Category Archives: Golf Digest 100 Greatest (Public)

Paa-Ko Ridge

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia, NM

paako ridge
Me and Bert, who came all the way from Alaska to beat me

The Stats

Tee Time: May 1, 2017, 9:50, 64 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Kenneth Dye, 2000

Playing Partners: Bert Verrall

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (74.1 rating/142 slope/7,218 yards)

Course Handicap: 11 (8.6 index)

Stats:  96 (49-47); 30 putts; 7/14 fairways; 4/18 greens; 7 penalty strokes

The Course

Just a half-hour from the Breaking Badlands of Albuquerque sit the scenic Sandia Mountains, covered in ponderosas, spruce and just a thin layer of snow. And in those mountains sits one of the nicest golf courses in all the southwest, the Golf Magazine #34 -ublic and Golf Digest #46-ranked Paa-Ko Ridge. And I finally got to get a round in with a fan of the blog. Bert came down from Alaska to pick up a car which he then drove from New Mexico way back up to Anchorage, some 4,200 miles up north. Crazy.

Paako ridge sandia nm drone
Paa-Ko Ridge from the air

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Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek Golf Club in Mesquite, NV

Me and CJ

The Stats

Tee Time: October 23, 2016, 1:00, 82 F, sunny

Designer: Dennis Rider, 2000

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan

Tees: Champions, Par 72 (70.9 rating/138 slope/6,309 yards)

Course Handicap: 11 (8.6 index)

Stats: 87 (41-46); 40 putts; 8/14 fairways; 10/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes

The Course

wolf creek golf course mesquite nevada hole 8
The serene setting at #8

Many generations of video games ago (so like, 15 years) Tiger Woods’ EA golf games added in fantasy courses. My research is spotty, but it started in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 when they began adding fantasy courses, fictional settings that had these crazy holes in a mesmerizing setting. They were named Penguin Falls, The Predator, Emerald Dragon and Wallaby Creek, among others.  Then, with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, they added a new fantasy course: Wolf Creek. Except this is a real place. It may seem like something only a video game designer could conjure up, but thankfully it was Dennis Rider who brought this fantasy landscape to life just an hour up the road from Sin City.

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Quarry at Giants Ridge

The Quarry at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, MN

giants ridge quarry graig
Me and Greg in front of the big abandoned mine lake

The Stats

Tee Time: July 18, 2016, 10:00, 72 F, sunny

Designer: Jeffrey Brauer, 2003

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (72.9 rating/132 slope/6,696 yards)

Course Handicap: 7 (6.3 index)

Stats: 88 (44-44); 37 putts; 8/14 fairways; 8/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Home Run Derby in San Diego. The one where Giancarlo Stanton hit 61 home runs, topping out at 497 feet. Every time he hit a ball, I could only say “wow”. Each home run just left you speechless, it wasn’t so much a “wow” as a gasp at the crack of the bat. Well, that’s pretty much how my round went at the Quarry at Giants Ridge. Every tee, I was seeing something amazing and awesome. I found myself repeatedly spending an extra moment taking in the surroundings, taking the long route to my next shot, telling Greg how unbelievable this course is. Of course, before we got to start we were given not a primer on the golf course, but a history lesson of the mining and refining past of upper Minnesota. I’m usually fascinated by all this history, especially about the sheer amount of iron and ore they pulled out of these mines (hundreds of millions of tons) in total, a majority of it going toward the country’s World War II effort. But I was also eager to get out and check this course out, so the mining talk kind of washed over me like when Bart tried to listen to the history lesson at the box factory.

giants ridge quarry hole 17
The crystal clear water at 17 is just one of the charming features of this par 3

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Fallen Oak Golf Club

Fallen Oak Golf Club in Saucier, MS

fallen oak us
Jordan, me and Greg

The Stats

Tee Time: September 4, 2015, 8:24, 95 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Tom Fazio, 2006

Playing Partners: Jordan Ritenour and Greg Ryan

Tees: Third, Par 72 (71.7 rating/138 slope/6,549 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.0 index)

