Maidstone Hole 14 Small copy

The Breaking Eighty Top 50 Golf Courses in the World (2015)

Over the last two years I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of really good golf courses all over the world.

I’ve taken thousands of photos, played thousands of holes, and started to have a much better understanding of what makes a good golf course.

I’ve also been able to form opinions about which courses enjoy the most.

There’s a very distinct (and at times, quite large) difference between what I enjoy and what constitutes a good course.

If you look at many of the “top 100” lists from major publications you’ll in many cases see a big slant towards difficult, championship golf courses with a lot of historic pedigree.

Usually, those courses are worth of being as highly ranked as they are. However, does that mean that some of them were my favorite courses to play?

Not exactly.

The fun thing about this list, is that get to decide what get’s ranked where, and why.

What This List is Not

This is not a list of which courses I think are the best from an architectural stand point. If I were rating them for say GolfWeek or Golf Digest I would rank them very differently based on their architectural merits.

With this list I asked myself one simple question:

Which courses would I enjoy playing the most?

I went through and asked myself over and over and over again “would you rather play course #1 or course #2” – this list is based on those answers.

As much as possible  I tried to throw out exclusivity and pedigree. For instance in all honesty, if you told me I could go play Tobacco Road or Oakland Hills – I’d probably still choose Oakland Hills – yet I have Tobacco Road ranked higher.

This leads to the question “How on earth could you have Tobacco Road ranked higher than Oakland Hills??”

My Primary Ranking Factor

When creating this list, I took into account everything from course difficulty, strategic shot values, scenery and personal affinity – but there’s one ranking factor that will always remain paramount for me.

Fun.

How much fun did I have playing the course? Was there a lot of variety? Was each hole distinct and keep me entertained throughout the round?

I mean after all, that’s what golf is supposed to be about right? Having fun?

This is why in many cases you’ll find very highly ranked courses (by traditional measures) that are far superior from an architectural standpoint, not ranking as high as other courses.

That said, in some cases, much of the fun can be derived from the exclusivity, location, or history of a course.

Now that you understand a bit about my unconventional ranking strategy, let’s get on with it. Here are my personal 50 favorite (note: not the best), courses in the world.

The Breaking Eighty Top 50 Courses in the World

#50: Pumpkin Ridge (Ghost Creek) – Portland, Oregon

The Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon is one of the top 100 public golf courses in America.

The public side of the 36 hole property, Ghost Creek is one of those courses I could play day in and day out. While there are a few pedestrian holes, the majority stand out – especially #3, 6, 9, 16, and 17. When it comes to public golf in Portland, this is as good as it gets.

Full Recap: The Best Public Golf Course in Portland

#49: Pinehurst (#2) – (Pinehurst, NC)

Pinehurst 2 - Hole 9

You’re probably thinking, “how on earth is this so low?!”. The reality of Pinehurst #2? It’s a long, difficult golf course. It’s worth doing once as a bucket list item, but at $450/round, there are other courses in the area that are immensely more enjoyable. Those Ross greens are pretty spectacular though.

Note: Remember, this is the ranking for my favorites, not my opinion of which are the best!

Full Recap: How I Shot My Best Round Ever on Pinehurst #2

#48: Pinehurst (#8) – Pinehurst, NC

Pinehurst 8 Hole 3 Small

Remember how I said there are more enjoyable courses in the area than #2? Frankly, I found #8 to be more fun and more enjoyable than it’s historic big brother. Fun holes and elevation changes make this a solid, and more affordable option on a trip to NC.

#47: Nirwana Golf Club (Bali, Indonesia)

While I was living in Bali in 2011 I had the opportunity to play this course twice, and unfortunately I only remember bits and pieces of the course – as this was before my golf obsession really hit. I’ll make it back there one of these days, and if so, there’s a good chance it’s ranking could climb.

#46: The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel) – Brookline, Mass

The approach on hole 11 at The Country Club

The approach on hole 11 at The Country Club

This is another one that the purists will totally hate on me for. The Country Club is one of the most exclusive courses in the country, and playing it was such a special treat. If you asked me to rank it based on the design and architecture – it’d be top 50 in the world.

But for how much I enjoyed it? It’s not quite as high. I enjoyed the back 9 much more than the front, but also my experience was skewed having played off season in some pretty nasty weather.

#45: Medinah (#3) – Medinah, Illinois

Medinah #3 is one of the most historic top 100 golf courses in the US.

The 17th green and 18th tee.

Another surprising one for many of you I bet. This a great example of a course where if given the opportunity, I’d choose to play here again over some of the courses I’ve ranked higher. It’s a very difficult course, with great difficulty and par 3s that while enjoyable, are a bit repetitive.

Full Recap: Medinah #3

#44: Old Macdonald – Bandon, Oregon

"Short" at Old Mac also has the one of the biggest greens you'll ever see.

