Best in Class, Part 3: Everywhere Else

I finished my tour of my home state of California. Now, it’s time to spread my Bogeys Across America love for some of the top courses I’ve played elsewhere in the country. Naturally, these regions are a bit larger, but many exceptional courses will be highlighted here.

As always, these are only courses that I’ve played personally, which limits the scope quite a lot, and the rankings are based on my own personal experiences and criteria (course design, conditions, scenery, price value, sentimental value, etc.).

And just like before, I’ve marked several courses with an asterisk (*) to denote the “best of the best"—courses that would likely make my overall Top 20 list if I were to compile one right now.

Let’s start with my "home away from home” state…

COASTAL OREGON:

  1. Salmon Run Golf Course • Brookings*
  2. Bandon Trails • Bandon*
  3. Pacific Dunes • Bandon
  4. Salishan Golf Links • Gleneden Beach
  5. Bandon Dunes • Bandon

I decided to separate Oregon into two regions in order to highlight some really great courses, even though I have played more coastal courses than inland ones. The course at the top of the coastal list may shock you, but I had to go sentimental here. I love the Bandon courses and the uniqueness of that old school links style along the rugged Oregon coast, but Salmon Run is special to me as another “hometown” course. It actually wasn’t there when I was growing up and learning to play the game, but I am glad it’s there now when I go home to visit my family. It’s a great mountain course with a lot of elevation changes, tight fairways and tough greens. The signature hole (#4) is pictured above and is nicknamed “Lombard Street” because of the zig-zagging path leading up to the elevated tee boxes overlooking this massive island green. It’s just a great course and I will do anything I can to boost the golf world’s knowledge of its existence.

Then, you have the Bandon Dunes courses. I love all of them, but I rank Bandon Trails and Pacific Dunes the highest. Trails is the most unique of these courses as it’s more of an inland layout. Pacific Dunes is the most dramatic, with the best ocean views and most memorable holes. Bandon Dunes is a fun, old school links layout with wide fairways, big greens and plenty of nasty little pot bunkers reminiscent of classic Scotland courses. Old Macdonald did not make this list, but it’s enjoyable as well because of it’s super-big green complexes (the hardest course there, in my experience).

In the middle of the list, I also included Salishan. This is a wonderful course a little further up the coast. A bit overpriced because it is attached to a resort, but much less expensive than the Bandon courses. It’s worth checking out if you are driving up the 101.

[Honorable Mentions: Old Macdonald, Sandpines, Gearhart]

INLAND OREGON:

  1. Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Ghost Creek) • North Plains*
  2. Eagle Point Golf Club • Eagle Point
  3. Myrtle Creek Golf Course • Myrtle Creek

Inland Oregon deserved its own region rankings because it’s a different vibe than on the coast of this unique state. Pumpkin Ridge is one of my all-time favorite courses. It is a great layout in a hilly/forested area just west of Portland. Small creeks run through the course and long native grasses frame a number of holes. Just a beautiful looking course and a design that will challenge golfers of all skill levels.

Eagle Point is another great course, but it’s in the southern part of the state, just outside of Medford. This course has it all with a wide variety of holes and styles mixed into one layout. Myrtle Creek is also a nice course in the central part of the state. I could make this list five like the rest by including the two other courses I’ve played in this region (Dutcher Creek and Cedar Links), but those aren’t really nice enough to include amongst all the great courses listed in this article.

Now, we get into bigger regions, where I’ve played only one or two courses in various states.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

(Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)

  1. The Coeur d’Alene Resort • Coeur d’Alene, ID*
  2. Chambers Bay • University Place, WA*
  3. Old Works Golf Club • Anaconda, MT
  4. Teton Pines Country Club • Jackson, WY

My top choice of the courses I’ve played in this region is Coeur d’Alene. I just loved every aspect of this course, whether it’s the clever gimmick of the floating island green or the fun layout of the rest of the holes (especially those in the front nine). Beautiful setting along the lake with a number of great elevation changes and views to inspire all your senses. Oh, and a big barrel of fresh apples awaiting you at the turn!

