I’m a pretty mainstream guy for the most part. Like any red-blooded American, I’m a fan of Tom Hanks, salivate over a juicy ribeye, and despise the New York Yankees.
My taste does veer from the masses every now and then, though. For instance, on the oft-aked question, ‘Which golf course would you most like to play in your lifetime?’ The vast majority of golfers answer without blinking: Augusta National. For me, the home of the Masters doesn’t rate a spot in the top 10.
No, I’m not a communist. And it has nothing to do with the club’s refusal to admit a female member, although I think that’s ridiculous. Nor am I one of those architecture snobs who sneers at Augusta’s recent changes. True, I detest much of what they’ve done to Bobby Jones’ and Alister MacKenzie’s ingenious design – but that’s not why I greet the idea of playing there with a shrug and a “meh.”
Fact is, I’ve been lucky enough to walk Augusta National in person, and I’ve watched practically every minute of the Masters since 1984. I’m as dazzled as the next golfer by the course’s breathtaking scenery and strategic brilliance. But I’ve shot 59 there so many times in my mind – I always go 3-1-3 through Amen Corner — I figure why ruin the fantasy by actually playing it?
(Before I get to my personal dream tracks, a quick note to any Augusta National member reading this. [I hear Bill Gates digs GolfingValley.] — Invite me to play and I’ll be on the next flight out of West Palm Beach. And if you’re ready to finally break the gender barrier, I come equipped with a blond wig, a pair of high heels and a well-developed feminine side.)
Most of my fantasy courses are uber-private, meaning the closest I’ll ever get to them is through Google Maps. (Which is an excellent way to get a glimpse of these untouchable beauties, BTW.) Now I’ll show you my faves, and by all means show show me yours – feel free to share in the comments.
- The Old Course, St. Andrews (Scotland)
Sorry, Augusta addicts, but the Old Course should top the list of anyone who truly loves golf. If you disagree, then you obviously don’t love the game the way you should.
As enamored as I am with the Old Course itself, the town of St. Andrews exerts an equal tug on my soul-strings. Just rubbing elbows with the old-school caddies over pints of Belhaven’s at Dunvegan’s would be enough to send me to the grave fulfilled.
- Cypress Point (California)
Have you ever seen this place in pictures? I get weepy just looking at the shots of Alister MacKenzie’s seaside masterpiece. Playing it would be heaven, squared.
- Pine Valley (New Jersey)
Is it really the greatest course in America? Better than Augusta? Cypress? Shinnecock? I’d sure love to judge for myself.
- Sand Hills (Nebraska)
Any course that can put Nebraska on the golf map while ushering in a return to classic design values has got to be pretty special. Sand Hills ended the reign of artificial mounds and cosmetic bunkering the way Nirvana put hair metal out of our collective misery. Long live minimalism! And grunge!
- Bandon Dunes Resort (Oregon)
What Sand Hills started, Bandon Dunes kicked into overdrive. The remote, walking-only outpost is now four courses strong and will soon open a par-3 circuit destined to be the world’s finest. Like the Old Course, Bandon Dunes is open to the public – and I’ll get there even if it means flying through O’Hare.
Special Honorable Mention: Seminole Golf Club (Florida)
It’s the closest classic to my home in Jupiter, Fla., but I may as well live on Jupiter, the planet. Private? Seminole makes the late J.D. Salinger look like a social butterfly.
Pebble Beach (Calif.), Turnberry (Scotland), Royal Dornoch (Scotland), Royal County Down (Northern Ireland), Ballybunion (Ireland), Shinnecock Hills (New York), National Golf Links (New York), Pinehurst No. 2 (N.C.), Merion (Pa.), Barnbougle Dunes (Australia), Royal Melbourne (Australia), Cape Kidnappers (New Zealand)