|The scene in "Tin Cup" where Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner) breaks 13 of his clubs was filmed on the third tee of Tubac Golf Resort and Spa's Rancho nine. (Courtesy photo)|
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list.
What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list?
While we haven't played every golf course built for bad golfers, our staffers have enjoyed hacking around our share of golf courses. We present an honor roll of 20 of the best courses for golfers like us, including a couple overseas picks.
Possum Trot Golf Course, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.: Possum Trot flies under the radar in Myrtle Beach, and that's just how the locals like it. One of the better bang-for-the-buck courses in the North Strand with an unmistakably inviting (and kind of backwoods) name, Possum Trot offers a friendly atmosphere, great conditions and a layout that's just as tough as necessary. It's also got one of the better practice facilities on the beach if you're tired of filling the role the bad golfer in your group.
Bandon Crossings Golf Course, Bandon, Ore.: Sure, the three links - soon to be four - at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort are impressive. They can also be tough as the dickens, and what bad golfer likes a stiff, coastal breeze, anyway? Head down the road to Bandon Crossings. It's beautiful in a parkland setting, easy on the wallet ($75 for the summer rack rate, with discounts and specials available), and unlike Bandon Dunes, there's no shame in taking a golf cart.
Wailua Municipal Golf Course, Kauai, Hawaii: Kauai's top-shelf resorts not only ask for three-figure green fees, but you have to wear a (gulp) shirt, too. As if! Muni Wailua is no slouch of a golf course in its own right, with six oceanfront holes and the credentials to host three USGA Amateur Public Links Championships. Drive by and you'll see golfers playing in bathing suits and jean shorts. You name and you can wear it for a fraction of the cost of golf at the resorts. Mahalo, brother!
Pilgrim's Run Golf Club, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Who needs a big-name architect? Pilgrim's Run entrusted six Joe Schmoes to design three holes each. It resulted in one of Michigan's most popular courses with a very competitive green fee. The 18th hole is drivable over a pond. When I played, the foursome in front of me brought a large bucket of range balls at which to swing away. They let me play through, but it was nearly impossible to find my drive amidst the sea of shags.
Nefyn and District Golf Club, Nefyn, Wales: Considered a "poor man's Old Head or Pebble Beach," Nefyn is scenic and as funky as can be, and every bad golfer will let at least one golf ball sail over the cliffs into the sea. Nefyn includes 26 holes. There's the "front 10" and alternate "back eights." And there's a pub, the Ty Coch, beneath the old course's 16th hole, at which groups are encouraged to stop in for a quick pint.
"Eighten holes can turn into 12 hours, sometimes, because of that pub," said Patrick McAteer, course manager at Nefyn.
Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links, Pacific Grove, Calif.: If we told you there's golf for less than $50 along the ocean near Pebble Beach, you'd probably think of the Golden Tee arcade game at a dive bar. But Pacific Grove is a real golf course, and it's well worth your money - and vacation time. An inland front nine gives way to an oceanside back nine that's every bit as scenic as Pebble Beach.
Tubac Golf Resort, Tubac, Ariz.: If BadGolfer.com named a Person of the Year, Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy would have been a shoo-in 14 years ago, when the cult-classic film debuted on the silver screen. Assume then that Tubac Golf Resort, the golf course at which some of the scenes were filmed, is a must-play for any bad golfer. At Tubac, you can relive a few scenes, including the memorable moment when Tin Cup qualifies for the U.S. Open with only his 7-iron after breaking the rest of his clubs.
Tokatee Golf Club, Blue River, Ore.: Few places, if any, in America, provide a more scenic combo of golf and fly fishing than Tokatee. The golf course consistently rates as one of the best public courses in Oregon - high praise, considering it's never hosted any big events, and it's in the middle of nowhere. The bordering McKenzie River offers camping and fishing, the perfect complement to a great day on the golf course.
Remington Golf Club, Kissimmee, Fla.: America perfected "all you can eat," and Remington is doing its part to perfect "all you can play." Green fees at this stand-alone golf course near the Disney property include practice balls, breakfast, golf, lunch and, if you're up for it, more golf. It's a pretty awesome package when you consider most courses in the Orlando area charge an arm and a leg for 18 holes alone. As with all courses in Florida tourism hotbeds, rates vary greatly by the season. If you can brave the summer heat, it's laughably inexpensive.
Western Skies Golf Club, Gilbert, Ariz.: In the East Valley outside Phoenix, Western Skies encourages a few laughs and fist pumps over quiet dignity. Not that it eschews the rules of golf, but this course doesn't take itself too seriously. Neither should you, although the 6,800-yard golf course, which recently underwent a multi-million overhaul by Jack Nicklaus' group, is a good test. With reasonable rates, there's plenty left to buy a few brews at the appropriately named Mulligan's Sports Grill, which has more than 20 TVs.
