Top 10 Ocean Golf Courses

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2009, 5:00 pm

royal dornoch top 10
 
No. 10 ' Royal Dornoch, Scotland
 
The third-oldest golf links in Scotland, Royal Dornoch was the home course of renowned golf architect, Donald Ross before he emigrated to the United States. Located in the remote Highlands of Scotland, Dornoch has never hosted a British Open but is widely considered one of the great links in golf. Tom Watson described his experience playing Royal Dornoch for the first time in 1980 as, The most fun Ive ever had on a golf course.
 
Mike Johnson, Golf Digest: When people think about playing golf in Scotland, they always think about going to the British Open courses. You have to have a little bit of adventure in you to want to go up and play Royal Dornoch but, boy, is it worth every mile of the trip.
 
Jeff Babineau, Golfweek: Alan Grant, whos a greeter at the Skibo castle down the road, says you really havent played golf until youve putted out under a full moon at 3:00 a.m. At Royal Dornoch. And I think hes right. If you havent been there, you ought to get there if golfs in your heart.
 
Rex Hoggard, GolfChannel.com: Every single shot has a wow factor to it. You step to it and you think, Well, thats neat, I could go there and here. its a very, very good golf course in a great setting, so its the best of both worlds.
 

old head top 10
 
No. 9 ' Old Head, Ireland
 
Situated on a promontory in southern County Cork, Ireland, Old Head rises several hundred feet above the Atlantic Ocean, making it one of the most stunning venues in all of golf. The cliffside links will remind many people of Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point. It features five par-5s and nine of its holes play along the cliff tops, providing an equally spectacular and intimidating challenge for golfers.
 
Jeff Babineau: Theyve literally had people hit balls over those cliffs and drop to their knees clinging the ground out there. Its a spectacular setting for a golf course and its really breathtaking to watch golf and nature dovetail like that.
 
Rex Hoggard: It looks like someone just plopped some land in the middle of the Irish Sea. I spent all day trying to walk away from the cliffs because I would get dizzy every time I walked over there next to them. Im not afraid of heights, but I got vertigo playing that golf course because youre literally walking on cliffs and it must be 300 feet down to the water.
 


ballybunion top 10
 
No. 8 ' Ballybunion, Ireland
 
Founded in 1893, this magnificent, nearly treeless links design has attracted many acclaimed golfers to southwestern Ireland, including five-time British Open champion Tom Watson, as a well as Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino. Rolling fairways, giant dunes and heavily-contoured greens put a premium on shotmaking and accuracy, and give the course a wild yet dramatic look.
 
Mike Johnson: As people become more familiar with Irish golf over the years, Ballybunion has become the beacon of golf for people going there. The graveyard sitting off to the right of the first tee gives new meaning to Youre dead if you go right. They also have an amazing caddy program, which really adds when youre playing golf overseas.
 
Brian Hewitt, GolfChannel.com: I covered an Irish Open here and was hugely disappointed because the wind didnt blow all four days and the best players in Europe were all there. Sergio, Olazabal, all these guys that had every shot in the book. And I was there all four days and you never got to see them hit those shots because the wind wasnt blowing.
 
Jeff Babineau: I dont think Ive ever played Ballybunion when it hasnt been raining sideways and every hole is into the wind. And I remember just being soaking wet, not having Waterproofs last time we played. Its funny, so many of these great courses are on trailer parks and Ballybunion is no exception. I remember playing in the pouring rain and this old-timer raises a pint to me from inside the trailer and I wanted to be inside that trailer so bad.
 


tralee top 10
 
No. 7 ' Tralee Golf Club, Ireland
 
The first European course designed by Arnold Palmer, this seaside links along the Kerry coastline is a must-play for those golfers making the journey to southwest Ireland. Nearly every hole offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the white sandy beaches below, prompting Palmer to declare, I designed the first nine but surely God designed the back nine.
 
Arnold Palmer: Well, we started in the town of Tralee in Ireland and they had a golf course in the town. They wanted to build another golf course on the same location. We told them that we would help them do whatever they wanted to do as far as building a golf course is concerned, but that they needed to find more land. Well, they did and called us back and the land was on the ocean and it was -- well, it was beautiful.
 
