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North Carolina Destinations

Pinehurst No.3
Pinehurst No.3
Coore & Crenshaw at Pinehurst in 2014
Coore & Crenshaw at Pinehurst in 2014

Even through the thickest set of his iconic round-rimmed glasses, the great Donald Ross would’ve had a hard time recognizing his favorite of an impressive and prolific portfolio. And thus, in 2010, Pinehurst made a bold move by hiring Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to turn back the clock on No. 2.

At that time, with a hobbled economy and back-to-back Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens on the horizon (2014), it seemed to be an unnecessary risk by what’s considered “The Cradle of American Golf.” And yet, as Don Padgett, who was the President of Pinehurst at that time, once said to me: “It’s a national treasure. We had to restore it.”

Needless to say, the golf world was watching through a collective set of thick glasses. And so were the locals.


It was Bill Coore who remembered, shortly after getting the job, being stopped in the Pinehurst parking lot by a stranger, who skipped the southern hospitality spiel. “I don’t know what the hell you’re doing, but I’ll tell you one thing,” said the stranger, “you better not mess this up. Because as this golf course goes, so too does this entire town.”

Well, Coore and Crenshaw delivered a successful restoration. And as the golf world watched both U.S. Opens, so too did that entire town.Rounds are up, water costs are down, and the rest could be considered history. However, I consider “the rest” of what Pinehurst is doing to be the best indicator of what’s the ongoing revolution in golf.

Pinehurst 7th Hole
Pinehurst 7th Hole

“Looking back at 2010, it was about being true to our core,” says Tom Pashley, who served as Padgett’s Executive Vice President and is the current President of Pinehurst.

Looking back, what Pinehurst did and continues to do, has an impact and ramifications on the world of golf around us.

Since 2010, Pinehurst has:

  • Added a putting course in 2011.
  • Acquired National Golf Club in 2014, which is now No. 9.
  • Renovated and greatly enhanced the porch bar in 2015.
  • Gil Hanse will renovate No. 4 in 2017.
  • But not before Kyle Franz and Kye Goalby renovate and reroute Nos. 3 and 5, making room for what will be Hanse’s 10-acre 9-hole short course, which breaks ground in May.
  • They will also relocate the putting course, surrounding the main clubhouse and epicenter of The Cradle with short, generational, beginner and buddies golf.
Short Course & Putting Green Coming Fall 2017
Short Course & Putting Green Coming Fall 2017

“What Pinehurst has done and is doing can be tied back to the first Golden Age of golf architecture,” says Hanse. “Cutting edge, sand-based land, that’s not that accessible, but very good for golf.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of courses are being renovated or restored. Municipals are magical again. Short is fun. Rules are relaxed. Young is dominant. Kids are the focus, and therefore, will be the future. Alternative forms, formats and fashion are forward and fantastic. If there’s not a TopGolf already in a city near you, there’s either one being built or there’s a stadium being converted into a makeshift TopGolf experience.

Youngscap & Keiser
Youngscap & Keiser

Most experts will agree, this revolution started in 1995 at Sand Hills in Nowhere, Nebraska, where Dick Youngscap inspired Mike Keiser to find and build remote sand-based golf in America.

Since 1999, Keiser and his various partners and minimalist architects have built 10 big courses, four short courses and one putting course in four remote destinations. From the Southwest coast of Oregon (Bandon), Keiser went to Tasmania (Barnbougle) then Nova Scotia (Cabot) and now Wisconsin (Sand Valley).

And yet, regardless of the partners or architects, his focus and goals have never changed: The focus is great golf. The goals at each remote destination are to not only to get people to make the trip, but more importantly, he wants them to come back.

“That drives everything,” says Josh Lesnik, the first General Manager at Bandon Dunes and current President of Kemper Sports, which manages Bandon Dunes and over 100 golf properties in America. “That same focus and those goals still drive us every day.”

So, if Youngscap started the trend, and Keiser ran with the trend, it’s a storied resort like Pinehurst—the original remote sand-based hub of golf in America—making moves like the ones detailed above, that transitions a trend into a revolution.

“Golf complexes are trying to appeal to a wide variety of clients, which includes shorter and faster to play courses,” says Coore, who, along with his partner Ben Crenshaw, not only restored No. 2, but built Sand Hills and at least one course at all four Keiser destinations. They’ve also built a course at Streamsong in Florida, and are now building a course at Big Cedar Lodge in Hollister, Missouri, where owner Johnny Morris built two short courses before he commissioned Coore and Crenshaw to build a second 18-hole “championship” course.

In other words, if indeed this is a revolution, Coore and Crenshaw are one of the battleground generals leading the charge.

Pinehurst No. 3
Pinehurst No. 3

“Pinehurst doesn’t change easily,” says Coore. “So when they do what they’re doing, it means they don’t see this as a passing fashion. And I agree with that. How does the saying go?” Coore asks. “The sum of the parts is greater than the whole?”

Exactly. It was Aristotle, and he said: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

From U.S. Open golf for both men and women, all the way down to a popular porch, a putting course and now a par-3 course, the sum of Pinehurt’s parts is a whole lot of good for golf and anyone remotely interested in picking up a club.

