Why You Shouldn't Always Play Where the Pros Play

I don't have stats on this, but it sure seems like more PGA Tour events are now played on publicly accessible courses than ever before.

Given how they look in high-definition and how Jim Nantz gushes about them, you might think you should jump at the chance to play any PGA Tour course with direct or indirect public access.

Sure, in many cases, it is a thrilling, memorable experience.

But take it from someone who has been burned more than a few times: not all PGA Tour courses are created equal. And just because you can "play where the pros play," doesn't mean you should.

The truth is, tour stops aren't necessarily chosen because they are the best courses; there are lots of factors including (in some instances) how much money they are willing to shell out to get the exposure.

This past weekend's event at TPC Scottsdale is a great example where watching the pros probably trumps playing the course yourself, and nowhere is this more true than on the made-for-TV spectacle of the Stadium Course's 16th hole.

See, without the grandstands and loud, well-lubricated fans, the hole isn't very recognizable...or memorable, which was pretty much my reaction to the course overall.

Yes, you'll find nice landscaping and diligent course maintenance, but the desert features seem artificial, the scenery isn't overly inspiring, and the wide fairways and lack of forced carries were almost player friendly to a fault.

Now, if you're a big fan of the tournament and you love the idea of playing where the pros play, you might really enjoy this course. I just found it hard to justify the $300 high season price tag.

Here's another example:

Also in Scottsdale, I recommend most golfers play Grayhawk Golf Club's Talon Course, not its Raptor Course, even though the latter previously hosted a PGA tour event.

The Talon Course : 1) is more fun to play, 2) is more manageable for most golfers because of its prevalent bailout areas, and 3) features the scenic highlight of this 36-hole facility.

And here's one more:

In Puerto Rico, the PGA Tour plays the Championship Course at Trump International Golf Links.

It's a technically fine golf course, but I think even Donald Trump would admit (off camera) that it's not quite as "spectacular" as some of the others in his portfolio.

I think you're better off playing its sibling, the International Course, which is more scenic and fun to play. The front nine in particular is full of surprises and "wow" moments.

So, have you played any courses the pros play? Did the experience live up to your expectations or was it a bit of a letdown?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
Default User Image
Commented on

I have to say this is one of the most alarming blogs I've quite possibly ever read....yes agreed its about exposure however ytake the US open into consideration, this wasn't the best course in condition but very challenging. I personally Sdont visit such courses because pros have played there, yes the exposure gives it added value but it is very much the challenge of the course. Do not underestate the outlook in difficulty, this never gets dismissed yet I think you have completely misplaced the view in course selection. I myself have a friend that plays a very high level of golf and live by the course selection he offers based on difficulty. I think you need to stop focusing on negatives, such as a course being too difficult or costly. If you have any concept of the running costs of such an event parhaps you'd not be so narrow minded. I'd be more than happy to recommend some courses however you are sure to find some fault with anywhere you visit. Props to the amateur critic....

Commented on

Favourites of mine are:

Bethpage Black
Winged Foot - tough to get on!
Quaker Ridge- private but a nice letter worked- as good as Winged Foot
Ocean Course fantastic
Pinehurst 2 deserves more respect than comments in this forum, changes great and greens superb

Agree Pebble Beach overrated and way over priced. Spyglass more enjoyable but also quite pricey

Get yourself to New Zealand and play Kauri Cliffs and Christchurch Golf Club (Eisenhower tournament 1990 where Mickelson and Duval represented USA)

Commented on

I have had the privilege of playing golf in Monterey, Calif, (Pebble, Spyglass, et al), Pinehurst, Ireland and Scotland.
I have also played all of the Bandon, Oregon courses and can tell you with authority that the four courses at Bandon (Pacific Dunes, Old Mac, Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails) are the best courses for the best value anywhere in the world. With the addition of a 13 hole par 3 course (The Preserve) and a 2 1/2 acre putting green (the punchbowl), along with the first class practice facility, you will relive your experience everyday and make plans to go back as soon as you can get your money together.
Plan a week visit, play them all, then you will have truly played heavenly golf on this old earth.

Commented on

Played Torrey Pines many times, only because customers wanted to. It never meets anyones expectations. IMO it's a dog track and is only nice during the tournamnet, and so not worth the money!

Commented on

I would highly recommend playing We-Ko-Pa the Cholla course. The golf course is
out at Fort McDowell, just outside of Scottsdale AZ. The course has no house. Truly a Desert Course. We visit this course every trip we take to Scottsdale.
I hope you all enjoy.

Commented on

Agree with the remarks about Innisbrook. The Island Course is better than the Copperhead, but too narrow for spectators and that is why the PGA plays the Copperhead.

Commented on

If you ever get a chance to play Bobby Jones' home course(s) its worth it, both private. Atlanta Athletic Club has help PGA and US Open and East Lake host Fed Ex every year. Enjoy both, only 25 miles apart.

Commented on

Don't believe No one mentioned Shinnecock Hills Hamptons N Y . Must play .

Commented on

I've played many of the courses mentioned in the U.S. and Scotland. If you're going to Scotland, be sure to play some of the lesser-known tracks. Gullane No. 1, Lundin Links, Leven, Brora and many others are just wonderful. But, by any means necessary, try to get to Royal Dornoch, Tom Watson's favorite course. You won't be disappointed.

Commented on

I have played over 900 courses worldwide and can easily say that the Tour courses are not always the best. I felt a slight disappointment at Harbour Town, Glen Abbey in Ontario, and Harding Park. Aronimink near Philadelphia is in lovely shape but really a bit boring. But the worst disappointment was Carnoustie __ when I played it with 2 friends, we were asked after our round if we wanted a free replay, and we all answered as one-- NO THANKS! Last 3 holes are great but the rest is torture. Britain and Ireland have dozens of better links (Macrihanish, Ballyliffin, Royal County Down) that are cheaper and more enjoyable.

Now Reading
Why You Shouldn't Always Play Where the Pros Play
New Cookie Policy