The best public golf courses of the PGA Tour's Champions circuit -- part 2

The middle-tier of the top public golf courses to host a PGA Tour Champions event are anything but ordinary.

Courses ranked no. 77-39 on my new top 100 list -- created to showcase the top public-accessible venues of the senior circuit -- includes a handful of TPC clubs.

Other courses have attracted the regular PGA Tour -- the Nicklaus Course at Vista Vallarta Golf Club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Sawgrass Country Club in Florida and one of the best golf courses in California , the Champions Course at La Costa.

These examples prove the depth and quality of the courses the over-50 crowd have played since the birth of the Senior Tour in 1980. I could rotate playing these places every day the rest of my life and feel completely satisfied.

Read part 1 here (courses 78-112) and part 3 here (courses 1-38).

77. Kapolei Golf Club ; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii

Tournament: 2012-14 Pacific Links Hawaii Championship (Willie Wood, Mark Wiebe, Paul Goydos).

Comment: Pacific Links, the international company that owns Kapolei, takes pride in course conditions throughout its network of private clubs. That care shows in the five-star reviews at Golf Advisor for this challenging Ted Robinson design near Ko Olina. Visitor tee times are available.

Tournaments: 2001-02 Siebel Classic in Silicon Valley (Hale Irwin, Dana Quigley).

Comment: New sand and greens as good as any public course in Silicon Valley generate four- and five-star reviews galore at this Nicklaus course in Morgan Hill just south of San Jose.

75. Brickyard Crossing Golf Course ; Indianapolis

Tournaments: 1994-96 Brickyard Crossing Championship, 1997-1999 Comfort Classic.

Comment: Four holes of this unique Dye design sit inside the oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

74. Monarch Beach Golf Links ; Dana Point, Calif.

Tournaments: 2001-02 Hyundai Team Matches.

Comment: This exhibition featured two two-person teams from each major tour playing against the other -- PGA vs. PGA, LPGA vs. LPGA and so on -- at this RTJ II design with one hole on the Pacific.

73. Ko Olina Golf Club ; Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Tournament: 1992 Ko Olina Senior Invitational (Chi Chi Rodriguez).

Comment: Ko Olina attracts the ladies (it has a long-standing relationship with the LPGA Tour) and families (with the nearby Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa). But it will challenge any low handicapper from the 6,815-yard tips, especially in the wind. Several man-made waterfalls add aesthetic beauty.

Tournaments: 2004 co-host of the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach presented by Walmart (Stadler).

Comment: With sweeping elevations, deep bunkering and prodigious length, Bayonet will stab your scorecard until it bleeds. With more than 270 five-star reviews on Golf Advisor, Bayonet is a crowd pleaser on the expensive Monterey Peninsula.

71. Tiffany Greens Golf Club ; Kansas City, Mo.

Tournaments: 1999-2002 TD Waterhouse Championship (Allen Doyle, Dana Quigley, Ed Dougherty, Bruce Lietzke).

Comment: Golf Advisor users have showered this Robert Trent Jones II design with mostly five-star reviews.

Tournament: 1989 Senior Skins Game.

Comment: Five ponds in the shadow of the Santa Rosa Mountains form a dramatic setting for some Pete Dye golf in the Coachella Valley. A high percentage of the 300-plus reviews on Golf Advisor are four and five stars.

69. Buffalo Ridge Golf Club ; Ridgedale, Mo.

Tournaments: 2014-present Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops (Jeff Sluman/Fred Funk, Billy Andrade/Joe Durant).

Comment: Fazio's work to revitalize Buffalo Ridge (formerly named Branson Creek Golf Club) must be working. Golfweek ranked the Springs Course no. 3 among the state's best for 2016.

68. Top of the Rock ; Ridgedale, Mo.

Tournaments: 2014-present Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops.

Comment: The old Legends of Golf was revived with a unique format where the final round is held on the Top of the Rock, one of the nation's best par-3 courses .

67. The King & The Bear Course at World Golf Village ; St. Augustine, Fla.

Tournament: 2001-02 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (Jim Colbert/Andy North, Doug Tewell as individual in 2002).

Comment: Five-star reviews on Golf Advisor nearly double the strong four-star ratings for this Palmer and Nicklaus collaboration.

66. Griffin Gate Golf Club at Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa; Lexington, Ky.

Tournament: 1983-89 Senior Golf Classic under several bank sponsorships.

