Golf Blog

Hello Wisconsin!!

Every time that I visit the great state of Wisconsin, I yell “Hello Wisconsin!” as an ode to Ashton Kutcher and “That 70’s Show.” Even though I never get to hang out with Ashton in Wisconsin, I always end up playing a ton of great golf. The timing for this visit was perfect as I had just ranked the destination as #2 on my inaugural list of the 20 best golf destinations in America.

As the best state for public golf in the USA, I couldn’t possibly take in all of the golf that Wisconsin has to offer on this one trip. However, any time that you visit Wisconsin, you are in for some top tier golf action. The move is to fly into Milwaukee, rent a car, and then head out exploring. Only about an hour away is the city of Kohler and 4 fantastic golf courses. You have the River Course and Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run and the Straits and Irish courses at Whistling Straits. All of these courses are Pete Dye creations. I was in for a good couple days of 36.

The last of the day’s sun splashes down on the Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run.

The last of the day’s sun splashes down on the Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run.

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The best part about playing golf at places like Blackwolf Run is that they are filled with other passionate golfers. Above, we see Mr Jeff Horowitz and his son, Josh. I caught up with Jeff and Josh on the 2nd hole on the River course and it was clear that I had some serious golfers on my hands. Jeff is a little over halfway towards playing all of America’s 100 greatest golf courses and his son is intent on breaking 80. He has come close, but as many of us know, the 70’s have are elusive. Like a group of old pals we traded course stories and fired our golf balls into the woods. It was quick proof that It doesn’t take long to forge a friendship on the golf course.

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When I first started getting into golf course photography, one of the first places that really caught my eye was Whistling Straits. Perhaps, it was just an easy place to get a good picture with limited effort. Or maybe the golf gods live deep beneath the sand and they just helped to point my camera in the right direction. Either way, one thing is true about Whistling Straits. It is an absolutely beautiful golf course. I could post 100 pictures of this golf course, but I managed to narrow them down for this post. The entire gallery is available here.

When the 17th hole plays into the wind, it is easily one of the most difficult holes on the golf course.

When the 17th hole plays into the wind, it is easily one of the most difficult holes on the golf course.

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Like many holes at Whistling Straits, the wind will play a big part in deciding if you will walk off of the 2nd green with a birdie or an early blemish on the scorecard.

Like many holes at Whistling Straits, the wind will play a big part in deciding if you will walk off of the 2nd green with a birdie or an early blemish on the scorecard.

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For my round on the Straits course at Whistling Straits, I was fortunate enough to play with the Director of Golf Operations, Michael O’Reilly. Michael and I both brought our C games but managed to sprinkle in some highlights of brilliance. One of those highlights came on the 6th hole. With one of the country’s deepest and most ridiculous bunkers guarding the center of the green, I took my chances and came out with an easy par. Had I put just a little more side spin on this one, I am sure that I would have ended up on Sportscenter’s top 10 shots of 2019.

Since it’s inception in 1998, Whistling Straits has hosted a number of premier golf championships over the years. It hosted the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010, and 2015. The US Senior Open was also played on the Straits course in 2007. Next year, the course gets another chance to shine when it will host the 2020 Ryder Cup. The buzz is already in the air and the pro shop is loaded up with Ryder Cup merchandise. People are going to go mad for this Ryder Cup. With a ton of options for risk and reward on the golf course, this cup is sure to feature some wildly exciting matches.

The 8th hole at Whistling Straits

The 8th hole at Whistling Straits

The opening hole at Whistling Straits.

The opening hole at Whistling Straits.

The 18th hole and the scene of Jason Day’s first major championship victory at the 2015 PGA..

The 18th hole and the scene of Jason Day’s first major championship victory at the 2015 PGA..

The first hole at Whistling Straits is one of my favorites. With so many inspiring holes, this one is often overlooked.

The first hole at Whistling Straits is one of my favorites. With so many inspiring holes, this one is often overlooked.

After an inspiring morning on the Straits course, it was time to explore the other course at Whistling Straits, the Irish course. The Irish course is another Pete Dye design and for what it lacks in lakeside views, it makes up for with some fun and enjoyable holes of golf. The course has an Irish links flare to it with some old fashioned Pete Dye tricks.

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In the distance, you hear them coming. The jingling and jangling of their bells let you know that they are near. It is the sheep of Whistling Straits. As an ode to the courses of Ireland and Scotland, Whistling Straits employs a pack of sheep to roam the lands and bring smiles to golfer’s faces.

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The opening hole on the Irish course.

The opening hole on the Irish course.

