Golf course architect Tom Doak has taken on a wide variety of projects throughout his design career. His effort on the coast of Oregon, Pacific Dunes, made him a hot commodity worldwide. In the two decades since, he's been dispatched to far-flung, utterly gorgeous coastal sites like New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers and Tara Iti.
Developers with some combination of deep pockets, lofty aspirations and a lot of sandy acres have Doak on their shortlist of architects to call. But what's sneaky-cool about his portfolio is just how wide-ranging it is in terms of the clientele and price to play. Doak had to build a name for himself as an architect in an era where celebrity names were dominant forces commanding a lot of the big budgets and that meant taking on a huge range of gigs.
Two of his early northern Michigan public courses, High Pointe and Black Forest, are both defunct (High Pointe is now a hops farm. Black Forest was reportedly scooped up at auction but there are no known plans to revive it at this point). Even still, there are still plenty of places coast-to-coast that you can enjoy and afford a Doak design. And you should play them! The average Golf Advisor rating of a Tom Doak design (about 1,000 total reviews) is 4.6/5 and his Course Layout subcategory rating is 4.8/5. They are typically full of bold greens and surrounds, wide fairways, and are routed to be walkable - for less than $100. Memorial Park Golf Course, the site of the 2020 Vivint Houston Open and available to be played for less than $50, is just the latest example.
So if you like playing interesting golf course architecture that is typically quite bold, keep Doak's best value courses on your radar:
Many of the game's best architects have built or rebuilt collegiate golf facilities over the years and Doak's work for Texas Tech at the Rawls Golf Course in Lubbock has earned acclaim as one of the state's best public courses. It can blow in the Texas panhandle, and Rawls was built to be wide, but golfers must maneuver around big traps. (Weekend tee times w/cart: $83)
This links style course has wide fairways, healthy grass and is always in great shape. The greens are a fair speed with lots of undulation. The rough is impossible to play from if you're fortunate to find an errant shot. Be ready to hit provisionals if you think you're off-course ... Really a fun course the front nine usually is considered the easier side.- scottgwinn
Heathland Course at Legends Golf Resort
One of Doak's earlier works, the Heathland is one of three courses at the 54-hole Legends complex off Highway 501 in Myrtle Beach. Legends offers one of the better value packages of all multi-course facilities in the Grand Strand. Doak's Heathland design, molded in the spirit of the UK, certainly stands out among its neighbors that have a more coastal ambiance with lots of ponds, trees and bulkheads. Adding to the vibe is the routing that is generally void of any residential component.
Urban golf courses costing less than $50 seem to be harder and harder to come by as land values and populations soar in major metros. The fact Memorial Park is inside the I-610 loop and also playable on the weekends by non-residents under $50 is astonishing, all thanks to the partnership between the City of Houston and the Astros Golf Foundation that spearheaded the lightning fast, $15 million extensive redesign.
This is Doak's first US layout that hosts the PGA Tour, and player consultant Brooks Koepka lent his perspective as a playing consultant. The course can stretch to more than 7,200 yards, but for the residents who play everyday, the main defense will be the incredibly complex greens and surrounds. Even Memorial Park regulars should never grow old of the many pin positions and angles of attack on this new design.
Here's a lesser-known casino resort golf course designed by Doak that seems to be just a little too far (about 90 miles east) from the Phoenix-Scottsdale mecca to warrant the attention of Coore-Crenshaw's Talking Stick and We-Ko-Pa Saguaro. Rates are highly seasonal and dynamic here, just like all over the desert. You'll get an architecturally interesting and scenic course for the cost of a layout that is much more basic closer to Phoenix-Scottsdale.
The course has a real strong layout and it very scenic. The staff is outstanding and the course just excites you with it's architecture and vistas. But you need to put aside your need for pristine conditions and enjoy the course.marbros1, Top 500 Contributor
Editor's note: Apache Stronghold has been closed by the tribe for most of 2020 due to COVID-19.
Paying it forward: CommonGround's caddie program
Not unlike Memorial Park, Doak rebuilt an existing golf course in an urban area for a non-profit organization, the Colorado Golf Association. Commonground is a very unique facility: 18 holes, plus a short course, and a junior caddie program sponsored by the association. | Top 10 Golf Courses in Denver
Quail Crossing Golf Club
In Evansville, Indiana, Quail Crossing is a modest residential development facility over 320 acres with green fees less than $50. Opened in 1997, it has seen some ups and downs in recent years. It recently assumed new ownership and recent Golf Advisor reviews indicate it's back on the upswing. The course describes the layout as imitating Shinnecock Hills and full of native prairie grasses.
Stoatin Brae at Gull Lake View (Renaissance Golf Design)
Another value course worth mentioning in the Renaissance Golf Design portfolio is Stoatin Brae, the headliner of six courses at the hard-working Gull Lake View resort in southwest Michigan. Doak didn't personally design it, his associates at Reniassance Golf Design did, but the end result will satisfy all Doak-seekers. Green fees: $60-90.