHBORO NORTH CAROLINA
PAR 3 180 YARDS
MIKE STRANTZ
2000

Extremely rocky sites can produce dramatic golf scenery, but they can also produce extremely expensive headaches for architects who must clear and maneuver around the unwieldy obstacles. But at Tot Hill Farm, the late Mike Strantz did what he always did and went the opposite direction, embracing extremity by using the site’s ubiquitous rocks as large, outlandish garnishes. The par-3 third is the most triumphant example, a fiesta of stone that plays from hillside tees surrounded by boulders, across an avalanche of cascading rock, over a creek, and onto a green that boomerangs around an enormous flashed sand feature. Strantz enjoyed pushing golfers’ buttons, and temperatures certainly elevate here as hole locations migrate from the wide, accessible front lobe back toward the obscured rear finger of green that curls behind the raised bunker. —DD

Public
Tot Hill Farm Golf Club
Asheboro, NC, United States
3.8
45 Panelists
Architects are usually only as good as their sites, or at least their budgets—Tom Fazio would certainly agree with that, which is why he only agrees to projects that give him the resources to push the land around until it’s the way he wants it. Strantz was just getting to that level of prestige when he passed away, but Tot Hill Farm, opened in 2000, was a relatively low-budget design on a central North Carolina property that was too rugged and rocky to yield a Tobacco Road-level course. Strantz used what he had to shape some of his wildest greens, working around the site’s obstacles the best he could. The course is a staggered mix of daring, often outrageous holes (the par-3 13th) dotted with moments of sublime brilliance like the par-5 eighth and the par-4 17th. Golf Digest named the third hole, a downhill par 3 with a green wrapped around a rock outcropping, the best third hole built in the U.S. since 2000.
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4. CANYATA G.C.

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Courtesy of Canyata GC

MARSHALL ILLINOIS
PAR 4 485 YARDS
BOB LOHMANN & MIKE BENKUSKY
2005

The “Cape hole” is revered in golf design, with its daunting diagonal drive over a hazard to the fairway, the length of the diagonal carry determined by the courage of each individual. The par-4 fourth at Canyata, a marvelous private retreat in east-central Illinois, is a unique variation of the Cape concept. On a normal Cape, after the tee shot, the hole continues to curve along the edge of the hazard. But at Canyata, Bob Lohmann and his then-associate Mike Benkusky chose to turn the hole in the other direction, away from the water and up a hill. The challenge of the tee shot remains the same—carry the water—but position is also important. Hit it too far to the right, and a second shot could be blocked by overhanging trees. Bail out long left, and a string of bunkers can come into play. Those bunkers are huge. “We wanted the features to complement the vast site,” Benkusky says. “Tight fairways and small greens would have looked out of place.” —RW

Private
Canyata Golf Club
Marshall, IL, United States
4.4
99 Panelists
Energy-industry CEO Jerry Forsythe grew up in east central Illinois and wanted to convert 300 acres of his childhood memories into a family retreat. After golf architect Bob Lohmann built him an elaborate three-hole golf course on the property, Lohmann’s then-associate Mike Benkusky convinced Forsythe to stretch it to nine holes and later into a full 18. Ultimately, two million cubic yards of cornfield were moved to form Canyata’s massive fairways and greens, which are edged by waterscaped ponds, artificial creeks and a dazzling array of bunkers. With only a handful of rounds played each year by invited guests, Canyata’s manicuring is always nearly flawless.
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5. STREAMSONG BLACK

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LC Lambrecht

BOWLING GREEN FLORIDA
PAR 3 211 YARDS
GIL HANSE & JIM WAGNER
2017

In the past 20 years, sand has become golf design’s most precious substance, sparking a global, gold-rushlike quest for sand-based properties and turning places like Streamsong in remote south-central Florida—built on the formerly unusable sand spoils of a defunct phosphate-mining operation—into an international destination. No hole better typifies the dramatic potential of these sites than the Black course’s par-3 fifth, which gives the impression it’s erupting from a sandy gash of earth. The difficult tee shot plays uphill to a skyline green with a wicked false front and a deep, punishing wash on the right. The entire left side of the tilted, 22,000-squarefoot green area is a series of bubbling, knee-high knobs that can deflect balls toward the hole or, if misplayed, in the opposite direction, leaving long putts with mind-bending degrees of break. —DD

