2018 is upon us, and the Golf Advisor team is ready to embark on another exciting year of travels throughout the world of golf.
Energy around the game is up, thanks to the return of Tiger Woods, the deepening youth movement on the PGA Tour and the admittedly condensed but nevertheless exciting crop of new golf courses being developed, as well as hundreds of courses undergoing meaningful renovations.
We're numerologists here at Golf Advisor, but we can't ignore the connection between 2018 and the great game we write about. So in the spirit of the energy that comes with the turning of the calendar, here are 18 golf courses the Golf Advisor staff are particularly excited to see in 2018:
1. Links at The Golf Courses Of Lawsonia — Green Lake, Wisc.
Golf Channel Travel Expert Matt Ginella: "With Destination Kohler’s streak of exposure, a U.S. Amateur and then a U.S. Open at Erin Hills—not to mention Mike Keiser rolling into Nekoosa with Coore, Crenshaw and Kidd—the ink and eyeballs on Wisconsin golf haven’t been making it to lesser-known destinations like Lawsonia Links. But according to Twitter barkers and value hounds, that has been an egregious omission. I’ll remedy that in ’18 and get a better sense of why Lawsonia deserves so much love."
2. Gunter's Landing Golf Club — Guntersville, Ala.
Sr. Managing Editor, Brandon Tucker: "Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is undoubtedly one of the best things to spur tourism and investment in the Yellowhammer State in the last several decades, but it casts a long shadow, and few of the state's golf courses away from the gulf coast are able to stand out. Gunter's Landing, however, has been receiving excellent reviews on Golf Advisor since we launched in 2014. It's No. 3 on our Top 50 under $50 ranking according to your reviews, and our prolific Local Golf Advisor 'BrandonWebb' is now a believer, who said in his 2017 review that its conditioning is well above average despite the rural setting near the Tennessee River."
3. Mulranny Golf Club — Co. Mayo, Ireland
Senior Writer Tim Gavrich: "I’m not sure it’ll happen, but a round at the nine-hole, state-of-nature Mulranny would tick a couple bucket-list boxes for me. It would mean 1) my first trip to Ireland and 2) my first time playing a course where the tee-to-green maintenance is handled primarily by sheep and cattle. I only heard about Mulranny recently, but I’m captivated by what I’ve seen of it."
4. Sweetens Cove Golf Club — Pittsburg, Tenn.
Ginella: "Going back to the Twitter barkers and value hounds for a second, Sweetens Cove got the bulk of the social roar in 2017. Thanks to Twitter and Instagram, there are no more blind dates when it comes to destination golf. And when anything on my feed features Sweetens Cove, the 9-hole Rob Collins and Tad King design, which ranks 59th on Golfweek’s list of Top 100 Modern Courses in the USA, it’s easy to see why I need to take a trip to Chattanooga."
5. Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course — Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Tucker: "Military golf courses are an excellent value all over the U.S. and are continuing to become more and more accessible to civilians (many are even offering online tee times now). Your green fees fund the military's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department and helps keep these amenities available to active military, veterans and their families (many base courses have been closed in recent years). Some of the best military destinations are San Diego and the Gulf Coast, but the ultimate is Oahu. Kaneohe Klipper features a seaside layout with one of Hawaii's true signature tee shots, the elevated, beachside 13th. Civilians can play for just $45 (some Hawaii resort breakfast buffets soar north of that). I've only been to the islands of Maui and Kauai, and have never played a military course, so a visit here that includes Pearl Harbor, is high on my list."
Remote courses worth the trip
6. Gamble Sands Golf Course — Brewster, Wash.
Senior Writer Jason Scott Deegan: "Meeting David McLay Kidd and playing six holes of his really fun Mammoth Dunes course at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Wisconsin last summer has inspired me to see more of his work. I've previously played the TPC Stonebrae near San Francisco, the original course at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Montague at Fancourt in South Africa. It doesn't hurt that a trip to Gamble Sands could include a rare round with my dad, who lives north of Seattle. I envision him meeting me at the airport for the four-hour journey to a remote central part of Washington to find Gamble Sands, located on the Columbia River. Sounds like the perfect buddies trip."
