I moved into my neighborhood in San Jose, Calif., in 2014, not realizing the treasure I had down the street.
The Santa Teresa Golf Club is by no means a high-end course. However, this county-owned municipal course certainly fits the needs of most area golfers quite well. The main course is pleasant enough and relatively affordable by Silicon Valley standards, although it's the adjacent nine-hole par-3 course that has garnered most of my business. This watery, hilly loop is great for kids. Despite Santa Teresa's thriving junior program, my children never took to golf. As a family, though, we still stop by to use the all-turf range or play Footgolf on the executive nine. In my eyes, Santa Teresa's versatile is probably its biggest strength.
Versatility might be a key word for the survival of certain golf courses in the future. Gone are the days of building a championship course and expecting players to show up. The most versatile public facilities offer as many amenities as some resorts - some combination of regulation and short courses, excellent ranges and practice areas, golf academies/teaching facilities, golf domes, mini-golf, golf superstores and even night golf. The only thing missing is the lodging. Adding TopGolf as an amenity could someday be a game-changer at places like West Palm Beach Golf Course, a municipal course currently under renovation in Florida, or Ala Wai, another muni on Oahu in Hawaii.
To celebrate these "Super Clubs," this Deegan's Dozen ranks the most versatile public facilities in America. If there is lodging onsite, then the facilities weren't considered (with one minor exception).
Do you have a favorite versatile public facility near you? Let us know in the comments below.
Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Sacramento, CaliforniaHaggin Oaks
Haggin Oaks, run by Morton Golf for the city of Sacramento, provides one-stop shopping for area golfers, and I'm jealous that it's not closer. Here's how your day could go if you wanted the full experience: Tee it up in the morning on the walkable, affordable and historic Dr. Alister Mackenzie course, followed by a nice lunch in the Mackenzie Sports Bar & Grille inside the clubhouse. If the round didn't go as planned, simply walk across the parking lot for a lesson at the lighted, automated driving range or go get fit for a new driver from the 15,000-square-foot super store. If you're still hungry or need more swing oil, a food truck parks near the range and the MacKenzie Putting Course, a cute nine-hole mini-golf course added in 2014.
The secondary course, Arcade Creek, is better for beginners and is one of America's hotbeds of Footgolf. There's also three practice holes available for rent. The Haggin Oaks Golf Expo, "America's Largest Demo Days," attracts thousands of golfers every spring.
Since there are so many good options out there worthy of recognition, I thought I’d create an honorable mention category including 13 more multi-faceted public facilities. Call this entire story a top 25, if you will: Mistwood Golf Club, Romeoville, Illinois; Duran Golf Club, Florida; LaFortune Park Golf Course, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Forest Akers Golf Club, East Lansing, Michigan; Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, Wickenburg, Arizona; Rockwind Community Links, Hobbs, New Mexico; Monarch Dunes Golf Club, Nipomo, California; CommonGround, Aurora, Colorado; Las Barrancas Golf Club, Yuma, Arizona; Rush Creek Golf Club, Maple Grove, Minnesota; Kittyhawk Golf Center, Dayton, Ohio. Greg Mastriona Golf Course at Hyland Hills, Westminster, Colorado; Kennedy Golf Course, Denver, Colorado.
Editor's Note: Hop across the U.S. border in New York to find another example of a large and versatile public facility. Legends on the Niagara in Ontario, Canada, sports two courses, a par-3 course, a 45-acre circular range and a training academy.
Hawk Hollow & Eagle Eye, Bath, Michigan
Mid-Michigan's premier destination has grown piece by piece over the years into an empire, all owned by the same man, Daryl Kessler. It all started with the 27-hole Hawk Hollow, built by Michigan's most prolific architect Jerry Matthews in 1996. It is also home of the Little Hawk Putting course, one of the few all-grass, 18-hole putting courses in the state, and the Jason Guss Golf Academy. The Falcon course, a par 31 of 2,326 yards, sits across the street, offering footgolf or a quick nine holes for beginners or after work.
The construction of the Eagle Eye Golf Club across the street from Hawk Hollow really upped the ante. The course, a collaboration between Pete Dye and his protege Chris Lutzke completed in 2003, was so good it attracted the Michigan section of the PGA to build its headquarters there and regularly host its tournaments. The highlight comes at the par-3 17th hole, a carbon copy of the famous island green at TPC Sawgrass. The 65,000-square-foot clubhouse is one of the largest in Michigan, perfect for large weddings, banquets and conferences.
