The 5 Best ‘Overshadowed’ Public Golf Courses In The U.S.
Erik Matuszewski CONTRIBUTOR – FORBES
The first tournament in the PGA Tour’s playoff run is being played at Bethpage State Park’s world-renowned Black Course in New York, a layout that’s also hosted two U.S. Opens.
“The Black,” as it’s infamously known, is just one of five golf courses — all open to the public — at Bethpage, which sees approximately 300,000 rounds per year. The Black is the most storied (and feared) of the color-coded courses at Bethpage, so it’s only natural that it overshadows its neighbors.
Following is a rundown of five of the best courses in the U.S. that perhaps don’t always get the attention they deserve because of a more heralded layout at the same property that hosts PGA Tour events. All are public or resort courses.
BETHPAGE RED – Farmingdale, New York
Like “The Black,” Bethpage Red was also designed by Hall of Fame architect A.W. Tillinghast and sits adjacent to its more famous sibling. The Red course is the second-toughest of the five at Bethpage and features a run of long par-4 holes, including the beastly opening hole which plays uphill at 460 yards from the back tee. Although it doesn’t have the acclaim of the Black course, the Red is a challenging layout that’s hosted local tournaments such as the 2015 Met PGA Assistant Championship, the Long Island Open and the Met Junior PGA. For an incredible 36-hole experience outside the exclusive private clubs on Long Island, walk Bethpage Black and then ride the second 18 at the Red course.
THE LINKS AT SPANISH BAY – Pebble Beach, California
It’s easy to understand why Spanish Bay gets overshadowed with legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links just a short drive away down 17-Mile Drive. But the course, created by the design team of Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, has rightfully snagged a spot among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. It’s a true links-style course in California of which Watson, a five-time British Open champion, famously said, “It’s so much like Scotland, you can almost hear the bagpipes playing.” It’s marked by spectacular waterfront views, beautiful natural dunes, and fast and firm conditions. At the end of the day, there may be no better spot for a 19th hole: sitting by one of the fire pits just off the second green while a bagpiper plays and the sun sets into the ocean.
KAPALUA BAY COURSE – Kapalua, Maui
Some of the most breathtaking views of the PGA Tour season come from the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course every January, when golfers in frigid climes live vicariously through the stunning imagery on Maui. The Plantation Course is the gem at the Kapalua Resort, but the Arnold Palmer-designed Bay Course is special in its own right. The layout has hosted more than 20 professional tournaments and was the site of Greg Norman’s first U.S. victory in 1983. The par-3 fifth hole is utterly unforgettable, the only hole on Maui to play over the ocean.
IRISH COURSE AT WHISTLING STRAITS – Kohler , Wisconsin
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits along Lake Michigan is among the most ruggedly dramatic layouts in the U.S., the site of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015. It was designed by Pete Dye, who also built the second 18-hole track at The American Club — the less-heralded Irish Course. Traditional and memorable, the Irish is a grassland and dunes course located just inland from the great lake and is interspersed by four meandering streams. It has about half the bunkers of its famous neighbor and is more sheltered from the fierce winds that can come whipping off Lake Michigan. Don’t miss it on a golf trip to Wisconsin.
THE GREENBRIER COURSE AT THE GREENBRIER – White Sulfur Springs, W.V.
The Old White TPC has been the site of the PGA Tour’s inaugural Greenbrier Classic, but its just one of five 18-hole layouts (and counting) at the historic West Virginia resort. The Greenbrier Course was designed by Seth Raynor, an associate of C.B. MacDonald, who built Old White. The heavily-wooded course was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1977 in preparation for the 1979 Ryder Cup and encourages shot-shaping off the tee and deft approach shots into the greens. The Greenbrier Course also hosted the 1994 Solheim Cup, making it the only resort course in the world to hold the premier team golf events for both men and women. Although less heralded today, the Greenbrier Course has more history than the resort’s course the pros now play each year. The lowest score at the Greenbrier Course? Sam Snead’s 59.