7. Bigwin Island Golf Club — Baysville, Ontario, Canada
Tucker: "Whenever I get the chance to play a Stanley Thompson design, I walk off the 18th wondering when I'll get to play the next one. I played two in 2017 (Whirlpool and Highlands Links), and after thumbing through The Toronto Terror book afterwards, I'd really like to find a way up to Bigwin Island. Located in the Muskoka region of Ontario, it was one of his earlier works and no small feat of engineering for the time (1921), and helped lead to the Banff and Jasper Park projects. Doug Carrick, arguably Canada's best modern architect, revitalized the layout in 2001. Adding to Bigwin's allure, you reach the course by boat. With the old inn long gone, it's a private course that only allows public access in the shoulder season. Lucky me, that's my favorite time to travel."
8. Pine Dunes Resort & Golf Club — Frankston, Texas
Tucker: "I've had my eye on small, boutique golf resorts lately -- those that don't get the national audience, but instead keep a loyal drive-to following with bargain stay-and-play rates in modest accommodations. In my home state, I've heard so many great things about Pine Dunes, located in the northeast section of the Texas Triangle, and well off of any interstates. Adding to the intrigue, it was designed by Tom Weiskopf's former partner, Jay Morrish, and one of Weiskopf's best courses is of a similarly remote and sandy forest: Forest Dunes. Is Texas' Pine Dunes good enough to hang with one of Northern Michigan's best stay-and-plays?"
Video: Morning Drive panel discusses their bucket list for 2018
New and improved
9. Bayou Oaks at City Park Golf Course — New Orleans, La.
Senior Writer Mike Bailey: "The last time I saw the four municipal golf courses at City Park, they were closed, ruined by Hurricane Katrina. That was 13 years ago, and I've followed the progress of the renovations there the whole time. Now there's a new championship course and probable new home to the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic, called Bayou Oaks. The Rees Jones design, which combines portions of what were previously the East and West courses at City Park, opened last spring, but I haven't had a chance to play it. I have, however, talked to Jones about it, and I know that he was pleased with the outcome. It features what he calls a 'low-profile' design style, meandering through many of the park's majestic live oak trees with several holes bordering lagoons. Best of all, he says, it's 'very playable.'"
10. Mammoth Dunes Golf Course at Sand Valley Golf Resort — Nekoosa, Wisc.
Gavrich: "I’ve been fortunate to see Sand Valley in the summers of 2016 and 2017, and it’s safe to say I’m hooked. All that was there when I went the first time was a few cottages, a pro shop inside a shipping container and the original and splendid Coore & Crenshaw course. In 2017, I took in the new clubhouse/lodge/restaurant and got a six-hole taste of Mammoth Dunes, the new David McLay Kidd design. The resort will have 53 holes up and running in 2018 – the original, Mammoth Dunes and the 17-hole “Sandbox” short course. I’m jonesing already."
11. The Algonquin Golf Club — St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada
Gavrich: "The hot golf province in Canada these days is Nova Scotia, for good reason, but New Brunswick has really piqued my interest ever since I read about Rod Whitman, who designed the original Cabot Links, embarking on a big renovation project at The Algonquin, a grande dame hotel and resort overlooking the Passamaquoddy Bay. Besides, it’s in (a) St. Andrews – the golf has to be special, right?"
12. No. 4 Course at Pinehurst Resort — Pinehurst, N.C..
Bailey: "I was fortunate enough in October to tour No. 4 with Bob Farren, the longtime director of golf course & grounds management at Pinehurst. The course had just closed and was in wonderful shape, but the plans for the new course, which retains routing but is a completely new design, look to be wonderful, thanks to architect Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner. Hanse, of course, had just done the wonderful short course at Pinehurst, The Cradle, as well as the newest course at Streamsong Resort in Florida. No doubt, he's the hottest architect in the world right now, and No. 4 promises to be another hit. First off, it's on a wonderful piece of property. Unlike its more famous cousin, No. 2, No. 4 is built around a large lake and has plenty of elevation change. It'll share some of the looks of No. 2, but promises to be a real treat in its own right. Hanse, by the way, when he's at Pinehurst, is staying in the Donald Ross cottage on the No. 2 Course, so he'll have plenty of inspiration."
13. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club — Southern Pines, N.C.
Ginella: "Not long after Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw peeled back Pinehurst No. 2 and restored the crown jewel of the Donald Ross portfolio, a young Kyle Franz went to work down the street restoring Mid Pines, another well-respected Ross design. The job Franz did was so well received, owner Kelly Miller put him to work on Pine Needles, just across the street. Host of multiple Women’s U.S. Opens and always on my list of top 50 public courses in the country, it’s hard to believe it could get much better, but I’m looking forward to finding out."
14. Riviera Country Club — Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Deegan: "I've done far too little reconnaissance of California's private club scene since moving to the West Coast in 2014. I hope that changes this year with a visit to the 'Riv', although a consolation prize of playing Cypress Point Club or the San Francisco Golf Club won't bring any complaints, either. I've always had a fascination with Riviera's George Thomas design in L.A. Probably because I've seen it on TV so many times hosting the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open and last year's 2017 U.S. Amateur, where Doc Redman stunned the field. Last fall's announcement that Riviera will host the 2028 Olympics continues the club's storied tournament history, including a U.S. Open and two PGA Championships. I'm a big fan of short par 4s - they're critical to a course's persona - and what better way to gauge my game than playing the quirky cool 10th hole, a 315-yarder that caused Doug Ghim to relent to Redman in the U.S. Am final."
15. Wolf Point Ranch — Port Lavaca, Texas
Bailey: "A decade ago, architect Mike Nuzzo built the ultimate private course – 18-hole Wolf Point, for one man. Last year, however, the owner passed away, and what's to become of the course is somewhat up in the air. Depending on who buys it, it could become a private club with a limited membership. In any event, I hope to finally play it in 2018. What's so intriguing is that by all accounts, this course is the ultimate in minimalism. At a cost of just $3 million (with nearly $1 million going toward to a state-of-the-art irrigation system), the course is blends into the land, with virtually no rough and opportunities to play just about any shot you want from all points of the course. There are 60 bunkers on the course, but mostly grass over rolling terrain. What makes it important is that this course could serve as model for future courses that are indeed open to the public, fun to play and don't cost much to maintain."
16. Charlotte Country Club — Charlotte, N.C.
Gavrich: "I’ll admit that my purpose for wanting to play this Donald Ross-designed old-line Queen City club’s course is entirely selfish: it’ll mean I’ve qualified for the 2018 United States Mid-Amateur Championship. After playing four years Division III college golf, I still love playing in tournaments every chance I get. In fact, one of the U.S. Mid-Am qualifiers is being held August 9th at Hop Meadow Country Club in Connecticut, where I learned to play this great game from my dad, as well as long-time head pro Ken Doyle. I hope that’s a good omen. It looks like I’ll be crashing my parents’ house this summer."
17. The Summit Club — Las Vegas
Bailey: "In February, I'll be making my first trip to Las Vegas in about five years, so that in itself is something to look forward to. I've got several courses I want to see, but chief among them is the new Summit Golf Club, which opened in 2017. Designed by Tom Fazio, the 7,459-yard par-72 layout is located next to next to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area and features more than 300 feet of elevation change as well as palm trees, water features, desert washes and views of the Las Vegas Strip. On top of that, the director of golf there is Paul Marchand, former longtime head pro at Houston Country Club and later, Shadow Hawk, site of the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Marchand was also friend, teacher and former teammate of Fred Couples. I remember doing an instructional segment with Marchand more than 20 years ago and breaking par the next day (this has only happened four times in my life) after hearing Marchand describe what makes Couples such a great ball striker. I think I could use a refresher."
18. The Old Course at St. Andrews — St. Andrews, Scotland
Deegan: "Walking and photographing the Old Course prior to The Open in 2015 was simply a tease to whet my appetite. I've yet to play any of the Links Trust courses, which makes me feel like a golf course critic who's one credit short of his degree. With the new rules enacted this year, it should be slightly easier to get on, and with the Open at Carnoustie just up the road, maybe the stars will align for me this summer. I'm getting a little yippy with my chipping, so I can't wait to putt it from 100 yards out."