I suppose the back nine is one of the most interesting nine holes. It has some great par-5s and a couple par-3s that are very exciting. It goes right along the ocean and it requires some pretty good shot-making to play the golf course.
 
Matt Ginella, Golf Digest: I think the 12th hole at Tralee is one of the best holes in golf. The approach shot that you have to hit over a canyon right before you have to hit over a canyon on the 13th hole, those back-to-back holes are a real indication that youre on a championship golf course. Its fantastic.
 


cypress point top 10
 
No. 6 ' Cypress Point, California
 
Designed by Alister MacKenzie and opened in 1928, Cypress Point Club is widely regarded as one of the most exclusive clubs in all of golf. MacKenzie's design is considered a masterful blend of course architecture and natural beauty; holes 15, 16 and 17 make up one of the most picturesque three-hole stretches in the world. Up until 1991, it was part of the rotation of courses which hosted the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
Mark Soltau: Theres a mystique about it. Its almost hard to put into words. Sandy Tatum, the former USGA president once called it the Sistine Chapel of golf, and thats not a stretch.
 
Jaime Diaz, Golf World: Theres a great feeling of the ocean. You feel like youre in this wonderful little alcove with the spray of the ocean, the Pacific kind of hugging you the whole time. Its really cool.
 
Kay Cockerill, Golf Channel: If you could die and go to heaven and play golf every day, youd play a place like Cypress.
 
Mike Johnson: Cypress No. 15 and 16 as a pair are pretty cool, but theyre very different golf holes. I mean, 15 is this short little par-3 that is about as scenic a hole as you are ever going to want to play.
 
Hal Sutton: Ive never stood on the 16th tee that I didnt take a deep breath, both because it was such a hard shot and second because it was so beautiful.
 
Gary Van Sickle, Sports Illustrated: Probably the most famous shot ever hit here was when Jack Lemmon was playing with Clint Eastwood, Greg Norman and Peter Jacobsen. Lemmon hit a ball down on the ice plant on the edge of a cliff and they formed a human chain. They all could have been seriously injured but, you know, anything for Jack Lemmon. He was a great guy. What you didnt see was on Lemmons next shot he goes out in the fairway, he shanks his next shot right back into the ocean. It was great.
 


kiawah ocean course top 10
 
No. 5 ' Kiawah Island Ocean Course, South Carolina
 
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort was designed by Pete and Alice Dye, and opened in 1991. Later that year it hosted the Ryder Cup, in which the US defeated Europe, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. The Ocean course also hosted the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, and in 2012 the PGA Championship will be held here. It is considered by many to be one of the most difficult courses in the world, particularly when the wind blows.
 

Take a video tour of Kiawah Resort
Carol Mann, LPGA Tour: My first exposure to the Kiawah Ocean course was the 91 Ryder Cup. Ill never forget Mark Calcavecchia, Colin Montgomerie, Ill never forget those players going through the 17th hole and coming out with ego stains and ego bruises.
 
Pete Dye: Normally with a southeast breeze 17 is a pretty simple par-3, but with the wind out of the northwest it was an entirely different golf course [during the Ryder Cup]. It really changed the whole atmosphere of that tournament.
 
Nick Faldo: Kiawah, when we went for the Ryder Cup was so wild and rugged. It was a really difficult golf course. The bunkers were all overgrown, we had waste areas which were true waste areas, literally 20 feet from the pin. Thats the hardest thing, when youre looking at the pin right there and you cant get up and down.
 
Pete Dye: I think it could be just as hard as any golf course in the world, then the next day somebody will play it when the winds very docile and they say, Pete, I had a good time out there. But, boy, when the wind shows up out at Kiawah, why, it shows its head.
 
Nick Faldo: That started out as natural land and Pete literally bulldozed it flat and then started all again because he wanted every green and every tee to see the ocean. So that was a recreated links, which is pretty clever to do.
 
Pete Dye: One of the main things of any golf course is the ambiance, what you can see around the golf course. And when youve got the Atlantic Ocean and the next thing out-of-bounds is Spain that does something for you. I mean, you cant do that too often.
 