Stats: 88 (45-43); 36 putts; 6/14 fairways; 8/18 greens; 5 penalty strokes

The Course

A stay at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi is required for access to Fallen Oak Golf Club. That is not a bad thing. An MGM casino, the Beau Rivage is the most luxurious casino resort on the gulf coast. The flair and flash of the Las Vegas strip combined with the southern hospitality of the South. It’s literally right on the coast. Exiting the I-10 takes you to the off ramp over the water. With the brand new MGM Park, home of the AA Biloxi Shuckers baseball team, right across the street, a game and some gambling is a great way to spend your night before getting out to your round the next day. The actual course is about twenty miles north in Saucier, through a private gate and down a road into the Mississippi woodlands. This is where you get to you enjoy a little slice of heaven for a few hours. Continue reading Fallen Oak Golf Club

Sandpiper Golf Course

Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara, CA

sandpiper golf course hole 12
Sandpiper, the land of dramatic panoramas

The Stats

Tee Time: June 28, 2015, 8:20, 75F, sunny

Designer: William Bell (1972)

Playing Partners: assorted (tournament)

Tees: Gold, Par 72 (72.8 rating/131 slope/6,646 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.7 index)

Stats: 91 (48-43); 34 putts; 6/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Best I recall, there are two spots on the California coast for golf that everyone agrees are the best. Obviously the trio at Pebble Beach and then the south course at Torrey Pines in San Diego. In between, in Santa Barbara, is a coastal course that is worthy of the same praise the others get. Sandpiper Golf Course, just north of Santa Barbara on the 101, features six holes that take you right up to the cliffs or beach of the Pacific Ocean, and another with an approach that fills the viewfinder with pristine blue ocean. Well, once they clean up the oilContinue reading Sandpiper Golf Course

The Harvester Golf Club

The Harvester in Rhodes, IA

the harvester golf club rhodes iowa
Me and Greg

The Stats

Tee Time: July 6 2014, 12:00, 86F, breezy

Designer: Keith Foster (2000)

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (73.1 rating/132 slope/6,840 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.9 index)

Stats: 91 (42-49); 40 putts; 8/14 fairways; 7/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

 

The Course

“Is this heaven?

It’s Iowa.

I could’ve sworn this was heaven.”

I wonder how many sports related posts by sports related blogs talking about something sports-related in Iowa start with that Field of Dreams quote. Well, in the interest of being original, I’ll try something else.

Baseball, Ray…

Oops, wrong sport.

That’s my corn out there. You guys are guests in my corn.

There, that fits.

harvester golf club rhodes iowa hole 17
The 17th green at the edge of Lake Harvester

The Harvester is the unanimous choice across every list published for the best course in Iowa. You’d think, well, it’s Iowa, how many golf courses can they really have? Being named the #1 golf course in Iowa seems like it would be like being the MLB All-Star from the 2014 Padres. You’re only there because someone had to be. I was a little excited to come, because my only other visit to the Hawkeye State was a fun afternoon at the Field of Dreams a few years ago. Just stepping out of the car I was instantly amazed at how awesome The Harvester is. It’s not just the best course in Iowa, it immediately took a spot in my top 5 golf courses period. Under the overcast skies of a muggy day, the lush green hills seemed to extend infinitely into the distance. A condo complex and a few houses dotted the landscape, dominated by the massive plantation clubhouse overlooking the entire course. But aside from that and some barbed wire fencing, this place is pure nature. Continue reading The Harvester Golf Club

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL

arnold palmers bay hill and lodge club
Me

The Stats

Tee Time: April 18, 2014, 10:10, 81 F, overcast

Designer: Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay (1961)

Playing Partners: Brad, Tyler

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (73.7 rating/139 slope/6,895 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.5 index)

Stats: 96 (53-43); 32 putts; 6/14 fairways; 2/18 greens; 6 penalty strokes

The Course

According to the United States Geological Survey, the state of Florida is 18.5% water. And according to my personal research, 50% of that area can be found at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Trust me. Some form of water is in play on 10 of the 18 holes, and you will find it. There is greenside water, long carries over water, water to the left, water to the right. There is nowhere to hide, it will get you. Fortunately only the water is dangerous, as I only saw one baby alligator patrolling one of the 8 or so lakes. Continue reading Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club

Ghost Creek Course at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, OR

pumpkin ridge ghost creek
Me and Jon

 

The Stats

Tee Time: September 22, 2013, 12:20, 61 F, rain

Designer: Robert E. Cupp (1992)

