Capital Conundrum: Which destination is the golf capital of the United States?

By Jason DeeganJune 28, 2012, 11:45 am

The PGA Tour is in our nation's capital this week for the AT&T National, which begs the question: Which destination is our country's golf capital?

A handful of golf destinations claim to be the golf capital of America - or even the world - and plenty more can throw their hat in the ring as contenders.

It’s hard not to recognize established golf resorts like Kohler, Kiawah Island or Bandon Dunes, while other golf-rich destinations like Hilton Head Island, San Diego, Orlando all have strong cases. 

So which destination is in fact America’s Golf Capital? Here are seven finalists: 

The Monterey Peninsula: I’ve long trumpeted this special spot in northern California as the best golf destination in the world, not just America. Pebble Beach Golf Links alone has the scenery, history and swagger to carry the moniker, but Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill, Quail Lodge and ultra-private clubs like Cypress Point and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club make up a deep roster of places to play. Those to say the place is too pricey have never played Pacific Grove, Del Monte (the oldest course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi River), Poppy Hills and the Bayonet and Blackhorse courses in Seaside. 

Pinehurst: The Sandhills of North Carolina are another place filled with history and charm, especially the village of Pinehurst. All the destination lacks is the ocean. The recent redesign of Donald Ross’ Pinehurst No. 2 has rejuvenated Pinehurst Resort. The No. 4, No. 7 and No. 8 courses are just as good as No. 2 in my opinion. Smaller resorts like Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club and Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club – and the wild look of Tobacco Road by Mike Strantz – can keep golfers busy for a week or more.

Myrtle Beach: The “Grand Strand” – a stretch of roughly 90 miles from Pawley’s Plantation, S.C., up into North Carolina – once boasted more than 115 courses. That number has been trimmed to around 90, but that’s still enough inventory to be the self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of the World,” a slogan trotted out by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. I call this place an “everyman” kind of golf destination. It’s affordable and loaded with convenience, making it ideal for buddy trips of all sizes. Resorts, restaurants, bars, entertainment and courses can be found seemingly on every block.

Phoenix-Scottsdale.: The Valley of the Sun could probably proclaim itself America’s “Winter Golf Capital.” Outside of southern California and southern Florida, it’s probably got the best golf weather in the country from October through April. Heavyweight clubs – think Troon North, Grayhawk, Talking Stick, TPC Scottsdale, We-Ko-Pa, The Boulders – compete every day to impress customers with great service and awesome desert courses in prime condition. In summer, the rates drop significantly for value-hunters still looking to bag a trophy course.

Northern Michigan: The Gaylord Golf Mecca calls itself “America’s Summer Golf Capital,” but we’ll lump in northern Michigan as a whole for this piece. Maybe I’m biased because I live in Michigan, but this is my second favorite golf destination in the States. What it lacks in high-end restaurants and nightlife, it makes up for with comfortable summer temperatures, a rustic backwoods vibe, cool beach towns like Traverse City, Harbor Springs and Charlevoix and plenty of great golf resorts (Boyne Mountain and Highlands, Bay Harbor, Treetops, Crystal Mountain, Shanty Creek Resorts, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, Arcadia Bluffs, The Homestead) and standalone courses (Forest Dunes, Black Lake, True North).

Naples: Naples also proclaims to be the “Golf Capital of the World.” This ritzy, sleepy southwest Florida enclave does boast the second-most golf holes per capita than any other community in the country. I’m not a fan of Florida’s flat terrain and how developers constantly use all the best beachfront property for real estate and resorts instead of golf holes, but there’s no arguing there’s plenty of strong golf at Tiburon, TPC Treviso Bay and Old Corkscrew, along with wonderful restaurants up and down Tamiami Trail and a vibrant art and shopping scene.

Palm Springs: I hesitate to put Palm Springs here, because this desert oasis might be past its prime. It’s not as much of a Hollywood hangout anymore and the bursting of the real estate bubble has decimated Coachella Valley, putting many of the golf courses in financial limbo. But there’s just too much history and too many fine resorts, restaurants and courses – Indian Wells, PGA West’s TPC Stadium course, La Quinta, etc. – to ignore another vacation hideaway known for great winter weather.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).

Jason Dufner in the third round of the 2018 Honda Classic. Getty Images

Dufner wears "BOSS" hat while playing with Tiger

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:20 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jason Dufner doesn’t have a hat sponsor this year, freeing him up to wear whatever lid he wants.

That’s why he’s already worn caps with camouflage, American flags and The Notorious B.I.G.’s face.

He saved his most audacious look for Saturday at the Honda Classic – a blue cap with “BOSS” and five gold stars on the front.

“Perfect time,” Dufner said with a smile, “playing with Tiger (Woods).”

And where did he find the cap, which generated plenty of buzz on social media?

At Rickie Fowler’s house, of course.

“There’s not much behind it,” Dufner said. “I don’t have a sponsorship this year, so I’m doing whatever I want to do. This one was laying in Rickie’s house last night, so I grabbed it.”