“We are always looking for new ways to satisfy our customer,” says Pashley. “We have nine courses and over 60,000 yards of golf at Pinehurst, and yet, the idea that the addition of a nine-hole, 789-yard short course could have such an impact at a 100-year-old destination is crazy. But I guess that’s why it’s part of the revolution.”


News and Notes from Top U.S. Golf Resorts – Part I

Big Cedar Lodge
Big Cedar Lodge

“They” say golf is struggling.

Struggling to do what, exactly? I’ve just spent the last few days connecting with 12 of the best public golf destinations in America. The only thing they seem to be struggling with is keeping up with the enhanced demands of the avid amateur. Let’s face it, “we” are spoiled. As “we” should be. Golf remains time consuming, difficult and pricey. And in this great jump ball for our golf dollars, they should all be on their A-games.

Per my travels and as far as I can tell, the ancillary benefits of the economic bubble burst is a little natural selection, a heightened focus on pace of play, the restoration and embrace of municipal golf courses, a separation and identification of thoughtful and talented architects, a movement to simplify the rules, budding grow-the-game initiatives, smart talk of resources and sustainability, a new appreciation and development of the junior caddie and as you’ll read below, a competition at the top properties that is breeding excellence. (And continues to put pressure on private clubs.)

Pebble Beach

It’s not easy getting to No. 1. And it’s even harder to stay there. See Rory McIlroy and/or Jordan Spieth. But Pebble Beach seems poised for an extended stay as the best public course in the country.

10th Tee at Pebble Beach
10th Tee at Pebble Beach

In the midst of a five-year plan for golf course updates, the Pebble Beach Company has completed tweaks to the ninth, 17th and 14th greens. They’ve also restored an old 10th tee that hangs over the beach. And according to RJ Harper, Executive Vice President of Golf and Retail, the 13th green is next. “Right now, in championship conditions, the right side of the green is too severe,” said Harper. “We will soften that side of the green and create more pin placements.” As far as when that work will be done, Harper says they will decide by the end of the year.

Even more extensive than the work on the course, Pebble Beach just completed phase one of room renovations. “Every room to the right side of the 18th fairway has been redone,” said Harper. “Exterior. Interior. Everything. And we’re very proud of the work that’s been done there.” Those rooms reopened in April to rave reviews.

And to the left of the first fairway, work continues on Fairway 1, which is a 38-room project that will be finished in July of next year. Thirty of the rooms will be exactly like what’s on the 18th fairway. Two of the “rooms” will be four-bedroom suites with 1,000 square feet of common space. “We never had that before,” said Harper. “We will now have the lodging option for foursomes of friends or four couples.”

As for Pebble’s “little” brother, Harper says Spyglass will get a little longer. But here’s the good news: In March, the 50-year lease of the Spyglass Founders Club expired, resulting in a 30-percent increase in available tee times to the general public. Worth noting and appreciating Spyglass wouldn’t exist without the financial support of those original 250 members ($2,500 each, plus $50 in annual dues for 50 years).

No exterior changes to the Inn at Spanish Bay, but Harper says there are plans to update all rooms at one of my favorite golf hotels in America.

“When the current ownership made the purchase in ’99, their simple goal was to keep improving,” said Harper. “They’ve done nothing but fulfilled that commitment. And will continue to do so.” That ownership includes Arnold Palmer, Richard Ferris, Peter Ueberroth, Clint Eastwood, William Perocchi and GE Pension.

Pebble Beach and Spyglass will host the 2018 U.S. Amateur and Pebble Beach will host the U.S. Open in 2019 as part of their 100-year anniversary celebration.

Bandon Dunes

Doak's Course
Doak’s Course

The sixth course at Bandon Dunes should still be Tom Doak’s 11-hole par-3 course, which will meander through the dunesland near the start of Bandon Trails. From the second tee at Trails you can see at least one flagstick indicating the spot for a proposed green. “We continue to weigh various options,” said Josh Lesnik, President of Kemper Sports, “but unfortunately it doesn’t look like Tom will start building the course this winter.” Doak should break ground in the first or second quarter of 2017.

Meanwhile, Gil Hanse is everywhere. From Rio, Doral, Winged Foot, Mossy Oak and Streamsong Black, but there have also been several Gil Hanse sightings at Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst. More on Pinehurst later, but Mike Keiser has been trying to get a Hanse addition to his Oregon portfolio for over 10 years. A diligent and patient Keiser finally walked away from a decade worth of stalled negotiations with Oregon’s State Park Department and the Bureau of Land Management that would’ve allowed for at least 27 more memorable holes 20 minutes south of the resort. At that same location, Keiser in fact owns enough land for 18, and Hanse has done at least one routing, but there’s also speculation that Hanse might get a crack at some land north of the resort. Sheep Ranch? It’s possible. Either way, the Hanse-working-for-everyone-BUT-Mike Keiser phenomenon will soon come to an end.