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Since the good golf is so dense in Wisconsin, I didn’t have to drive far to find my next destination. It was the site of the 2017 US Open, Erin Hills. Given the soft and benign weather conditions, the field was able to post some wildly low scores on the 7800 yard layout. In the 3rd round, Justin Thomas fired a smoking good 63. At nine-under, Thomas set the U.S. Open record for lowest score in relation to par in a single round, breaking the mark set by Johnny Miller in 1973. Brooks Koepka would tie the overall US Open scoring record at -16 and win by 4 strokes. A fair warning to those visiting… this course is not that easy.

As I walked into the club house at Erin Hills, I was greeted by a couple of familiar faces. It was Jeff and his son Josh again. They were just coming off of the golf course after a round of golf in the rain and had some big news. Josh had finally done it, he had broken 80. Earlier that day the young lad had fired a personal best 78 at Erin Hills. Perhaps it was the weather at Erin Hills that had inspired such outstanding play?

I would return to Erin Hills the following day and experience a different type of weather.

I would return to Erin Hills the following day and experience a different type of weather.

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The sun sets over Erin Hills.

The sun sets over Erin Hills.

I guess, hello world, huh?
— Tiger Woods

Those were the exact opening words that Tiger Woods spoke at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open press conference. Tiger had just won the US Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge and he had selected Brown Deer Park as the place to make his debut as a professional golfer. A young and inexperienced Tiger actually looked a little nervous up there. As most of us know, that nervousness would not transfer to the golf course and Woods would go on to dominate the golf world in short order. Tiger would never actually contend that week, but he did end up winning $2,544 and finishing in a tie for 60th place. On a side financial note, that same week he signed $43 million in endorsement contracts.

The 14th hole at Brown Deer Park is the site of Tiger Woods’ first hole-in-one as a PGA Tour professional.

The 14th hole at Brown Deer Park is the site of Tiger Woods’ first hole-in-one as a PGA Tour professional.

Even though Woods finished near the bottom of the leaderboard, Tiger would not leave without making a splash. On the 202-yard, par-3 14th hole in the final round, Woods pulled out his 6 iron and made a hole-in-one. So when I visited Brown Deer Park, I decided that my time had finally come and I was going to make an ace myself on the exact same hole. The hole was only playing about 180, but I did use my 6 iron and I swung away. Wide right!! I grumbled to myself and updated my lifetime ace attempt stats… 0/13,456

The brown deer at Brown Deer Park.

The brown deer at Brown Deer Park.

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For years Brown Deer hid behind the PGA Tour event, we’ve taken away the veil and dusted this baby off.
— Andy Barrett, Head PGA Professional at Brown Deer Park

A brief conversation with Andy will let you know that he is extremely passionate about the work that he and his team have done out at Brown Deer. With improvements to the clubhouse, the team has reinvigorated the atmosphere and highlighted the course’s history. The local golfers have a strong bond with the municipal course and Andy wanted to highlight that. “Every single day, I hear a story about how much this course means to them from one of our golfers.” “Brown Deer just has this bond with our customers,” says Andy.

Andy even found a 1930 map of the golf course land from the Milwaukee County Park Commission when he started looking around. Apparently it was covered in bird poop and tossed in an old shed. He found someone to restore the piece and today it hangs proudly in the bar and restaurant area. It’s a cool thing.

Given it’s close proximity to Milwaukee, Brown Deer Park is a great addition to any Wisconsin trip as you head to explore the golf landscape. Or in my case, it’s a great last round before you jump on a plane yelling “Goodbye Wisconsin!”

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If you are interested in creating your own Wisconsin magic, the journey starts with Visit Milwaukee. I would also recommend staying at the hotels below as they were centrally located and spectacular.

  • American Club - Only a short drive to both Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, this hotel is my go to destination when visiting Kohler.

  • Kimpton Journeyman - Centrally located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward District, this hotel has outstanding accommodations and the best rooftop hangout in the city, The Outsider.

Top 20 Golf Destinations in America

This is the first official pjkoenig ranking of America’s best public golf destinations. I urge you not to take this lightly. All of the spots listed here MUST be considered when planning any proper golf buddies trip. Maybe your brother is getting married, or maybe your best friend from college just got divorced. Perhaps you just want to get weird with your golf buddies. In all of these situations, a golf trip is required and it is a big deal.

For this ranking, only public destinations are considered and all private golf clubs will be completely ignored. When planning a trip for 8 or more golf buddies, It would be foolish to assume that greater than 1% of the golfing population can put together a day of 36 holes at Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links on Long Island. As you can imagine, this caveat eliminated a lot of great golf destinations.

