Cabot Cliffs photo by Evan Schiller
Remember when being a lover of the game wasn’t enough to keep up with all the new courses under construction? The build-a-course-a-day ethos of the 1990s led to excess inventory, so development slowed pace. What’s the upside? Now, the freshest fairways are spectacular from the get-go.
Some of the best golf courses in the world are in North America. And since newer is better, here are five newish courses worth making travel plans around if your golf swing aims for North American destinations…for now.
Photo by Larry Lambrecht
Gil Hanse has been on a roll. The designer of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio is slated to design the fifth course at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and a new resort course in Cabo San Lucas. Meanwhile, his Black course at Streamsong Resort was quickly praised as the best new course of the year after opening in September.
Hanse had 800 acres to choose from at this former phosphate mining site, replete with rolling, sandy dunescapes, dramatic hills, and lakes formed during its working life. Hanse transformed 250 of those acres into his grand-scale simulacrum of Royal Melbourne in the Australian Sandbelt region.
Adding the new routing to a resort that already has a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw track (the Red) and one by Tom Doak (the Blue), not to mention a luxurious 216-room lodge and cushy spa, makes a trip to the out-of-the-way Streamsong (an hour southeast of Tampa) seem a lot less remote.
Photo courtesy of Forest Dunes
THE LOOP AT FOREST DUNES
Speaking of Tom Doak and adding on, the acclaimed architect designed an 18-hole course to accompany the Tom Weiskopf gem already on the ground at Forest Dunes. The first full year was 2017, that gave the golf resort in Roscommon, Michigan 54 holes.
If it seems like something isn’t adding up, you need to know that the Doak course, The Loop, is a reversible golf course. One day players head out on the clockwise Black routing, the next they can take the counter-clockwise Red routing on the walking-only site.
Sound gimmicky? It is only in that no one has been bold enough to construct such a course before, unless revisiting the very roots of the game: the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland was originally played in two directions (and still is, once a year). And indeed, though the Loop sits in the midst of a state forest, it plays over wide-open, links-like, sandy ground.
Photo courtesy of Cabot Cliffs
The talented design team of Bill Coore and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw has done a little adding on with a new 18 that many say surpasses the original routing at Cabot Links in Inverness, on the west coast of Cape Breton, the vast island in northern Nova Scotia.
That’s saying something, since Rod Whitman’s eponymous Cabot Links course, only seven years old, is on most ranking lists as one of the world’s top 100 courses. But there’s no denying the sheer visual appeal of the new routing, also a true links course with its dramatic seaside setting, perched almost vertiginously in a panorama of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Also built on the site of a former mine (coal, in this case), the resort takes some effort to get to. However, no one complains about driving around in the splendid beauty of Cape Breton, except perhaps in winter.
Photo courtesy of Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club
If you’re ever in the valley of the sun, travel up to Wickenburg for one of the best golf courses in Arizona. About an hour northwest of downtown Phoenix, the Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club is an antique by the standards of the other courses on this list, opening in 2015. But it’s new enough that it’s still accepting some open play before becoming exclusively private to members at the western-styled resort community.
So, time’s a-wasting, since the Bill Brownlee-Wendell Pickett design was recently named the No. 1 course in Arizona by the readers and players of the Golf Advisor website. It’s a unique par-71 configuration in its mountainous desert setting, with six par-3s and five par-5s to go along with seven two-shotters.
(Arizona golfers can also look forward to a redesigned course at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, where 18 new holes will go into the imprint of the previously-27-hole course in late fall, under the aegis of designer Phil Smith.)
Photo courtesy of Danzante Bay
TPC DANZANTE BAY
Nestled within the 4,447-acre Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto destination resort community is a spanking-new Rees Jones creation, also recently added to the Tournament Players Club Network, the fourth international facility in its collection of tournament-worthy courses.
Golf is but one of many amenities at the resort but it’s certainly the newest, having fully opened only in December. On the east coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Danzante Bay plays along canyon floors and among the rocky landscape of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains, with 11 ocean-facing holes. It’s a kaleidoscope of desert, mountain, and sandy dunes.
The round builds to a remarkable finish—the par-3 17th hole requiring a shot to a cliffside green 250 feet above the crashing waves. This promises to be one of the most-photographed golf holes in the world, especially after one has dunked a few balls into the Sea of Cortez. Vaya con Dios, mi amigo.