From the purchase of two courses/competitors (2011 & 2014), the gutsy restoration of No. 2 (2011) and successful back-to-back Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens (2014), Pinehurst’s fairly new President, Tom Pashley, who took over for Don Padgett in late-2014, has snuggled into The Cradle of American Golf at a time when the basinet is on the up swing. So, to keep the momentum going, Pashley just debuted The Deuce, a new open bar that extends onto the porch overlooking No. 2’s 18th green. “The post-round experience now matches the on-course experience,” said Pashley. “The Deuce was built to be the perfect place for golfers to reflect and unwind after a day on the links.”

The Deuce
The Deuce

Pinehurst will host the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, 2019 U.S. Amateur and 2024 U.S. Open. No shock if the USGA decides to go back-to-back again with the men’s and women’s major. Everyone agreed it was a strategic, competitive, logistical and financial success.

We also know Coore and Crenshaw have a routing on what once was The Pit Golf Links, which is a few miles off property and, if completed, would be Pinehurst No. 10. But lots of friends and Twitter followers are also reporting Gil Hanse sightings in the Sandhills of North Carolina. Pashley will only say that there’s a lot of potential for a guy like Hanse to help continue the aforementioned momentum of the storied resort.

Anyone for a beer at The Deuce where we can reflect on the possibilities?

Sea Island

And then there was one. Owner, that is.

In case you missed it, Sea Island has been around since 1928, owned and operated by the Jones family. Well, back in 2007, right before the economic crash, Bill Jones III pushed all in on almost $1 billion in upgrades and acquisitions.

Cut to 2010, when two teams of two partners are at an auction, bidding against each other for all that was Sea Island. They paused the auction, huddled, and decided to stop the bidding and own it together. (Among other things, they got the Cloister, Lodge, three courses and a 360-degree driving range with a prime ocean view for $212 million.) Captain Obvious: “They got a great deal.”

In June, the Anschutz family of Denver, CO., one of the four owners, bought out the three other partners and put the property into a 100-year family trust.

So after all that, Sea Island is back to being a family-owned operation with a seemingly endless future.

In April, Sea Island opened another 63 rooms to an extended wing of the Cloister. I’m told the Anschutz family, who also owns The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, will be looking to make updates and upgrades to all three courses at Sea Island: Seaside (Tom Fazio), Plantation (Rees Jones) and Retreat (Davis and Mark Love). They’re also looking at the property near the back of the range as potential for further development.

American Club, Kohler, WI

With David Kohler’s ongoing focus on addressing the needs and demands of the prototypical four- to 24-person buddies trip, Destination Kohler will break ground this month on an expansion to the Inn at Woodlake, which will include four- to six-person suites. There will be six suites with four bedrooms and four suites with two bedrooms, which will have common living space and kitchenettes. The expansion should be open for bookings later in the 2017 season.

As for the plans of a fifth Pete Dye course, the process of permitting and politics continues. “I wish I had more information,” said a Kohler spokesperson.

(So do we.)

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV

As you recall, historic floods in June devastated West Virginia, causing 15 deaths in Greenbrier County and 23 statewide. The 235-year-old resort cancelled their PGA Tour event and opened its doors to flood victims. And in less than three weeks, the 710-room hotel reopened to the public. Almost all of the golf on property needed more time.

“It has been organized chaos here,” said Burt Baine, Greenbrier’s Director of Golf. “We have four courses under major construction, all within five miles of each other.” Baine noted that Kelly Schumate, the Director of Golf Course Maintenance for all four courses, hasn’t had a day off since June 23. (Which is 83 days, and counting…)

The Greenbrier Course suffered the least amount of damage and reopened in mid-July.

Old White TPC at The Greenbrier, a C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor original, will remain shut down and is undergoing a complete restoration by Keith Foster, who has previously restored prominent courses such as Philadelphia Cricket Club, Southern Hills and Eastward Ho!

“There will be no major changes,” said Baine. “But Keith’s going to uncover a lot of cool stuff out there. And the greens will get a necessary consistency.”

Blaine expects the new Old White to reopen for next year’s Greenbrier Classic (July 3—9). The Meadows course is scheduled to reopen in late-April.

The Sam Snead course, a private Tom Fazio design, was hit the hardest. The course remains closed while Fazio’s team redoes all greens, bunkers and the design of three holes.

The “Big Course,” which is being designed by Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Trevino, is underway. And although early indications were that Team Nicklaus would be doing a bulk of the design and work, that’s apparently not true. According to Baine, it has been a fairly balanced collaboration. And although Trevino might not have as much experience in architecture, he has always been a plus-six storyteller, which goes a long way to getting people to see the finished product. Trevino has been a pro-emeritus at the Greenbrier since 2015 and has already spent several months on site engaging and entertaining guests and golfers.

“One thing we’ve realized in this summer of very little golf,” said Baine, “is that, going forward, we will get focused on repositioning the Greenbrier as a golf destination. It has been very obvious the last few months that golf drives a bulk of what goes on at this resort.”

