In almost every trip to report an Away Game, I try to find a round of affordable golf to include in my itinerary. "Affordable" is as relative a term as a list like this is subjective. So for the purpose of this list, here's how I'm defining affordable: A course that charges less than $125 on weekends during peak season for non-residents. I'm ranking them in reverse order, based on the green fee. The least expensive on my list earns the top spot. It seems only fitting to pick up where I left off:
No. 10--Bethpage State Park (Black) in Farmingdale, N.Y. ($120). I wrote an extensive review in my list of my top five public courses in the country. The Black is my favorite. Here's a link to that review. (Or, you can click next to "previous post" at the bottom of this page.)
No. 9--French Lick Resort (Donald Ross Course) in French Lick, Ind. ($120, includes a cart). The Pete Dye Course, just up the street, received the Golf Digest award for Best New Public Course in 2009, but the green fee is silly ($350) and the Ross Course gives you more fun for your buck. The par-70, 7,000-yard layout is also plenty of test, even for the best golfer of your group. Built in 1917, the Ross Course hosted the 1924 PGA Championship (won by Walter Hagen) and still features flat-bottom bunkers, square greens and a series of par 3s that will give you fits. (Twilight, $65, starts at 4 p.m.)
No. 8--The Classic at Madden's on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minn. ($119). Madden's Resort had a few courses on property but in the mid-'90s they wanted a bigger draw for serious golfers. They went out and hired none other than . . . their superintendent, Scott Hoffman. As I stood on the 10th tee, Hoffman came out and explained he had to cut down some trees, move a few rocks and very little earth because the course was already there, he just started mowing the grass. In a Tom Doakian display of minimalism, that's exactly how it feels as you make your way around a beautiful piece of property, 60 feet of elevation change and sweeping views of enticing approach shots with a backdrop of red oaks. If my favorite public courses in the country list went to 30, instead of just 25, this course would be on it. It ranks No. 40 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public. (Twilight, $80, starts at 3 p.m.)
No. 7--The Bog in Saukville, Wis. ($95). An Arnold Palmer design that opened in 1995, the course is named after the neighboring Cedarburg Bog, 1,750 acres of a national landmark. It's located 25 minutes from the Milwaukee airport and 35 minutes from the American Club, so it's perfect for a round on the front or back end of a trip to Kohler (or Erin Hills). Buyer beware: the week of this year's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits (Aug. 9-15), the Bog is going to gouge you with an inflated green fee. Prices will be $150 on Monday and Tuesday, and $175 for 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. shotguns, Wednesday through Sunday. But that just means it will go from a status of "sweet deal" to "decent value" during the week of a major. (Twilight, $79, starts at 3 p.m.)
No. 6--Montauk Downs State Park in Montauk, N.Y. ($92). Listed as a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, locals say the great C.B. Macdonald had some say in the original layout back in 1928, when they charged $3.50 on weekends. Rees Jones is currently involved in a renovation of the course (pictured below), located 120 miles east of New York City (there are only a few more miles left before you hit the Atlantic Ocean). Montauk is my favorite small town in the country and after I had two eagles in one round at "The Downs," that solidified its spot on this list forever. It reminds me (a little) of Bethpage Black and they're both owned and operated by the state. (Twilight, $54, starts at 4 p.m.)
If you want a useful link, click here for the list of America's 100 Greatest, re-ranked by price.