Courses & TravelJanuary 28, 2010

Matty G's Top 25 Public Courses In the Country (11-15)

The release of my favorite public courses in the country continues . . .

Repeating disclaimer: My unofficial scoring system is obviously based on the quality of the golf course, but I also factor in service, green fee, a pinch of nostalgia and a smaller pinch of how I played. (It's hard not to like a course when you break 80.)

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No. 12--Caledonia Golf & Fish Club on Pawley's Island, S.C. ($195). The positive: Built on what was a rice plantation, thanks to the subtle design-style of Mike Strantz, it feels like it has always been a golf course. Strantz left several gifts to the game before his life was tragically cut short by cancer--Caledonia is one of them. It's my favorite in Myrtle Beach, and a lot of people would agree with me. Don't leave without a beer on the back deck, overlooking the 18th green. The negative: I'm not a fan of the free spicy fish soup at the turn and it's located at the southern tip of The Grand Strand, so it's not easy to get to. Favorite hole(s): No. 8 (and 16, and 18).

No. 13--Kapalua Golf Club (Plantation) in Hawaii ($298). The positive: It's golf's version of a roller coaster ride. You go out, up, over, up again and then all the way down to where you started. It's a fun ride and it's my second favorite Coore/Crenshaw (behind Bandon Trails). For as much hype as the back nine gets, and deservedly so, the front nine is not exactly a plugged-lie in a bunker. The views, from what feels like the peak of Maui, are a pleasant distraction. The negative: It can be windy and it's expensive. (If we get all the way to Hawaii, shouldn't golf be free?) Favorite hole: No. 18.

No. 14--Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C. ($195). The positive: Peggy Kirk Bell is the owner, and like Palmer at Bay Hill, you're likely to bump into the Hall of Fame instructor (who's also one of the game's most colorful characters). It's very female friendly and they recently renovated the Donald Ross design so now the tees and fairways are up to speed with big-hitting men and modern technology. The negative: It sits in the shadow of the all-mighty Pinehurst, which means you might make the mistake of leaving town without playing Pine Needles. Favorite hole: No. 18.

No. 15--TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. ($375). The positive: The three finishing holes for starters. The new clubhouse is the Cowboys Stadium of golf and if you love to play where the pros play, then buckle up and trust your swing. They actually offer what they call the "Tour Player Experience." The negative: The host of the "fifth major" is yet another Pete Dye course where me and my game don't belong. The price is out of my range as well. Now that I've played it once, I'd rather pay $375 to fix a tooth. Favorite hole: It's cliche, but I have to say, No. 17.

--Matty G.

Click on the "previous post" below for courses 16-20 and then 21-25.

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