“Short” at Old Mac also has the one of the biggest greens you’ll ever see.

Don’t get me wrong I love Old Macdonald, and Golf Digest even ranked it as the #2 most fun course in the country! However, while a very enjoyable course with an interesting story (the hommage to CB Macdonald) the brutally long stretch of 9-12 leaves a sour taste in my mouth every time I play it.

#43: Forest Dunes – Roscommon, Michigan

Forest Dunes is one of the best golf courses in the United States

Now that’s a sunrise

Forest Dunes is in the middle of nowhere. But the Weiskopf layout is worth the trip. It’s in a beautiful region of the country, and you can get some awesome stay and play deals in the fall. The draw is also only strengthening with the opening of their new reversible Doak layout set to open in the next year or two.

Full Recap: Forest Dunes

#42: Pronghorn (Nicklaus Course) – Bend, Oregon

This starts one of my favorite stretches of holes anywhere 12-15.

This starts one of my favorite stretches of holes anywhere 12-15.

This was the course that started it all for me. My very first top 100 public course I played. I love Bend and Pronghorn. The course has a few of my favorite holes in Oregon (13, 14 and 15) and is a treat to play every time I have the opportunity. Not to be missed on a trip to Central Oregon

Full Recap: Pronghorn (Nicklaus Course)

#41: Carnoustie – Scotland

Carnoustie Hole 18

Carnoustie is kind of akin to Bethpage Black here in the states. It’s long, hard, public, and has sort of a no frills vibe going for it. While not nearly as scenic as some of it’s other Scottish neighbors, I enjoyed my round here more than expected – and the history is second to none. Just be prepared for a beating.

Full Recap: Carnoustie Golf Club

#40: Tetherow Golf Club – Bend, Oregon

Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon is one of the best golf courses in the US.

The 6th at Tetherow in Bend, Oregon.

The exact opposite of Pronghorn, Tetherow is one of the most unique courses in the world. It’s in the high desert, but the fescue grass has it playing like a links course. It’s extremely high on the fun factor, and the greens can leave you some truly terrifying putts. This is one that with another round, I might rank considerably higher.

Full Recap: Tetherow: The Most Polarizing Course in Oregon

#39: Olympic Club (Lake Course) – San Francisco, CA

The Lake Course at the Olympic Club is one of the top 100 golf courses in the US and has hosted 5 US Open Championships

The Lake Course is one of the most difficult courses I’ve played, but it’s always one where I enjoy getting beat up. There are some great views of San Francisco (assuming you get a clear day), and the history of the club is fantastic. One of the busiest and coolest locker rooms I’ve seen as well.

Full Recap: The Olympic Club (Lake Course)

#38: Atlantic Golf Club

Atlantic Hole 5 Small

Playing Atlantic was truly something special, as it’s one of the most exclusive (and expensive!) courses in the country. We had the whole course to ourselves and it truly was an enjoyable day. But I found the Rees Jones design to get a little bit repetitive at times – and will definitely beat you up if you’re not on your game.

#37: Turnberry (Ailsa Course) – Scotland

The Ailsa Course at Turnberry is one of the best golf courses in Scotland and the world.

For a course perennially ranked in the top 20 in the world, I was expecting to like it much more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a phenomenal course, but compared to some of the other courses I played on my Scottish road trip – it didn’t do as much for me. Very excited to see the changes Trump makes to 9, 10, and 11.

Full Recap: The Most Scenic Open Rota Course – Turnberry

#36: Spyglass Hill (Monterey, California)

The third at Spyglass Hill

The third at Spyglass Hill

Spyglass may very well have the best opening 5 holes in golf – or at least close to it. However, once we turned the corner on 6 things went downhill for me. There were still highlights of course, but it all felt like a bit of a letdown after such a phenomenal start. Not to mention it’ll beat you up, and you pay a fortune to have it do so.

#35: Dormie Club – North Carolina

The short par 4, 3rd hole at The Dormie Club.

The short par 4, 3rd hole at The Dormie Club.

Coore and Crenshaw are probably my favorite modern designers, and I look forward to hopefully playing many more of their courses in the future. Dormie Club was originally supposed to be a very exclusive private club, but the recession threw a wrench in those plans. Their loss is the public’s gain – I’d take this over Pinehurst #2 8 times out of 10.

Full Recap: The Dormie Club

#34: Plainfield Country Club – Edison, NJ

The 9th at Plainfield

The 9th at Plainfield

Home of this year’s Barclays, Plainfield is a fantastic Donald Ross layout. It starts to border on the “long, championship style” courses that aren’t always my favorite, but I really enjoyed my round out here – especially the back nine.

Recap: Photo Tour of 2015 NYC Road Trip

#33: Wolf Creek – Mesquite, Nevada

Wolf Creek Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada is one of the top 100 public courses in america.

