I have been fortunate to play many of the best courses in the world. Here is my top ten, listed from 10 to 1.
10. TPC Scottsdale (Stadium), Arizona
9. Sherwood Country Club, Westlake Village, CA
8. Valderama, Andalusia, Spain
7. Bandon Dunes, Bandon, OR
6. Carnoustie, Scotland
5. Pinehurst #2, Pinehurst, N.C.
4. Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland
3. Spyglass Hill GC, Pebble, Beach, CA
2. Pacific Dunes, Bandon, OR
1. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, CA
Honorable Mention: Poppy Hills(Pebble Beach), Turnberry(Scotland), Prestwick(Scotland), Troon(Scottsdale), Kapalua Plantation(Maui), Kauai Lagoons,(Kauai) Torrey Pines(San Diego), and Hiddenbrook(Vallejo).
What makes a golf course memorable? Is it the history of the course in golf lore? It is certainly not the price of a round or the difficulty of the course. Could it be the idea of walking on the same grounds as Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, or Tiger Woods? Or, did I make a memorable shot there?
Here are one or two memorable things about each course, as best remembered by a golfer who tries to only remember the lucky shots.
10. TPC, I played here with my son Matt, who is an excellent golfer. We played the old Desert course the first day with Tom Weiskopf’s son, Eric. On the Stadium course, our caddy with 20 years experience said that Matt was the best golfer he has ever caddied for. By the way, the loose impediment that Tiger “moved” is more like a boulder.
9. Sherwood, home of dear friends, Ken and Debbie. Debbie hits the ball a ton, so Ken and I have a hard time keeping up off the tee. It is fun to pass the homes of famous people, like Wayne Gretzky, or see a celeb like Kenny G or Wil Smith on the course. Their best snack is a tuna cup. It is tuna sandwich filling, placed in a paper cup with a spoon, no bread.
8. Valderama was home to Spain’s only Ryder Cup against the U.S. It is known as the home course of famous Spanish golfer, Seve Ballesteros. I bought a great pair of J. Lindeberg golf shoes there (long story). My friend Mike and I golfed there. I went back a year later with Sheri, and bought the very last pair of these shoes in the pro shop. But I did birdie the 18th hole!!!!
7. Bandon Dunes is part of a great trio of courses on the southern Oregon coast. It is “golf as it was meant to be played”. I had a great caddy, who had me making so many one putts, that I had a great round of golf. But what I remember just as clearly is an ant trail on the 18th fairway. The trail was so heavily traveled, the ants created a one inch trough in the grass from their journeys through the fairway.
6. Carnoustie, one of the most famous of Scottish golf courses, where we played on the day of the total solar eclipse. My friend Mike and I played here just after the infamous French golfer, Jean Van de Velde blew his 3 stroke lead on the 18th hole in the British Open. I made a par there, so I could have won it for him.
5. Pinehurst, where I birdied the first hole on the famous #2 course. The cute little village of Pinehurst has some nice shops and restaurants, including a little Greek cafe with excellent kabobs. We bought a mounted and framed antique postcard of Pinehurst. It began our collection of travel related art for our living room wall.
4. St. Andrews, Old Course, with too many great memories to single out. I drove the 9th hole and made birdie. We had a female caddy who rolled her own cigarettes. Mike had to hit a ball off of the paved road. I got out of the famous Road Hole bunker in only 2 shots!!!!
3. Spyglass, where I have played a couple times, with my friend Mike, and once with my son Matt. The tall Monterey pines on the back 9 makes it feel like playing golf in a cathedral. I birdied #11 with a tap in, as my second shot landed about two inches away. This course is famous for Bill Murray “throwing” a lady into a bunker during the ATT Golf Tournament.
2. Pacific Dunes, home of my favorite links style course. It is tough, fair, and plenty long in the coastal winds. I hit one of the best 5 irons of my life on the front nine. And we had a memorable rack of lamb in the clubhouse restaurant the night before. They have more natural gorse than Scotland!!!
1. Pebble Beach, golfing heaven, and probably one of the most magical places on earth (at least as far as golf is concerned). My tee shot on the short par 3 7th hole landed 5 inches from the cup. I have not made a hole in one yet, so that is my best so far. Besides the great ocean views, we walked in the steps of the greatest players in history. Later, when I worked there, I would walk down the 18th fairway at lunch time and try to recall my fabulous rounds of golf here.
Despite playing all of these great courses, I feel that any day on a golf course is the “best”. When asked about hitting perfect shots, the great Jack Nicklaus said, “In 18 holes, I hit one, maybe two perfect shots”. How do us hackers feel when we try to make each one perfect? Another saying I recall, is that a day spent golfing, is another day added to your life. If that is the case for me, I will live a long time.