Big Cedar Lodge

Big Cedar Lodge
Big Cedar Lodge

Owner, Johnny Morris, doesn’t just keep turning sinkholes into spectacular cave tours. The founder of Bass Pro Shops is also turning the Ozarks into a golf heaven. He has an Arnold Palmer driving range, a Jack Nicklaus short course and a Tom Fazio championship course. He’s opening a Gary Player 12-hole par-3 course in 2017 and a Coore and Crenshaw 18-hole course in 2018. Morris also continues to make updates and enhancements to the resort he purchased in 1987.

Summer Golf Camps for Kids


On a recent trip to Morocco, I was introduced to a grow-the-game initiative that the program’s mentors referred to as “Birdies.” Formally known as Birdies de Mogador, it’s made up of 70 kids, carefully screened as potential leadership in the country’s budding golf industry. For eight hours a week, these kids are being taught to not only play the game, but also manage the game, which includes language lessons and classes on the business of golf.

To #GrowTheGame in the United States has become a popular hashtag. And with the microscope literally and figuratively revealing the dangers of tackle football, combined with successful programs such as First Tee, Youth on Course, Drive, Chip and Putt and other evolving trends, such as TopGolf and short courses, the game’s forecast seems to be improving for decades and future generations.

And as the cloud cover lifts, it brings us to summer golf camps for kids. Where do they fit in? What are your options? And what should you, as a parent or guardian, look for?

Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy
Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy

“It starts with understanding your child,” says Kate Tempesta, founder and co-owner of Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy in New York. “I hear people say, ‘Make it fun.’ But what’s ‘fun’ is different for each age. What might be fun for an 8-year-old might not be fun for a 5-year-old.”

Tempesta started a junior camp at Montauk Downs on the eastern tip of Long Island five years ago, which ran for one week. Last year it was up to nine weeks. And this summer it will be 11 weeks. Between camps in Montauk and various locations throughout New York, Tempesta estimates her and her staff will see 1,000 kids this summer.

“I’m thrilled with the evolution of the program. Our mission statement is to empower the children and let them discover the game at their own pace.”

Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy
Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy

Urban Golf Academy works with kids, ages 4 and up. Weekly summer camps run from 9—2pm, which includes golf, and/or tennis and swimming and prices range from $145 to $180 per kid, per day, depending on when you sign up.

“We aim for joy first, then we might get technical. Which isn’t to say we can’t get to the competitive side of the golf, it’s just not our point of entry.”

Tempesta also offers “Evening Eagles,” which is two days a week, 5—8pm, and it’s $300 per child.

Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy
Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy

“In the end, do we want better golfers or better human beings? The answer is human beings, and golf is a great vehicle to get that done. That’s just me and that’s the way I teach.”

For more on Urban Golf Academy: www.ktuga.com




After speaking to Tempesta, I also solicited feedback on junior golf camps from my Twitter followers. Some notable names and brands chimed in:

David Leadbetter ‏‪@DavidLeadbetter
I heard @LGAOrlando has great junior camps.

Students ages 12-18 will be immersed in a week-long program based on Leadbetter’s famed “Holistic Approach” to golf instruction, utilizing 30+ years experience coaching juniors around the world. Leadbetter’s Holistic Approach to the golf swing has helped countless tour professionals and aspiring junior golfers reach the pinnacle of the sport, including 21 Major winners and 7 World No. 1s.” ($2,950 per student.) For more: http://davidleadbetter.com/summercamps/


Arron Oberholser ‏‪@ArronOberholser
Stanford’s camp is incredible. Been going on for years. I coached at it when I was in college.

Stanford offers half day and full day golf camps, with a focus on “introducing the game to juniors between the ages of 5 and 12 with either no experience or a couple years of instruction.”

They also offer “Traditional Camp” which is designed to cater to junior golfers (ages 8—18) from beginner to advanced. Instructors include the Stanford coaching staff and other DI/DII coaches and players. ($650—$1,800) For more, go to: stanfordgolf.activesb.net/2016_Summer_Camps.htm


@Pinehurst Resort We humbly nominate the Pinehurst Golf Academy Junior & Parent/Child Schools.

‪@thejcruz89 When he was 13, my son loved every second of the Pinehurst Golf Camp. Best $1,600 for a week you can spend.

Pinehurst junior golf school runs through July, and includes golfers ages 11 to 17. It’s six days and nights and prices range from $1,769 to $1,869. For more: www.pinehurst.com/golf/pinehurst-golf-academy/our-schools/junior-school/


Michael Hankinson ‏‪@MPHankinson
Hi Matt! The @NTPGAJuniorTour has some of the best camps in Texas and include a starter set of clubs! For my son- it started.

For more: www.ntpgajuniorgolf.com


Chad Anderson ‏‪@KnoxAreaGolf
@Tennesseepga Jr Golf Academy – great value! Overnight camp for a week, dorm rooms, catering, par 3 course, instruction.

For more: golfhousetennessee.uschedule.com/TPGAJuniorAcademy/AbouttheAcademy.aspx


Francis O’Hara ‏‪@FOSDGLF
Can’t go wrong with @TheFirstTee

For more: www.thefirsttee.org/club/scripts/section/section.asp?NS=FL


Rollins Golf ‏‪@RollinsGolf
@PineNeedlesGolf Has a great camp. @PeggyKirkBell is in attendance!