Public
Streamsong Resort: Black
Bowling Green, FL, United States
Gil Hanse’s Black Course at Streamsong, Golf Digest’s Best New Public Course of 2018, sits a mile south of the resort’s Red and Blue Courses, with its own clubhouse and its own personality. Reshaped from a decades-old phosphate strip mine that lacking tall spoil mounds, Hanse provided strategic character by building a hidden punchbowl green at nine, dual putting surfaces at 13, incorporating a meandering creek on the par-5 fourth and a lagoon cove to guard the 18th green. Both the putting surfaces and the chipping areas surrounding them were grassed in MiniVerde, and today both are mowed at a single height, resulting in the biggest, most complex greens found on our national ranking. One Streamsong insider calls the Black greens “polarizing;” we call them tremendous fun.
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6. BLACK CREEK CLUB

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Lawson Whitaker

CHATTANOOGA
PAR 5 559 YARDS
BRIAN SILVA
2000

Brian Silva deserves recognition for being one of the first architects to rediscover, restore and popularize the architecture of Seth Raynor. At Black Creek Club, Silva was able to build his versions of Raynor and C.B. Macdonald’s “ideal holes” like the Short and the Biarritz, but the most remarkable one here, or almost anywhere else, is a Silva original. The par-5 sixth plays across mostly open space, though drives must contend with bunkers jutting into the fairway from the left. The real engagement begins on the second and third shots. Golfers cannot see the green ahead, only a tall, fortress-like embankment of long grass and bunkers. At some point the rampart must be breached, and on the other side awaits a punchbowl arena of more than 55,000 square feet that would make Raynor blush, with sloping banks that funnel shots toward a large, square green perched against a creek. —DD

Private
Black Creek Club
Chattanooga, TN, United States
3.8
51 Panelists
Brian Silva deserves recognition for being one of the first architects to rediscover, restore and popularize the architecture of Seth Raynor. At Black Creek Club, Silva was able to build his versions of Raynor and C.B. Macdonald’s “ideal holes” like the Short and the Biarritz, but the most remarkable one here, or almost anywhere else, is a Silva original. The par-5 sixth (above) plays across mostly open space, though drives must contend with bunkers jutting into the fairway from the left. The real engagement begins on the second and third shots. Golfers cannot see the green ahead, only a tall, fortress-like embankment of long grass and bunkers. At some point the rampart must be breached, and on the other side awaits a punchbowl arena of more than 55,000 square feet that would make Raynor blush, with sloping banks that funnel shots toward a large, square green perched against a creek. It was ranked by Golf Digest as one of the best holes in America designed after 2000. —Derek Duncan
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7. BALLYNEAL G.C.

7th Hole, Ballyneal

Evan Schiller

HOLYOKE COLORADO
PAR 4 352 YARDS
TOM DOAK
2006

The idea behind the flowing, unmarked tees at Ballyneal, in the appropriately named Chop Hills of northeast Colorado, is to experience the holes from a variety of undefined distances. (The winner of the previous hole usually picks the starting spot.) As such, the downhill seventh can be played as short as 250 yards to a blind fairway tumbling toward a three-tiered green nestled snuggly into a saddle of shaggy dunes and shaped like an elongated E. That flirtatious little emerald goads you into firing drives directly at it on the danger line over a raised bunker when prudence would urge a safer route off the banking slopes down the right side. On the other hand, best plans might not matter much because the ground is a tilt-a-whirl ride that sends balls in unpredictable directions, sometimes helping, sometimes not. You never know, and that’s part of the joy. —DD

Ballyneal Golf Club
Private
Ballyneal Golf Club
Holyoke, CO, United States
4.7
202 Panelists
If No. 8 Sand Hills Golf Club stands for the notion that there’s nothing more glorious than a round of golf beyond the range of cell phone reception, then Ballyneal (Tom Doak’s northeast Colorado answer to Nebraska’s Sand Hills) proves that isolated golf is even better when Spartan in nature. With no carts and with dry, tan fescue turf on fairways and greens, Ballyneal is even more austere than Sand Hills. It provides absolutely firm and fast conditions, and with many greens perched on hilltops, the effect of wind on putts must be considered. The rolling landforms, topsy-turvy greens and half-par holes make playing here feel like a joyride, and that sense of exuberance has catapulted Ballyneal from an original ranking of no. 95 in 2011 to its highest ranking to date at no. 36.
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8. PIKEWOOD NATIONAL G.C.

