The much anticipated 2018-19 PGA Tour schedule alters the golf landscape significantly.
Consider the upheaval:
* The shift of the PGA Championship from August to May.
* The FedExCup Playoffs shrinks from four events to three, ending in August before the crush of college and pro football in the fall.
* A return to March for The Players Championship.
* Two new events will debut in Minneapolis and Detroit.
Lost in the shuffle, perhaps, is this nugget of great news for traveling golfers: The three majors not named The Masters will be held on public courses. This rare trifecta has only ever happened twice, in 2015 (Chambers Bay/U.S. Open, Whistling Straits/PGA Championship, Old course at St. Andrews/The Open) and 2010 (Pebble Beach Golf Links/U.S. Open, Whistling Straits/PGA Championship, St. Andrews/The Open). All told, nearly half (22) of the 46 Tour events on the 2018-19 schedule will be held on public/resort courses (it's more than half for golfers who have national TPC memberships that include the five private TPC clubs hosting events). That's a big win for the little guys like you and me who don't have private club privileges.
Several tournaments at public courses have dropped off the schedule but will be back next fall for the 2019-20 schedule, according to GolfChannel.com - The Greenbrier Classic on TPC Old White and the Houston Open, formerly held at the Tournament course at the Golf Club of Houston but could move to the municipal course at Memorial Park. After a long run, Tiburon in Naples, Fla., is not listed on the 2018-19 schedule, either.
In honor of this public golf love fest orchestrated by golf's governing bodies, I've created a Deegan's Dozen by sorting these public tournament sites into unique "best of" categories. Maybe this list will help set your travel plans or inspire you to watch these events on TV, knowing you could someday see the same putt the pros face. Either way, it's good to see public golf is alive and well on Tour.
In my eyes, whatever links hosts The Open should win this category every year. The Dunluce at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland is an easy choice. Two new holes added by Martin Ebert - highlighted by a new monstrous "Nellie" bunker - add intrigue.
Pebble Beach will be busy in 2019 celebrating its 100th anniversary, first hosting the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am in February, followed by its sixth U.S. Open in June. Dropping a cool $525 - plus an overnight stay and possibly caddie fees - to play isn't for everyone, but I've always maintained it's worth it at least once.
Best comeback story
Unfortunately, two beautiful locations fit the bill, so it's a tie between Puerto Rico and Napa, Calif. The Puerto Rico Open returns to the schedule following its cancellation earlier this year due to the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico is slotted for Feb. 18-24, 2019, the same week as the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. The first event of the wraparound schedule, the Safeway Open on the North course at Silverado Resort and Spa, Oct. 1-7, will donate all proceeds to victims of the Napa fires, which killed more than 40 people the Sunday night after the tournament ended last fall.
With apologies to the Monterey Peninsula in my backyard in northern California, it has to be Northern Ireland and its triumphant return to the Open rota in July. Northern Ireland is fertile ground for links golf, none finer than Royal County Down. The 27 holes at Castlerock, the Strand at Portstewart, the revamped Valley at Royal Portrush and Ardglass (a scenic cliff-top course) are all worth traveling halfway around the world to see.
Normally, The Players Stadium Course wins this award handily, but with Bethpage Black hosting its first PGA Championship, the fearsome A.W. Tillinghast/Rees Jones design gains this notorious distinction. The sign at the first tee is no joke, people. This is one of the toughest courses I've ever played.
Private but accessible
Although the Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, Nev., is very much a private club, I've had multiple sources tell me that casino concierges can usually make a call to get you on. So, technically, there is a stay-and-play cost involved.
Pebble Beach takes this category, but Corales and Plantation course at Kapalua are 1A and 1B. The Dominican Republic and Hawaii are exotic places to play, and Corales, on the Caribbean Sea, and Kapalua, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, deliver on the eye candy.
The TPC Deere Run, host of the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., is the cheapest tour venue and the most affordable TPC course, as well. But again, Bethpage Black (which has a new online tee time system) swoops in to take the top spot. Locals pay just $65-$75, and outsiders shouldn't feel gouged at $130 weekdays and $150 on weekends.
There's lots of resort courses on Tour, so this was tough to choose. For families, TPC San Antonio, host of the Valero Texas Open, has a massive indoor waterpark at the adjacent JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and much more. Remember the Alamo (yep, I went there) and San Antonio's Riverwalk for post-golf entertainment. For couples, the Silverado Resort and Spa sits in the heart of California wine country. For buddies, any of these multi-course facilities - Pebble Beach, Sea Island or Sea Pines Resort (home of Harbour Town Golf Links) - make great sense.
Sensing a trend? Winner, Bethpage Black. Sorry, Torrey Pines but any other year would be yours.
Shortest course: Pebble Beach at 6,828 yards. Longest: Torrey Pines South at 7,698 yards. Oldest course: Pebble Beach (1919). Newest course: AT&T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio (2010). Longest-running event: The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach since 1947. Newest: The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship became an official event in 2018. I explore more tidbits in this 2016 article.
The Full List
1. Oct. 1-7, Safeway Open on the North course at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif.
2. Nov. 5-11, Mayakoba Golf Classic on the El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
3. Nov. 12-18, The RSM Classic on the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island Resort on St. Simons Island, Ga.
4. Dec. 31-Jan. 6, Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation course at Kapalua Resort, Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
5. Jan. 14-20, CareerBuilder Challenge on the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament course at PGA WEST and the private La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif.
6. Jan. 21-27, Farmers Insurance Open on the North and South courses at Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla, Calif.
7. Jan. 28-Feb. 3, Waste Management Phoenix Open on the Stadium course at TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.
8. Feb. 4-10, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and the private Shore course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Pebble Beach, Calif.
9. Feb. 18-24, Puerto Rico Open at the Coco Beach Golf & Country Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
10. Feb. 25- March 3, The Honda Classic on the Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
12. March 4-10, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.
12. March 11-17, The Players Championship TPC Sawgrass on The Players Stadium Course at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
13. March 18-24, Valspar Championship on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
14. March 25-31, Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on the Corales course at the Puntacana Resort & Club in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
15. April 1-7, Valero Texas Open on the AT&T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
16. April 15-21, RBC Heritage on Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
17. April 22-28, Zurich Classic of New Orleans on TPC Louisiana in New Orleans, La.
18. May 13-19, PGA Championship on Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, N.Y.
19. June 10-16, U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.
20. July 8-14, John Deere Classic on TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
21. July 15-21, The Open Championship on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland
22. July 22-28, Reno-Tahoe Tournament at the Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, Nev.