For more: www.pineneedles-midpines.com/youth-golfari/


Inge Beeker ‏‪@ingewood
Check out @OldWaverlyGC for world class instruction from @VTROLIO and @timyelverton.  They have junior cottage setup for camp.

For more: www.hailstate.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205389018


Troon @Troon
We like the Summer Jr Camps at ‪@TroonNorthGC. ‪#GrowTheGame

For more: www.troonnorthgolf.com/tnjrcamp.html


March Madness

Duke University Golf Club
Duke University Golf Club 9th Hole

The NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing, which means just one sure thing: There are no sure things. Tiny colleges upend massive universities, top seeds topple, underdogs prevail, and the general unpredictability of the entire event make it ‘must see’ for untold millions nationwide.

However there are some ‘sure things’ when it comes to some of the finest collegiate golf courses around the country. Duke, Purdue and Yale all took their rightful place in this year’s ‘March Madness’ jamboree. And despite their ultimate finish in the current three-week basketball extravaganza, they will remain on the list of the nation’s best college courses in perpetuity.

Duke’s fine course has been restored to its original grandeur, and this parkland beauty is once again one of the premiere golf venues in the south. Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones, the redo was executed by his son Rees, who first visited the course as a member of the Yale golf team in the ‘60s. “When my dad built the course a few years prior, there wasn’t money available for fairway bunkering or grading,” recalls Jones. “When we came in to do the restoration work in the early ‘90s, we added fairway bunkers, graded the fairways, lengthened the course, re-contoured the greens and re-bunkered the entire facility.”

It’s tree-lined but not tree-choked, with elevated greens, yawning greenside bunkers and a palpable sense of remove. Several par-5s are bisected by streams, requiring careful decision making. Many of the par-4s feature both length and bend of fairway. It’s not quite as prestigious as the nearby university, but it’s close.

Duke 12
Image via Duke University Golf Club

Individual highlights are numerous on the course. But Duke’s version of “Amen Corner,” including the downhill, stream-crossing par-5 11th, daring a power player to reach in two blows, which is followed by the back-across-the-water-in-the-other-direction par-3 12th, and then the pond-on-the-periphery-of-the-landing area par-4 13th, are likely the three best successive holes.

Washington Duke Inn
Image via Washington Duke Inn

To make matters even better, the course is just steps away from the Washington Duke Inn, one of the area’s premiere accommodations. The combination of course and lodging practically on site make it a one-of-a-kind university experience.

Purdue University’s Kampen Course in Indiana was formerly little more than a ‘farmer’s course,’ before acclaimed architect Pete Dye decided to lend his considerable skills to a comprehensive facelift. His architectural career took off after a series of agronomy courses he took at the school while learning the trade, so the longtime Indianapolis resident was happy to give back when the school was in need.

Purdue Golf
Image via Purdue Golf

Much of this heavily bunkered, fescue-laden course is routed around a natural marsh known as the celery bog, to the right of the brutally long par-5 sixth hole. The greenish bog is home to all sorts of birdlife, and thanks to the sophisticated filtration and recycling system Dye devised, the course’s water runoff goes through several stages of cleaning before entering the bog.

The place is a living, green grass laboratory. Just off the 8th tee, a tough par-4 with waste bunkering down the entire right-hand side, is a sign for the Turfgrass Research and Diagnostic Center, which is housed in a building just a long iron from the hole itself.

The course concludes in wicked fashion. The 17th is a daunting par-3 over water, 200 yards of terror, often into the wind. The last is an exhausting par-4, a driver and then a 3-wood, which most players just hope to reach in regulation.

Last but not least, Yale Golf Course offers those willing to meet its many challenges a rugged adventure, and is one of the nation’s best examples of early American golf architecture.

Yale 7
Image via The Course at Yale

Now ninety years old (designed by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1926) this Grande Dame has lost none of its bite, nor allure. Large greens, most deeply bunkered, and constricted, heaving fairways reveal Yale’s penalizing character. There are a spate of memorable holes, none more than the unforgettable ninth. This downhill par-3 Biarritz green is bisected by a head-high trench. Woe to the player who’s tee shot lands on the wrong side of the green. The approach putt is nothing more than a guessing game; it will roll down and then back up a chasm that’s as deep as nearly any feature on any putting surface most players have ever encountered. Just one of the unique quirks that makes Yale such a standout in the collegiate golf world.

Every golfer has one thing in common: The love of a birdie putt.

It can be a tap in or a hundred feet of undulation and slippery slopes, but if it’s a birdie putt, it means you did something right to give yourself a chance at breaking par on that particular hole. Which is why I’m such a fan and advocate of short courses.

Before we get to the essence and value of a short course, a better understanding of what they are: A short course is never more than 6,000 yards, they usually have more than four par 3s, they rarely have 18 holes and they are almost always relatively affordable. You get around in closer to two hours than four hours, and even the most beginner of beginners, at some point in the round, usually has at least one putt for a birdie. There are exceptions to any one of those parameters, but I’ll now assume you’re clear as to what is the subject of this post.