Guy Yocum, Golf Digest: Ive been stunned that the Ryder Cup has not gone back to Kiawah Island. Theres just trouble everywhere on that golf course. The wind always blows. Its the best course for drama that Ive ever seen. Theyve got to go back there.
 


bandon top 10
 
No. 4 ' Bandon Dunes, Oregon
 
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is located on the southern coast of Oregon and consists of four courses: Bandon Dunes (1999), Pacific Dunes (2001), Bandon Trails (2005) and Old MacDonald (2010). Bandon Dunes was designed by David McLay Kidd, who at the time was a relative newcomer to the course design business. Pacific Dunes was designed by Tom Doak and is widely considered to be the best course at the resort. Old MacDonald is set to open in 2010, though it's opening in 2009 for preview rounds. Read more
 
Matt Ginella: You almost need a Sherpa to get to Bandon Dunes. A GPS is no match for the roads you have to take to get to Bandon Dunes.
 
Alex Miceli, Golf Channel: If you were dropped down blindfolded on these golf courses, youd have no idea you were on the North American continent.
 
Val Skinner, Golf Channel: Its like a Royal Dornoch or a Ballybunion, but its in Oregon.
 
Beth Ann Baldry, Golfweek: The best thing about Bandon is even when youve hit your ball and its bounced once on the green and gone off into the Pacific over the cliff, by the time you get up there and you realize your ball is off the face of the planet, you cant even get upset because its so beautiful.
 
Brian Hewitt: The thing about Bandon Dunes is that was the first course there. But the other course, Pacific Dunes, designed by Tom Doak, may be my favorite golf course in the entire world.
 
Ryan Herrington, Golf Digest: What Pacific Dunes has going for it when you get there is you cant believe its something thats been designed over the last ten years; you would think it had been there since golf started. You think it would be older than Pebble Beach. Youve got the water along the Pacific Ocean that just creates the ambiance that this is the perfect place to play golf.
 

turnberry top 10
 
No. 3 ' Turnberry, Scotland
 
Turnberry will host the 2009 Open Championship for what will be the fourth time (1977, 1986, 1994). One of the most dramatic Opens of all time occurred in 1977 at Turnberry, where Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson dueled. Watson eventually prevailed by one shot. Turnberry is home to a full-service five-star resort, and offers scenic views of the Alisa Craig.
 
Matt Ginella: Ive played a lot of ocean courses in 13 years of covering golf. But my favorite is Turnberry. It feels a lot less commercial than a Pebble Beach. Ive played it in all forms of weather with wind, with rain, and perfect sun. Turnberrys the greatest golf course Ive ever played. Its got the history.
 
Alex Miceli: After you get through the 2nd or 3rd hole, its just pure, absolute links. And the other thing is theres so much wind on the west side of Scotland. Its amazing how difficult that golf course can be. At any time it can rear up and bite you. And I think its much more difficult than most of the links courses on the Rota.
 
Matt Ginella: I played it in the worst weather conditions. We teed off in a driving rain. By the 5th hole we had shed the rain gear and the sun came out. And then the last six holes we played in a pretty good wind, so we essentially had everything Mother Nature could throw at us.
 
Gary Van Sickle: My favorite spot is standing up by the green on number six. Its like on a headland. You just feel like youre standing on top of the world. To me thats the greatest spot on earth in golf.
 


st andrews top 10
 
No. 2 ' St. Andrews, Scotland
 
The Home of Golf has hosted 27 Open Championships dating back to 1873, more than any other venue. Jack Nicklaus described winning at St. Andrews as my greatest dream come true, while Tiger Woods said of the Old Course, Its my favorite course in the world. Originally 22 holes, the course starts and finishes in the town of St Andrews, the 18th fairway turning toward the famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Clubhouse. More than 100 bunkers dot the 600-year-old links, with 14 holes sharing very large double-greens.
 
Doug Sanders: St. Andrews is one of the great golf courses. It cannot change just in a week or a day. It can change within hours. One day I hit a driver and I think a 2-iron to the 1st hole and put it in the water. Next day I hit a driver and sand wedge and knocked it over the green. So thats how much the wind can blow and play the difference.
 
