Punch Shots: Our favorite Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed courses open to the public

Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1906-2000) was the golf course designer who bridged the gap between the Golden Era of course design (Tillinghast, Ross, Mackenzie, Thompson) into the post-war, modern designs we see today, led by Pete Dye.

From the end of World War II through the 1960s, Jones was afforded the chance to work on some of the finest pieces of property available at the time. As a result, along with his design innovations, he has some of the most iconic designs in the game. He's also helped renovate such storied venues as Augusta National, Winged Foot and Oakland Hills. When you combine his original designs and renovations, there are over 400 courses to his credit, which ultimately led to the phrase, "The sun never sets on the Robert Trent Jones empire."

Another phrase, "Hard par, easy bogey" was coined by Jones, which may explain the USGA's love affair with his courses for the U.S. Open. Many also point to his use of the "signature hole" as being a novel concept in golf design at the time.

Perhaps another reason why Jones Sr. designs stand out: While he had some modern tools at his disposal for construction his predecessors didn't, the golf cart wasn't mainstream enough to design non-walkable courses. That means many of his courses through the 1970s are best enjoyed on foot.

His namesake club, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club , opened in 1990. It's a private, Washington D.C.-area course that has hosted numerous President's Cup events and now the 2015 Quicken Loans National hosted by Tiger Woods. But many of his designs are open to the public, and located in some of our game's best travel destinations, including Hawaii, the Caribbean and northern California.

Between Jason Scott Deegan , Mike Bailey and I, we've played a good chunk of his best public works around the world and provide this sampling of our favorites.

Do you like playing Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs ? How about courses designed by his sons, Rees and Bobby? If so, tell us your favorites in the comments below.

Brandon Tucker's five favorite public Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs

1. Valderrama Golf Club , Costa Del Sol, Spain: Serenity now! This round was a real treat, having the chance to play this fabled European Tour and Ryder Cup host. Marvelous hole variety and tremendous views of the Costa Del Sol make the walk -- despite being a tough test with tree-lined, doglegged fairways and small greens -- one of a kind.

2. Gold Course at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club : Superb hole variety on a fabulous piece of wooded and rolling property in Colonial Willliamsburg make this Jones Sr. design a popular pick for his best continental U.S. resort course. More of a precision course with doglegs and risk-reward shots, shot-makers will love shaping shots around trees and over bunkers. The four drama-filled par 3s are considered one of the best collections in golf.

3. Dunes Golf & Beach Club , Myrtle Beach, S.C.: One of Myrtle Beach's first courses remains the best. Dunes Club, thanks in part to a really fun stretch of ocean view and coastal marsh holes between holes 9-13, is a must-play for those looking for the best of the Grand Strand. I favor it by a nose over Caledonia Golf & Fish Club.

4. North Course at Silverado Resort , Napa, Calif.: It's since been updated by resident/owner Johnny Miller, but there's no better way to spend a day in Napa than on the fairways of the North, which recently made it back into the PGA Tour rotation as host of the Frys.com Open. Click here for my full resort review of Silverado .

5. Royal Ka'anapali , Lahaina, Maui: I've yet to visit the Big Island and Mauna Kea, but Jones really set off the championship golf product in Maui, which would later welcome Wailea and Kapalua, when he built Royal Ka'anapali in Lahaina in the 1960s. The classic bones are still here and "hard par/easy bogey" philosophy is all-too-fitting when in the relaxed Hawaii mindset.

Mike Bailey's five favorite Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs

When I think of Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf courses, I think of simple, yet beautiful golf. Jones, who worked with Canadian great Stanley Thompson early in his career and even the great Bobby Jones (through they are not related), likes large greens surrounded by hazards, whether they be sand or water.

His designs are such that the risk-reward holes have more reward than risk, so if you're like me and don't like to lay up, you love Jones courses because going for it and missing doesn't meaning double bogey; he gives you chances to recover.

1. Spyglass Hill Golf Course , Pebble Beach, Calif.: Spyglass Hill, which got its name from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," is a tale of two courses. The linksy first five holes on the ocean are as good as it gets and get the most press. But the rest of the course, which is carved through the Del Monte Forest, is a great test and quite scenic in its own right.

2. Mauna Kea Golf Course , Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Mauna Kea, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, is also another course that I always mention in the conversation of all-time favorites. It has one of the best par 3s in the world – the third. The hole can play as long as 272 yards, and the course is now 300 yards longer than it used to be thanks to a splendid renovation by Rees Jones in 2008.

3. East Course at TPC Dorado Beach , Dorado, Puerto Rico: A former site of the Senior PGA Tour Championship, the East will play host to the 2015 PGA Tour Latinoamerica Tour Championship in December. There are some ocean views, of course, but I just like the layout of the course, and the great variety of holes, including the fourth, which is as good of a risk-reward hole as you will ever play.

4. Ross Bridge on the RTJ Golf Trail , Birmingham, Ala.: My favorite course of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is Ross Bridge, which at 8,191 yards, is one of the longest courses in the world. But that really detracts from the beauty and playability of this course. I played it at 6,783 yards and found it to be quite manageable and enjoyable with its beautiful par 3s, lakes and 80-foot waterfall that drops between the ninth and 18th holes.

5. Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort , Hilton Head Island, S.C.: This course has one picturesque hole after another, some of them tree-lined, others playing around beautiful water hazards. The signature hole is undoubtedly the par-5 10th, which opens up to the Atlantic, much like many of the Hawaiian courses do to the Pacific.

Jason Scott Deegan's five favorite Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs

I think RTJ Sr. got it right with his "hard par/easy bogey" design philosophy. It keeps the game playable for the masses and helps with pace of play. My only complaint would be his runway tees. They lack imagination. I love when modern designers build separate tees from various angles, bringing variety to a course depending on the location of the tee boxes played each day.

1. Spyglass Hill Golf Course , Pebble Beach, Calif.: There might not be a better start in golf than at Spyglass Hill, where the first five holes dance among the coastal dunes. From there, the Del Monte Forest takes center stage. Spyglass Hill annually ranks as the toughest of the three courses at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

2. Mauna Kea Golf Course , Kohala Coast, Hawaii: There's a cool par 3 on the back nine just as good as the iconic third hole. The 11th hole plays downhill to a green framed by the ocean. These magical moments help everybody forget just how tough the course plays.

3. Heather at Boyne Highland Resort , Harbor Springs, Mich.: The Heather edges out The Masterpiece at Treetops Resort in Gaylord and the famed Point O'Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor as my favorite RTJ Sr. design in Michigan. Point O'Woods, a private club offering limited play Tuesday through Friday for $230, has the history, hosting the prestigious Western Amateur from 1971-2008. The Heather, host of the 2011 Michigan Amateur, counters with a prettier setting and is more fun to play. It's one of the rare northern Michigan courses that allow walking and taking caddies.

4. Port Royal Golf Course , Southampton, Bermuda: A $14.5 million facelift spearheaded by Roger Rulewich, who helped RTJ Sr. with the original design, prepared this government-owned course for a six-year run hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 2009-2014. The eye candy is awesome – the 15th hole next to the Whale Bay Battery, a stone fort dating to the 1800s, and the par-3 16th hole clinging to the shoreline cliffs.

5. Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort , Adare, Ireland: Ireland isn't all links golf, you know. This host of memorable 2007 and 2008 Irish Opens is a parkland gem. It's one of the most scenic courses in Ireland with the River Maigue and the Neo-Gothic mansion framing a handful of strong holes on the back nine.


Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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Punch Shots: Our favorite Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed courses open to the public
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