This is like the Six Flags of golf courses. Up, down, left, right – you won’t find many courses for just flat out fun and unique experience. You pretty much have to take a cart, and you’ll play holes that while not always the most strategic, may very well give you vertigo. This is one of those “must play at least once” type courses.

Full Recap: Wolf Creek Golf Club

#32: Oakland Hills (South Course) – Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Oakland Hills Country Club is one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the US

The 11th was my favorite hole at Oakland Hills

There aren’t many major tournaments Oakland Hills hasn’t hosted. This struck a better balance of difficulty and hole variety, than say Medinah or Olympic – and the greens are some of the slickest and most difficult I’ve putted on.

Full Recap: Oakland Hills (South Course)

#31: Bethpage (Black Course) – NY

Bethpage Black Hole 4

What many consider Tillinghast’s best work, barely cracks my top 3 of his. Bethpage is another course everyone should play at least once, due to it’s accessibility and increasing lore in the golf history books. Expect lots of sand, extremely difficult rough, and a brutal walk that will leave you begging for more.

Full Recap: Bethpage Black

#30 Galloway National (Absecon, NJ)

The 17th at Galloway National

The 17th at Galloway National

On the outskirts of Atlantic City, Galloway is a course that’s largely flown under the radar. It was in absolutely perfect shape, and while it’s one of the more difficult courses I’ve played, I still found it very enjoyable and full of memorable holes.

The short par 4 12th, and par 3 17th are two in particular that really stand out.

#29: Trump International Golf Club – Aberdeenshire, Scotland

On the tee at 13. One of my favorite photos from my Scotland Trip

On the tee at 13. One of my favorite photos from the trip.

Speaking of brutal walks, this might have been the longest, toughest, most difficult walk of my life. – partially due to the torrential wind and rain, I’m sure. I was surprised by just how good Trump’s course here really was. It had a modern take on links golf that kept things interesting and fun, even if I thought my lungs were going to give out at times.

Full Recap: Trump International Scotland

#28: Erin Hills – Hartford, Wisconsin

Erin Hills Golf Course - 2017 US Open

Host of the 2017 US Open, Erin Hills is another very difficult walk, and the course, which can be stretched out to over 8,000 yards is no slouch either. Another course with excellent stay and play deals, if you live in the midwest, this is a must play. I’ve never been to Ireland, but I feel like this might be as close as I’ve been.

Full Recap: Erin Hills: Home of the 2017 US Open

#27: Crosswater Golf Club – Sunriver, Oregon

18th green at Crosswater Golf Club in Sunriver, Oregon

18th green with Mt. Bachelor in the background.

I usually play Crosswater a few times a year, and love it every time. It has a solid variety of holes, forcing you to be very strategic at times (4th hole with extremely shallow green), and to flat out bomb it at others (687 yard par 5, 12th). While I do wish there were a bit more elevation at times, this is a must play when visiting Central Oregon.

Full Recap: Crosswater Golf Club

#26: Pacific Dunes – Bandon, Oregon

It may be short, but it's also one of the most scenic par 3s in golf!

It may be short, but it’s also one of the most scenic par 3s in golf!

Another one that you might expect to be higher. I love Bandon and I love Pacific Dunes, but having played the course 3 times now I just don’t love it as much as many other people do – as much as I wish I did.

Full Recap: Pacific Dunes

#25: California Golf Club of San Francisco – San Francisco, CA

Obligatory shot of Cal Club. The bunkers here were insane.

Obligatory shot of Cal Club. The bunkers here were insane.

Cal Club as most people affectionately call it, has some of the most brutal (and beautiful) bunkering I’ve ever seen – no surprise, considering Alistair Mackenzie helped with them. This course has flown under the radar, but it’s among the best courses in a state full of phenomenal golf.

#24: Pumpkin Ridge (Witch Hollow) – North Plains, Oregon

The scary 2nd shot on the short par 5, 14th at Witch Hollow.

The scary 2nd shot on the short par 5, 14th at Witch Hollow.

I may be slightly biased on this one, considering it’s my home course – but the setting and variety here is absolutely stunning. The par 5 14th is one of the best short par 5s in the world, and while it may not have the length to host a modern day US Open, it’s a course that can still challenge some of the best players in the world.

#23: Myopia Hunt Club – Hamilton, Massachusetts 

The 12th at Myopia Hunt outside of Boston.

The 12th at Myopia Hunt outside of Boston.

Walking off the highly unique short par 4, first hole, I knew I was going to like this course. It goes up, it goes down, it goes short, it goes long. It’s tradition and history is deep and the course itself is extremely special.

With that said, it seemed on nearly every hole drives I thought were pretty good ended up in bunkers I didn’t know were there 🙂

#22: Pronghorn (Fazio Course) – Bend, Oregon

The 8th hole on the Fazio Golf Course at Pronghorn outside of Bend, Oregon

This was from the ladies tees, but had a particularly cool angle of the cave.

