The drives that fascinate golfers are not only the ones from the tee box, but to it as well. Even if I'm not able to play, merely glimpsing a course from the road gives me a brief hit of that warm feeling golf has stirred as long as I can remember.
Growing up in the suburbs of Hartford, Connecticut, one of the main local roads sliced through the Golf Club of Avon, affording a two-direction look at several of the course's 27 holes. I used to pester my parents to drive down it on the way to errands in town, just to get a visual fix for the game if I couldn't actually play that day.
I still have this habit. On my current travels, I tend to avoid freeways when possible in favor of more local roads, especially ones that afford a glimpse of some course I won't have time or access to play.
Case in point: my May 2019 trip to the Philadelphia area, where I deliberately went out of my way to drive down one particular suburban thoroughfare: Ardmore Avenue. I slowed to a crawl as traffic allowed in order to drink in a bit of the East Course at Merion Golf Club as work on its year-plus renovation project wound down.
The profusion of old private clubs in the Philadelphia area affords drivers several of these opportunities. Good chunks of Philadelphia Cricket Club (W Valley Green Rd), LuLu Country Club (Limekiln Pike, Twining Rd.), Whitemarsh Valley Country Club (Thomas Rd.) and Llanerch Country Club (Steel Rd.) are all visible by car. Just try not to hold up traffic for too long.
If you like driving by golf courses - en route to playing them or not - here are some other roads best traveled.
17 Mile Drive - Pebble Beach, Calif.
Imagine a local road so enticing to golf fans that there's a fee for merely driving down it. By all accounts, the trip down 17 Mile Drive is well worth the $10.50 toll, which can be applied toward the purchase of food and beverage above $35 (not hard to do) at most Pebble Beach Company restaurants.
Parlayed with an introductory circumnavigation of Pacific Grove Golf Links' seaside back nine on Ocean View Boulevard and working southward alond 17 Mile, golfers can see parts of (in order:) the Links at Spanish Bay, Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Dunes Course, its Shore Course, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Cypress Point Club and, of course, Pebble Beach Golf Links. Given all that eye-candy, plus the famous Lone Cypress, it's a great value.
A917, Fife, Scotland
Part of the enduring charm of golf in the United Kingdom is the way in which courses are integrated into the life of so many towns, especially in Scotland. This being the case, several roads afford long looks at golf courses there, particularly in and around St. Andrews.
If you're heading up to Fife from Edinburgh, you would be foolish not to peel off the A915 after passing both Leven Links and Lundin Golf Club and making the scenic counterclockwise loop up past a rogues' gallery of great links en route to the Auld Grey Toon. You'll get glimpses - either directly or via brief detours - of The Golf House Club, Elie, the nine-hole Anstruther Golf Club, the Balcomie and Craighead courses at Crail Golfing Society, Kingsbarns Golf Links, both courses at The Fairmont Saint Andrews and the Links Trust's Castle Course before arriving in town, where you'll crawl past the University of St. Andrews and the Royal & Ancient clubhouse looking over the Old Course.
State Route 27 Long Island, New York
Beginning in Brooklyn and darting almost due east for more than 120 miles, few roads provide easier access to more great golf. Though the road doesn't bring many courses directly into view, it's just a turn or two from several private and public layouts for most of its length.
Once it darts between the Great Peconic Bay and Shinnecock Bay, however, it skirts both Shinnecock Hills and Southampton Golf Club, though a well-timed turn onto Tuckahoe Road and another onto Shrubland Road afford significant looks at not just Southampton and Shinnecock Hills, but the famed National Golf Links of America as well.
Venture yet farther east on Rt. 27, past where it narrows down to two lanes, and you'll pass beloved local short Poxabogue Golf Center. And if you go all the way out, you'll be tantalizingly close to Jones family-designed muni Montauk Downs State Park before you reach land's end.
US 31, Michigan
The western coast of Michigan is home to some of the best summer golf in North America. U.S. 31 begins in the town of Holland and meanders north for 280 miles, joining with Interstate-75 just south of the Mackinaw Bridge. Along the way, it runs through and near several of the state's golf hotbeds, from Grand Haven (the forthcoming American Dunes Golf Club) to Traverse City (The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort, The Club at LochenHeath) and north past A-Ga-Ming Resort to Charlevoix (Belvedere Golf Club, Charlevoix Golf Course, Charlevoix Golf & Country Club) to Petoskey (Bay Harbor Golf Club, Petoskey Bay View Country Club).
Kings River Road - Pawleys Island, S.C.
Golf courses dot the Grand Strand, a roughly 60-mile stretch from Pawleys Island, South Carolina, to roughly Shallotte, North Carolina. The main artery here is U.S. 17. Direct looks at golf holes from this road are relatively sparse, but you'll see several entrance signs. Down in Pawleys Island, a detour onto Kings River Road will catch you glimpses of the Founders Club of Pawleys Island, Heritage Club, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, True Blue Golf Club, River Club, Tradition Golf Club and Willbrook Plantation Golf Club.
Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada
Nova Scotia's northern island of Cape Breton is rugged and sparsely populated, a perfect recipe for scenic drives. It's also heavily Scottish-influenced and there is a tidy sampling of golf courses. The Cabot Trail is a 185-mile scenic road with a particularly notable section for golfers in the north. From the northeasternmost point in Ingonish, you can admire Stanley Thompson's Cape Breton Highlands Golf Course in the Highlands National Park. From here, the drive takes you inland through gorgeous green mountain ranges of the park until you ultimately arrive on the coastline and head south. You'll pass Cheticamp, where an unsung golf course, Le Portage, hides behind an unassuming industrial park and sits beneath a mountain backdrop. But the main attraction is in Inverness, where Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs have elevated Canadian destination golf with their spectacular layouts along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
This is less a drive past various golf courses than a drive between them. At the southern end is Banff, with its famous Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and a handful of other layouts in and around town. Then, it's about four hours of some of the most beautiful moutain scenery in the world until you arrive in the mountain town of Jasper, home to yet another classic Stanley Thompson design at the Jasper Park Lodge.
A198 - East Lothian, Scotland
The A198 rivals the A917 for rapid-fire golf-course drivebys in Scotland. It starts with Longniddry, first teasing both that eponymous course and the modern Craigielaw Golf Links. Heading through the town of Aberlady, it makes a right elbow-turn at the entrance to charming Kilspindie Golf Club before a short jaunt along the Firth of Forth's southern shore, eventually emerging out of a wood and onto a breathtaking expanse of links: Gullane Hill. The first course you drive through is the very under-the-radar Luffness New Golf Club, and then parts of all three Gullane Golf Club courses. You won't see much of the courses at Muirfield, Renaissance Club or Archerfield Links, but you will see their entrance ways. North Berwick is the next town heading east, and while the West Links requires a tiny detour, the A198 will take you by a couple holes of the town's East Links: Glen Golf Club.
What are your favorite golf roads? Share your nominations in the comments below.