Many prestigious golf magazines offer reviews by professional golf writers. These reviews are sometimes rehashing opinions on the famous courses that everyone, even non-golfers, has heard of. Do we really need more reviews on Pinehurst #2, Pebble Beach, and Augusta National? I think not. So let us discover some of the more obscure, but great, courses that people need exposure to. These reviews are hopefully geared to the regular golfer, which is to say the golfer who shoots triple digit scores. (The sad but true fact is that ninety percent of golfers are hackers). I have chosen to write about some of the most difficult courses that I have played, golf being at its kindest inherently sweet sorrow for most of us anyway. I have selected a special course from each of the following areas of the United States: the Midwest (or Great Lakes region),the eastern U.S.A., the west coast, and the southwestern desert.
THE BEAR (Grand Traverse Resort), Acme, Michigan: This is a Jack Nicklaus designed beauty. The “Golden Bear” (and Tigger isn’t catching Jack’s Major’s record!) was proud enough of this accomplishment to bestow his nickname on it. Jack was asked to design a most difficult course, and he complied with a bear of a course. With only a five month growing season, northern Michigan’s courses are in the best shape in the country due to lack of play. This course is rated among the twenty toughest courses in the United States (public or private) by Golf Digest. Everyman won’t break 100 but will enjoy every minute of the suffering. The moguls on #16 make a wonderful photograph, but be advised not to hit into them. The course rating is 76.3/slope 148.
CLEGHORN PLANTATION, Rutherfordton, North Carolina: Who’s George Cobb? Well he is the course architect and he sure knew what he was doing. This is a lovely course (and mature, being forty years old) nestled in the southern Appalachian foothills. It is heavily wooded, heavily hazarded. The views from every tee are awesome and often any hole, other than the one being played, is not in view. The price is also incredible (50 dollars includes a riding cart!). That’s southern hospitality! This course is highly rated by Golf Digest and Golflink. Some have likened it to Augusta National. While that may be a little far fetched, the similarities are there. The course rating is 74.6/slope 134.
BANDON DUNES (Bandon Dunes Resort), Bandon, Oregon: While this course may not fit the obscurity model any longer, it needs to be mentioned. The original Bandon Dunes Resort course was designed by Scotsman David Kidd. It represents beautiful, playable, European links golf. Hole #16 is one of the most eye pleasing holes in existence. If golf ever could make a person misty-eyed, this tee box view just might bring up the emotions. The course is ranked #6 in the top U.S. courses “you can play” by Golf Magazine. Fine Pacific Ocean views abound. This course may be WALKED ONLY (carts available for the physically challenged). Caddies are available. December and January can be quite misty so to speak. The course rating is 74.1/slope 143.
ENTRADA AT SNOW CANYON, St. George, Utah: Utah’s St. George area in the southwest corner of the state is a little known tremendous golf destination. This course is one of the best of the great courses there. The back nine is devilish due to the Johnny Miller (architect) factor and the very narrow playing area through lava fields on several holes. St. George is also not far from Mesquite, Nevada which has more great courses (and casinos galore if gambling is a persons hobby). Negatively, the course is open to guests of the Inn at Entrada and property owners only. It’s worth the trouble. A non-summertime experience is recommended as it gets very hot June through August. The course rating is 73.6/slope 131 but it’s harder than that slope.