This list is much more than a quick slideshow of the traditional destinations. This list has been carefully calculated and avoids bias as much as humanly possible. I even managed to overlook the food poisoning that I received at Pinehurst in 2018.

I simply filled in the numbers and let the destinations fall where they may. The list below takes the following 5 criteria into consideration and they are weighted accordingly. The full matrix is at the end of this post.

  • Golf (50%) - As it should be, the actual golf is the most important criteria on this list. Quantity and quality of golf are both of premier importance.

  • Entertainment (20%) - From live music to local dive bars, you gotta find something to do after the sun goes down. A wide variety of options is also important. Not everyone likes to get blacked out drunk and line dance to country music.

  • Value (15%) - Most large groups of golfers span across a pretty good income range. A destination is going to move up the list if you can bring your hilarious, but homeless buddy Steve and still manage some good golf.

  • Convenience (10%) - Getting to the destination and getting from course to course is considered in this criteria. Nobody wants to ride with your buddy Bill while he farts in the car for 7 hours. A lot of big cities were eliminated given the difficulty of keeping the trip golf centric.

  • Golf Experience (5%) - How cool are the overall golf vibes? Does the destination have a fun short course? Are there goat caddies? It is the unique and fun aspect of the game that is measured here..


#20 - Michigan

It could actually be a crime to put an entire state this good at the bottom of any list. However, it is important to keep in mind that even making a list this exclusive is a massive accomplishment. When it comes covering the state of Michigan, you have a handful of great golfing areas. Here are the hotspots.

  • Arcadia Bluffs - perhaps the most scenic golf course in Michigan has a new friend with the new south course opening in 2018.

  • Boyne Highlands - The Heather & Arthur Hills both deliver some heat.

  • Forest Dunes - Tom Doak’s reversible golf course, The Loop, and Tom Weiskopf’s classic design.

  • Grand Traverse - Jack Nicklaus’ The Bear

Depending on how you set up the trip, there can be a decent amount of traveling involved on a buddies trip to Michigan. I scoured the entire state over two weeks on the RGV Tour. Check out the recap here.

The aptly named Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan.

The aptly named Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan.

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#19 - Coer D’Alene, ID

I told myself, I wasn’t gonna do it. Don’t use the floating island green as the poster boy for this destination. But I did it anyways. It’s just such a cool thing that everyone should experience. It’s not just the floating island green that will get your attention, all of the par 3’s at Coeur D’Alene Resort are top notch. A round at nearby Circling Raven makes this a serious destination. Aside from the golf, you have a casino nearby and one of the country’s most beautiful lakes available for water sports. There is also a quaint little downtown for eating and shenanigans. We rocked the karaoke scene pretty hard. You can read about the full experience on the blog recap here.

The floating 14th at the Coeur D’Alene Resort Course.

The floating 14th at the Coeur D’Alene Resort Course.

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#18 - Streamsong Resort, FL

Although this little slice of golf heaven is rather difficult to get to, it holds everything that a group of golf buds could desire. Most importantly, it has some seriously good golf. The new Black course by Gil Hanse adds to an already impressive lineup of the Red and Blue courses designed by Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak, respectively. With on course lodging, Streamsong ups the convenience factor with stay and play options for booking.

Gil Hanse’s Black course at Streamsong

Gil Hanse’s Black course at Streamsong

The red course shines.

The red course shines.

The Blue course’s signature 7th hole.

The Blue course’s signature 7th hole.

#17 - Myrtle Beach, SC

For good reason, Myrtle Beach has been on the golfer’s map for decades. With options for beach activities and summer time goodness, you will have a swinging good time in Myrtle Beach without playing any golf at all. Fortunately, there is plenty of good golf to find in the area. Here are my go to courses in one of my favorite states.

  • Caledonia and True Blue - Two outstanding Mike Strantz designs. If you can only play one, play Caledonia.

  • Barefoot Resort - Fazio, Dye, Norman, and Love designs await your golf party.

  • The Dunes Golf & Beach Club - One of RTJ’s finest designs. Private club that allows unaccompanied play through www.myrtlebeachgolf.com.

You can read about these courses and more on my RGV Tour journey through South Carolina.

Mike Strantz’s Caledonia.

Mike Strantz’s Caledonia.

#16 - Kiawah Island Resort - SC

Number 16 on the list is a personal favorite of mine. Ever since I first played the Pete Dye designed Ocean Course as a kid, I have been smitten with the bold oceanside layout. If you only play the Ocean Course itself, your group is guaranteed to have an experience that they will remember for years. Fortunately, the resort has 4 other great options to round out your golf experience with Cougar Point, Osprey Point, Turtle Point, and Oak Point. The point is… there is plenty of good golf to play at Kiawah Island.

Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

The front nine of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

The front nine of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

Alligators are plentiful at Kiawah Island

Alligators are plentiful at Kiawah Island

#15 - Big Cedar Lodge - Branson, MO

The Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO is an up and comer on the list of golf destinations. With a lot of the construction coming in the last several years, the finished product will be a serious golf force on the golf trip list. Check out this hot fire course lineup.

  • Ozarks National - Coore & Crenshaw design

  • Payne’s Valley - Tiger Woods design

  • Buffalo Ridge Springs - Tom Fazio Design

  • Top of the Rock - Jack Nicklaus designed par 3 course

  • Mountain Top - Gary Player designed short course

Since Big Cedar Lodge is technically a Wilderness lodge, golf is not the main focus. A quick scan of the “things to do” section revealed about 20 non golf related activities.

A giant sinkhole has been excavated in front of the range at The Top of The Rock.

A giant sinkhole has been excavated in front of the range at The Top of The Rock.

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#14 - Palm Springs, CA

When you look at Palm Springs from an airplane, you see a desert landscape punctuated with seas of green. As you examine those green seas closer, it becomes very clear what the city’s priorities are. Hundreds of golf courses tell you that Palm Springs love it’s golf. With so many options to chose from, how do you decide? Here are my top 5 public Palm Springs golf courses.

  • The Classic Club - An Arnold Palmer design that has hosted the Bob Hope classic numerous times.

  • Escena Golf Club - A high quality Jack Nicklaus design

  • Desert Willow Golf Club - The Firecliff course is one of my favorites in the area.

  • Silver Rock Golf Club - An Arnold Palmer design set right up against the mountainside.

  • Indian Wells Golf Club - The Celebrity and Players course. You know which one you are.

Silver Rock is one of my favorite picks for Palm Springs golf.

Silver Rock is one of my favorite picks for Palm Springs golf.

#13 - Sand Valley, WI

Sand Valley is a part of the Dream Golf umbrella that includes places like Bandon Dunes and Cabot Cliffs. So it is safe to say that the formula for success is alive and well at Sand Valley. With 2 championship layouts and a short course already in place, this destination will only improve as time moves forward and new golf is added. The lodging is also deliciously close to the golf courses and the dining is just as tasty. On my last visit, I had the cheese curds for three consecutive meals. Check out my full recap from my latest visit here.

Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley

Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley

#12 - St George, UT

Some of the most visually striking golf courses in America are in the St George, UT area. With amazing National Parks nearby, you’ve got a pretty cool opportunity for an all world golf destination.

  • Sand Hollow - The top of my list. The back nine is like nothing else in the country.

  • Wolf Creek - If there is such a thing as a golf roller coaster, this course would be it.

  • Sky Mountain - Sleeper pick alert!! Views this good do not come under $50. I walked it for $32.

  • Coral Canyon - Another good looking gem.

The 14th hole at Sand Hollow

The 14th hole at Sand Hollow

The golf roller coaster, Wolf Creek

The golf roller coaster, Wolf Creek

VALUE ALERT: Sky Mountain.

VALUE ALERT: Sky Mountain.

#11 - Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail - AL

Throughout the fine state of Alabama you will find a sprinkling of high quality golf courses all designed by Robert Trent Jones. It is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and It is without a doubt, the greatest value for golf in the entire country. There are 10 golf courses in total and you probably won’t have time to play them all, so you will need to plan your route accordingly. You can read about my selections and the time we spent on the trail here.

We decided to parlay our golf trip with an Auburn v Clemson football game. It was tailgates, Motel 6’s, and too many visits to the Waffle House. It was a slammin’ Alabama good time.

The opening hole on Capitol Hill’s Judge course. One of my RTJ favorites.

The opening hole on Capitol Hill’s Judge course. One of my RTJ favorites.

#10 - The Greenbrier - White Sulphur Springs, WV

The Greenbrier is the oldest resort on this list and it’s a great place to soak up some golf history ambiance with your golf bros. The Greenbrier is the site of the 1979 Ryder Cup and is the old stomping grounds of Mr. Sam Snead. It’s also one of the few places that the public can play an original Seth Raynor design. For the golf architecture fanatics in your group, this should be a big deal.

Head on out to Slamming Sammy’s after your round on the Old White TPC or the Meadows course.

The Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier.

The Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier.

#9 - Silvies Valley Ranch, OR

At Silvies Valley Ranch they have caddies that are goats. That is right I am talking about goat caddies. This fact alone should be enough for you to start planning your trip. But Silvies takes it a step further by providing some incredible golf to go along with those goats. Dan Hixson has designed a reversible championship course that plays wildly different depending on the day. There is also a challenge course and a 9 hole par 3 course. The only bad news is that this destination earns the honor of the most difficult destination to get to. You can read the entire story on the resort here.