Then there’s Chambers Bay, which is well worth all the hype it has received since opening in 2007. This is Washington’s answer to the Bandon Dunes courses and just as spectacular (if not more because of its setting). Same unique links style, but with beautiful views of Puget Sound from almost every hole. Old Works in Montana is a one-of-a-kind course because of the black sand (crushed black slag) they use in their bunkers. It’s a clever gimmick make the course unforgettable, but the layout designed by Nicklaus is also very enjoyable on every level. Lastly, there’s Teton Pines. Beautiful Palmer-designed course with excellent views at the base of the Grand Tetons. Not the most dynamic layout and a bit overpriced because of the resort location, but very scenic and very well-maintained.

SOUTHWEST (NORTH):

(Nevada, Utah, Colorado)

  1. Wolf Creek Golf Club • Mesquite, NV*
  2. Fossil Trace Golf Club • Golden, CO
  3. Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club • New Castle, CO
  4. Rio Secco Golf Club • Henderson, NV
  5. Sand Hollow Resort (Championship) • Hurricane, UT

Wolf Creek is the hands-down winner in this region. Even though my round out there was one of the most miserable days of golf I ever played (slow pace and very, very, very hot), I was amazed at the design of the course. I still can’t even contemplate how someone thought to build such an incredible course in one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth. It’s a beautiful course carved out of the desert rocks and it’s is very well-maintained year round. Definitely a feat of golf engineering!

Fossil Trace has a few enjoyable holes on the front nine, but the back nine is one of the best stretches of golf I’ve ever encountered. It’s a very unique setting for golf with the old quarry equipment and dinosaur fossils found throughout the course and clubhouse. Speaking of fun in Colorado, Lakota Canyon Ranch also offers a really dynamic layout with a lot of elevation changes and spectacular mountain views. Rio Secco is another great course, though very expensive depending on what time of year you play. It’s in Henderson and there are many cool views of the Vegas strip in the distance on this course that runs through some desert canyon country and is surrounded by some ultra high-end homes. Lastly, it’s probably a toss-up between the two St. George area courses I’ve played (Sand Hollow and Coral Canyon). The “average” holes at Coral Canyon are better than the “average” holes at Sand Hollow in my opinion, but it’s the stretch of a few “spectacular” holes at Sand Hollow that gives it the slight overall edge here.

[Honorable Mention: Coral Canyon]

SOUTHWEST (SOUTH):

(Arizona, New Mexico, Texas)

  1. Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club • Sandia Park, NM*
  2. The Golf Club at Seven Canyons • Sedona, AZ
  3. Black Mesa Golf Club • Espanola, NM
  4. Troon North Golf Club (Pinnacle) • Scottsdale, AZ
  5. The Rawls Course at Texas Tech • Lubbock, TX

Paa-Ko Ridge is a fantastic course in the Sandia Mountains just outside of Albuquerque. Just a great course, no matter what criteria you use to measure the quality. It’s a beautiful track that simply wins on every level.

Seven Canyons is one of the most scenic courses I’ve ever played as it is nestled peacefully amongst the red rocks and mountains of Sedona. Some of the most breathtaking views you’ll find on any course in the world. Black Mesa is a challenging layout with a rugged feel (at least when I played there). It’s just a rough and tumble design out in the middle of nowhere (though not too far from Santa Fe) that will test you on every level. Troon North deserves the high praise it normally gets. Great desert layout and scenery and very well-managed as one of Troon’s premier properties. Lastly, you get The Rawls Course in Lubbock. It’s home to the Texas Tech golf team and is a true links layout with some of the nastiest bunkers you’ll find anywhere.