Tour 18 Houston, Humble, Texas: Near Houston's big airport, this was the original copycat course, featuring holes inspired by the likes of Augusta National, Doral, Oakmont, Colonial and Pebble Beach. Even if you've never played the originals, you'll appreciate Tour 18's attempt to recreate them. The former owners paid particular attention to the "wow" factor with the cart girls, an aspect not totally lost on the current management group, either. Awesome grill, too.
Furnace Creek Golf Club, Death Valley, Calif.: What could be cooler than to play golf at one of the hottest places on Earth? At 214 feet below sea level, it's also the lowest golf course in America. Furnace Creek is manageable in the morning, and a few trees dot this P.B. Dye redesign, so you can find shade. A stay at the Furnace Creek Inn is also a real treat. You'll be hard pressed to find a better view of the night sky.
Rackham Golf Course, Huntington Woods, Mich.: Minutes from downtown Detroit, Rackham has been saved from developers more than once. Opened in 1923 and designed by the legendary Donald Ross, it has welcomed golfers of all creeds and colors for decades. Known for its difficult, contoured greens, Rackham has also served as the site of more than a few legendary big-money games.
Meadows Farms Golf Course, Locust Grove, Va.: Many of the 27 holes on this thrill ride are truly unforgettable, mostly because of their unique design. How many golf courses have a par 3 that replicates a baseball field, complete with advertising on the outfield walls? Or how about an 850-yard par 6, the longest hole in North America? And then there's a green perched above a waterfall, under which you drive your cart. Couple that with the cheapest beer and snacks at nearly any course in America, and you've got a truly fun, blue-collar experience on the links.
FarmLinks Golf Club, Sylacauga, Ala.: This upscale golf experience is reasonable for all the right reasons. If you're not looking, you might not notic that the golf course includes dozens of turf types. The greens are packed with perfect A-1/A-4 bentgrass, but the rest of the golf course is literally a living laboratory as turfgrass, chemical and cultivating companies test their latest and greatest on this wonderful Mike Hurdzan and Dan Fry design. A par 3 with a tee situated 160 feet above the green is but one example of the fun you'll have here. Additionally, the land sits on one of the prettiest pieces of property in the South. Green fees includes food and drink all day, but don't ask for alcohol, because the owners are true, practicing teetotalers.
Rock Hollow Golf Course, Peru, Ind.: Chris Smith of the PGA Tour and his family own this out-of-the-way gem, built around an old rock quarry. Even peak rates are under $50, yet it ranks as one of the best courses in Indiana. You don't get a fancy-schmantzy clubhouse, but you get shot value, plenty of challenges a super laid-back, family atmosphere.
Annbriar Golf Course, Waterloo, Ill.: Just outside St. Louis, this family-owned-and-operated beauty earns 4 1/2 stars from Golf Digest. Rates top out at $72, including cart, and the conditioning is absolutely immaculate. Take time to chat with the staff and learn the history of the course; it'll bring a tear to even the most jaded eye. Because the course is a favorite with pro athletes in St. Louis, visiting teams and a few PGA-Tour pros, you never know who you might see. And it's close to the casinos and strip clubs of East St. Louis, if you and the guys are looking for some off-course excitement.
Lake of the Woods Golf Course, Mahomet, Ill.: This isn't a course you're going to search out. But if you cross the country on one of the several interstates that run through east-central Illinois - or if you attend a Big Ten sporting event in nearby Champaign-Urbana - it's definitely worth a visit. Green fees are less than $25, and the nicest staff in state makes it feel like one big, neighborhood party.
Timber Ridge Golf Club, East Lansing, Mich.: This hilly, woodsy Jerry Matthews track once ranked in the top 75 public courses in the nation. It also once received five stars in Golf Digest. Nevertheless, rates are less than $50. A great bar and restaurant sit on-site, and it's a five-minute drive to the raucous Michigan State University watering holes.
Tralee Golf Club, County Kerry, Ireland: The best Irish links course of which you've never heard? This is it. Find stunning vistas from all 18 holes, and, according to more than one seasoned, Irish links golfer, it's got "the best back nine in the world." Tralee is Arnold Palmer's first golf-course design in Europe, and the entire place smacks of his expansive personality, matched with the pervasive Irish conviviality. Million-dollar views over the Atlantic Ocean await you and your mates in the clubhouse to go with a few after-round pints.
Pedernales Golf Club, Spicewood, Texas: Just because it's owned by Willie Nelson and local rules state: "No more than twelve in your foursome," and "No bikinis, mini-skirts, skimpy see-through, or sexually exploitative attire allowed. Except on women."
WorldGolf.com Senior Writer Mike Bailey, an award-winning journalist and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 15 years in the golf industry.
Erik Peterson is an editor for GolfChannel.com, specializing in courses and travel content. He carries a 2 handicap, but appreciates strolling the fairways with bums like us as well.
WorldGolf.com Equipment Editor and Senior Writer Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents.
January 27, 2010
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list. What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list, hackers? Answer: Right here.
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