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Courtesy of the club

MORGANTOWN WEST VIRGINIA
PAR 5 562 YARDS
JOHN RAESE & BOB GWYNNE
2008

Once John Raese and Bob Gwynne, the CEO and VP of Greer Industries, a mining concern, decided to build the private Pikewood National on surplus company property, they spent years traversing the forested mountaintop searching for lay-of-the-land golf holes. On one trek, they discovered a crescent-shape rim around a deep kettle hole, all covered in trees, and agreed it would make a helluva gambling Cape hole. The trees were clear-cut to the width of a boomerang fairway, and the bowl was deforested as well. After a little nudging from a bulldozer to form a green on the far horizon, Pikewood’s eighth hole was grassed and put into play. It stands today as one of this century’s most natural holes, a true risk-reward par 5 with bite-off-what-you-dare opportunities on all three shots. When Golf Digest named Pikewood National its Best New Private Course of 2009, we wrote the eighth hole was “the sort of audacity one would expect from amateur architects.” The club promptly renamed the eighth hole Audacity. —RW

Private
Pikewood National Golf Club
Morgantown, WV, United States
4.4
133 Panelists
In 2000, mining company officers John Raese and Bob Gwynne started building a golf course on a newly acquired parcel of forest that their firm will eventually—a hundred years from now—mine for high quality limestone. Using company engineers and construction equipment, and guidance by veteran tour pros Johnny Pott and Dow Finsterwald, they spent almost a decade creating Pikewood National. A natural waterfall became the backdrop for their par-3 fifth hole and the linchpin of their routing, which plays along bluffs, through forest over rapids and, on the hook-shaped par-5 eighth, around a gulch.
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9. CHICAGO HIGHLANDS CLUB

Chicago Highlands Club

Dom Furore

WESTCHESTER ILLINOIS
PAR 4 344 YARDS
ARTHUR HILLS & JOE HILLS
2010

A dozen years ago, Joe Hills, a son of architect Art Hills, had a desire to follow his dad into the business, so he was given responsibility for Chicago Highlands, a private club built on a garbage dump across the interstate from Butler National. Joe did the routing and grading plans, supervised its construction and even shaped some holes on a dozer. Because the entire landfill had to be covered with soil, Joe had some of it piled into a dome 40 feet high on which he would carve out the ninth, a hole brilliant in its simplicity. A reachable par 4 from all six tee boxes, it’s basically a volcano with a flag at the top. The slopes surrounding the small hilltop green drop off in every direction and are mowed tight, so errant shots will often roll to the base of the slope some 50 yards or more away. From there, recoveries can be like pingpong if one gets sloppy. A few years back, the slope beyond the green was filled in a bit, in an act of mercy for shots swept long by prevailing winds, but the other slopes, particularly the left one, are still long and steep. —RW

Chicago Highlands Club
Private
Chicago Highlands Club
Westchester, IL
3.9
46 Panelists
A dozen years ago, Joe Hills, a son of architect Arthur Hills, had a desire to follow his dad into the business, so he was given responsibility for Chicago Highlands, a private club built on a garbage dump across the interstate from Butler National. Joe did the routing and grading plans, supervised its construction and even shaped some holes on a dozer. Because the entire landfill had to be covered with soil, Joe had some of it piled into a dome 40 feet high on which he would carve out the ninth, a hole brilliant in its simplicity and named by Golf Digest one of the 18 best holes built in the U.S. since 2000. A reachable par 4 from all six tee boxes, it’s basically a volcano with a flag at the top. The slopes surrounding the small hilltop green drop off in every direction and are mowed tight, so errant shots will often roll to the base of the slope some 50 yards or more away. From there, recoveries can be like pingpong if one gets sloppy. A few years back, the slope beyond the green was filled in a bit, in an act of mercy for shots swept long by prevailing winds, but the other slopes, particularly the left one, are still long and steep.
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10. FRIAR’S HEAD G.C.

10th Hole, Friars Head

Evan Schiller

BAITING HOLLOW • NEW YORK
PAR 3 / 210 YARDS
BILL COORE & BEN CRENSHAW

By now it should be apparent that we love blind shots, the kind that require visualization before you swing and invoke anticipation as you rush to see where the ball ended up. The par-3 10th at Friar’s Head, on Long Island’s North Shore, is only partially blind, most of the green blocked by a lone, tall, wide sand dune, what Bill Coore called a “giant anthill” when he first viewed it. In keeping with the philosophy of his design partner, Ben Crenshaw, the 10th lets us each play our game, so we can hit all sorts of tee shots—high fade or low draw, parabola or worm burner—and still find some portion of the putting surface. It’s just that you probably won’t see the result until you reach the green, which is more than 60 yards deep and 18,000 square feet. It takes a truly bad shot to miss, and the smart money says to overclub off the tee to avoid the anthill, and then rely on your approach putting. —RW