Funny thing is, Kessler wasn't done. He bought a floundering nine-hole course called Woodside in Lansing three miles from Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow and jumped on the advice of Jack Nicklaus that 12-hole courses might be the future of the game due to the time constraints of the modern world. Lutzke built three additional holes at Woodside in 2014, creating a rare 12-hole loop. As someone who usually falls apart somewhere around the 14th hole, a round of 12 holes played in less than three hours sounds quite appealing. At least I'll break 80 for once. Last year, he bought Timber Ridge, a hilly gem in East Lansing roughly seven miles away from Hawk Hollow/Eage Eye. What's next? He's running out of area courses to buy.
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, Lemont, Illinois
Cog Hill has been the alpha male of Chicago's public golf scene for generations thanks to the Jemsek family. There are plenty of great public facilities around the Windy City, but none this big (72 holes) and none with a long tradition of professional golf. Cog Hill's legendary No. 4 course, nicknamed "Dubsdread", hosted The Western Open from 1991-2006. The BMW Championship returned four times (2007, 2009-11) before player criticism of the redesign by Rees Jones ended the run. Tiger Woods won a total of five times at Cog Hill.
While it would be nice if Cog Hill had a short course, there is plenty of variety for all skill levels on its other three courses. No. 1 and No. 3 are the shortest (6,318 yards and 6,424 yards, respectively). The Ravines, as No. 2 is called, might be the favorite by populist vote. Its layout actually includes 20 holes - a pair of par 3s at No. 4 that rotate in and out of play and a bonus 19th hole - partly because three new holes were built prior to the 1997 U.S. Amateur won by Matt Kuchar.
A Golf Channel Academy, Dave Pelz Scoring Game School, a junior caddie program and robust junior program all do their part in growing the game for the next generation of Chicagoland players.
Corica Park Golf Course, Alameda, California
Credit Greenway Golf for reviving Corica Park. The management company, spearheaded by George Kelley, Ken Campbell and Marc Logan, has transformed a tired city municipal facility into a cool hangout for golfers of all ages. Rees Jones did a wonderful job redesigning the South course, which reopened in 2018 as a firm-and-fast test comparable to the courses of the Australian sandbelt. The 6,300-yard North course is currently undergoing a similar upgrade nine holes at a time and scheduled to be completed by 2020. The Mif Albright 9, a par-3 course remodeled in 2014, and an expansive all-turf range help grow the game. A Linksoul Lab, a new pro shop concept, sells more than just golf shirts. It sells collectibles from Seamus golf, as well as oddities such as whiskey, persimmon woods and skateboards. Golf boards, Footgolf, opportunities to pay by the hole with Quick.golf and outdoor fire pits on the clubhouse patio have given Corica Park a whole new modern vibe.The Linksoul Lab debuts at Chuck Corica Park in California
Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center, Plymouth, Michigan
I have fond memories of playing golf at Fox Hills when I lived in Michigan. I would meet buddies to play on the Golden Fox, a strong Arthur Hills design. I still remember holing out a 5 iron from 180 yards, the longest shot I've ever dunked. The only time my whole family teed it up together - well, the boys (my son and I) and girls (my wife and daughter) played in separate groups with family friends - was on the Strategic Fox, an 18-hole par-3 course that also includes Footgolf. The Classic Fox fits somewhere in the middle, a 27-hole layout that operates out of the original log clubhouse dating to 1927. The more modern, much larger main clubhouse is known for its Sunday brunches and weekend weddings.
When I moved, I donated a large collection of golf instruction books to the Fox Hills Learning Center, a haven for golf and fitness training staffed by a number of talented pros I'm proud to call friends.
Magnolia Grove, Mobile, Alabama
There are a handful of 54-hole golf complexes on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama that could make this list. Picking Magnolia Grove over Grand National (a nice Marriott nearby qualifies it as a 'resort'), Hampton Cove, Oxmoor Valley and Capitol Hill (no short course) is certainly up for debate. What I like about Magnolia Grove - which does offer stay and plays with two luxury hotels in downtown Mobile - is its ability to host tournament golf, while satisfying the hackers that make up buddies trips and everyday golfers. The Crossing course hosted the LPGA Tour from 2008-14. Its short course is one of the best on the trail.
