Top 5 Creative Golf Courses
Summer is in full swing. So our team took to voting for the Top 5 Creative Golf Courses that we want to play.
This unconventional Tom Doak treasure catapulted him into the spotlight. A slew of par-4s on the first nine gives way to a 3-3-5-4-3-5 start to the second nine. Only Mike Keiser would have approved of such an unusual par sequence and this course helped modern architecture break free from some certain design shackles that had constrained designers over the past five decades. Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens and Pacific panoramas complete Doak’s first masterpiece.
NGLA, or “National,” as it’s known, brought Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald together for the first time and what they created still stands as a marvel of strategic design. Some of its template holes, including the Alps 3rd, the Redan 4th, the Short 6th and the Leven 17th, are arguably superior to their namesake holes in the United Kingdom that Macdonald copied. Legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin summed it up nicely when he opined, “The National Links is a truly great course; even as I write I feel my allegiance to Westward Ho!, to Hoylake, to St. Andrews tottering to its fall.”
No course thrives more on looking mean. Indeed, the beauty of Oakmont is how it doesn’t doll itself up, and yet to a purist the view from the crest of the hill on 15 is as breathtaking as any in the country. The barren landscape possesses few trees and no water, just drainage ditches that traverse the land. There are few daunting carries and the greens are huge, so what’s the big deal? The question is answered at the 1st, with a green that follows the natural contours and slopes away from the player. Let the beating commence! For a course known for its difficulty, what gets lost in the shuffle is the brilliance of its quartet of short par-4s at 2, 11, 14 and 17.
Tom Doak’s works along large bodies of water populate our list but some contend what he did in the American West at Rock Creek is just as exhilarating as his more photographed courses in sandy soil. Though Montana’s rocky conditions made for a tough build, the result is wide fairways that flow over the tumbling land with a grace and ease that is hard to fathom. The same design principles — fairway contours that either shunt you out of position or send you to the ideal location, hazards that appear ageless and greens that offer a wide range of hole locations — demand you reassess how to best play each hole from one day to the next. Hard to find better playing angles.
It’s almost inconceivable that land this stunning was made available for golf. For the lucky few who get to play here, they enjoy one of the game’s most inspiring walks as Alister MacKenzie’s design effortlessly transports the player around the diverse property. The iconic par-3 16th, which extends into the churning Pacific, is the game’s most dramatic and photographed hole, but there are endless other highlights, from the forested portion to heaving dunes to its famed jagged coastline. MacKenzie extracted the best from the land in part by breaking the “rules” and having back-to-back par-5s on the front and back-to-back par-3s on the back. The drivable ½-par 9th is another standout with its angled green toward play.
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