According to a recent study by the National Golf Foundation, there are over 34,000 golf courses in the United States. From the local municipal course to the upscale and well-manicured courses typically found at resorts, golfers can experience something new and beautiful each time they play a round.
But there are golf courses that rise above the majority of those 34,000, offering incredible landscapes that utilize water, local vegetation, and magnificent golf to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Here are three courses that offer up some of the best landscapes that American golf has to offer.
1. Pebble Beach
The Pebble Beach Golf Links is located against the Pacific Ocean in Pebble Beach, California. The Golf Links at Pebble Beach are world famous, in part for all of the historic moments that have taken place in the course’s storied history, but also because of the holes use their natural surroundings to create a special playing experience.
Pebble Beach has hosted six major golf championships over the years, including five U.S. Open tournaments. Some of the greatest golfers of all time have won U.S. Open titles at Pebble Beach. That list includes such legends as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods.
Two holes on the course stand out as some of the most stunning holes ever designed. The par-3 8th is a short hole that utilizes an elevated tee box down to a small green. What makes the hole genuinely distinct, and one of the most photographed golf locations in the world is that the hole plays right against a cliff on the Pacific Ocean. From behind the tee box, golfers appear to be hitting their tee shots into the rough and wave-ridden ocean, making for a majestic and breathtaking view.
The other standout hole at Pebble Beach is the par-5 18th. The 550-yard finishing hole has a tee shot that is carried over the Pacific Ocean that runs along the left side of the fairway. After clearing the ocean, the golfer must navigate another obstacle, a tree that splits the fairway into two sides. A bunker also challenges the golfer by acting as a buffer between the fairway and ocean running over 100 yards to an area just shy of the green.
For golfers in America who take their game seriously, Pebble Beach is always at the top of the list of most desired courses to play. Because of the course’s rich history and the incredible landscape that surrounds and dictates how the holes will be played, Pebble Beach will continue to be a top golfing destination.
2. TPC Sawgrass
Moving to the southeast area of the United States map, we find our next course on the list, the Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass. Opening in 1980, Sawgrass quickly became one of the hottest golf courses in America due to the challenging layout that uses Florida’s natural landmarks in enhancing the overall experience.
The Stadium Course at Sawgrass hosts the PGA Tour’s Players Championship every year, and one of the toughest courses to play in the U.S. The course designer, renowned golf course architect Pete Dye, created it with large mounds of grass that surround the holes creating a “stadium” effect when hosting tournaments. The resulting layout gives golfers a round that carries a continual stunning view of acres of perfectly manicured turf that integrates water, sand, and lush bermudagrass.
The signature hole at the Stadium Course is the island green par-3 17th hole. One of the world’s most recognizable holes on the PGA Tour, the 17th hole is a challenging test for any golfer, regardless of experience level.
When on the tee, the golfer is roughly 137 yards away from the hole, staring at a small green that is surrounded by water. The hole is so punitive for wayward shots off the tee that reports suggest that over 100,000 golf balls are pulled every year from the water that surrounds the 17th green. For the Players Championship, windy days will see the best golfers in the world collectively put 40-50 balls into the drink.
The gorgeous, yet intimidating, 17th hole plays into the overall Sawgrass layout with a strong use of water and sand to dissuade golfers from taking chances across the entire course. But as hard as the Stadium Course may play, with the far-reaching palm trees, deep pot bunkers, and water that runs alongside fairways, golfers are continually blown away by the vivid landscape that dominates the course.
3. Bandon Dunes
Moving to the Pacific Northwest, we find our third course on the list, the Bandon Dunes resort. With five distinctively different courses, Bandon Dunes is located in southwest Oregon along the Pacific Ocean. Harkening back to the birthplace of golf, Bandon Dunes takes the rich links-style history of Scotland and infuses it with a breathtaking shoreline for a golf experience that is unrivaled in America.
With each hole appearing as something from the back of a postcard, Bandon Dunes gets its name because it has been constructed roughly 100 feet above the surrounding Pacific Ocean on vast stretches of sand dunes. The picturesque views and natural cut of the golf courses at Bandon Dunes create a playing environment that is never dull and always awe-inspiring. There are no golf carts allowed on the premises (i.e., this means even beginners will have to carry their golf clubs), so the wild and unfettered natural surrounding are permitted to act as a border for a challenging round of golf.
Every June, the resort presents a Bandon Dunes Solstice challenge where golfers attempt to play 72 holes of golf at the resort in a single day. Golfers who complete this challenge will endure close to 26 miles of walking and roughly 15 hours of total play. Competitors in this challenge ignore the blisters on their feet because they’ve been treated to one of the most incredible golf environments that America has to offer.
Bandon Dunes is one of the most desired courses in the United States because no other place allows golfers to experience miles of sweeping and undeveloped shoreline with holes cut through meadows, dunes, and forest. Along with Pebble Beach and TPC at Sawgrass, Bandon Dunes has become a must-play for anyone who loves golf and who loves to travel to play it.
Author bio: Jordan Fuller is a golf enthusiast, who has spent the last 25 years on the golf course helping golfers of all levels improve their game. After coaching many players, he has decided to create an online resource that highlights his best advice to improve your skills at golf. It’s called Golf Influence.
Photo credit: 12019 / Pixabay
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Mary Jo Manzanares | Mary Jo Manzanares is a founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine proving informational and inspirational travel recommendations for curious Baby Boomer travelers. She has been a speaker at various industry events and has a personal travel blog at Traveling with MJ. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Mary Jo's top travel destinations are Italy, Portugal, and the Caribbean.