I can’t help but think that if golf had a mulligan, more than 10 to 12 percent of the 5,000 or so courses built since 1990, would have been short courses. If only some of those housing developments—built around unforgiving courses thoughtlessly routed through a generic piece of land—were instead, built around short courses that had a broader park-like appeal to a community and not just a championship golf course serving an older male-centric and wealthy clientele.

Goat Hill Park
Goat Hill Park

“Short courses are important for so many reasons,” says John Ashworth, who rallied the community of Oceanside, Calif., to save Goat Hill Park, which is 18 holes, a par 65, that tips out at 4,454 yards and it’s $32 on weekends. “A short course is playable for everyone and it takes less time to get around. It costs less to build, less to maintain, less to operate, and therefore, it costs less to play.”

To Ashworth’s point, if golf is to get out from under the labels of being too hard, takes too long and it’s too expensive, then of course short courses should be celebrated, cultivated and cared for.

“Short courses are a fabulous introduction to golf,” says Bill Coore, who, along with his partner, Ben Crenshaw, has one of the most popular design portfolios of the modern era of golf architecture. “Ben and I both played golf as kids on nine-hole short courses. By eliminating physical demands of length, they appeal to all levels and ages. They’re generational and cyclical. The same place you learned how to play can be the same place you teach your kids to play, or your grandkids to play.”

Josh Lesnik, President of Kemper Sports, which manages over 100 golf courses all across the country, grew up playing Vernon Hills, a nine-hole, par 34, 2,836-yard course in a suburb of Chicago. “I think we’ll see more short courses,” says Lesnik. “It’s not going to be a crazy trend, but they’re more relevant than ever. It’s time to get more creative with the game.”

Top Golf
Top Golf

An innovative idea, such as Top Golf, which has revolutionized a trip to the driving range for all ages, shapes, sizes and skill levels, has had immeasurable success at getting a club in people’s hands. And those people, based on witnessing four-hour waits for a stall, are all having fun.

But what’s next? If those Top Golfers then accept an invite, or are inspired to go play a championship routing, and get embarrassed or discouraged, then they’re inclined to go back to Top Golf, and abandon the idea of real golf. If those same people went out to a short course, and stood over a birdie putt or two, or ten, then they might actually try real golf again. And again.

Winter Park Country Club
Winter Park Country Club

“It’s very important to us that it’s playable, accessible and affordable to everyone in the community,” says Matthew Hegarty, a colleague at the Golf Channel, who, along with the city of Winter Park, Fla., is working to restore Winter Park Country Club, a nine-hole short course that—for over 100 years—has weaved its way through town and into the hearts of the locals. “We think of it as a city park. That’s our mission statement,” says Hegarty. “Hopefully it continues to be a place where young and old and everything in between can pick up a club and play the game in not such an intimidating environment.”

To the thought leaders of the game, The Mission seems clear. And, once again, I’ll use a skiing analogy to help explain: Golf needs to continue to bridge the gap between a bunny slope (a traditional driving range) and a double diamond (an 18-hole “championship” course).  Whether that’s Top Golf, and/or some combination of short courses, it doesn’t matter. What matters is a greater appreciation and recognition that golf is hard. So what can we do to make sure anyone and everyone can get down the slopes and want to go right back to the top again?

Bandon Preserve
Bandon Preserve

A guy like Mike Keiser, who built Bandon Dunes in Oregon, understands life at the top of the mountain. In 15 years, he pieced together one of the most popular and purest golf destinations in the world. He has four championship courses at Bandon Dunes, and three short courses. “As we’ve seen with Bandon Preserve, short courses are becoming increasingly popular with a premium on fun golf in a shorter time frame,” says Keiser. “Given the economics of land availability and price, water usage and environmental concerns, I believe short or alternative courses will only become more and more popular for future golf developments. We are even thinking about building a fourth short course at Bandon Dunes as we speak.”

Mind you, Keiser’s clientele is mostly male who are avid about the game and they walk the course. (There are no carts at Bandon Dunes.) And yet, Keiser is on the verge of a 1 to 1 ratio of championship golf to short courses.

Meanwhile, at a place like Reynold’s Plantation in Georgia, where they have a clientele of predominantly couples or families, their golf portfolio consists of six championship courses. And there was talk of a seventh championship course, which would be built by Pete Dye.

Tom Pashley, President of Pinehurst, which has ten courses (counting Thistle Dhu, the putting course), admits a true short course is a hole in the glove of what’s considered The Cradle of American Golf.  “We don’t have that offering. A true short course,” says Pashley. “Courses 1 and 3 are shorter courses. And we sometimes play all of the holes on those courses as par 3s. And that’s always popular. Maybe that’s something we do more of in the future.”

And maybe. Just, maybe—this future that Pashley speaks of—is filled with more birdie putts. No one has ever complained about having too many birdie putts.


