There are golf courses in the world designed to ease the golfer into the round, starting with a fairly modest and manageable opening hole. Pebble Beach doesn't really ramp up until midway through the opening nine. The Old Course in St. Andrews provides a fairway over 100 yards wide to help ease the nerves.
Other courses kick the round off with a bang, featuring a combination of high drama and excellent scenery. It's something many of the early courses in Great Britain and Ireland employed, and later in North America with Golden-Era architects employed from time-to-time like C.B. Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross. Modern courses have typically saved their dazzling holes for the closing holes of nines instead of their openers, but there are some that utilize their clubhouse's lofty perches to create fantastic elevated tee shots. Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw are a duo that don't seem to shy away from creating a memorable opener.
I've sorted through my scorecards and consulted with my staff at Golf Advisor to reveal 18 of the best opening holes around. I've played many of them, while others I've heard and seen plenty about. What are your favorite opening holes to play? Let us know in the comments below.
Coore & Crenshaw welcome visitors escaping the bustling Phoenix-Scottsdale metro area to the East Valley and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation tribal lands with a scenic opener. The elevated tee shot heads gently downhill on this opening, long par 4 with a generous fairway.
Cape Breton Island, Canada
Not far from Cabot Links is a lesser-known course in Cheticamp whose opening par 5 rivals any opener on the island. It's even more stunning when you consider the entrance to the club is hardly Magnolia Lane: Drivers pull off the main coastal highway into what feels like an industrial complex. But once you round the corner of the clubhouse, it's nothing but green grass and mountains.
Elevated tee shots are everywhere in Northern Michigan, and at The Legend, designer Arnold Palmer encourages golfers to be aggressive from the start with this very reachable, downhill par 5.
The Cap Rock clubhouse (currently being rebuilt following a 2011 fire) at Horseshoe Bay sits on high ground and serves two of the three Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs at Horseshoe Bay. Both Ram Rock and Apple Rock have fantastic, elevated tee shots that kick off their respective routings. This spring, Patrick Reed showed onlookers how it's done on the first tee of Ram Rock for the grand reopening.
14. The Sagamore
Donald Ross doesn't shy away from long, par-4 opening holes. The Sagamore starts from an elevated tee and plays down to a fairway before heading back uphill to the green. There's a wonderful lake backdrop as well.
13. Chambers Bay
U.S. Open hosts don't typically feature many birdie opportunities, but those who can hit a big drive on the opening par 5 at Chambers Bay set themselves up for a great start. Named "Puget Sound," the hole heads straight towards the water.
Streamsong's Blue and Red courses kick off with a bang. Streamsong Red's opener is a long par 4 with plenty of water and sand to worry about.
The Treetops North clubhouse is set on high ground, and the Fazio Premier and Smith Signature courses both kick off with elevated tee shots. The Smith is particularly scenic with long views of Northern Michigan.
10. Royal Porthcawl
A foursome of fearsome pot bunkers warn golfers at the start of their round at Royal Porthcawl, Wales' undisputed medal links. It kicks off a marvelous stretch of three holes that play along the beach.
The Plantation course has a lofty setting on Maui and it's all on display on the opening hole, which overlooks the ocean and island of Lanai. The approach shot requires a forced carry over a hazard.
It's a sensory overload from the get-go at Wolf Creek, which features one dramatic look after another.
The opening hole of the Emerald Course at Wailea is about as player-friendly as it gets. At 380 yards from the back tees and 325 from the whites, bigger hitters could chase it up pretty close to the green. A bailout area right collects balls providing for an easy approach. The Emerald course personifies Hawaii "resort golf" and there are few better birdie opportunities out of the gate on Maui than here.
A long, dogleg par 4 greets golfers at Portstewart and comes with an exposed and elevated tee shot. The remaining holes snake thru dunes and finish above them.
Nervy swings that top their shot will find embarrassment in the stream that runs in front of the tee box. Instead, feast your eyes on the mountain backdrop and swing easy on this 449-yard opener.
While Pebble Beach needs a few holes to get golfers out to the ocean, Spyglass Hill wastes no time with this doglegging par 5 that plays nearly 600 yards from the tips and finishes by the beach.
The best tee shot at Alister MacKenzie's Pasatiempo may very well be the elevated first. You'll want a good poke here to provide a manageable approach shot into the green on this long par 4.
One of Old Tom Morris' most famous holes is the opener at remote Machrihanish. Golfers are dared to bite off as much of the beach as they can on this dogleg left.
Not far from Royal County Down, perhaps the best opening hole anywhere is at Ardglass. The crashing waves along the shoreline coupled with a tee box steps from the remains of the 13th century castle wall will get your motor running in a hurry. The tee shot heads uphill and the closer to the cliffs you play, the better approach shot you'll have. Locals will advise visitors that "you've got the whole of Ireland to your right." (Or at the very least, the 18th hole fairway). It kicks off one of the most dramatic rounds in Ireland. It's hard to call it a "hidden gem" these days as golfers are more and more familiar with this spectacular clifftop course.