Angel Park Golf Club, Las Vegas, Nevada
Angel Park, managed by OB Sports, is the perfect antidote to the excess of Vegas. It's a green grass oasis that won't break the bank like many other top courses around Sin City. Arnold Palmer designed its two courses, Mountain and Palm, and the terrific Cloud 9 short course. This par-3 course, featuring 12 holes inspired from other holes at famous courses; the Devine 9, the world's original all-grass putting course; and the all-turf driving range are lighted for night-time play.
Golf boards, a regular Tuesday morning skins game, a Top 100-caliber pro shop, Nino's Kitchen, Cloud 9 leagues and the Angel Park Angels (female caddies) proves there's something for everyone at Angel Park.
Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale, New York
How could we not include the largest public facility in America that also happens to host major events like U.S. Opens (2002 and 2009), a PGA Championship (2019) and a Ryder Cup (2024)? Bethpage Black is the signature course of this 90-hole municipal golf mecca run by New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. It's not easy getting a tee time on this famously hard course, but a new online tee time system implemented in 2018 has made it easier. The Red course doesn't get the publicity, although locals love it all the same. Bethpage would move up significantly if it had some sort of short course to cater to juniors, beginners and quick rounds. However, nine-hole rounds are available on the Blue, Green and Yellow courses for this type of play. The 6,288-yard Yellow course and the 6,388-yard Blue course are considered the easiest rounds on property.
Cantigny Golf, Wheaton, Illinois
Cantigny, managed by KemperSports, only offers 27 holes of great golf, but Golf Advisor reviews tend to rave about the service and course conditioning.
A commitment to grooming young golfers helps Cantigny stand out even further in a crowded Chicagoland market. The Cantigny Youth Links is a special nine-hole golf course for junior players ages 8-15. Junior golfers enjoy their own clubhouse, golf shop, snack bar, tournaments, group outings and special events. Young golfers must be accompanied by a parent to play this short course until they pass a certification test. Then they get the run of the place. These juniors might become summer caddies on the championship course to learn more about the game and earn money for college.
The Cantigny Golf Academy opened in 2008 with covered hitting bays and outdoor bentgrass and indoor synthetic short-game practice areas.
World Woods Golf Club, Brooksville, Florida
World Woods is, without a doubt, the best public facility in the middle of nowhere. Located roughly 60 miles north of Tampa, World Woods is blessed with two great Tom Fazio designs, Rolling Oaks and Pine Barrens, that complement one another well. The rugged bunkering at Pine Barrens is a work of art. A world-class practice park might be the best part of the property - A 20-acre circular range, three practice holes, an iron-only range between the first tees of each course and a two-acre putting course. A nine-hole short course consists of seven more par 3s and two par 4s. You'll run out of daylight before you run out of golf.
Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge, Winter Garden, Florida
Yes, Orange County National near Orlando has a lodge just steps from the clubhouse and first tee, but every Golf Advisor staff member who has stepped on property believes OCN feels more like a super-sized public facility than a resort. Its amenities are impressive, from the two 18-hole courses, the Panther Lake and Crooked Cat, and Tooth, a nine-hole, par-29 walking short course, to the 42-acre practice facility with a 600-spot circular driving range that hosts "Demo Day' at the PGA Merchandise Show every January. The 22,000-square-foot putting green also serves as a putting course and is lit at night. A golf academy offers lessons for all ages and abilities.
Braemar Golf Course, Edina, Minnesota
The long wait is almost over for golfers at the Braemar Park Golf Course, located in Braemar Park, a 500-acre greenspace of rolling hills and scenic lakes 20 minutes southwest of downtown Minneapolis. The original 27-hole city-owned municipal course dating to 1964 has been closed for a major renovation since 2016. Gone is the layout that hosted the 1969 Minnesota Classic, its lone PGA Tour event.
What will emerge later this spring is a new 18-hole layout by architect Richard Mandell. Featuring five par 3s and five par 5s, the 6,941-yard course (which includes a unique 3-5-3-5-3-5 stretch in the middle of the front nine) will complement two new amenities already open: The 1,366-yard Academy nine and an expanded range that doubled in size and added six target greens.
The changes free up almost 10 acres for more than a mile of walking trails, five miles of ski trails, bocce ball and recreational opportunities on open space for Disc Golf, Footgolf, Fling Golf, picnic areas, sledding and more. The course footprint shrank by 22 acres and 32 acres of wetlands buffer have been created.
Here's betting the nearby Braemar Golf Dome is busier than ever this winter in anticipation of this new and improved public golf space.