Bruce the goat caddy eyes and assesses the golf action.

Bruce the goat caddy eyes and assesses the golf action.

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#8 - Bend, OR

It’s the second destination in Oregon on this list and if you know anything about golf destinations, you know that it won’t be the last. There is a ton of really good golf packed into the Bend area. The top hits are below.

  • Pronghorn Resort - Nicklaus has designed a real beauty in the high desert.

  • Brasada Ranch - When golfing with your bros at Brasada, It’s customary to say “Hey nice shot, Brosado!”

  • Tetherow - You will either enjoy the challenge of this David Mclay Kidd design or you will curse his name and throw your clubs in the lake.

  • Crosswater - A big and bold Cupp and Fought design.

  • Sunriver - Two beauty’s with the Meadows & Woodland Course

You can view the full list of Oregon courses here. I got em all covered.

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn.

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn.

Brasada Ranch

Brasada Ranch

The finishing hole at Crosswater.

The finishing hole at Crosswater.

#7 - Las Vegas, NV

As much as you might want to ignore Las Vegas as a serious golf destination, you simply cannot do it. Aside from the neon lined fairway called Las Vegas Blvd, there is a lot of high quality golf to be played in the area. Here is my quick list of the places that should be considered on your Vegas golf blowout. I would also recommend throwing your hungover buddies into a rental car and driving the hour out to Wolf Creek. If you can’t find some fun afterwards on the boulevard, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  • Coyote Springs - Underrated Nicklaus course but worth the hour drive.

  • Shadow Creek - $500 green fee and must stay at an MGM property. Time to cash in your blackjack winnings.

  • Cascata - The nearly $300 green fee will set you back, but at least it’s not $500

  • Paiute Golf Resort - The Wolf, The Sun, and The Snow: 3 Pete Dye designs worthy of the 30 minute drive.

  • Bal Hai - Close enough to see the strip but not close enough to slice your drive onto it.

Tom Fazio’s Shadow Creek

Tom Fazio’s Shadow Creek

Paiute’s Wolf Course

Paiute’s Wolf Course

Nicklaus’ Coyote Springs

Nicklaus’ Coyote Springs

#6 - Pinehurst, NC

Even at #6, I was surprised that Pinehurst didn’t finish higher than it did. With the resort recently making improvements to course #2 and the opening of a great little par 3 course called The Cradle, the resort has really brought itself up to speed with the modern golfer. In addition to the resort, which has 9 golf courses, there is also a wealth of other options that I would list as must plays.

  • The Dormie Club - Coore & Crenshaw design. Never heard one bad word about it.

  • Tobacco Road - A bold and fun Mike Strantz design. Might be the most fun golf course in the world.

  • Mid Pines - Donald Ross masterpiece.

  • Pine Needles - Another Donald Ross masterpiece.

Pinehurst gives you a nice little carry bag to use for your round at The Cradle par 3 course.

Pinehurst gives you a nice little carry bag to use for your round at The Cradle par 3 course.

Pinehurst #2 has been returned to its sandy Ross roots.

Pinehurst #2 has been returned to its sandy Ross roots.

The golf in and around Pinehurst will get you excited.

The golf in and around Pinehurst will get you excited.

#5 - Scottsdale, AZ

Golfers like to visit Scottsdale for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open in January or Baseball’s Spring Training in March. Either way, Scottsdale is an obvious destination of choice for those stuck in the doldrums of winter across the rest of the country. With so many courses to decide from, I am here to make things easy.

  • We-Ko-Pa - Two of the best public golf courses in the desert await. This is my top of the list.

  • Troon North - The Pinnacle & Monument courses are often referred to as the best public options for golf in Scottsdale. Troon doesn’t disappoint.

  • Wickenburg Ranch - Don’t forget to play the short course, Little Wick as well.

  • Ak Chin Southern Dunes - This one is worth the 30 minute drive.

  • TPC Scottsdale - Go for the final four holes. You won’t remember the first 14.

  • Quintero Golf Club - Some seriously fun and scenic golf holes from Rees Jones

4 years ago, I wrote one of my first blog posts about a golf bros trip to Scottsdale. Read it here.