The Fazio course at Pronghorn gets very little play, and as such is in immaculate condition. It’s views of the Three Sisters mountains are unparalleled, and the par 3 8th over an ancient lava tube is one of the best and most unique par 3s you’ll ever play.

Full Recap: Pronghorn (Fazio Course)

#21: Blackwolf Run (River Course) – Kohler, Wisconsin

5th hole on the River Course at Blackwolf Run

One of the most fun tee shots in all of golf.

When I think of the River Course, the first word that comes to mind is fun. Dye uses bunkers and water, to weave you through a tapestry of different landscapes, and he gives you multiple options on every hole – with the best example of this being the three distinct fairway options on the par 4, 9th.

Full Recap: Blackwolf Run (River Course)

#20: Waverley Country Club – Portland, Oregon

The second shot on the par 5, 13th

The second shot on the par 5, 13th

The only course I like more than Witch Hollow in Portland is Waverley, which is situated on the banks of the Willamette, and is Portland’s most exclusive club. The recent renovation done by Gil Hanse, has made the course so much better and is worthy of a higher ranking on most lists I’ve seen.

I also think this course suits my game well, as bunker placement isn’t much trouble for pros and is extra penal for higher handicaps. For me as an 8-1o handicap, I found them to be in the perfect positions to make me think about each of my shots.

Full Recap: Is Waverley Country Club the Best Private Course in Portland?

#19: Tobacco Road – Sanford, North Carolina

Tobacco Road Hole 9

This might be the most controversial course here, it’s very much a love it or hate it course. Personally? I love it. It’s unique, rebellious, and features one unique hole after another. It’s so good, I’m still trying to convince some of my golfing buddies to fly across the country to play it with me. And at under $100 a round most of the time? It’s one of the best values here.

Full Recap: Tobacco Road

#18: The Course at Yale – New Haven, Connecticut

Yale Hole #9 Biarritz

The famed Biarritz hole at Yale

How Golf Digest doesn’t have this as a top 100 course is totally beyond me. The conditioning may be lacking compared to many other courses, but the quality and diversity of the holes is absolutely incredible.

#17: Kingsbarns – Fife, Scotland

The 15th at Kingsbarns

The 15th at Kingsbarns

When I played Kingsbarns the Scottish fog was out in full force (as were the flashing read guidance lights) – but that didn’t keep me from immensely enjoying the course. Kyle Phillips did a tremendous job of blending old and new, and making a course that’s one of the most fun and enjoyable anywhere.

#16: Pasatiempo – Santa Cruz, California

Pasatiempo Hole 8 Small

This was another huge surprise. It was my first Mackenzie course, and is another one Golf Digest didn’t have ranked highly. While there may be a few pedestrian holes, more often than not the course is world class with some of the best bunkering I’ve ever seen.

16 is easily one of the top 5 green complexes I’ve seen.

#15: Bandon Dunes – Bandon, Oregon

Now that's a golf hole.

Now that’s a golf hole.

I used to have Pacific Dunes ranked ahead of Bandon, but having played them both a few times since, I just keep finding myself enjoying Bandon Dunes more. The ebb and flow of the course from inland to water constantly keeps you entertained and excited for the next leg of the journey.

Full Recap: Bandon Dunes

#14: Whistling Straits – Kohler, Wisconsin

Whistling Straits Hole 6 Approach

One of the most well known, and highly ranked public courses in the country, Whistling Straits is grand in every sense of the word. Each of the 4 par 3s rests on the banks of Lake Michigan, and if the views don’t distract you and kill your round, the nearly 1,000 bunkers on the course most likely will.

Full Recap: Whistling Straits

#13: Arcadia Bluffs – Arcadia, Michigan

Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Michigan is one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in America

The 11th at Arcadia

Yes, I said it, I like Arcadia better than Whistling Straits. Whistling Straits is more strategic and demanding, but Arcadia is just a blast to play. Almost every hole has views of Lake Michigan, and while critics will look at holes like 11 and call it a “bobsled course” – that doesn’t change the fact that for the average golfer it’s a ton of fun to play.

Full Review: Arcadia Bluffs

#12: Hudson National – Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Hudson National Hole 10

Apparently I have a thing for big downhill holes, as #5 at Hudson National is the epitome of this. Hudson was the first top private I played in the NYC area and I enjoyed it immensely. Fazio created a unique, and fun course that uses elevation change to create a true adventure of a golf course.

Full Review: Hudson National

#11: Somerset Hills – Bernardsville, New Jersey

Somerset Hills Hole 12 2 Small

Somerset was a huge surprise for me. When you think of Tillinghast you think of ball busting courses like Bethpage Black. Somerset is much more subdued and friendly – and I loved it. From the beautiful and severe #2 redan hole, I was hooked.

Integrating features of the land, like the old horse race track on the property make it all the more special.

Thank you Tim, Alex, and John for one of my best golf days of the year!