[Honorable Mention: Las Sendas]

MIDWEST:

(Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma)

  1. Wild Horse Golf Club • Gothenburg, NE
  2. Sycamore Ridge Golf Club • Spring Hill, KS
  3. Swope Memorial Golf Course • Kansas City, MO
  4. Forest Ridge Golf Club • Broken Arrow, OK

When I recently ranked my road trip through the Midwest and Southwest, I had Sycamore Ridge listed above Wild Horse. It’s a tough choice, but in retrospect, I have decided that Wild Horse deserves the top spot in this region. I was truly impressed with the quality of this course (especially considering it’s out in the middle of nowhere) and memories of it have really stuck with me since the trip. Conditions were excellent and the prairie-style links layout was very well done.

That is not to take anything away from Sycamore Ridge, which was the most pleasant surprise on my trip. The front nine features more of a prairie links layout, then the back nine is an adventure through heavily wooded areas. More elevation changes than I ever would have expected from a Kansas course. What a great track! Swope Memorial was also a very pleasant surprise. Just a nice old school city course with a tight hilly layout and some great views of Kansas City in the distance. Forest Ridge in Oklahoma was a really nice layout in a forested area. Creeks wind through the course and thick rows of trees and dense underbrush line almost every fairway for a very natural look.

SOUTHEAST:

(Florida, Georgia, South Carolina)

  1. Harbour Town Golf Links • Hilton Head Island, SC*
  2. TPC Sawgrass (THE PLAYERS Stadium) • Ponte Vedra Beach, FL*
  3. Sea Island Resort (Seaside) • St. Simons Island, GA*
  4. TPC Sawgrass (Dye’s Valley) • Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
  5. Sea Island Resort (Plantation) • St. Simons Island, GA

I played all these courses on my Thanksgiving weekend trip in 2011. All were great and the trip was very memorable. TPC Sawgrass is high on everyone’s bucket list and it was the main reason I took this trip, but it was Harbour Town that left the biggest impression on me. Both are Pete Dye masterpieces, but I loved the styling and challenge of Harbour Town a little more. The conditions were also exceptional there, even though it was winter.

TPC Sawgrass lived up to its reputation. Both courses there are great and worth playing. The clubhouse is magnificent, the courses are incredible and the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The Sea Island Resort courses also impressed me. I loved both tracks I played, but the drawback here is the price. You have to stay at the resort to play there and it is extremely expensive. Very high-end establishment and if you have the money it’s worth the trip. As great as the courses are, I still can’t believe I shelled out the money to stay and play there! It was way out of my league.

[Honorable Mention: World Golf Village (King & Bear)]

NORTHEAST:

(Maine, New Hampshire)

  1. Portsmouth Country Club • Portsmouth, NH
  2. Sable Oaks Golf Club • Portland, ME

I only played two courses when I visited the Portland, Maine area back in 2007. Of the two, I enjoyed Portsmouth Country Club more. This is a wonderful old New England track that oozes history and tradition. It’s a great setting with many holes along the waterfront. Great old-looking clubhouse here, as well.

Sable Oaks was also a very enjoyable course at a decent price. Lots of trees and plenty of greenery peppered with the fall colors. The leaves were just beginning to change when I played there and that created a nice backdrop for the course. Not too shabby.

CANADA:

  1. Banff Springs Golf Club • Banff, AB*
  2. Nicklaus North Golf Club • Whistler, BC

I debated whether or not to included Canada as a region here on BogeysAcrossAmerica.com, but why not? Again, I only played two courses up there. Both were nice, but Banff Springs blew me away and it would definitely make my personal Top 20 list, so it is worth highlighting here. One of the most scenic courses I’ve ever played as it’s set in the heart of the stunning Canadian Rockies. So many memorable holes on this course with a ton of incredible views.

Nicklaus North is also in a beautiful setting and the course itself was decent. I remember the scenery more than the course and I felt this was overpriced because of the Whistler location. I enjoyed it while I was there, but I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to play it again.

So there you have it. My favorite courses in all the regions I’ve played so far. This list will always be changing and more regions will be explored, so I’ll probably be doing this every year or so to keep things fresh and updated as I get to play many more wonderful courses.

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