Private
Friar's Head Golf Club
Riverhead, NY, United States
4.8
173 Panelists
The challenge for architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Friar’s Head was to design some holes in breathtaking sand dunes perched 200 feet above Long Island Sound, and other holes on an ordinary potato field to the south. Said Crenshaw, “Our job was to marry the two distinct elements. We didn’t want one nine up in the dunes and the other down on the flat.” The solution was to move the routing back and forth and to artfully reshape the farm fields into gentle linkslike land. They pulled it off so impressively that Friar’s Head has moved steadily up the rankings each survey period until this year, from No. 34 in its 2011 debut to No. 15 in 2023-2024.
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11. ARCADIA BLUFFS G.C.

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Courtesy of the club

ARCADIA • MICHIGAN
PAR 5 • 633 YARDS
RICK SMITH & WARREN HENDERSON
2000

As you stand on the 11th tee and gaze upon this breathtaking hole, you’re inclined to wonder, What kind of bizarre architectural minds could conjure such a thing? It’s a good question. Set on a section of bluffs above Lake Michigan, this entire course was radically transformed from a forest into a denuded, hyper-realistic dunescape, with this magnetic par 5 unfurling down its left flank like a mythological creature reticulating urgently toward the sea. Many of our holes on this list present some type of strategic conundrum, but after a drive to a 70-yardwide landing zone, there are no options but to sling accurate, unflinching arrows at a fairway that bulges and writhes through an increasingly narrow valley of gnarly, fescue-covered hills. The reward for clear passage, however, is a moment of sublime tranquility on the wavy green overlooking the watery blue horizon. —DD

Public
Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club (Bluffs)
Arcadia, MI, United States
Can a 100 Greatest course be a sleeper? The Bluffs Course at Arcadia Bluffs has been overshadowed by No. 21 Pacific Dunes ever since it finished second to it in the Best New Upscale Public Course race of 2001. And likewise it’s been second-fiddle to No. 14 Crystal Downs, a northern Michigan neighbor that every visitor wants to play, even though it’s private and Arcadia is public. And even by No. 26 Whistling Straits, the imitation links on the opposite side of Lake Michigan that Arcadia Bluffs resembles, although the sand dunes at Arcadia are natural, not manmade. More recently, the Bluffs faces competition from within, the newly-opened sister layout, the South Course at Arcadia Bluffs, designed by Dana Fry in the style of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor.
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12. CHAMBERS BAY

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Courtesy of the club

UNIVERSITY PLACE • WASHINGTON
PAR 4 • 281 YARDS
ROBERT TRENT JONES JR. & BRUCE CHARLTON
2007

Chambers Bay, the Tacomaarea gravel pit turned U.S. Open site, has a number of unique golf holes. Our favorite is the drivable par-4 12th, which looks from the tee like a super-extended par 3, mainly because the fairway between sand dunes isn’t much wider than a gravel-truck haul road, which it was for decades, until Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Bruce Charlton turned it into a ribbon of turf leading to a 12,000-square-foot punchbowl green. The beauty of the 12th is that mere mortals have a genuine chance of reaching the green from the appropriate tee box without using driver. If you can bounce the ball past the lone bunker up the left side, to a spot some 260 yards from the back tee and just 200 yards from the whites, the contour of the land will feed the ball down onto the green, where depending upon the flagstick location and the rubs of this green, you could face a makable eagle putt or one of 60 feet with eight feet of break. But still, it’s for an eagle. —RW

Public
Chambers Bay
University Place, WA, United States
Prodded by his partner, Bruce Charlton, and their then-design associate Jay Blasi, veteran architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. agreed to a radically different, vertical-links style when building Chambers Bay in an abandoned sand quarry near Tacoma. By the time Golf Digest named it as America’s Best New Public Course of 2008, the course had already been awarded the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open. In the Amateur, Chambers Bay proved to be hard, both in the firmness of its dry fescue turf (Jones called his fairways, “hardwood floors”) and its difficulties around and on the windswept greens. For the U.S. Open, the firmness and surrounds were more manageable, but the greens were notoriously bumpy. That’s now been remedied, as the fescue turf on the putting surfaces has been replaced with pure Poa Annua. What's irreplacable are the views of Puget Sound from nearly every hole, multi-level fairways that entice bold driving to gain second-shot advantages and two holes running parallel to a railway that's invokes feelings of early Scottish and Irish links courses.
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13. THE QUARRY AT GIANTS RIDGE

