Courses & TravelDecember 3, 2010

My Top 10 States To Play Golf

When pressed (see previous blog post below), I've extended my list of top five states to play golf. (Early apologies to Arizona, but at the end of the day, it's golf in the desert. Same goes for most of the golf in Nevada. Texas was considered. So was New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. New Mexico and Washington are my sleepers.

No. 10: Alabama The Robert Trent Jones Trail is 468 holes in 11 locations. It's the envy of every other state that has a collection of struggling public courses--Florida, for example. Top to bottom, The Trail is solid, and most of the courses are less than $64 in peak season. My three favorite courses in Alabama: Ross Bridge, and the Lake and the Links at Auburn-Opelika. Best value: take your pick, but you get dinged at Ross Bridge. Best course I haven't played yet: The Judge at Capitol Hill in Prattville.

No. 9: Florida Choosing to ignore swamps, flatlands, strip-malls, bugs and Bermuda grass, there's enough good golf to justify the Sunshine State a spot in the top 10. (And I'll say this: The weather in March doesn't hurt.) My three favorite courses: Players Stadium at TPC Sawgrass, Bay Hill and Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne. Best value: The courses at Orange County National or Pine Barrens at World Woods. Best course I haven't played yet: Sharks Tooth.

No. 8: Minnesota Madden's on Gull Lake was the winner of this year's Golf Digest Green Star Award for the golf resort's small carbon footprint. I'm a huge fan of their championship track, the Classic, No. 40 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses. If you ever want to go off radar for some real quiet time and some great golf, hunker down at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. It has two more of the 100 Greatest Public, the Quarry (No. 20) and the Legend (No. 72). My three favorite courses in Minnesota: Classic, Legend and Deacon's Lodge. Best value: The Legend at Giants Ridge. Best course I haven't played yet: Other than the four I've mentioned, I have no idea. (Open to suggestions).

No. 7: Wisconsin If you've ever stood on Whistling Straits' 13th green on a clear summer afternoon, overlooking the great Lake Michigan, you'll know why Wisconsin is on my list of top 10 states to play golf. The Badger State frequently hosts majors and has four of the 100 Greatest Public courses in the country. My three favorite public courses in Wisconsin: Straits, the Championship 18 at Blackwolf Run and the Irish course at Whistling Straits. Best value: The Bog. Best course I haven't played yet: Erin Hills after the recent round of renovations.

No. 6: North Carolina This state should really be No. 5A. Pinehurst Nos. 2, 4 and 8 with the addition of Pine Needles, which is just down the street, isn't far behind the four courses at Bandon Dunes for my favorite four courses within a few minutes of each other. My three favorite public courses in North Carolina: Pine Needles, Pinehurst No. 2 and 8. Best value: Hyland Hills. Best course I haven't played yet: Tobacco Road.

No. 5: South Carolina At first I ruled out this state simply because I can't stand the bugs (I have a horrific reaction to noseeum bites. It's no wonder only the female noseeums suck your blood). North Carolina is probably No. 6 on my list. I considered New York, but it's really the great state of private golf. Alabama is the great state of value golf. Minnesota is the most underrated. Arizona and Florida are for the (snow) birds. Wisconsin was close to being top 5 worthy, but there are too many good courses on The Grand Strand not to reconsider wearing long sleeves and bathing in bug spray before the round. My three favorite public courses in South Carolina: Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, The Dunes Golf & Beach Club and Tidewater. Best value: I don't have an obvious choice for best value in South Carolina. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. Best course I haven't played yet: Harbour Town.

No. 4: Hawaii I've sampled courses on five of the eight islands. There's too much good weather, golf and scenery not to put Hawaii on this list. It has seven of the 100 Greatest Public, and even though most of them are overpriced, there are a lot of great courses. My three favorite public courses in Hawaii: Plantation course at Kapalua (Maui), the Challenge at Manele (Lanai) and the Palmer course at Turtle Bay (Oahu). Best value: Wailua Municipal (Kauai). Best course I haven't played yet: Mauna Kea (Big Island).

No. 3: Michigan The season is short, but I'd almost be willing to endure one of those ridiculous winters just so I could enjoy in-state discounts at one of the eight courses on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public (that's only one less than California and one more than Hawaii). My three favorite public courses in Michigan: Forest Dunes (by far), Arcadia Bluffs and Treetops (Signature). Best value: Black Forest at Wilderness. Best course I haven't played yet: Tullymore.

No. 2: Oregon If golf is my religion, my heaven will include the four courses at Bandon Dunes and all the courses in and around Bend. The Beaver state has five on the list of America's 100 Greatest Public, and that's not counting Old Macdonald, which will almost certainly be on it when it's eligible (May, 2013). My three favorite public courses in Oregon: Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes and Tetherow (just to throw one in that's not at Bandon Dunes). Best value: Aspen Lakes. Best course I haven't played yet: Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge.

No. 1: California The Golden State wins this race by almost 900 miles of coastline, which is only one of its finest features. It has a 13-month golf season, U.S. Open venues, nine on the list of America's 100 Greatest Public, a wide variety of value golf, including Coronado, one of my favorite munys in the country. It also benefits from all the courses in Palm Springs and Lake Tahoe. There's just no other state that can come close to competing. My three favorite public courses in California: Spyglass Hill, Pasatiempo, and I'll list Pebble Beach, but that $500 green fee is a crock of craziness. Best value: Coronado. Best course I haven't played yet: It might be both renovated courses at the old Fort Ord--Bayonet and Blackhorse.

I'd be curious to hear your top 10.

Have a great weekend.

-Matty G.

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