And, you know, it brings back a little memory of that old putt I missed there at the last hole to win the British Open. But I dont think about that much anymore. Sometimes I go as high as five minutes without even thinking about it.
 
Ryan Herrington: The history and tradition thats there, you can almost feel the ghosts coming through off the water when the wind blows. Weve seen so many iconic things happen there in the past. Watching Jack Nicklaus actually retire there to me is as amazing a thing as anything.
 
Mike Johnson: You stand on that green and the R&A building is in the background and you feel these 500 years of accumulated history kind of wearing down on you.
 
Jerry Foltz, Golf Channel: Dont really consider your career complete if you dont win a British open at St. Andrews. That was Tigers first British. It completed the career grand slam. Those who doubted him before I think all of a sudden thought, Well, we might be watching the greatest player ever.
 
Alex Miceli: Theres not a place, a venue in the entire world where the experience of going up the 18th fairway is the same as it is at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
 


pebble beach top 10
 
No. 1 ' Pebble Beach, California
 
Opened in 1919 as part of a real-estate development, Pebble Beach is widely regarded as the best golf course in the world. Jack Nicklaus once said, 'If I only had one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach.' It is set amidst the dramatic coastline of the Monterey Peninsula, which is home to diverse wildlife species, including whales, dolphins and sea otters. It has hosted four US Opens, including Tiger Woods' record-setting 15-shot victory of 2000, in which he broke or tied nine US Open records. It will once again host the US Open in 2010.
 

Take a video tour of Pebble Beach
Brian Hewitt: Its the most visually distracting golf course in the world. Something might be going on with a sea lion or somebody may be walking along on the beach or just the colors may overwhelm you.
 
Gary Van Sickle: My favorite spot is standing up by the green on number six. Its on a headland. The 7th green is right to your side. Theres water on three sides. You just feel like youre standing on top of the world. To me, thats the greatest spot on earth in golf.
 
Martin Davis, The American Golfer: 8, which Nicklaus called the greatest par-4 in golf, and it might be. A second shot thats pure terror over the cliffs to the green.
 
Mark Soltau: I remember the 2000 U.S. Open when Tiger was playing and he hit his tee shot into the ocean [on 18]. Little did we know he only had one golf ball left. So had he hit another shot in the water, he easily could have been disqualified. And of course, he then went on to win by 15 shots.
 
Andy Bean: Normally its a three-shot hole. With the right conditions you can always knock it on. If its calm, you can knock it on in two. But when the weathers bad, when the winds coming from the north, youre wanting to get it there in three.
 
Ryan Herrington: Say what you will about how difficult a golf course it is. Theres no setting thats as picturesque and as worthwhile to be at as Pebble Beach.
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Post-Masters blitz 'exhausting' but Reed ready for return

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 8:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – After briefly suffering from First-Time Major Winner Fatigue, Patrick Reed is eager to get back inside the ropes this week at the Zurich Classic.

The media blitz is an eye-opening experience for every new major champ. Reed had been told to expect not to get any sleep for about a week after his win, and sure enough he jetted off to New York City for some sightseeing, photo shoots, baseball games, late-night talk shows, phone calls and basketball games, sitting courtside in the green jacket at Madison Square Garden next to comedian Chris Rock, personality Michael Strahan and rapper 2 Chainz. Then he returned home to Houston, where the members at Carlton Woods hosted a reception in his honor.

With Reed’s head still spinning, his wife, Justine, spent the better part of the past two weeks responding to each of the 880 emails she received from fans and well-wishers.

“It’s been a lot more exhausting than I thought it’d be,” he said Wednesday at TPC Louisiana, where he’ll make his first start since the Masters.

It’s a good problem to have, of course.

Reed was already planning a family vacation to the Bahamas the week after Augusta, so the media tour just took its place. As many directions as he was pulled, as little sleep as he got, Reed said, “We still had a blast with it.”

There are few places better to ease into his new world than at the Zurich, where he’ll partner with Patrick Cantlay for the second year in a row.