A double rainbow over the 11th hole at Southern Dunes

A double rainbow over the 11th hole at Southern Dunes

Wickenburg Ranch

Wickenburg Ranch

We-Ko-Pa is my go to option for public golf in Scottsdale

We-Ko-Pa is my go to option for public golf in Scottsdale

#4 - Lake Tahoe, NV

Scoring high in the value and entertainment categories is the stunningly blue Lake Tahoe. However, the location is perfectly suited for a serious golf buddy blowout. Just rent a house in the area on VRBO or AirBNB and golf your little heart out. With casinos in the south lake area and a more reserved, quiet vibe up north, Tahoe works for just about everyone. Lake Tahoe is a serious powerhouse destination. You can read about my latest visit to Tahoe here.

  • Edgewood Tahoe - Home of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. A true Tahoe gem.

  • Old Brockway Golf Course - Former hang out of Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin. Scene of the first Crosby. A 9 hole must play.

  • Old Greenwood - A solid Jack Nicklaus design. A local favorite.

  • Grays Crossing - A Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy designed championship golf course.

  • Coyote Moon - Some fun holes, some weird ones, great views abound.

The 16th hole at Edgewood Tahoe

The 16th hole at Edgewood Tahoe

#3 - Pebble Beach, CA

With green fees consistently over $300 for the top golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula, this destination does not score high in the value category, but quite frankly it didn’t matter. It’s Pebble freakin’ Beach. Dubbed by many as the greatest meeting of land and sea, Pebble Beach is every bit as good as you have heard it to be. Here are the must plays in the greatest zip code in golf. It’s 93953 in case you were wondering.

  • Pebble Beach Golf Links - Probably worth the $550 green fee.

  • Spyglass Hill Golf Course - I’ve heard many local caddies say that they believe Spyglass is better than Pebble Beach.

  • Pacific Grove Golf Links - The front nine will leave you wondering, the back nine will blow you away. $39 for twilight is a ridiculous deal.

  • Bayonet & Black Horse - Not on the Pacific Ocean, but close enough.

  • Spanish Bay Golf Links - Listen to bagpipers pipe their bags as the sun goes down over the Pacific Ocean.

  • Poppy Hills Golf Course - A renovation in 2013 brought back Poppy Hills into relevance.

The 17th at Pebble Beach Golf Links

The 17th at Pebble Beach Golf Links

The 2nd and 3rd holes at Spyglass Hill

The 2nd and 3rd holes at Spyglass Hill

The 14th hole at Spanish Bay

The 14th hole at Spanish Bay

Pacific Grove Golf Links is on my list of must plays in Monterey.

Pacific Grove Golf Links is on my list of must plays in Monterey.

#2 - Destination Kohler, WI

Wisconsin is the best state for public golf in the United States. It’s got the premier golf courses, the unique courses, and several value courses all in the mix. I just can’t get enough Wisconsin.

Right at the epicenter of the Wisconsin golf storm is Kohler, Wisconsin. You have the Straits and Irish courses at Whistling Straits and the River and Meadows courses at nearby Blackwolf Run. If that’s not enough to satisfy the golfer’s soul, here are 3 other locations that deserve a visit.

  • Erin Hills - US Open stunner

  • Lawsonia Links - It’s gotten some well deserved attention in recent years, but this classic design should not be missed.

  • Sentry World - The world famous flower hole will blow you away.

You can read about my first visit to Wisconsin here.

The flower hole at Sentry World features a new floral design each year.

The flower hole at Sentry World features a new floral design each year.

The 16th hole at Erin Hills

The 16th hole at Erin Hills

The 16th at Whistling Straits

The 16th at Whistling Straits

#1 - Bandon Dunes

At the top of the list it’s Bandon Dunes in a runaway victory. With the anticipated addition of Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch in 2020, Bandon Dunes is only getting better. It’s gonna take a golf miracle to oust this destination from the top of the list any time soon.

Bandon checks all of the boxes and checks them hard. Let’s closely examine the winning performance in our five categories.

  • Golf - Bandon Dunes has outstanding variety mixed with tremendous quality.

    • 4 top 100 golf courses all in the same place.

    • The Punchbowl - A massively fun putting green course

    • Bandon Preserve - The country’s best par 3 golf course.

  • Entertainment

    • The Bunker Bar

    • McKee’s Pub

    • If you are feeling really adventurous you can head into downtown Bandon. Arcade Tavern is where the action is.

    • The fire outside of McKee’s

    • Night golf

  • Value - $250 per round with a replay rate of $125. Your 3rd round of the day is free and Bandon Dunes will give you $100 if you manage to play a fourth round on that same day.

  • Convenience - Not hard, but not easy to get to. Once you are on the property, everything is quick and easy.

  • Golf Experience - Everything about Bandon Dunes is tailored to be about the game of golf. It’s golf as it was meant to be.

