Golf Digest's 'Top 50 Most Fun': New ranking snubbed some of my favorite courses

By Brandon TuckerAugust 24, 2012, 9:01 pm

Golf Digest, well-known for their Top 100 course rankings, have a new list out: the Top 50 Most Fun.

It's a cool new way to look at the rankings, coinciding with golf's governing bodies attempt to praise 'fun' and 'accessibility' over 'difficulty' and 'exclusivity.' Having said that, there are still a lot of familiar names from the Top 100 rankings atop this new genre. Pebble Beach earns the nod at No. 1 (some may not find the $500 green fee and slow play very fun), while Bandon Dunes Resort has a near-monopoly of the remaining top spots. Even expensive, exclusive Shadow Creek in Las Vegas cracks the Top 10.

However, I was particularly happy to see a sleeper pick, Nebraska's Wild Horse Golf Club, rated in the Top 10 at No. 5. Designed by the shapers of the prestigious Sand Hills, there may be no better $40 golf course facility in the world. And Coeur D'Alene, which I wrote about earlier this week, is certainly worthy of its spot at No. 20.

But enough praise already, on to the snubs!

Arizona is no fun? I've written before that the state of Arizona seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of Top 100 rankings. According to this new list, the golf-happy state has exactly ZERO fun golf courses (even, gasp, North Dakota has one).

I would rank We-Ko-Pa's two courses (particularly the Cholla) and also the spiritual beauty of Boulders South as plenty fun to play. The Tom Fazio-designed Ventana Canyon Mountain Course, which features one of the coolest par 3s in existence, is also a hoot.

Boulder Bunnies

These bunnies who live on Boulders South in Carefree find the course plenty fun. 

I'd also swap out a couple of Michigan layouts: Substitute the Gailes Course (once you play enough actual links, faux links aren't all that great. However, metro-Detroiters who don't have the coin for Scotland or Bandon will certainly have fun at the Gailes) in favor of Tullymore. 'Tully' (pictured top) has fantastic hole variety, where every tee presents a new look from the last. Also, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, mountainous Timberstone Golf Course is great, but nothing you can't find around Gaylord, which is a lot easier for most folks to find. If you're going to make it up to the U.P., seek out Greywalls, which has a fantastic, Mike Devries design that yields no flat lie and where the ball will take some funny bounces, sometimes off rock outcroppings. Balls trampolining off rock is definitely fun. 

I don't find Pete Dye-designed courses all that fun (unless you think giving your golf game a colonoscopy is a good time) and Whistling Straits is a brute. But the River Course at Blackwolf Run is my big exception. I adore the risk-reward options available on every hole, not to mention some of the finest parkland scenery around. I defy you to find me a better short par 4 than the riverside 9th.

As much as Oregon's hotspot of Bandon gets all the rater love these days, the central Oregon town of Bend is its own kind of golf mecca, and with infinitely more reliable weather. I adore the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn, and especially the back nine, which has back-to-back par 5s and a couple dynamite, drivable par 4s. Conditions are also flawless, and that's fun, right?

I'm also baffled Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course didn't make it on the list. The panelists must not hit power fades off the tee (most tee shots here call for one), nor did they order up a delicious, spicy bloody mary from the beverage cart gal. Or maybe they didn't notice the giant, natural wonder of a lake that is in view from virtually every hole on Edgewood. 

Or maybe they lost big at Harrah's with Charles Barkley the night before...

You're going to tell me Hawaii only has one fun course? Kapalua's Plantation Course is certainly a great, one-of-a-kind round of golf, but I've long trumpeted the Makai Golf Club at St. Regis Princeville an underrated Hawaii experience, especially after it's renovation and redesign. Several oceanfront holes on both sides, plus more beginner-friendly playability than the more sinister Prince Course next door, makes it my favorite overall golf experience in Hawaii, where 'fun' is everything. 

And as long as we're including short courses in the list, let's throw Kauai's 9-hole Kukuiolono in the mix. Where else can tourists and locals alike pay $8 to play shirtless amongst chickens in Hawaii?

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.