Reed wants to play well, not only for himself but also his teammate. After all, it could be an important week for Cantlay, who is on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s radar after a victory last fall. That didn’t earn him any Ryder Cup points, however – he sits 38th in the standings – so performing well here in fourballs and foursomes could go a long way toward impressing the captain.

“There’s maybe a little extra if we play well,” Cantlay said, “but I’m just trying to play well every week.” 

Reed got back to work on his game last Tuesday. He said that he’s prepared, ready to play and looking forward to building off his breakthrough major.

“A lot of guys have told me to just be careful with your time,” he said. “There will be a lot of things you didn’t have to do or didn’t have in the past that are going to come up.

“But first things first, you’ve got to go out and grind and play some good golf and focus on golf, because the time you stay and not focus on golf will be the time you go backward. That’s nothing any of us want. We all want to improve and get better.”

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Success and failure more than wins and losses

By Rex HoggardApril 25, 2018, 7:04 pm

It was a vulnerable moment for James Hahn that was driven by emotion and unflinching self-examination.

Hahn had just dropped a tough decision to Patton Kizzire, losing on the sixth extra hole at January’s Sony Open, so the feelings were raw and his mind was still digesting the missed opportunity.

“I feel like losing sticks with me longer than winning,” he allowed.

Put another way, Hahn, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, acknowledged that he hates losing more than he likes winning, which is all at once understanding for an elite athlete and curious coming from a professional golfer.

Tiger Woods has played 334 Tour events in his career and won 79 times. That’s a 24-percent winning clip, which would get you sent to the minor leagues in professional baseball but is the benchmark for greatness in golf.

Perhaps Jack Nicklaus is an even more apropos example, considering that the Golden Bear played 164 majors in his career and won 18, more than any other player. Even if you edit that scorecard to only count Nicklaus’ Grand Slam starts during his prime, let’s say through the 1986 season when he won his last major, that’s a .166 batting average.

“When it comes to golf it’s tough to have that mentality, because you lose a lot more than you win. Even Tiger in his hay day was losing a lot more than he was winning,” Wesley Bryan said. “I definitely hate losing, but there’s a caveat: I hate losing to my brother more than I like winning.”

But the statistical reality of golf doesn’t discount Hahn’s take, it simply suggests there’s a more nuanced way of defining how the win/loss column impacts Tour types.



In the case of Nicklaus, it’s not just those 18 majors that assures his spot as one of the greatest; it’s also his 19 runner-up finishes in Grand Slam starts that pads his resume. Although Nicklaus is often reluctant to revisit those near misses, and there are a few of those also-rans for which he’d passionately embrace a cosmic mulligan, there’s something to be said for simply having the opportunity.

“I hate losing, losing stinks, but at least if you put yourself there it’s better than if you didn’t put yourself there,” explained Billy Horschel, a four-time winner on Tour. “We lose a lot, we lose more than any other professional athlete. Do you get accustomed to losing? Yeah maybe, but you hate not having the chance to at least win.”

Horschel isn’t making excuses or giving himself psychological cover, he’s simply being realistic. Even the best seasons, like Justin Thomas’ five-victory outing in 2017 that included a major triumph (PGA Championship) and Tour Player of the Year honors, features what in any other sport would be considered a losing record (he played 25 events).

Even Woods, who for much of his career adhered to a strict “second sucks” mindset, has found some solace in moral victories following multiple injuries and medical setbacks in recent years.

“We’re all so competitive out here and when you’re going head-to-head like that you’re wanting to win so bad,” Harris English said. “Losing sucks, but with golf you lose a whole lot more than you win. You’ve got to be a pretty good loser.”

Success in golf is relative and requires a subtle scale to measure progress. For many, a top-10 finish is all the validation they need to push forward, while for others, like Horschel, progress is measured by winning opportunities.

The joy of victory and pain of defeat is evident each Sunday on Tour, the emotions often etched into a player’s face with equal clarity. But for many, simply making or missing the cut can produce just as much emotion.

“If you miss a cut you don’t have a chance to win, that’s the worst feeling in the world,” Horschel said. “I could lose in a playoff, like to Jason Day [at the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson, which Horschel won], that would’ve sucked, but I don’t think it would have sucked as much as me missing the cut. I hate not having a chance.”

