2017 looks to be an exciting year for new golf courses in North America. From Mexico to many regions of the United States, there are more than a dozen new and entirely rebuilt courses worth mentioning.
Behind them are some of the best golf course architects in the business, including the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, as well as Rees Jones, who has been especially busy as of late. Theses courses feature a little bit of everything: affordable short courses, additions to golf resorts and exclusive, high-end privates. A couple are also bouncing back from Mother Nature's wrath.
The end of 2016 saw some very high-profile destination courses open, from The Loop at Forest Dunes (Tom Doak) to Sand Valley (Coore & Crenshaw) and Mossy Oak (Gil Hanse), as well as Tom Weiskopf's revamp of the North Course at Torrey Pines and renovations to Pete Dye's Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Also this fall, Davis Love III opened Atlantic Dunes at Sea Pines Resort and Rees Jones revamped the historic Ocean Course at the Breakers.
2017 has plenty of promise of its own. If you love seeking out the latest courses, put these grand openings on your radar.
The Black Course at Streamsong Resort
While Streamsong Resort, located between Tampa and Orlando, Fla., has enjoyed rave reviews in its first few years, it should only get stronger with the addition of its upcoming third layout. Designed by Gil Hanse as well as Jim Wagner, it was created from a reclaimed phosphate mining site and will play firm and fast in a modified links style similar to the existing Red and Blue courses. It could be the remote resort's best yet, and that's saying something considering the Red and Blue are already among the best public courses in the nation. Expected to open by late summer or fall, the Black was built on a grand scale. A par 73, it will play more than 7,500 yards from the back tees. (Update: See new photos of Streamsong Black.)
Grow-in progress photo of Streamsong Black taken in December 2016.
12-hole Gary Player family course at Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock
A new 12-hole course designed by Gary Player is set to open this spring at Johnny Morris' Big Cedar Lodge in Hollister, Mo., near Branson. The course will wind through "breathtaking rock formations and showcase some of the most dramatic views in the Ozarks," according to the website. The course will join the Tom Fazio-designed Buffalo Ridge Springs, an 18-hole championship course that opened in 1999, and the terrific par 3 course, Top of the Rock. Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge Springs golf courses are now home to the PGA Champions Tour Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf Tournament. Coore & Crenshaw are also currently working on the Ridge Course at Buffalo Ridge, a totally new layout built on the former site of Murder Rock Golf Club.
Shepherd's Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Nemacolin Resort in Farmington, Pa., is getting another Pete Dye Course to go with its current Dye gem, Mystic Rock, the former home of a PGA Tour event and ranked among the top 100 on Golf Digest's American's 100 Greatest Public Course list. The new course, Shepherd's Rock, is designed by Dye and associate Tim Liddy and expected to open by July. Set high atop the Allegheny Mountains, the 7,142-yard course works its way through the rolling, bucolic terrain. The treelined front nine is only 3,306 yards and will require more precision than the brawny 3,836-yard back nine, which is wide open with plenty of great views of the Laurel Highlands.
Victory at Verrado
Like the original course at Verrado Golf Club (now called the Founders Course) about 40 minutes west of Phoenix in the town of Buckeye, Ariz., the new Victory at Verrado is also designed by Tom Lehman in a generous wide-open layout. In fact, it may be even more player friendly than the Founders Course, with wide fairways and no forced carries to the greens. Built out of an old construction site (beautiful rocks and boulders line some of the fairways), the design falls in line with Lehman's love for Open venues, and with four sets of tees it's perfect for the retirement community that surrounds it. At 7,204 yards from the tips, though, it's plenty of challenge for the better player and while there are memberships available, it's open to the public with green fees expected to be less than $100 in peak season. Expect an opening sometime in February.
The Short Course at Mountain Shadows
Formerly Mountain Shadows Golf Club, The Short Course at Mountain Shadows opens in February along with a brand new Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, right next to Scottsdale. The original course was designed by Jack Snyder in 1961, but this a complete redesign by local architect Forrest Richardson in the shadows of Camelback Mountain. It's an 18-hole par 3 course with a bonus wagering hole with distances that range from 60 yards to more than 200 yards, depending on the tee you play. The real fun, however, is in the greens, which in one instance is a double green and redan on another. Turf area has also been reduced by 50 percent compared to the old course.
Bayou Oaks Golf Course at City Park in New Orleans
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed City Park in New Orleans in 2005, only one of the four municipal courses there, the North Course, eventually reopened for play. Since then, a new championship course, which could host the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic, has been in the works. Designed by Rees Jones, Bayou Oaks, set to open this spring, uses land previously home to portions of the former East and West courses. The new course features a "low-profile" design style, meandering through many of the park's majestic live oak trees with several holes bordering lagoons. The course will play between 5,000 and 7,200 yards.
"I'm proud of the fact that it's going to be very playable," Jones said. "It was built for the community."
Lakewood National GC near Sarasota, Fla.
The first 18 of 36 holes has opened at Lakewood National (Jan. 20) Golf & Country Club, in the new master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch. The course, which was crafted by the Arnold Palmer Design Co., has been shaped through the natural preserves of Manatee County not far from Saarasota, Fla. Memberships will be available to homeowners only, but for the foreseeable future, the course is also open to the public.
Measuring nearly 7,200 yards from the tips with six sets of the tees, the design is generous off the tee, but gets more difficult on the approaches. A lot or earth was moved to create mounding on the fairways as well.
According to Lakewood head professional David Perritt, Lakewood National is one of the last courses that the late Palmer had a chance to influence.
A new clubhouse could come as early as next season, and construction on the other 18 holes is expected to begin in the next two to three years depending on home sales.