My Top 10 Public Short Courses in America

No. 10: Poxabogue, Sagaponack, NY. ($46)
A reprieve from Hampton’s pretentiousness, I usually play “The Pox” in bare feet.

No. 9: Winter Park Country Club, Winter Park, FL. ($12)
On the heels of their 100th anniversary, Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns, who recently worked with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia, are renovating WPCC. (Cliffs debuted at No. 19 on Golf Digest’s ranking of the 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the World.)

No. 8: Peter Hay, Pebble Beach, CA. ($30)
It’s directly across the street from Pebble Beach, the No. 1 public course in America, and kids 12 and under play Peter Hay for free.

No. 7: Northwood, Monte Rio, CA. ($28)
It’s an Alister Mackenzie original. Mackenzie built Augusta National and Cypress Point. Nuff said.

No. 6: Spring Creek, Hershey, PA. ($14)
Milton Hershey built what was originally called the Juvenile Course in 1932. It was a course specifically and to scale for kids. The only way an adult could play it was as a guest of a kid. Now it’s a parade of generations and the portrait of all that’s great about short courses.

Palm Beach Par 3
Palm Beach Par 3

No. 5: Palm Beach Par 3, Palm Beach, FL. ($49)
With memorable holes and a variety of shots, mostly along the coastline, it’s no wonder Golf Digest frequently ranks the Ray Floyd design as the best Par 3 course in the country.





No. 4: Threetops, Gaylord, MI. ($38)
Made famous by the million-dollar ace by Lee Trevino on ESPN’s “Shootout” in 2001, Threetops is the perfect complement to the four other championship courses on property.




Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock

No. 3: Top of the Rock, Branson, MO. ($135)
As host of Bass Pro Shop’s Legends of Golf, built by Jack Nicklaus and with infinity vistas of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake, it’s no wonder Top of the Rock is the most expensive green fee in public short courses.




Goat Hill Park
Goat Hill Park

No. 2: Goat Hill Park, Oceanside, CA. ($25)
Goat Hill Park has been saved. Thanks to John Ashworth and the passionate and committed community of Oceanside, “The Goat” is benefitting from a $2.5 million renovation in which they removed turf and became more cost efficient and sustainable. Having reopened in February to rave reviews, Ashworth’s vision for The Goat is a lot more than just golf. As a park, Ashworth is planning on concerts, community functions, caddie programs and alternative forms of a very traditional game.


Bandon Preserve
Bandon Preserve

No. 1: Bandon Preserve, Bandon, OR. ($100)
“I don’t care how many holes you build,” said Mike Keiser, when commissioning Bill Coore to build Bandon Preserve, the 13-hole par 3 course at Bandon Dunes. “Use the land to build as many fun and interesting holes that you can find. Make them interesting enough that we could pick any one of them up and they would be worthy of being dropped into any one of the other courses on property.”


Despite its notoriety as a fabulous beach and family destination, and its growing reputation as a golf haven, the Outer Banks will always and forever be known as the place where man first took to the sky. The Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio came for consistently faster winds and higher air density to help lift their “flying machine” off the sandy soil in the early 1900s. Their monument and museum at Kitty Hawk is the single most important element of any trip to what is known in the local parlance as OBX.

It helps make the windswept, coastal region North Carolina’s most enchanting tourist destination, as the Outer Banks is a true American treasure. It is a throwback coastal retreat with a charm that is preserved not only in its distinct culture but across many of its big-name golf designs as well.

The region has always catered to families, with plenty of sand, sun, sea and saltwater to excite even the calmest of children. In recent years, OBX has begun to assert itself as a true golf destination, with an array of courses that are more closely tied to all of nature’s coastal elements than what you’ll find in other East Coast golf destinations.

Nags Head Golf Links

Two courses in particular possess qualities closely representing the challenge of golf in the British Isles. Nags Head Golf Links, located in the town of the same name, has several holes routed right along the Roanoke Sound with winds that seemingly changed by the minute. The front nine’s fifth and ninth and the back nine’s 15th and 18th holes actually play right along the water in opposite directions, making club selection more art than science. Though not located directly on the water, the well- bunkered, 160-yard, par-3 17th hole (with sound waters lapping just beyond the dunes that surround the green) provided the best imitation of what is routinely experienced in the UK.

The Currituck Club
The Currituck Club

The Currituck Club is located 45 minutes north of Nags Head in the town of Corolla. The Rees Jones-designed layout that winds through a premier, gated community and features diverse coastal terrain (including sand dunes, wetlands, maritime forests and sound-side shoreline) and glimpses of the Currituck Sound, particularly on signature holes at the par-5 seventh and par-3 15th. Like all the great links courses abroad, the Currituck Club can change complexion according to the wind speed and direction. Play it on three consecutive days and you’ll likely enjoy three different experiences.