Giants Ridge Golf - Photography By Brian Oar

Brian Oar

BIWABIK • MINNESOTA
PAR 4 • 323 YARDS
JEFF BRAUER
2003

Yes, we picked back-to-back drivable par 4s, but they’re different. The 12th at Chambers Bay is narrow, half-hidden and favors the ground game, and the 13th at The Quarry at Giants Ridge is bold, brawny and encourages an aerial assault. When he found a small rock quarry of perfect dimensions for the hole, Jeff Brauer placed the wide fairway and the equally wide green on diagonals (the latter atop a ledge) to provide at least four options of attack. For those not willing to gamble off the tee, it plays, as should all good short par 4s, as consecutive par 3s. That grassy ramp leading up to the perched green wasn’t part of the quarry. Construction workers built it to get their heavy equipment up the shelf to build the green. Brauer saw it and kept it as an alluring temptation for those who think they can bounce their drive onto the putting surface. Don’t try it unless you can bull’s-eye a 10-yard-wide fairway from 300 yards. —RW

Public
The Quarry at Giants Ridge
Biwabik, MN
It doesn't get the press that courses such as 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 backboards and backstops and reverse-camber greens. Its very inventive design also demands some aerial play, too. A standout is its 13th, a drivable par 4 that's nearly as wide as it is long, with three alternate routes to a 100-yard-wide green. We named it the best 13th hole in America built since 2000.
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14. OAK QUARRY G.C.

RIVERSIDE • CALIFORNIA
PAR 3 • 214 YARDS
LEE SCHMIDT & BRIAN CURLEY
2000

We also chose back-to-back quarry holes, although again, each is different. Oak Quarry is a massive pit-mine reclamation project an hour east of Los Angeles, and its 14th (opening photo) is a long par 3 that plays much shorter because of a 40-foot drop from hilltop tees to the surprisingly small putting surface that’s surrounded by deep bunkers and dark pools of water on the left and behind. What sets this hole apart is its awesome backdrop, a mammoth limestone vertical cliff, a mountain seemingly split in half by a giant meat cleaver. This rock, which in 2000 we dubbed golf’s “El Capitan” (after the monolith at Yosemite National Park), dwarfs everything in its shadow. It’s a compelling distraction to those on the 14th tee because it skewers scale, perspective and depth perception. You can’t play to the yardage on No. 14, and it’s hard to eyeball the shot. Good luck. —RW

Oak Quarry Golf Club
Public
Oak Quarry Golf Club
Riverside, CA, United States
3.9
55 Panelists
Built on the site of a 100-yard-old marble quarry, Oak Quarry presents some terrific golf amidst magnificent views. Hidden just off an exit ramp on the way from L.A. to Palm Springs, this course is a thrill ride with bouncy, big-shouldered fairways framed by white-granite cliffs that amaze almost as much as they antagonize. —Mike Stachura
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15. FOUR MILE RANCH G.C.

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Braden Hanson

CAÑON CITY • COLORADO
PAR 5 • 579 YARDS
JIM ENGH
2008

Jim Engh has developed a number of template-like holes that he likes to incorporate into most of his designs. One is a par 5 resembling a long leg with a severely dislocated ankle, the green cocked at a 90-degree angle to the line of play around a bunker, a water feature, or often both. At Four Mile Ranch, in a bare foothill desert of southern Colorado, he notched the green into a cavity hooked around the backside of a natural rock formation. Playing off a high ridge, the hole is a gambler’s delight that requires long players to assess whether they can first squeeze a drive through a narrow fairway notch between two stony outcroppings, and then whether they should launch a long approach up and over the rock ridge into the blind green cavity. Everyone else can hit their second shots well out to the left and then pitch almost backward into the green, but whatever the tactic, the results aren’t fully revealed until the corner of the natural amphitheater is turned. —DD

Public
Four Mile Ranch Golf Club
Canon City, CO
3.5
17 Panelists
There are no bunkers on this Jim Engh design that is framed by mountains all around. Shale mounds take the place of sand on many holes, including many other unique Engh design features, such as several punchbowl greens, blind shot and wild green slopes. As one of our panelists put it: "vastly underrated among the state's public courses."
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16. BAYONNE G.C.