Jack Clark South Course at Chuck Corica Golf Complex
Described as a minimalist design where golfers can play the ball on the ground or through the air, Rees Jones is behind the new Jack Clark South Course at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex in Alameda, Calif., near Oakland. The course is one of two 18-hole layouts (plus a new par-3 course) at the municipal golf site and is expected to open in the fall of 2017. Jones brought in a lot of fill dirt from offsite to raise the level of the course by several feet and make access to the greens easier.
"It's really an Australian ground game kind of course, a lot of character," said Jones. "We've got to make courses that people will want to play over and over again, not courses that are overly difficult. I think this is one of those courses."
Danzante Bay at Villa del Palmar Resort
With just 11 holes currently open, Rees Jones' Danzante Bay, some 300 plus miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula off the Sea of Cortez, promises to be one of Mexico's most spectacular new additions. Already, the course is being lauded for its 17th hole, a 178-yard par 3 that jets out into the ocean with one of the coolest greens complexes you'll see anywhere. Set on rocks above the ocean, the deep green features a long, white sand bunker down the right side to catch wayward tee shots. But the 17th is hardly the only highlight. Jones says this is one of the most unique courses in the world in that it has desert holes, dunes holes, cliff holes, mountain holes and canyon holes. The remaining seven holes are expected to open in late 2017.
Irie Fields at Kittitan Hill
Designed by Ian Woosnam, every hole of the par 71, 18-hole Irie Fields Course in St. Kitts offers views across the sea to the islands of St. Barths and St. Martin as well as the green slopes of Mount Liamuiga. The course's name –‘irie’ -- means to be at peace and harmony with yourself and where you are. The course is laid out in harmony with a farm, so instead of shrubs and trees, there are organic crops and trees bursting with fresh fruit. Expected to open in February, the course is part of the Kittitian Hill vacation community of 400 acres of organic farmland located on the island of St. Kitts, West Indies.
The Clubs at Houston Oaks
After Tiger Woods' Bluejack National opened in 2016, another new private layout is coming to the Houston area: The Clubs at Houston Oaks. Formerly the Houston Oaks Family Retreat, the remaining course at the old 36-hole Houston Oaks Golf Club has been completely redesigned by Chet Williams, a former Jack Nicklaus associate who crafted what many call Texas' top-ranked private course, Whispering Pines. Williams calls the new design "links lite," which means it's built on a rolling topography with scattered mature oaks and pines. Like Bluejack, Houston Oaks is a family retreat, complete with fishing and other activities. The new course, set to open this spring, will play at just under 7,000 yards from the back tees.
Trinity Forest Golf Club
The new course for the PGA Tour's AT&T Byron Nelson (starting in 2018) is stunning and very different from the event's current venue, The TPC Course at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. Former Nelson winner Ben Crenshaw and his partner Bill Coore have crafted another winner in this rolling, hilly layout just south of downtown Dallas. The course opened for preview play in late 2016, so it should be in great shape come spring. With few trees, expect the wind to be a big factor on this gorgeous wide-open layout that will allow spectators great views throughout the course.
Video: Trinity Forest coming together near downtown Dallas
The Summit in Las Vegas
Las Vegas has lost a few courses in recent years, but more golf is on the way. As part of what is being billed as the only private golf community in Las Vegas (555 acres, developed by Discovery Land), Tom Fazio has designed the Summit Golf Club, a 7,459-yard par-72 layout that may rival one of his other highly touted Vegas layouts, Shadow Creek. Located next to next to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area, the course features more than 300 feet of elevation change, palm trees, water features, desert washes and views of the Las Vegas Strip.
Stoatin Brae at Lake View Golf Club & Resort in SW Michigan
The new Stoatin Brae, a windswept design by Tom Doak's Renaissance Golf Design, is set to open all 18 holes in late spring at the Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort in Richland, Mich. The course, which had some holes open last year, joins the Stonehedge layout already there to give the resort 36 holes. Set above the Kalamazoo River, the design team at Renaissance used a minimalist design to take advantage natural rolling topography and prairie grasses. Changing wind patterns should make the course play differently each time. The course plays to 6,800 yards and a par of 71. Stoatin Brae means "grand hill" in Scottish Gaelic, a name reminiscent of the inland courses found across the British Isles.
Golf restored, Leffy added at The Greenbrier
One of the low points for golf in 2016 was the flood damage in West Virginia that canceled the Greenbriar Classic, and severely damaged the century-old Old White TPC Course at the Greenbrier Resort in Sulphur Springs. Led by architect Keith Foster, the entire course, including the greens, were regrassed, and it appears the course will be more than ready in time for the 2017 PGA Tour event this July.
Additionally, Phil Mickelson will be offering his design assistance on the rebuild of The Greenbrier Course, originally a Seth Raynor design and later updated by Jack Nicklaus prior to the 1979 Ryder Cup. Matt Ginella has more in this segment on Morning Drive:
(Update 1/31/17) Another Reversible course coming: Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon
The new course at Silvies Valley Ranch in remote central Oregon will join “The Loop” at Forest Dunes Golf Club in northern Michigan as a new “reversible” course that can be played forward one day and backward the next. Scheduled to open in July, the Hankins course and Craddock course, named after Pioneer families who homesteaded the site, were designed by Dan Hixson, the architect of Bandon Crossings. Golf is the centerpiece of the new western retreat being developed by the Campbell family on a working goat and cattle ranch in Silvies, Ore., located on 140,000 acres roughly 300 miles southeast of the Portland airport. Also in the works is a nine-hole par 3 course and “McVeigh’s Gauntlet”, a challenging loop featuring seven par 3s and par 4s carved from extreme terrain.
Jason Deegan contributed to this report.