Kilmarlic Golf Club
Kilmarlic Golf Club

Three mainland courses worth experiencing are Kilmarlic, The Carolina Club and The Pointe. Kilmarlic is an upscale Tom Steele design. Though more heavily wooded than the island courses and thus less impacted by coastal breezes, Kilmarlic challenges with numerous water hazards. In fact, there are only three holes on the entire course devoid of a wetland or water feature. Players must think their way around a layout that stretches a modest 6,560 yards in length. Probably the most memorable hole at Kilmarlic is the 201-yard, par-3 17th. A precise shot over marsh that runs along the entire left side and then wraps around back of a bulkhead green is required to hit dry land. The Pointe, meanwhile, is a traditional design that spreads out across the rural Carolina mainland. Like Kilmarlic, The Pointe’s greatest defense is in the form of water on fifteen holes.

The Carolina Club
The Carolina Club

Last but not least, The Carolina Club is a brawny layout (especially in relation to the others in the region) that stretches to almost 7,000 yards. Designed by popular architects Russell Breeden and Bob Moore, the layout is more open than its mainland brethren making the winds more significant. The signature hole at The Carolina is the 166-yard, par-3 seventh. It showcases an island green that can be difficult to hit when the ocean breezes kick up and penetrate the mainland.

Eateries are almost as plentiful as grains of sand on the beaches. Try Kill Devil Grill in Kill Devil Hills, if only for the distinctive name. Speaking of hard-to-forget names, a meal at Risky Business Seafood in Hatteras is also a good option. Lastly, the king of wacky names might be: Captain Puddle Ducks’ Seafood Steamer Pots, not easy to say, but great to visit, in Ocracoke.

It’s long been said that Pinehurst is the American version of St Andrews, known universally as ‘the home of golf.”

The comparisons are apt. Scotland’s ancient university town boasts seven public courses, including the Old Course, perhaps the most iconic (not to mention the original) golf grounds in the world. Pinehurst has nine resort courses, including famed #2, site of the 1999, 2005, and 2014 U.S. Opens. However the comparisons go further, beyond the fact that both locations, despite being nearly four thousand miles apart, live and breathe golf.

Both regions offer numerous playing options besides the seven courses run by the St Andrews Links Trust, or the nine at Pinehurst Resort. In the UK venues like Crail, Lundin, Kingsbarns and even famed Carnoustie are within easy reach of the ‘Auld Grey Toon,’ as it’s known. Pinehurst has just as many fine options away from the historic resort.

Despite it’s somewhat remote location in the North Carolina Sandhills region, Pinehurst is but 75 miles from the Raleigh-Durham airport, less than 100 from the Charlotte airport, and just 55 miles off of I-95. So grab your National rental car, and go enjoy any of these worthwhile golf options in and around Pinehurst, but not affiliated with the resort itself.

Bayonet at Puppy Creek
Bayonet at Puppy Creek

Bayonet at Puppy Creek is an oddly-named, unpretentious, somewhat out-of-the-way, but highly worthwhile golf detour on the very outskirts of the Sandhills. This meandering Willard Byrd design, making occasional use of its namesake creek, opened twenty years ago, in 1995. It was the brainchild of Joe Poole, owner of the nearby Carolina Turf Company. His goal was to build a quality course without the extravagance of an expensive country club, or grand clubhouse. It is an excellent venue, surprisingly so, given its somewhat remote location, to begin or end a visit to the Sandhills.

Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road was designed by the late Mike Strantz . He was truly an iconoclast, and of the handful of original designs he completed before his untimely death a decade ago at age fifty, nothing illustrates that sensibility more than Tobacco Road. The opening tee shot, downhill between two massive, shaggy dunes, is reminiscent of either Ireland’s Ballybunion or Scotland’s Cruden Bay. Strantz tucks greens down in glens and atop sand hills, some are more than hidden; the par-5 13th green belongs in the witness protection program. The ninth green is so far above the fairway a golfer is tempted to plant, not remove, a flag upon reaching the surface. The par-3 third roils and shimmies to the point that walking on it, never mind putting on it, requires a balancing act. Buy a yardage book and treat it like it’s a survival manual. In many ways, it is.

Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club
Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club

Pine Needles is different than these other modern marvels. It dates from 1928, designed by Pinehurst’s patron saint of golf course architecture, Scotsman Donald Ross. It’s also a three-time host venue for the U.S. Women’s Open. (Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Christie Kerr having laid claim to the titles.) Pine Needles is a rolling landscape dotted with maples, holly trees, azaleas, dogwood, blackjack oaks and loblolly pines. It is a straightforward, relatively simple test of golf, no bells, whistles or artifice, but its length, and upslope topography in the landing areas, which serves to kill the forward momentum of one’s tee shots, provide plenty of challenges.

One needn’t play at the Pinehurst Resort, but eating around town is a great option. Ironwood Café is a handsome indoor/outdoor eatery just a few minutes from downtown Pinehurst specializes in casual fine dining. Salads, seafood, meats and desserts are all exceptionally prepared.

Elliotts on Linden offers eclectic cuisine, European technique, and southern hospitality all rolled into one. Located only a mile or so from downtown Pinehurst.

Ashten’s in nearby Southern Pines offers global cuisine from a southern perspective, and does so in a charming series of rooms reminiscent of an old English manor house.