Full Recap: Photo Tour of 2015 NYC Trip

#10: Diamante Dunes – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Diamante Dunes is the #1 Cabo San Lucas golf course.

Standing back behind tees on 15. Quite possibly my favorite golf photo I’ve ever taken.

Diamante is the top ranked course in Mexico, and for good reason. It’s essentially a links experience in the desert, and was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The views were amazing, and the “all-inclusive” atmosphere makes for a gluttonous, but incredibly rewarding experience.

I also took my favorite golf photo I’ve ever taken here.

Full Recap: Diamante Dunes

#9: Maidstone Club – East Hampton, New York

The 14th at Maidstone is unreal.

The 14th at Maidstone is unreal.

This is another one that barely makes the cut for Golf Digest. I’ve heard complaints that it has a weak opening and a weak finish – but I didn’t think so. I thought the course eased you into the round beautifully, and then smacked you in the face with some world class holes.

It’s not overly long or difficult by today’s standards, but it had just the right amount of personality and quirk to make me fall in love with it.

Full Recap: 2015 NYC Golf Road Trip

#8: The Club at Black Rock – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Black Rock Waterfalls

If that’s not an exciting approach shot, I don’t know what is.

This was the first top 100 course I ever played, and is another one where I could see purists cringe – but there’s no denying the course is incredibly fun and scenic at the same time.

The par 4 11th hole with an approach in between two waterfalls is one of the most unique holes you’ll ever play, and there’s at least 3 or 4 other holes that would be in contention for a top 100 holes list.

Full Recap: The Golf Club at Black Rock

#7: Boston Golf Club – Hingham, Massachusetts

Pretty much the whole course looks like this: dramatic.

Pretty much the whole course looks like this: dramatic.

My Boston whirlwind was fun because we got to play 4 of the best courses in the city: Essex County, Myopia, Boston, and The Country Club. Everyone we talked to had a different opinion on how these ranked. I knew I would love Boston. I like modern course designs, and Hanse did an incredible job crafting memorable and strategic holes.

#5, “Shipwrecked,” might be the most unique short par 4 I’ve ever played – and if you know me, you know I love short par 4s!

Also, thank you Jeff for bringing me along on your Boston whirlwind – looking forward to the next one!

#6: San Francisco Golf Club – San Francisco, CA

The par 3 11th at San Francisco

The par 3 11th at San Francisco

This proves I don’t just like modern designs. SFGC was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had on a golf course. It’s one of Tillinghast’s earliest designs, and similar to Somerset Hills, stands out as being quite a bit different than his other work.

It took me two years to get on the course, but a really big thank you to the two people who helped make this happen. I sincerely hope we can do it again one day, and that I can find a way to return the favor!

#5: North Berwick – East Lothian, Scotland

North Berwick is one of the most historic golf courses in Scotland, and one of the top 100 in the world.

This might be my favorite green in the world.

Often overlooked by many on Scotland trips in favor for Open Rota courses, North Berwick is one that should never be missed. It’s home to the original (and best I’ve played) redan green, and at just over 6400 yards won’t scare anyone with it’s length.

However, the quirkiness of the course made me fall in love with it. The 16th psuedo-biarritz green might be my favorite green in the world, and the 13th green tucked behind a stone wall is something you won’t find anywhere else.

Full Recap: North Berwick

#4: Bandon Trails – Bandon, Oregon

I love the 17th at Trails

I love the 17th at Trails

In my previous top 25 list, Bandon Trails was the outright winner. Which many have been shocked by as traditionally it’s the lowest ranked of the four courses at Bandon. My rationale? It’s the most unique.

Hundreds of courses have ocean.

Very few weave dunes, meadows, and forest together in a way that flows so well. And as for 14? I don’t hate it as much as everyone else. Just calls for a different strategy!

Full Recap: How I Broke 80 at Bandon Dunes in the Coolest Way Possible

#3: Cruden Bay – Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Cruden Bay Hole 14 Green

You want to talk about adventure golf? It doesn’t get much more adventurous than this. It’s amazing this course was built so long ago, because it has so many features that I love in the more modern courses I play – you know except for so many blind shots.

There are few things as rewarding in golf as the view from the 9th tee box after the hike to get up there.

#2: Royal Dornoch – Dornoch, Scotland

The par 3, 10th at Dornoch

The par 3, 10th at Dornoch

What’s there to say about Dornoch? It’s one of the oldest courses in the world, and the more courses I play, the more I see course designers that have been heavily influenced by the course. Tom Watson once said it’s “the most fun he’s ever had on a golf course.” 

For me, it’s not hard to see why. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but totally worth it.

Full Recap: Royal Dornoch

#1: Pebble Beach – Monterey Peninsula, California

The iconic 7th at Pebble.

The iconic 7th at Pebble.

I should preface this by saying, I had lowered my expectations for Pebble after hearing so many people say it’s overrated.