Playing Partners: Jon Johansen

Tees: Blue, Par 71 (72.1 rating/139 slope/6,386 yards)

Course Handicap: 11 (9.0 index)

Stats: 93 (50-43); 34 putts; 6/13 fairways; 4/18 greens; 6 penalty strokes

The Course

Ahh rain. My luck of dry days in the northwest this year finally ran out as autumn began. I guess it’s my fault for tempting mother nature with a round 3 weeks into the NFL season. I’ve gotten frustrated living in the desert; 100 degrees day in and day out gets old after four or so months. You have to golf at the crack of dawn and still drink like a camel just to avoid heat stroke. Even working in the garage or taking the dog on a quick walk gets you sweating enough to need a cold shower. But 18 holes and 4 hours in a steady, 60-degree downpour? Continue reading Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club

Chambers Bay

Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, WA

Pat, me and CJ
Pat, me and CJ

The Stats

Tee Time: May 20, 2013, 9:15, 66 F, light wind

Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr (2007)

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Pat Spomer, Thomas

Tees: Sand, Par 72 (72.4 rating/135 slope/6,513 yards)

Course Handicap: 14 (11.6 index)

Stats: 94 (48-46); 41 putts; 9/14 fairways; 5/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes

The Course

In 2015, the US Open will be held here at Chambers Bay. You’ll see stunning visuals of sailboats and yachts out on the Puget Sound. Countless slow pans of the lone Douglas Fir behind the 15th hole. Maybe even some Jimmy Roberts pieces about the site’s history as a gravel mine. It will look great on television and be one of the most unique majors in recent memory. But nothing compares to actually walking these links. Spending four hours hiking up and down the natural contours of the course, taking in the unmatched scenery with every stride and breathing in the refreshing sea air is hands down the best experience I’ve had yet on this young journey. High above the golf course sits the clubhouse and restaurant, with a panoramic view of the premises as well as an excellent club sandwich. Just be dead sure you have your valuables safely hidden in your vehicle before walking into the pro shop, where there will always be a line of customers purchasing various memorabilia. After checking in, a shuttle will transport you down to the practice range and the rest of the course, dropping off right by the snack shack. The quick bus ride down to this golf playground hauling all your gear gets the adrenaline going in much the same way that taking the gondola up the mountain up with skis in tow does, knowing an awesome day awaits.

chambers bay university place washington 2015 us open hole 15 lone fir
Hole 15, “Lone Fir”; you’ll be seeing a lot of this tree during the US Open coverage

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TPC Stadium Course at PGA West

TPC Stadium Course in La Quinta, CA

The prettiest hole I’ve played to date, #17 at PGA West

The Stats

Tee Time: September 23, 2012, 10:48, 106 F, Calm

Designer: Pete Dye (1986)

Playing Partners: Matt, Thwan (approximate spelling)

Tees: Championship, Par 72 (73.3 rating/141 slope/6,739 yards)

Course Handicap: 15 (11.6 index)

Stats: 94 (44-50); 27 putts; 7/14 fairways; 2/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

The TPC Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, California is a constant member on lists of both the finest and the toughest courses, and deserving of those rankings as well. Spectacular mountain views, pristine lakes and bunkers with sand as perfect and soft as a Park City powder day are present on all 18 holes. Punishing mounds, long carries over water and teeny-tiny greens also characterize every hole at PGA West. It’s a perfect marriage of the two most important aspects to making an excellent golf course: possessing breathtaking scenery while simultaneously providing a challenge of a golfer’s skills with all his clubs. Pete Dye set this track up in a way that tries to hide most of the dangerous spots on the course. Obviously the water is hard to miss, but the undulation of the earth from tee to green plays tricks on you. It masks the bad spots, crosses up your eyes into incorrectly judging distances (which is no fun when you could have sworn that fairway bunker was at least twenty yards shorter than it ended up), and stubbornly refuses to kick rolling golf balls anywhere but off the fairway. I get the feeling that in the days before GPS carts this course really was a bitch. The starter even warned me to pay special attention to the little flatscreen in the cart, as many hidden traps were revealed. Mix in some greens that were half the size of a reasonable putting surface, surround that with bunkers deeper than the Mariana Trench and narrow fringes and now the course has put strain on your iron and short game play. Continue reading TPC Stadium Course at PGA West