10 “Bucket List” Golf Courses
From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything
Pine Valley Golf Club
Clementon, New Jersey
Crump/Colt (1918), Par 70—6,765 yards
Pine Valley is somewhat mysterious in golfing circles because it is hard to find and extremely private. Those who have found the club located in New Jersey’s lonesome Pine Barrens say the course is one of the world’s finest. The founders started the club in 1913, with the purchase of 184 acres (75 hectares) of scruffy pinelands. The later addition of 416 acres (168 hectares) of picturesque virgin woodlands enhanced the remote beauty of the place.
Cypress Point Club
Pebble Beach, California
Mackenzie (1929), Par 72—6,536 yards
The late great duffer Bob Hope once quipped that during a membership drive at this exclusive club, they drove away 20 members. Cypress Point is indeed a private place, which explains why you won’t see casual players chipping away on the Pacific coastline. Located south of Pebble Beach in California’s gorgeous Big Sur country, the club has an 18-hole course of rolling fairways. Dr. Alister Mackenzie, architect of Augusta National Golf Club (number 8 in this list) designed Cypress also.
Muirfield Village Golf Club
Gullane, Scotland, United Kingdom
T. Morris (1889), Par 71—7,221 yards
Home to the world’s oldest golfing society, Muirfield opened in 1744. More than 200 years later, Jack Nicklaus won his first British Open here on the storied greens near Edinburgh. Most golfers consider Muirfield to be a particularly demanding test of ability.
St. Andrews (Old Course)
St. Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom
Par 72—7,279 yards
Any golfer worth his or her weight in golf clubs wants to play the Old Course at St. Andrews, the most famous one in the world. Golf has been played on this heathery patch of land on Scotland’s east coast since the 15th century. In addition to the Old Course, there are four more excellent 18-hole courses, one 9-hole course, and a practice center to accommodate golfers of all skill levels. All are public, but reservations are a must. The Old Course is embedded in the stormy North Sea dunes and is challenging to even the best of golfers. For people who aren’t even pretending to be Tiger Woods, Strathtyrum Course is ideal. The nine-hole Balgove is best for children and beginners.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, California
Neville/Grant (1919), Par 72—6,737 yards
Pebble Beach Golf Links may be the best known course in the United States. As you work your way over the narrow fairways, make sure you pause to drink in the outstanding views of the rocky shores that make up this part of California’s Pacific coast. There’s an especially good vista at the 18th hole, a 548 yards par 5. Since the wind can be a big factor here, be sure to select the proper club if you want to score well.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Mackenzie/Russell (1926), Par 72—6,598 yards (East) and 6,589 yards (West)
Located in eastern Australia, this lovely private club has two 18-hole courses, East and West. For tournaments and special members’ events, the club forms the Composite Course of 12 holes from the West and 6 from the East. This first was created in 1959 when Royal Melbourne was the site of the Canada Cup, now called the World Cup.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Southampton, New York
Toomey/Flynn (1931), Par 70—6,996 yards
Shinnecock Hills boasts a few notable firsts. It has the first clubhouse in the United States, built in 1893 from a design by Stanford White. It was also the first club that admitted women as members. The rolling terrain of Long Island’s south shore gives the course plenty of variety. And winds off the Atlantic Ocean can make playing this private course quite challenging.
Augusta National Golf Club
Mackenzie/Jones (1932), Par 72—6,905 yards
Each spring, the venerable club in central Georgia is the site of the Masters, maybe the most revered tournament in the United States. Hot-pink azaleas bloom near the championship 18-hole and 9-hole courses. Three of the sport’s toughest and most famous holes are here: the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes together are known as “Amen Corner.” Winners are easy to spot, because they are given special green blazers.
Pinehurst Country Club
Pinehurst, North Carolina
D. Ross (1903-35), Par 72—7,051 yards
Established in 1894 in the Sand Hills region of North Carolina, Pinehurst has eight outstanding courses and more holes than anyother resort. Course No. 1 is the most scenic and picturesque in terms of design. However, all the courses have tree-lined fairways and numerous bunkers. Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open here with a dramatic 15-foot putt at the 18th hole. Sadly, it was his last major tournament; he died in an airplane crash that fall.
Royal County Down Golf Club
Newcastle, N. Ireland, United Kingdom
T. Morris (1889) Dunn/Vardon, Par 72—6,968 yards
The more than 100-year-old Royal County Down Golf Club has two 18-hole courses: the Championship and the less formidable Annesley. Located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Belfast and 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Dublin, the club is stunningly set between the mountains of Mourne and the Irish Sea. However, it is as tough a place to play as it is beautiful to see. The fairways are lined with masses of native plants such as heather and gorse. Wild tussocks cover the bunkers. And the wind off the sea can add to the tension.