Most golfers that I know enjoy any chance to get out on the course, whatever course might await them. The pastime of golf, after all, is about getting outside, spending time with friends, enjoying that special feeling that comes when square contact is made with the ball … and, perhaps, exploiting the chance to lord a friendly bet or two over a steady playing partner.
This being said, most golfers I know have a wish list—written down or imagined—of some places they’d like to play before they depart for the great fairways of the hereafter. Some of these dream courses are venues that they have sees the pros play on television. Others have appeared in golf magazine round-ups of the greatest public courses, greatest private courses, greatest courses beginning with the letter ‘N,’ etc. Other fantasies have been inspired by the glimpse of a photo of a rolling fairway or thickly bunkered green, an image that beckons the viewer to place him/herself in the thick of the scene. However the “must-plays” have made it on the list, these courses are objects of desire that are often contemplated … and with patience, planning, and a bit of good luck, perhaps sometimes played. The passionate duffer who splurges $390 on a round at Pebble Beach, or makes the pilgrimage to St. Andrews, will likely treasure the memory well into their next lifetime.
It was in considering my own wish list of courses, and comparing notes with friends on their dream links, that the early seeds of Fifty Places To Play Golf Before You Die were sown. With somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 golf courses of various shapes and sizes across the world (not including miniature golf courses)—and with my experience mostly limited to more modest munis that would not make many wish lists—I felt ill-suited to decide what fifty courses should be included. So I resorted to a tactic that served me well in my first book, Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die: I decided to seek some professional advice: I interviewed fifty people closely connected with the golf world about some of their favorite courses and experiences. These experts ranged from seasoned touring professionals (like Mark O’Meara, Nick Faldo and Cristie Kerr) to golf journalists and photographers (like Brian McCallen and Matthew Harris) to instructors (like Dave Pelz and Pia Nilsson) to golf course architects (like Pete Dye, Tom Doak and Robert Trent Jones, Jr.). Some spoke of courses that they designed or where they won major championships; others spoke of links where walking in the footsteps of heroes past and present made the experience unforgettable. Still others spoke of courses where the spirit of the game—the camaraderie and passion that can erase all cultural boundaries—manifested itself in a particularly illuminating or touching manner. People appreciate golf and golf courses for many different reasons, and this range of attractions is evidenced here. (To give a sense of the breadth of their golfing background, a bio of each individual is included after each essay.)
While this book collects fifty great golfing experiences, it by no means attempts to rank the courses discussed, or the quality of the experiences each course affords. Such ranking is largely subjective, as the course that might be appealing to a golf course architecture critic might be unfathomable to an every-other-weekend player. In this spirit, courses are listed alphabetically by state or country.
In the hope that a few readers might embark on adventures of their own, I have provided some “If You Go” information at the end of each chapter. It is by no means exhaustive, but will give would-be travelers a starting point for planning their trip. I have also provided some basic course information, including distances (from the championship tees, in each case), slope rating (if available), green fees, tee time contact information and whether the course is public or private. Please do not interpret the list of championship tee yardage as a recommendation that you play from those tees; players will get the best sense of the experience a pro has on a course—and the idea that the architect had—by playing from the tee appropriate for your skills. Please also note that some of the private courses included in Fifty Places To Play Golf Before You Die are very private. It may take half a lifetime of careful friendship cultivation to gain a one-time admittance, but we must set our sights high! (Why even 20+ handicap yours truly was almost invited to play Pine Valley last year!)
While any round of golf is a good round in my estimation, a trip to a dream venue can create memories for a lifetime. I hope that this little book helps you tee off on a few adventures of your own.
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