An enlightened guide to top courses and essential gear, plus sage words from PGA legend Gary Player
PRINCEVILLE AT HANALEI, KAUAI, HAWAII: Perched on the most remote of the Hawaiian Islands, the 45-hole Princeville resort provides the opportunity to hack divots and rattle the sticks in a setting straight out of an adventure movie. Afterward, you might sit with the stars of said movie, drinking signature cocktails on the resort’s famous Makana Terrace, or step downstairs to dine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kauai Grill.
MISSION HILLS HAINAN RESORT, HAIKOU, CHINA: The lure here is the chance to take on 10 wildly varied courses in a single visit to tropical Hainan Island, a.k.a. China’s Hawaii. The courses stretch in every direction, blanketing the landscape with walkable marvels like Blackstone, a tough-nutty 18 set atop an undulating bed of lava rock.
SWEETGRASS GOLF CLUB, HARRIS, MICH.: A truly think-y course designed by a former professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland, Sweetgrass features the full range of classic — and challenging — golf pleasures: a redan hole, a Biarritz hole, an island hole and a huge shared green at the close of both sides.
SALISH CLIFFS GOLF CLUB, SHELTON, WASH.: Debuting in 2011, Salish Cliffs is carved from the native forests of western Washington, on the Little Creek Casino Resort. The course, designed by Gene Bates, is meandering enough that every hole is an isolated, plush world unto itself. Meaning you go far to get there, then you go far all over again.
LONGABERGER, NASHPORT, OHIO: Built in large part for associates of the home-goods giant of the same name, Longaberger quickly became the top-rated public golf course in Ohio after it opened in 1999. The initial demand for tee times has since eased, so get in for a summer round and enjoy roaming these strangely wondrous Ohio farmlands.
CASCATA GOLF CLUB, BOULDER CITY, NEV.: The premier house course for Caesars Palace, Cascata is etched on a remarkable tumble of valleys, buttes and crests, and is sufficiently removed from the craps tables that you can forget your troubles with the hard eight. There are still some tough rolls out here, but they come on the greens, not the felt.
CINNAMON HILL GOLF COURSE, MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA: Situated on the 7,000-acre Rose Hall Resort, Cinnamon Hill offers a wide-open front nine with ocean views and a tight back nine that rises 300 feet into the mountains. And then there’s the pop culture significance: Johnny Cash’s former house looks down on the waterfall where Live and Let Die was filmed.
PRISTINE BAY RESORT, ROATAN, HONDURAS: Located on an island about 35 miles off the coast of Honduras, this 18-hole Pete Dye creation remains kind of a tropical secret. Signature Dye touches include a progression of holes that runs from the ocean to the mountains and back again, each with stellar views of this remote corner of the Caribbean.
JUMEIRAH GOLF ESTATES, DUBAI, U.A.E.: Jumeirah Estates is a Greg Norman masterpiece anchored by two equally challenging courses: Fire and Earth. The former tops out at 7,600 yards, the latter at 7,400. The desert air will help you cope with those distances — but there’s no escaping the monster 651-yard par-5 18th on the Earth course.
WHITE CLOUDS GOLF COURSE, SUN VALLEY, IDAHO: While there are 45 exquisite holes of golf in Sun Valley, the nine that compose this modest course are the ones worth traveling for. Set high on a ridge, White Clouds makes up for its lack of holes with breathtaking 360-degree mountaintop views. As the plaque on the 5th hole reads, “This is not all about golf.
PRO: JACK BARBER
Meridian Hills Country Club, Indianapolis (2009 National PGA Professional of the Year)
HOLE: 8TH AT PEBBLE BEACH (CALIFORNIA)
“Everyone’s seen it on television, but until you stand at the tee it’s hard to describe how many elements of this iconic hole confront you. Start with the wind, always the wind, then the blind tee shot, the cliff you have to get close to, the second shot over the water with its 200-foot elevation change. Then you have the unforgiving green. And all you need is four great golf shots. Great. Good is not good enough.”
PRO: STEVEN YOUNG
Golf director and teaching pro, Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta, Canada
HOLE: 17TH AT GOWAN BRAE GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB (NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA)
“A 243-yard par-3 with a deep, deep hogbacked green, this hole is a game-changer. The wind is generally into you; there’s water on the right. The safe play, a bailout left, leaves you with a tough pitch into a nasty green complex. I’ve seen more tournaments, more matches, more steady rounds thrown out of whack by this hole than any other. It’s a monster.”
PRO: SCOTT SCHROEDER
Head pro, Atlanta Country Club, Atlanta
HOLE: 9TH AT TOM FAZIO’S MOUNTAINTOP GOLF CLUB (NORTH CAROLINA)
“This hole is pro tough every time you play it. It’s long. A 491-yard par-4. You have to slam your first shot, reshape your second — generally with a long iron off a hanger lie — and carry a creek bed. Then you have to deal with a 57-foot-deep green with three distinct tiers. I’ve never seen a hole that asked so much of every type of golfer. It’ll wreck you.”