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Courtesy of the club

BAYONNE • NEW JERSEY
PAR 4 • 486 YARDS
ERIC BERGSTOL
2006

Tucked among the docks and storage tanks of New York Harbor is the private Bayonne Golf Club, a faux Ballybunion with recessed fairways among towering dunes formed from half a decade’s worth of deposits dredged from the harbor bottom. The juxtaposition of green grass and golden rough against gunmetal-gray warehouses and rusted oil tankers in the foreground and the sparkling Manhattan skyline in the distance is one of the great visuals in golf, particularly from the dune-top tee of Bayonne’s 16th. We confess this long dogleg-right par 4 is absolutely the hardest among our Best 18, the fairway blunted at 300 yards by a spot of wetlands, the green at the far end of a bumpy neck of landfill poking into the harbor, a hole sometimes played by tacking against the wind in the manner of a sailboat. Our pick of Bayonne’s 16th is in part symbolic, a reminder that at the end of each round, the real world awaits. —RW

Private
Bayonne Golf Club
Bayonne, NJ, United States
Both Bayonne Golf Club and its neighbor, No. 197 Liberty National G.C., were built at the same time, part of a massive transformation of the Jersey shoreline along the Hudson River and New York Harbor. Bayonne was built on an old sanitary landfill covered with 7 million cubic yards of fill, much of it dredged from the harbor to efforts to make the harbor deep enough for supertankers. The deposits were piled up to 10 stories high, which developer-designer Eric Bergstol then shaped into towering faux sand dunes. The course is an ode to Irish links, with no trees, cart paths or level lies. Fairways flow down narrow valleys, edged by steep slopes laden with tall, wavy fescues. Bunkers are deep and often fearsome. A few greens sit right above the harbor and all putting surfaces have confounding humps, bumps and rolls. Tucked away down a bumpy, unpaved road past a strip mall in blue-collar Bayonne, N.J. is this private, walking-only enclave.
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17. BROOKSVILLE C.C.

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Courtesy of the club

BROOKSVILLE • FLORIDA
PAR 3 • 146 YARDS
BOBBY WEED
2006

Great golf holes often look like they were simply discovered in their landscape. When Bobby Weed and associate Chris Monti added nine new holes to this modest public course in west-central Florida, they were thrilled to be able to incorporate several of them into the terrain of an old calcite mine. Though the green at Brooksville’s short 17th, set at the bottom of an excavated pit and wedged between a pond and exposed quarry wall, looks like it was simply scraped and seeded, a tremendous amount of engineering went into making it work. It’s a beauty of a hole but also testing because there’s little room to miss with the diagonally set target narrowing the farther over the water the hole is cut. Pete Dye often built short, perilous par 3s as penultimate tests of nerve and accuracy, and Brooksville does the same here, strikingly so. Sometimes you have to step up and hit the shot. —DD

Public
Brooksville Country Club
Brooksville, FL
Brooksville Country Club in Brooksville, Florida is a public course designed by Bobby Weed and Chris Monti. Discover our experts reviews and tee time information.
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18. MCLEMORE CLUB

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Evan Schiller

RISING FAWN • GEORGIA
PAR 4 • 435 YARDS
BILL BERGIN & REES JONES
2008

The old 18th at this property on Lookout Mountain was an attractive hole, playing along a high ridge with distant views off the left into northwest Georgia. But in the process of performing a full remodel of the course, Bill Bergin and Rees Jones discovered that there was a densely forested shelf down below the old hole, and that it possessed enough width to accommodate a new, even more spectacular ending. After clearing the ledge and solving the problem of how to get down to it and back up, they created what is likely to become one of the most recognizable holes in American golf. The strong par 4 plays along the edge of a sheer precipice that drops more than 350 feet down to the floor of McLemore Cove, the fairway rising to meet a green that seems to hover in midair. Great finishing holes should leave an impression, and few anywhere are more memorable or more resplendent than this one. —DD

The McLemore Club: Highlands
Rising Fawn, GA, United States
This course, formerly known as Canyon Ridge, opened in 2005 to regional acclaim in large part due to several holes that crept out to the edge of Lookout Mountain in northwest Georgia, peering down to a valley floor several hundred feet below. Other parts of the design were less successful. New owners rechristened the club McLemore and brought in Rees Jones and Georgia native Bill Bergin to remodel the course. Those soaring views were opened up even further, revisions were made to the bunkers and greens, and a new 18th hole was built on a previously inaccessible ledge of land farther out over the precipice of the mountain. Golf Digest deemed that hole, a breathtaking par 4 that rides the clifftop and seems to levitate above McLemore Cove, one of the best 18 holes built in the U.S. since 2000. Part of a gated community, McLemore offers attractive overnight packages, and a new 245-room hotel and resort will soon be added to the collection. —Derek Duncan
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