Comment: Four and five-star reviews on Golf Advisor praise Griffin Gate's routing across pleasant elevation changes.

Tournaments: 1989-2001 Transamerica Senior Golf Championship. 2002 Napa Valley Championship Presented by Beringer Vineyards.

Comment: NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller has spruced up both courses since buying the resort. Silverado's North Course , a RJT Sr. design, hosts today's PGA TOUR event.

64. Nicklaus Course at Vista Vallarta Golf Club ; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Tournament: 2006 Puerto Vallarta Blue Agave Golf Classic (Morris Hatalsky).

Comment: This 36-hole Clubcorp facility sits high in the mountainous jungles above Puerto Vallarta. It's debatable which is better -- the Nicklaus or the Weiskopf Course .

63. TPC Treviso Bay ; Naples, Fla.

Tournament: 2009 ACE Group Classic (Loren Roberts).

Comment: Arthur Hills -- nicknamed the "Mayor of Naples" for his many local designs -- saved his best for last on this scenic water-laden design that often lands five-star reviews on Golf Advisor. Once the clubhouse is complete, this place will rival any club in southwest Florida.

62. Fazio Foothills Course at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa; Austin, Texas

Tournaments: 1990-94 Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf (Charles Coody/Dale Douglass twice, Mike Hill/Lee Trevino twice, Harold Henning in individual play in 1993).

Comment: Canyon walls line certain fairways of this course, the second of two Fazio designs at the 72-hole resort in the Texas Hill Country.

Tournament: 1990 Ameritech Senior Open (Rodriguez).

Comment: The claws of one of Jack's toughest tracks have softened over the years near Traverse City in northern Michigan. Resort guests can enjoy it more, although there's still enough water to lose plenty of balls.

Tournaments: 1994-96 Hyundai Team Matches. 1994 Wendy’s 3‐Tour Challenge

Comment: This exhibition featured two two-person teams from each major tour playing against the other -- LPGA vs. LPGA, Seniors vs. Seniors and so on -- in the desert. The 1997 event at PGA West was on the Nicklaus Private Course .

59. The Club at Savannah Harbor at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa; Savannah, Ga.

Tournaments: 2003-2013 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

Comment: Five-star reviews outnumber four stars almost 3-to-1 at this popular resort course.

Tournament: 1993 Gulfstream Aerospace Invitational (Raymond Floyd).

Comment: Only munis in the fancy Coachella Valley provide free valet parking and service as good as this. More than 70 percent of the numerous Golf Advisor reviews are five stars.

57. Rio Secco G.C. ; Henderson, Nev.

Tournaments: 2009-2012 Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge.

Comment: Box canyons and deep arroyos in the desert forced Rees Jones to create a target-style thriller with startling views of the Las Vegas Strip. Good luck playing with just one ball.

#RioSecco has 4 killer par 3s including the #MillionDollarHole #LasVegas #CaesarsGolf #whyilovethisgame

A video posted by Jason Scott Deegan (@jasondeegangolfadvisor) on

Tournaments: 2011-present AT&T Championship (Couples, Frost, Kenny Perry, Michael Allen, Langer).

Comment: Non-members must stay at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa to play Dye's rugged AT&T Canyons course. It's actually more playable than the Greg Norman-designed AT&T Oaks Course next door, which hosts the Valero Texas Open.

Tournaments: 2001-06 Senior Skins Game.

Comment: Everybody loves the panoramic views, resort playability and weather at this Jones II course situated on the drier side of Maui. Some 90 percent of the Golf Advisor reviews are four and five stars.

Tournaments: 2012-present PNC Father Son Challenge at Ritz Carlton Orlando.

Comment: Combine Ritz service with top conditions on a strong Norman design and that explains why more than 150 reviews on Golf Advisor are of the five-star variety.

53. TPC Las Vegas ; Las Vegas

Tournaments: 1997-1999 Las Vegas Senior Classic by Tru-Green Chemlawn (Hale Irwin twice, Vincente Fernandez).

Comment: The old name of TPC Canyons was appropriate. The most dramatic holes -- the par-3 second and several par 4s on the back nine -- jump over deep canyons. Five star reviews outnumber four stars 2-to-1 on Golf Advisor.

52. Sawgrass Country Club ; Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Tournament: 1987 Mazda Senior Tournament Players Championship (Player).

Comment: The original host of the PGA Tour's THE PLAYERS Championship allows limited access through the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa.

51. Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort ; Palm Coast, Fla.