I’m sorry, Pebble Beach is an absolutely phenomenal golf course. Not only are the water holes unique and beautiful, but even the inland ones (with one or two exceptions) were still world class.

Someone recently told me Pebble beach was boring. If you think Pebble Beach is boring, I can’t imagine what course you would say is fun.

For me, I’ve yet to see a better combo of fun and excellence in architecture and design. It’s that good.

Full Recap: Pebble Beach, a Camaro, and an MVP

Other Notable Courses

Narrowing this list down to 50 was extremely difficult, and if I were to go back and reorder them right now there would probably be some changes.

But here are some courses that are very good, but didn’t quite make the cut.

  • Cog Hill #4 – A very difficult public track, that paved the way for high end public golf.
  • Kaluhyat – This was originally in the top 50, but barely got bumped out after my most recent Boston trip.
  • Bay Harbor (Links/Quarry) – Spectacular views and a Jekyll/Hyde set of 9s that keep the round interesting
  • Essex County Club – A ton of history, and a fantastic back 9. With another play, I bet I’d have this in the top 50.
  • Blackwolf Run (Meadow Valleys) – A very fun course and not to be missed on any Kohler trip.
  • Coeur d’Alene Resort – One of the most unique golf experiences you can have. From the pre-round massage, to the heated cart seats, to the famous island green – you’ll remember this round for a long time.

So, with that, what courses aren’t on this list that you think I should go play? What’s your #1 course?




There are 39 comments

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  1. Jason Graves

    I enjoyed your thought process around the rankings. The fun factor is not considered enough in my mind. No St. Andrews Old Course? Presume only because you may not have played it? Love the Somerset Hills ranking but strongly believe Blackwolf Run is overrated given a price value relationship. Have you played Eugene CC yet? Hear its a gem. Also, you need to get to Steamsong, won’t be disappointed. Hope you update at seasons end every year! Cheers-JG

    • Sean Ogle

      Jason, thanks for the comment!

      When I was in Scotland, the Old Course was closed for the annual R&A meeting, so I didn’t get a chance to play it. I did play The New Course, but it wasn’t my favorite.

      Somerset is incredible, and while yes Blackwolf is spendy, I found it to be an incredibly fun golf course.

      It’s also quite embarrassing to say that I haven’t yet played Eugene CC. I grew up in Eugene AND my sister used to work there. But hopefully going to make it happen very soon, I actually know a handful of members, just a matter of setting up time to do it.

      Will definitely be updating each year!

    • Sean Ogle

      I almost played Meadow Club on my last trip down there, but went to Pasa instead. I’ve been working hard to get on MPCC, but it’s been tough with the reno on the other course…hopefully soon!

  2. Tony

    Chambers Bay! Love the way the ball moves if you hit it in the right spots! Old course and Teet of the Dog (Pebble Beach of the Dominican Repulbic) round out my top 3.

    • Dana

      Punta Espada in Domincan Republic Is also a must play and one of best courses in the Caribbean. It rivals Teeth of the Dog and in many ways it was a more enjoyable round in my humble opinion.

  3. Fat Guy

    Love your ranking criteria! Golf needs more of these kinds of ranking lists, (based on FUN–what a novel concept!) as opposed to the same ol’ boring list of uppity private clubs by snooty scratch players and architecture buffs who concern themselves as much with pedigree as how much the holes make them smile. Appreciate your rationale behind each course too. I know places like Tobacco Road often get panned on serious course sites, but it’s not easy to find a course that’s more fun.

    I gotta know… where, when, and how do you get the time/money/access to play all these places?!

    A few recommendations from my neck of the woods that might make your Top 50: Scotland Run in Williamstown NJ (dug out of an old sand quarry), Atlantic City CC (George Crump’s original home club, on the bay with great greens), Twisted Dune in Egg Harbor Township NJ, Glen Mills GC in Glen Mills PA, Sand Barrens in Cape May Courthouse NJ, and Pine Barrens in Jackson NJ (a dead ringer for Pine Valley).

    • Sean Ogle

      Totally agree. Don’t get me wrong, I have a full appreciation for history and architecture. Thats why I said if I were rating for a major publication I’d do it very differently. But golf is supposed to be fun, so why not rank the courses that way?

      Great list. Almost played Atlantic City CC last month, but just didnt quite work. Will check those out whenever I’m in the area!

  4. Travis Turner

    Great list. Played several of these, and wasn’t disappointed by any of them. If I had an opposing viewpoint, it would be on The Straights course. While the par 3’s are without a doubt the best collection of 3’s of any course I’ve played, I felt like I was taking a beating both times I played it. Thought the fairways were a little unfair in places…although Jason Day wouldn’t think that I’m sure. For me, the “fun factor” wasn’t as great as say Erin Hills. For those reasons, I probably wouldn’t have this course ranked quite as high. I’m splitting hairs though. Still an unbelievable course/experience.

