The A List : Top Courses Our Experts Want to Play in 2010

Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes (Bandon, Oregon)

Tom Doak and Jim Urbina reinterpreting Charles Blair Macdonald, the father of American golf course architecture, on 400 acres of glorious Oregon linksland high above the Pacific? It’s a no-brainer. Especially when you consider that resort founder Mike Keiser is on record as saying he wants his architects “to design as C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, his apprentice and successor, would if they were alive today.” On the heels of his career-making design at Pacific Dunes, I am confident Team Doak will exceed expectations at Old Macdonald, a walkers-only, fescue-fringed time machine slated to open next summer.

– Brian McCallen,

El Jaguar (Merida, Mexico)

This new Nicklaus course has gotten virtually no attention, but I’ve been assured it is incredible. Jack is the Godfather of Mexican golf: He created the country’s most highly rated design, the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, as well as Punta Mita, Vista Vallarta, Riviera Cancun, and others. El Jaguar lies near the ocean and mixes drop-dead waterfront exposure with the Yucatan’s thick jungle foliage and the restored remains of five Mayan ruins. What’s more, Merida is a world away from touristy Cancun and surrounded by some of the most stunning and least visited archaeological sites. No American I know has been to Dzibilchaltun or Mayapan–or played El Jaguar.

– Larry Olmsted,

Taconic Golf Club (Williamstown, Massachusetts)

It was a New England pilgrimage site in its pre-renovation form, but now the old Wayne Stiles design has been given a much-awaited Gil Hanse rejuvenation. It’s a must-play when the snow melts and one of New England’s classic college towns is back in bloom.

– David Gould,

Banff Springs and Jasper Park Lodge (Alberta, Canada)

The courses in the Canadian Rockies national parks—at Banff Springs and Jasper Park Lodge—have drawn devotees of architect Stanley Thompson to Alberta for 80-plus years. Banff Springs may have the edge in terms of scenery (its setting is akin to playing in Yosemite Valley except more dramatic), while Jasper leads in playability and overall fun. Both give you good odds of coming across a herd of elk, maybe even a grizzly bear or wolf, and a heady dose of the idiosyncrasies that mark Thompson’s genius: green mounds mimicking the mountains beyond, and bunkers in the shape of the constellations that Thompson spied while wandering the grounds by horseback at night. Plus the drive from Banff to Jasper is worth the price of admission alone.

– Chris Santella,

Akureyri Golf Club (Akureyri, Iceland)

I’ve always politely declined invitations to play in the Arctic Open, but having relocated to always-hot, humid Ho Chi Minh City, I’m reconsidering. Hosted since 1986 by the Akureyri Golf Club in northeast Iceland–the northernmost golf club in the world–the Arctic Open takes place June 24-26, 2010, and would be refreshing for several reasons, starting with the snow-capped mountains in the background. The midnight golf would be a welcome counterpoint to the sunrise-sunset cycle in Vietnam, which varies by less than a half- our all year.

– Tom Harack,

The Resort Course at Coeur d’Alene (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho)

The island green gets all the recognition here, but CDA offers more than one memorable hole. Where else can you take a boat ride on a Chris-Craft from a luxury hotel to a course where your forecaddie greets you on the dock? And the golf carts have heated seats! Plus, you can play all over the world without finding a course in better condition.

– Jim Moore,

Gourock, Haughburn, Auchenharvie, etc. (Scotland)

I’ve played most of the trophy courses in Scotland. But for my 50th birthday in 2010, I hope to travel back to my favorite country and seek out courses the names of which sound like someone coughing— places like Gourock, Haughburn, Auchenharvie, an Inverallochy.

– Jeff Wallach,

Merion Golf Club (Ardmore, Pennsylvania)

You’re gonna hate me for this, but the site of the 2013 U.S. Open is the only course in the top 10 of the latest list of the world’s best courses that I haven’t played. Which is really strange because it’s almost the closest to my home in New York City (Pine Valley is about 13 miles closer). Come on, any Merion members out there who want to invite me? Please?

– Jim Frank,

Signature Course, Legend Golf and Safari Resort (Garsfontein, Tshwane, South Africa)

This new course supposedly has 18 “signature” holes by 18 “designers”—all Tour pros like Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, Retief Goosen, and K.J. Choi. But the hole people are sure to talk about is the “Extreme 19th,” which plays from the top of a cliff (you get there by helicopter!) and drops 1,410 feet to a green shaped like the continent of Africa. My late friend the architect Desmond Muirhead loved elevated tees because, he said, they gave golfers a sense of power. One must feel like a king while watching his ball stay in the air for 30 seconds.

– John Strawn,

Ke’olu Golf Course (Kailua-Kona, Big Island of Hawaii)

While most guests play Hualalai’s busy Nicklaus-designed resort course, known for hosting the Senior Tour MasterCard championship, I’d relish being in Amex Black Card country—on the private mountainside club in the heart of the Hualalai Resort, where real estate runs from $2 million to $30 million. Who knows, I might even wind up in a financial foursome of Buffett, Dell, and Schwab, just a few of the members I’d gladly take a lesson (in investing, not golf) from any day.

– Scott Kauffman,

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