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Sand Valley

On May 2nd 1999, Mike Keiser opened a little golf resort called Bandon Dunes.  It was located in a remote coastal area of Oregon that was hard to get to.  Most golf experts told Mike that he was crazy for building a course in such a remote location.  But golfers came in droves to play the highly regarded David Mclay Kidd layout.  Two years later, Pacific Dunes joined the original course and then came Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald, and finally Bandon Preserve.  It is easily one of the greatest golf success stories of this generation.

After adding Cabot Cliffs to his portfolio of courses in 2016, Mike Keiser decided to open another golf resort in a remote location.  This time it's in the middle of Wisconsin, it's a little easier to get to, and its called Sand Valley.  With preview play already open on the resort's second course, Mammoth Dunes, and a par 3 course in the works, the Bandon Dunes formula that worked so well is looking to repeat itself.

The view from "Craig's Porch"  which is named after Craig Haltom, the landowner who originally brought the land to Mike Keiser's attention.

The view from "Craig's Porch"  which is named after Craig Haltom, the landowner who originally brought the land to Mike Keiser's attention.

The view of the clubhouse as you drive into the property.

The view of the clubhouse as you drive into the property.

Sand Valley Facts

  • The course opened to the public on May 2nd 2017, exactly 18 years to the day after Bandon Dunes opened.
  • Sand Valley is 4 hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Milwaukee, 2.5 hours from Whistling Straits, and 2.5 hours from Erin Hills
  • I drained a 40 footer on #5 for birdie and fell over attempting an overly unnecessary fist pump.
  • The course is designed for walkers only. 
  • The brisket tacos at "Craig's Porch" for $1.50 will knock your socks off
  • Ashley Mayo hit the opening tee shot at Sand Valley.  She found the fairway... she always finds the fairway.
  • Sand Valley has 53 rooms with 107 beds on property
  • The team of Coore & Crenshaw built Sand Valley and David McLay Kidd is the course architect for Mammoth Dunes.
  • Because of the name's negative connotation, the name for the par 3 course, "Quicksand" is up for review.
  • I disagree with the up for review thing.  Quicksand is an awesome name.
Even the parking lot at Sand Valley is filled with sand.  You can see the resort's par 3 course in the top left and the 1st tee and 18th green on Mammoth Dunes on the right.

Even the parking lot at Sand Valley is filled with sand.  You can see the resort's par 3 course in the top left and the 1st tee and 18th green on Mammoth Dunes on the right.

Sand Valley was built on top of a sand bed left behind from a glacier.

Sand Valley was built on top of a sand bed left behind from a glacier.

The green on the par 5 4th hole

The green on the par 5 4th hole

It's tough to make an uphill par 3 look this good.  Coore & Crenshaw  have figured things out at Sand Valley

It's tough to make an uphill par 3 look this good.  Coore & Crenshaw  have figured things out at Sand Valley

During my visit to Sand Valley Resort, I was able to play 6 holes at Mammoth Dunes and I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the other 12 while they were under construction.  For those of us outside the world of golf course construction, It's a unique experience to view a course in it's various stages of development.  I much prefer them with grass.

The sand dune I am standing on here partially obstructs the view of the green from the tee on the par 3 16th.  Given my experience with golfer's and their reactions to blind shots, this one should spark some debate.

The sand dune I am standing on here partially obstructs the view of the green from the tee on the par 3 16th.  Given my experience with golfer's and their reactions to blind shots, this one should spark some debate.

Basketball soon to be replaced by golf ball.  Kidd uses these basketballs to get an idea of how the green will break when finished.

Basketball soon to be replaced by golf ball.  Kidd uses these basketballs to get an idea of how the green will break when finished.

Fresh seed at Mammoth Dunes is coming in nicely.

Fresh seed at Mammoth Dunes is coming in nicely.

While creating Mammoth Dunes, Kidd and his team uncovered an old housing foundation.  Instead of removing it, they made a bunker out of it.  It's gnarly and awesome.

While creating Mammoth Dunes, Kidd and his team uncovered an old housing foundation.  Instead of removing it, they made a bunker out of it.  It's gnarly and awesome.

With Sand Valley Resort off and running, Wisconsin is quickly turning into one of America's go to destinations for amazing public golf.  With Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Sentry World, and Erin Hills all a reasonable drive away from one another, the area is poised to see a dramatic spike in buddy trips and birdies.  I know I added a couple to the tally.

To get an idea of the courses you would like to visit, you can view all of my course photos from Wisconsin here.

Hello Wisconsin!

