Ernie Banks played 19 seasons for the Chicago Cubs. He was a 14-time All-Star and won back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player awards in 1958 and '59. He finished with 512 home runs and 1,636 RBI. He answers to the nickname Mr. Cub, and he's famous for the phrase, "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. . . . Let's play two!"
With this job I play two in one day a lot. That's the only way to get to 75 rounds on 65 courses in 12 states in seven months. I recently played "two" at the Quarry and the Legend at Giants Ridge, ranked No. 19 and 59 respectively on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses. Last week I played Pinehurst No. 2 (ranked No. 3) and Pine Needles (No. 43). At the end of April I picked up the mother of all doubles, Pebble Beach (No. 1) and Spyglass Hill (No. 11). I was in the second group out at Pebble, second-to-last group at Spyglass. I squeezed in 18 at Peter Hay for lunch. It's the nine-hole executive course across the street from Pebble (all-you-can-play for $25). We'll call that playing two and change.
For the June issue of Golf Digest I produced a Grid. It's the skinny on the best deals if you play twice in one day at four of the courses among the top 20.
Here is the complete list and the rest of my report. All prices represent peak seasons, cart fee if carts are allowed; fees are based on being a guest of the resort, if applicable.
1) Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach. ($495/No replay rate). Can I negotiate a deal to play only holes 6 through 10, 17 and 18?
2) Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Ore. ($210/$105). What's cool about Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails: You pay $315 for 36, but if you have the right tee times, enough tread on your shoes and a Sherpa for a caddie, your third round under the same sun is FREE!
3) Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort & C.C. (No. 2). ($410/No replay rate). You can play No. 2 only once per stay. On those greens, once is enough. Play No. 4, No. 8 or go down the street to play Pine Needles. They're all in the top 100, and they don't leave you with an uncontrollable urge to chew glass.
4) Whistling Straits (Straits) in Haven, Wis. ($390/$290, and four hours prior to sunset it's $230).
5) Bethpage State Park (Black) in Farmingdale, N.Y. (New York residents pay $50 during the week, $60 during the weekend. Out of state, you will pay $100 during the week and $120 on weekends.) There's no replay rate. You can play the Black course only once in a month.
6) Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas, Nev. ($500/No replay rate). Not only do they not have a replay rate, you have to be staying at an MGM property to book a tee time Monday through Thursday, and you can play Friday through Sunday by invitation only. At five large, I'd be OK if that invite gets lost in the mail.
7) Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Ore. (See No. 2, Pacific Dunes).
8) The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. ($298/$110).
9) The Prince Course in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii. ($200/$55).
10) Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Mich. ($180/$75).
11) Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach. ($330/$180).
12) Blackwolf Run (River) in Kohler, Wis. ($248/$154).
13) TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium) in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. ($350/No replay rate, but after 3 p.m. it's $210).
14) Tullymore Golf Club in Stanwood, Mich. ($125/$60).
15) Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island. ($250/$125).
16) The Homestead (Cascades) in Hot Springs, Va. ($250/$40).
17) Golf Club at Redlands Mesa in Grand Junction, Colo. ($100/$49).
18) Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. ($300/$175).
19) The Quarry at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn. ($95/$62). I liked the Quarry, but the Classic is the best public course in Minnesota. Read my "Away Game" about golf and fishing in Minnesota in the August issue.
20) Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon, Mich. ($150/$75).
If it's a beautiful day for golf, go play two. Or, in the case of Pacific Dunes, play three.