Pop Quiz: Who has won the most points in U.S. Ryder Cup history? No—not Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, though they are near the top. Certainly not Phil or Tiger; their era coincides with the European dominance of recent decades, and these two leading money-winners in PGA Tour history actually have mediocre records in the biennial competition. (True Fact: Tiger and Phil have more losses than any other American players in the entire history of the Ryder Cup. Tiger with seventeen, Phil nipping at his heels with sixteen!)
The surprising answer is Billy Casper, who played in eight Ryder Cups, competed in thirty seven matches, and captured 23 ½ total points. In honor of “The Buffalo,” (the rather obscure nickname for this always-underrated player, who won three Majors and more than fifty PGA Tour events while always laboring in the shadow of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player) we present a quintet of the finest courses nationwide managed by Billy Casper Golf. (In keeping with the below-the-radar theme, most readers wouldn’t even know the company exists, despite its status as one of the largest golf-management company in the nation!)
It’s been rumored that World Golf Hall of Fame member Pete Dye, one of the finest course architects of the last century, designed Wintonbury Hills for a dollar. It was Dye’s way of giving back to the game he loves, and producing a high-quality municipal course in an area that was lacking. The only design he’s ever produced in the six New England states, this Bloomfield (outside of Hartford) Connecticut gem is perennially ranked among the finest municipal courses in the nation. Plenty of permitting hurdles had to be jumped, as the course wends its way through more than eighty acres of woods and wetlands. The end result is a walkable, old-school experience, with a nice balance of holes that are open and tree-lined. There are some nice water views sprinkled throughout, including the nearby Tunxis Reservoir.
Purgatory Golf Club is an unusual moniker for a course that has actually been blessed by a priest! Located in Noblesville, Indiana, less than an hour from Indianapolis, this is a family-owned business and one of the more popular daily-fee courses in the area surrounding the capital city. Designed by local architect Ron Kern, Purgatory can play as one of the longest (7,754 yards) courses in Indiana and features more than 125 bunkers and acres of tall native grasses. Spread across more than two hundred acres of memorable terrain, the signature hole is a mid-length, par-3 dubbed “Hell’s Half Acre” that features a green guarded by two acres of bunkers. Purgatory has been ranked amidst Golf Digest Magazine’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses.”
Hiddenbrooke Golf Club is located in Vallejo, California, some forty minutes north of San Francisco. Designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay about twenty years ago, Hiddenbrooke is considered by many to be one of California’s most entertaining public layouts. It ranked Top Ten in Golf World’s “Readers’ Choice Awards,” in large part because it treats and challenges golfers with undulating fairways, plenty of elevation change and difficult par-3 holes set against a backdrop of hills and native vegetation. Though it has but a fraction of the name recognition of its counterparts on the Monterey Peninsula, the only pair of public-access courses that are consistently ranked higher than Hiddenbrooke in a state with more than 1,100 courses are Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. That’s the level of quality that this underrated facility offers a grateful public.
Moseley, Virginia, located west of Richmond, is the site of Magnolia Green Golf Club, the centerpiece of a resort-style, planned community of 3,000 homes. Named among Golf Digest’s “Top 10 Best New Courses for 2015,” this is a Jack Nicklaus Design in association with Tom Clark. This area of central Virginia features abundant wildlife, and golfers share space with a good representation from the animal kingdom. Streams have been fully-restored and lined with native shrubs and grasses to create the natural and environmentally sound course. Bermuda-grass fairways offer generous driving corridors, though the round’s conclusion is stirring. The finale is a mid-length par-4 with a demanding tee shot and nerve-tingling downhill approach to a heavily protected green.
One of the most prestigious private clubs in the nation is Whisper Rock, in Scottsdale, Arizona. But the traveling golfer would be well-served visiting the similarly-named Whisper Creek, in Huntley, Illinois, some thirty-five miles west of Chicago. Designed by Billy Casper himself, in consultation with Greg H. Nash, Whisper Creek Golf Club opened in 2000. Measuring 7,103 yards from the back tees, the course features bent grass fairways and greens, wispy fescue grass, protected wetland environments, notable rock formations and cascading waterfalls. It’s one of the most picturesque layouts you can play in the Chicagoland area. Added bonus: They offer GolfBoards for rent, which is a surfboard-meets-scooter mechanism to tool around the grounds. Less taxing than walking, more exciting than a golf cart, a GolfBoard is meant to appeal to Millennial golfers, or anyone else wanting to inject a bit more excitement into their amble-through-the-meadow.