In town for a wedding on Lake Geneva, I seized the opportunity to play some of the best golf courses that Wisconsin has to offer.  A fantastic lineup of Erin Hills, Black Wolf Run, and both courses at Whistling Straits were on the agenda.    

After dropping off the wife and some friends after the wedding, I drove the hour or so to Erin Hills for my first Wisconsin golfing experience.  I was fortunate enough to join a great group of guys who were on the tail end of their 27th consecutive annual golf buddies trip.  Read the full review on Erin Hills and see all the pictures here.

The very cool par 3, 9th hole at Erin Hills.

The very cool par 3, 9th hole at Erin Hills.

The early morning view on the range at Erin Hills

The early morning view on the range at Erin Hills

Erin Hills will host the 2017 U.S. Open.  This will be an excellent new course for the Open and I am excited to watch the action.

Next up on the agenda was the Irish course at Whistling Straits.  Living in the shadow of it's next door neighbor, the Irish course does a great job of holding it's own.  

The course has a cool American links feel to it and served as a great warm up for it's big brother.  Read the full write up on the Irish course here.

the 16th hole at Erin Hills figures to be a pivotal hole in the 2017 U.S. Open.

the 16th hole at Erin Hills figures to be a pivotal hole in the 2017 U.S. Open.

Plenty of tall fescue to hunt down wayward teeshots on Whistling Straits' Irish course.

Plenty of tall fescue to hunt down wayward teeshots on Whistling Straits' Irish course.

The opening hole on the Irish sets a great pace for the round.

The opening hole on the Irish sets a great pace for the round.

One of the most scenic par 3's on the Irish course is the 6th hole.

One of the most scenic par 3's on the Irish course is the 6th hole.

The difficult 17th hole.  The superintendent cut us some slack with that pin position.

The difficult 17th hole.  The superintendent cut us some slack with that pin position.

 Whistling Straits was easily the most fun I had photographing a golf course.  With all of the huge sand dunes, there are tons of places to get unique vantage shots of the course.  It was hard to narrow down the shots for the gallery.

I got up on some of the partially taken down grandstands to get this one of the 15th hole.

I got up on some of the partially taken down grandstands to get this one of the 15th hole.

John Daly fired 3 balls into the lake here on the 7th and then threw his club in after it during the 2015 PGA.  A kid in a boat would later retrieve it.

John Daly fired 3 balls into the lake here on the 7th and then threw his club in after it during the 2015 PGA.  A kid in a boat would later retrieve it.

Next up was the Straits course at Whistling Straits.  Playing host to the 2015 PGA Championship just weeks prior, they were still taking down some of the final grandstands.  I managed to sneak an official program from the rubble beforehand, so I was ready to go.

There are no carts allowed on the Straits course and caddies are required.  Which means none of those cart path bounces or scuffed balls.  Although that won't save you from finding Lake Michigan on the course's 8 lakeside holes.  

The difficult par 4 8th hole.  I almost hit it in the lake and made a great par save from the beach.

The difficult par 4 8th hole.  I almost hit it in the lake and made a great par save from the beach.

The par 3 3rd hole is the 1st in a series of 4 jaw dropping waterfront par 3's.

The par 3 3rd hole is the 1st in a series of 4 jaw dropping waterfront par 3's.

One of my favorite moments in the 2015 PGA was when Jason Day flat out chunked one 20 yards short of the green with a wedge.  Unfazed, he got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament with a record -20.  What a stud

One of my favorite moments in the 2015 PGA was when Jason Day flat out chunked one 20 yards short of the green with a wedge.  Unfazed, he got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament with a record -20.  What a stud

Out of all the courses I have played Whistling Straits might just be my favorite.  It's a close call with Pebble Beach for the top spot.  Be sure to check out the full review and writeup here.

Here is the finishing 18th hole.  A great spot to watch the action.

Here is the finishing 18th hole.  A great spot to watch the action.

For the final round of my Wisconsin trip, I was greeted by these swans at Black Wolf Run.  After 3 days of taking on Pete Dye designs would I finally get the best of Pete?  Be sure to read the full review here.

Black Wolf Run is a must play for any golfer visiting the Kohler area.  The course features two 18 hole tracks, the River and the Meadow Valley course.  I played the River which is the more popular option. 

A big thanks to everyone that I played with and to the courses for being such tremendous hosts.

Plenty of risk reward options at Black Wolf Run

Plenty of risk reward options at Black Wolf Run

The tough 11th hole at Black Wolf Run

The tough 11th hole at Black Wolf Run

The view from the tee box on the par 4, 5th hole at Black Wolf Run.  Oh yeah.

The view from the tee box on the par 4, 5th hole at Black Wolf Run.  Oh yeah.