The fine line between victory and defeat can also be defined on a much more personal level for some. In other sports, you are what your record says you are, but in golf you can be what the opportunity provided. Although it’s a fine line with infinite shades of success and failure, there is a notion in golf that sometimes you lose an event and sometimes you’re beaten.

It was a distinction that Hahn at the Sony Open had little interest in, but with time can allow a player to make an à la carte assessment that’s emotionally detached from what the box score may say.

“It’s all about you giving it your all,” English said. “If you did everything you could, if you hit the shots you wanted to, if you hit the putts you wanted to, under that situation that’s all you can do. If someone outplays you, so be it.”

Hahn’s point is no less valid, even the game’s greatest contend you learn more from defeat than you do victory, and it’s competitive nature to, as he explained, hate losing more than you like winning. But in professional golf defining what’s a win and what’s a loss, is very much a sliding scale.

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Listen up: All the walk-up songs for Zurich Classic teams

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 6:28 pm

Teams that make it to the weekend at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be accompanied by walk-up music to the first tee. The top 35 teams will qualify for weekend play. Here's a look at what the two-man teams have chosen:

Team                                         Song                                      Artist                                       
William McGirt/Sam Burns Callin’ Baton Rouge Garth Brooks
Kevin Na/Byeong Hun An Make ’em say Uhh Master P
Chris Kirk/J.T. Poston Crazy Train Ozzy Osbourne
Chez Reavie/Lucas Glover For Whom the Bell Tolls Metallica
Martin Piller/Joel Dahmen Lovumba Daddy Yankee
K.J. Choi/Charlie Wi Gangnam Style PSY
Ryan Armour/Johnson Wagner Enter Sandman Metallica
C.T. Pan/Zac Blair Half Time Ying Yang Twins
Tyrone Van Aswegen/Retief Goosen Africa Toto
Tom Hoge/J.J. Henry Right Now Van Halen
Shawn Stefani/John Rollins Thunderstruck AC/DC
Tony Finau/Daniel Summerhays Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing) Zapp & Roger
Keith Mitchell/Stephan Jaeger Pizza Guy Touch Sensitive
Ben Silverman/Matt Atkins Enter Sandman Metallica
Zach Johnson/Jonathan Byrd Thunderstruck AC/DC
Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay Eye of the Tiger Survivor
Greg Chalmers/Cameron Percy Down Under Men at Work
Keegan Bradley/Jon Curran Shipping up to Boston Dropkick Murphys
Brendan Steele/Jamie Lovemark California Love Tupac
Charley Hoffman/Nick Watney California Love Tupac
Billy Horschel/Scott Piercy Young Forever Jay Z ft. Mrs. Hudson
Cody Gribble/John Peterson Careless Whisper George Michael
Steve Stricker/Jerry Kelly As Good As I Once Was Toby Keith
Chris Stroud/Brian Stuard Enter Sandman Metallica
Sergio Garcia/Rafa Cabrera Bello The Best Tina Turner
Kevin Tway/Kelly Kraft Gucci Gang Lil Pump
D.A. Points/Kyle Thompson Working for the Weekend Loverboy
Mac Hughes/Corey Conners Big League Tom Cochrane & Red Rider
Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley Circle of Life Carmen Twillie
Shane Lowry/Padraig Harrington Beautiful Day U2
Russell Knox/Martin Laird Flower of Scotland  
Gary Woodland/Daniel Berger Forever Drake
Brandon Harkins/Lanto Griffin Started From the Bottom Drake
Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown Slippery Migos
Andrew Landry/Talor Gooch Big Poppa Notorious BIG
Jason Day/Ryan Ruffels Down Under Men at Work
Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson Gold Spandau Ballet
Matt Every/Sam Saunders Running With the Devil Van Halen
Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan DNA Kendrick Lamar
Emiliano Grillo/Peter Uihlein Mi Gente (Remix) J Balvin, Willy William, Busta K.
Jamie Donaldson/Ross Fisher Sweet Disposition The Temper Trap
Harold Varner III/Robert Garrigus Ebony and Ivory Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
Alex Cejka/Ben Crane Here I Go Again Whitesnake
Abraham Ancer/Roberto Diaz Mexico Lindo y Querido Vicente Fernandez
Xinjun Zhang/Zecheng Dou Believe in Myself Zero Point Band
Lilia Vu, Collin Morikawa, Andrea Lee Getty Images

College season one for the record books

By Nicole RaeApril 25, 2018, 4:50 pm

March Madness may be over, but in the college golf world, the madness is just beginning.

