Which is the best public PGA Tour venue

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From TPC Sawgrass in the Southeast to Pebble Beach along the shores of the Pacific, the PGA Tour schedule is littered with incredible public golf courses. In this edition of Travel Punch Shots, TravelGolf.com senior writers Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker make their case for the best public PGA Tour venue.

By BRANDON TUCKER

Sure, we all want to play Pebble Beach Golf Links some day, and the resort boasts a price tag to reflect that. But no golf course on the PGA Tour circuit has skyrocketed in street cred the past few years like the South course at Torrey Pines.

A regular PGA Tour stop, this is the course that usually snaps Tiger Woods out of his winter hibernation, and with him comes the first real strong field of the season.

For the golf traveler, Torrey's selling point is this: Of all the current U.S. Open venues, Torrey probably has the best blend of affordability and access. It's a municipal course that allows non-residents to book tee times 90 days out. And you can include it as the feather in the cap of your golf trip to one of the world's great year-round golf markets.

Not only is Torrey Pines far less expensive than Pebble Beach, it's also on the low end of the PGA Tour public venues. Some of the courses that are pricier than Torrey (and aren't a major host) include TPC Sawgrass, TPC Blue Monster, TPC San Antonio, and Harbour Town.

And a round on the South will be filled with vivid, HD TV memories from the 2008 U.S. Open. This is the golf course that will be associated with this generation's greatest duel between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. And the extra day of playoff action gave us all a great familiarity with the golf course for when we eventually come ourselves.

I think we all know what not to do on the 13th hole, thanks to floppy Phil Mickelson's quadruple bogey in 2008 from the bottom of the slope leading up to the elevated green. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods rattled home an eagle putt on the same hole that will go down as a Top 10 shot in his career – and is sure to cause some (relative) high drama amongst your own foursome.

For non-residents, Torrey Pines isn't exactly a steal at $183-229, but it's less than half the cost of Pebble Beach. So you could play 18 holes, then enjoy a round on the next door North ($100-125) the following day, have drinks and a nice dinner, all for less than the $495 at Pebble. Now that's smart traveling.

By MIKE BAILEY

This one's easy.

If you polled America's golfers and told them they could play only one more round of golf in their lives, and it had to come from the list of public golf courses on the PGA Tour schedule, they would overwhelmingly check Pebble Beach Golf Links. It wouldn't be close, and it should be unanimous. Playing Pebble is simply magical.

Forget the $495 green fee and lodging requirement – that's not the issue here. And forget the criticism that if Pebble wasn't on the Monterey Peninsula, it would be an ordinary course. That's a moot point. Jack Neville and Douglas Grant designed the golf course around the coastline as it should have been. If it were somewhere else, it would be a different layout.

So with that said, the setting along Carmel Bay alone puts it ahead of 98 percent of all golf courses in the world. The land, sea and cliffs all factor into the experience, and in this case, dominate it. The scenery of San Diego's Torrey Pines is special, too, but it doesn't rank with standing on the tee at the short par-3 7th, wondering whether or not you should hit sand wedge or five-iron.

Sure, the opening hole lacks pizzazz, but look what it's up against: Starting with No. 4 golfers can hardly contain their excitement as they start to make their way along the coastline. It's a stretch of seven holes that's arguably superior to any other stretch on earth, including Augusta National.

And speaking of Augusta National, Pebble has the same mystique. Why? Because Pebble Beach is more than familiar to them. Its five U.S. Opens and the long history of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am mean we know just about every hole out there. Can we say that about Torrey Pines? Most golfers just know that it's on the ocean and that locals get to play for dirt cheap. What they know about Pebble Beach is that it's on the short list of places to play before you die.