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.
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?