With NCAA Division I Regionals the next two weeks, championship season is officially underway, which means it’s time for college golf to again swing into the spotlight. And rightfully so. This is turning out to be a record-breaking season, and the excitement around this year’s NCAA Championships is brewing.

In this wrap-around college campaign, five different NCAA Division I men’s teams have won four or more events. Oklahoma State leads the way with eight wins, seven of which came in consecutive starts to tie the school’s single-season winning streak, set in 1986-87. The most wins in one season for the Cowboys is 10, and with a home-course advantage at this year’s NCAA Championships, they’re setting themselves up for a good shot at another record – and a national title.

On the women’s side, three teams have notched half-a-dozen wins each. Arkansas won the SEC Championship for the first time in program history to earn their sixth victory of the year, while Southern California has won six times with four freshmen in their starting lineup. Top-ranked UCLA captured its sixth win at the Pac-12 Championship by a 12-shot margin, leaving the last three national champions coughing in the dust.


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Much of UCLA’s success this season can be credited to powerhouse junior Lilia Vu. She captured four individual titles in as many starts earlier this season, a repeat of the feat she also accomplished last year. Along with being the top-ranked amateur in the world, her most recent victory etched her name in the record books, setting a Bruins women’s golf record for most career wins (8) and 54-hole scoring record (14 under par).

Stanford’s Andrea Lee has also been on the record-breaking trend. The 2017 Freshman of the Year set a new Cardinal freshman scoring average last season, and is currently on track to break the sophomore scoring record this season. Lee is just one win shy of tying the Stanford women’s career victories record of eight, and she hasn’t even finished her second full season.

College golfers are getting better and better, and they’ve got the scoring averages to prove it.

The Golfstat Cup is an annual award given at the end of the season to the men’s and women’s collegiate golfers with the lowest adjusted scoring average who played a minimum of 20 stroke-play rounds.

It’s no surprise that Vu leads the women’s side, with a scoring average of 69.95. What is surprising, however, is how much scoring averages are improving. Ten years ago, Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst won the award with a scoring average of 71.00. Another decade before that, in 1998, fellow Blue Devil Jenny Chuasiriporn led the standings with a 72.94 scoring average – nearly three strokes higher than Vu. In the 2017-18 season, the entire top 10 in scoring average fall below a 71.00.

The men are faring well, themselves. California junior Collin Morikawa leads the Golfstat Cup standings with a 68.67 scoring average. PGA Tour superstar Rickie Fowler took the top spot in 2008 with a 71.11 average at Oklahoma State, a number that would rank 70th in the standings today. Other notable winners of the Golfstat Cup include Tiger Woods (70.61 average in 1995-96), Luke Donald (70.45 average in 1998-99), and Jordan Spieth (70.92 average in 2012-13). Morikawa’s average is nearly two shots better than all three.

To put it in perspective, the PGA Tour average score this season is 71.46 and the LPGA tour’s average is 72.17. While courses and set up on the pro ranks are vastly different than at collegiate events, it’s no wonder we’ve seen an influx of young players leaving school early to pursue a professional career after proving they can score low – and win – amongst their peers. Sam Burns (LSU), Cameron Champ (Texas A&M), John Oda (UNLV), and Joaquin Niemann are just a few notable names who chose to forego their degree for a shot at a Tour card this past year. Collectively, they’ve already earned over $887,000.

As the regular college season comes to a close in the coming weeks, our attention inevitably will turn towards which standout amateurs could be The Next Big Thing and make their mark in the professional world. For the players slashing NCAA records this season, though, long-term success is secondary, at the moment. What’s primary in their minds? Stillwater, Oklahoma, and a national championship trophy.