    As always…love your site. Love the reviews. Keep up the good work.

  5. Paul Seifert

    Awesome stuff as always, Sean! I promoted your article on my site, too:

    http://wiscogolfaddict.com/2015/12/01/breakingeighty-top50/

    In 100% agreement with the above: How have you found the time and money to play all of these in the past couple of years? It’s staggering. Your site is awesome, and I always enjoy your articles and especially the photos – post more!

    My biggest two courses (in the U.S. – I can’t see getting to any other countries now that I’m close to getting married) that I want to play are in Idaho and North Carolina because of your site.

    Also… I enjoy your criteria of “Fun” for rankings – that’s how I like to rank them, too. I’m a 9 handicap (index), and even though I play over 100 rounds per year I know I’ll never be scratch (I love playing too much to care enough!), but with all the great courses I play I just want them to be fun for guys like us who are always trying to get close to, or break, eighty.

    Cheers!

  6. John Manos

    Really, really good stuff here. I always enjoy reading your perspective on your travels. I’m truly envious of your golfing roster.

    We need to get you out to Philly in 2016 though. Just way too many good ones that you need to play and add to this list. I’m really curious where you would put Merion on here.

  7. Ricardo

    No Florida curses? Great white at trump Doral is a Greg Norman design, it is very fun to play. Streamsong in central Florida!
    Thank you for a great year of reviews and breathtaking pictures!

  8. Dana

    Enjoyed the list and love checkin up on this site from time to time. Its always nice to read a top 50 list based on someones perspective of enjoyment of play apposed to a list thats driven by money and prestige. Where are the reviews on your Boston trip? I live in the boston area and have played many courses in the area but have yet to get out to Boston GC or The Country Club. Ive heard great things about both and they are both on my bucket list for the area. Had the chance to play Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia in August this past summer. The Cliffs course really lived up to the hype and will be something special for years to come once it matures. Its quite remote but worth the trip. Keep up the good work!

  9. Russell

    I like your Top 50 list, Sean, because it puts the emphasis on interesting design and fun to play. My #1 would probably be Hudson, but you make a good case for Pebble. Of course, I disagree with some on your list, and would love to discuss them with you over a round. A few I’d urge you to reconsider or play as I think they belong on your top 50 list include: Shinecock Hills (NY), Fisher’s Island (NY), Baltusrol (NJ), Shoal Creek (AL), The Golf Club (OH), Moonlight Basin (MT), Whisper Rock (AZ), Riviera (CA), and Royal County Down (NI).

    • Sean Ogle

      Yeah you just listed some phenomenal golf courses – however I haven’t played any of them yet, so couldnt put them on the list 🙂 Let me know if you’d like to help out with access haha

  10. Jacob terrell

    Sorry I’m late to the party but I wanted to get your opinion on the best course I’ve played. Paa ko ridge just out of Albuquerque New Mexico. I’ve only played about 15 courses and they have all been here in New Mexico but I was wondering how paa ko stacked up if at all.

  11. The Meat

    Have you played Riviera yet? I’m sure if it had bent grass greens and Santa Ana fairways it’d be much higher rated by the “experts”.

  12. Paul

    Great blog, and I love the Instagram photos! I see a distinct lack of Canada in the top 50 ‘fun’ courses. I strongly encourage a trip up here. If you like unique courses, which it appears you do, try to play Muskoka Bay – it’s always in amazing shape and extremely unique with the rock from the Canadian Shield all throughout the course. Of course we have other, more historic courses spread throughout the country but if you like fun, this is the place.

  13. James

    Sean…given your Oregon residence, and your interesting ranking of the Bandon Resort courses (which I’ve twice played), I wanted to add a “bucket list” destination for your future travels. I’ve just journeyed up to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Getting to Inverness on the North shore is not easy (4 time zones from you), but Mike Keiser’s gems, Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links, await you for SPECTACULAR golf. Cabot Cliffs just might eclipse any of your Bandon rankings….it’s like a Bandon Trails and Pacific Dunes rolled into one. Literally all eighteen holes are unique and carved into a stunning landscape, both inland and coastal. I’m sure you can Google others who have visited in this inaugural season, and described in detail each of the Coore/Crenshaw designed holes. The finishing 16th, 17th, and 18th holes will certainly rival any stretch you’ve ever played. All the best…

  14. Will Menkes

    Love this bucket list approach to golf and think your list is great. Couple of things:

    1) there are a ton of NY area courses that you haven’t listed that you absolutely should. The obvious ones to me are Shinnecock, National, Winged Foot, Baltusrol, Fishers Island and Friars Head. Know those are all tough to swing but you gotta do it! My favorite of these is Winged Foot West and Shinnecock. The day experience at National is second to none.

