With spring in bloom and the Masters Tournament poised to begin in the middle of the month, April is the unofficial kickoff to the golfing season. After a long winter, most amateurs are antsy to grab their bags and hit the links. Treat the golfer in your life to one of these five legendary courses.
Shadow Creek – Las Vegas, NV
This renowned course is the most famous spot for golf in Las Vegas. Located near the Strip, it’s a desert oasis – an escape from both the sand and the crowds. It’s a marvel of environmental engineering, sporting verdant greenery, thousands of mature trees, man-made lakes and serene water features. It’s easy to forget you’re just a few miles from the bustling Vegas scene. Often thought to be inaccessible to the public, it’s actually available to any guest of MGM Resorts who is willing to open their wallets and snag a hard-to-get reservation. Before your appointed tee-time, you will be chauffeured by private limo to the course and meet with your personal caddie to preview their round. The course’s exclusive reputation still attracts high profile players, including former presidents, Hollywood A-listers, professional athletes, and Vegas high-rollers. Assuming you’re willing to pay up for the experience, you can lay your claim to the same famed course.
Pacific Dunes – Bandon, OR
Located on the breezy Oregon coast, Pacific Dunes may be the best place to play links-style golf in the United States. It features an amazing variety of hole designs and tests players’ abilities to hit a wide range of shots. Players can roll shots quite effectively, and can approach many greens on the ground, but must remain cognizant of the wind, craggy dunes, oddly shaped bunkers, and cliffs. Instead of creating a course at odds with its environment, this course was designed to fit completely naturally within its geography. The understated design makes it feel like the greens and fairways were simply manicured onto the course’s natural environment, instead of being aggressively engineered. It’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Pebble Beach Golf Links – Pebble Beach, CA
Perhaps the most iconic course in the world, Pebble Beach is famous for its stunningly beautiful location. The course stretches along the rugged coast of the Pacific Ocean, with nothing but rocky cliffs and Cypress trees standing between golfers and the water below. Nine of the course’s holes are located directly above the pounding Pacific surf. Established in 1919, the course also has a storied history and is set to host its sixth US Open this year – its 100th year in operation. Although it’s a public course, it isn’t cheap. Greens fees run in excess of $500. But for devoted golfers, it remains the bucket list destination.
TPC Sawgrass – Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
The annual host of the prestigious Players Championship in March, the “Players Stadium Course” at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most challenging courses in the world. As the name suggests, it utilizes a unique “stadium” concept using hills and landscaping that can make you feel like you’re surrounded by a gallery of cheering fans – even if you’re not a PGA Pro. Designed by Pete and Alice Dye, it provides a challenging mix of distance and target golf. The premier hole is the seventeenth, which is the iconic “sink or swim” island green with no option for a bailout. Even professionals will admit that aiming for this green will severely test a player’s nerves. The original design of the “island hole” has inspired numerous imitations over the last forty years.
Pinehurst Resort (Course No. 2) – Pinehurst, NC
Commonly considered to be one of the best courses in the Southeast, Pinehurst was established in 1895 and has a prominent place in the storied history of golf in the U.S. It hosted both the North and South Open from the turn of the century until 1951, and has since hosted both the men’s and women’s US Opens. This year, Pinehurst is set to host the US Amateur Championships. Traditional, yet majestic, it’s a magical place to play a round. The grounds are typically hard and fast, which makes for a fun (and often challenging) round. The fairways are surrounded by sand and pine needles from the thousands of old-growth pines that hug the course, making accuracy critical. Its designer, Donald J. Ross famously quipped that the course is “the finest test of championship golf I have ever designed.” Featuring an impressive clubhouse, 8 other courses, 3 hotels and thousands of old-growth pine trees, Pinehurst is one of the largest golf complexes in the country.