Tournaments: 2007-08 The Ginn Championship at Hammock Beach (Keith Fergus, Langer).

Comment: Although right next to the ocean for long stretches, this Nicklaus design doesn't deliver the stirring views of California's coastal courses. The strategic design of the routing, however, is spot on. Golfweek ranks the course 10th among public golf courses in Florida for 2016.

50. Harbor Shores Golf Club ; Benton Harbor, Mich.

Tournaments: 2012/2014/2016 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid (Roger Chapman, Colin Montgomerie).

Comment: Nicklaus transformed an old toxic waste site along the Paw Paw River and near the sand dunes of Lake Michigan into a venue worthy of multiple senior majors and plenty of five-star reviews on Golf Advisor. The four-tier 10th green is the most severe he's ever built.

49. Sonoma Golf Club ; Sonoma, Calif.

Tournaments: 2003-09 Charles Schwab Cup.

Comment: This private course -- only accessible with a stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa -- features massive oaks, lakes and sweeping vistas of the Mayacamas Mountains and neighboring vineyards.

Tournaments: 2003-06 JELD-WEN Tradition (Watson, Craig Stadler, Roberts, Eduardo Romero).

Comment: Five and four-star reviews on Golf Advisor are the norm for this fun John Fought design. Bob Cupp created the sister North Course . They alternate daily for public play.

47. TPC Tampa Bay ; Lutz, Fla.

Tournaments: 1992-2012 events under various names/sponsors.

Comment: This Bobby Weed design, built in 1991, is open to the public but run like a private club. A new restaurant ¡CUATRO opened in 2015. Five-star reviews double four stars on Golf Advisor.

46. Royal Kaanapali ; Maui, Hawaii

Tournaments: 1987-2000 Kaanapali Classic under various sponsors. 2007-2011 Senior Skins Game.

Comment: One of the five star reviews in 2016 came from Golf Channel's Jay Coffin , who wrote the greens were "as good as anything I've seen, maybe ever." The ocean views bring plenty of other positive comments online.

45. TPC Myrtle Beach ; Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Tournament: 2000 IR SENIOR Tour Championship (Tom Watson).

Comment: Customers and critics agree on this Fazio course. The number of five-star reviews from Golf Advisor justifies Golf Channel's Matt Ginella's ranking -- third among his favorite golf courses in Myrtle Beach .

44. TPC Michigan ; Dearborn, Mich.

Tournaments: 1991-2006 Senior Players Championship.

Comment: Nicklaus used a maze of wetlands and mounding to confound golfers at this private course, which is accessible through stay-and-plays at several local hotels.

Tournament: 1979-81 PGA Seniors' Championship.

Comment: The old South Course by RTJ Sr. was transformed by a multi-million-dollar redo by Raymond Floyd. Out was the old flat topography. In was landscaping of flowers and an 84-foot waterfall next to the island green at no. 18.

Tournaments: 2003-2014 Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn.

Comment: This Jones II design, ranked a five-star course by the majority of Golf Advisor users, is the tougher of the two courses in this picturesque setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beware of Lyle Creek and all those rocks.

41. The Tryall Club ; Montego Bay, Jamaica

Tournaments: 1985-87 Mazda Champions (Alice Miller/January, Amy Alcott/Charles, Nancy Lopez/Barber).
Comment: The event was a team competition featuring LPGA and Senior Tour pros teaming up with one another to compete on one of the best golf courses in Jamaica .

40. Reflection Bay Golf Club ; Lake Las Vegas, Nev.

Tournament: 1999-2002, 2003-04, 2006-07 Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge.
Comment: After closing its two courses in 2009, Reflection Bay reopened a completely renovated Nicklaus course in 2014. Five holes play along Lake Las Vegas, including a rebuilt seventh green.

Tournaments: 1984-94 Senior Tournament of Champions (Barber and Al Geiberger each won twice).
Comment: Architect Steve Pate, winner of the 1988 Tournament of Champions at La Costa, and design partner Damian Pascuzzo, with help from consultant Jeff Brauer, built four new holes, reshaped new bentgrass greens, renovated and re-positioned bunkers and capped off the fairways with 3,000 truckloads of sand to encourage better drainage during a 2011 renovation. The result? Better conditions and a more interesting collection of holes.

Read part 1 here (courses 78-112).

Read part 3 here for (courses 1-38).

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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The best public golf courses of the PGA Tour's Champions circuit -- part 2
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