    2) I also think that while you have done a little north Carolina that you’ve got some ground to cover in the Southeast. I think Georgia in particular is about as good as it gets even if you exclude The Big One. Between Peachtree GC, Eastlake, Ocean Forest, Sea Island Seaside Course, Frederica (Sea Island) and some others, there is a big slug of top 100s to try. On top of that there are the obvious big dawgs. Alabama and Tennessee have some incredible golf as well – just a lot of southern golf tradition that should definitely be experienced, based a lot on the excellence and camaraderie of Bobby Jones and RTJ.

    I’m from Northern Califonia originally and lived in NYC for about a decade until recently moving to Atlanta – and you’ve nailed NorCal with a couple of exceptions. If you need help at MPCC or some of the NYC and/or southern courses I’m more than happy to help.

    Keep it up!!

    Will Menkes

  15. Peter Lesser

    Great list. Love the focus on the fun factor. Totally agree with you about Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails over Pacific Dunes. Just played them all a few weeks back. Would love to get back to OR and see if I can get on Pumpkin and Pronghorn. My favorite courses not on your list are Sand Hills, Ballyneal, Pine Valley, Cypress Point, Kiawah Ocean Course, and St Andrews Old Course. All totally have the fun factor. My targets are Crystal Downs, Fishers Island, National Golf Links, and Shinnecock. Keep up the great work and great photos. Good luck hitting all top 100!

  16. Scott

    You need to come out to Nebraska and play some of the Sand Hills Courses!!! 1. The Prairie Club. 2. Sand Hills. 3. Dismal River. 4. Bayside. 5. Wildhorse.

  17. Paul F. Wold

    Sean strong left coast bias, but that is fine. I do like your list and played most of them.
    My 2 somewhat off the grid would be Yeamans Hall and Teugega!
    All the best
    Paul

  18. Craig MacAdam

    Great list. I’ve been fortunate to play a few of these and would also be on my “Breaking 80” list. A buddy just sent me a link to your review of the Dormie Club as we are planning to play it this fall. I have fallen in love with Coore/Crenshaw tracks (Bandon Trails my first). You absolutely have to put Cabot Cliffs on your list. It has really only been officially open for one season, so it still has some maturing to do, but it is already worthy of a top spot on your list. Of course, I’m a bit biased as I grew up in Nova Scotia, but despite all the hype, I have yet to hear anyone who has been disappointed. It’s sister course, a few years older, Cabot Links is also incredible. Many say its a long way to travel …but similar to Bandon Dunes, it is well worth the journey. The friendly folks and surrounding scenery, if you have time to explore the Cabot Trail, make it a great trip for non-golfing spouses as well. There are other courses on Cape Breton Island that are fun to play if you make the time. You are most likely to enjoy the best weather in July through September.

  19. Christopher Hardy

    Hi Sean

    A really fascinating list. I wonder if by now you have been played in Wales or Ireland? I am Welsh with Irish mother but live in the north west of England with both Birkdale and Luther close by. I haven’t played either but went to see Mark O’Meara’s Open in 97 at Birkdalr and David Duvall’s at Lytham in 01. I much preferred Lytham…Also close to home here is The Cavendish, one of Alastair MacKenzie’s designs before he went to the US. I’m also lucky enough to have played the old course at Sunningdale just outside London which was amazing.

    In Wales we have two Royal courses, Porthcawl in the south where I grew up and St David’s in Harlech in the north. Close to Porthcawl are Southerndown where I was a junior and Pyle & Cynffig, both very different.

    Where do we start in Ireland? I’ve never played in Kerry, or Jack’s Mount Julliett or Arnie’s K Club but both Portmarnock courses and Royal County Down are amazing.

    And if you ever get to Mallorca, head to the Marriott San Antony near Llucmajor has two lovely courses. I’m hoping to get some golf played in Madrid soon.

    But I always come back to my home course of High Leigh Park, just outside Warrington in Cheshire where I live. The Ryder Cup captain Mark James – from infamous Brookline – had a hand in the design and Charle Schwartel and Louis Oousthizen have both played there and it is still a delight that I love playing… I think you can play most holes three or four different ways.

    All the best to you Sean and all fellow golfers…

  20. Tina DuPree

    Sean, you’ve got to come to Georgia and play Reynolds Lake Oconee golf courses, specifically Great Waters – a Jack Nicklaus course. We have six courses at Reynolds and two other greats, Cuscowilla and Harbor Club, all within 15-20 minute drive from each other. Architecture by Bob Cupp, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Jim Engh, Jack Nicklaus, Weiskopf-Morrish, Crenshaw and Coore leaves little to be desired. The second largest lake in Georgia is surrounded by all these beautiful courses and a gorgeous Ritz Carlton Lodge is tucked away in the perfect spot on the lake! Well worth your time… and if you want to explore living here or a second home (as many do after their visit), I can help you with your search. Great job on the blog! BTW, my 14 year old son just broke 80.
    Thanks,
    Tina DuPree, Realtor Coldwell Banker Lake Oconee Realty


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