Great new public-access golf courses are welcoming golfers this year all around the country. Some opened in the spring, others will open later this year. All are worthy of golfers willing to travel for new experiences!
SHEPHERD’S ROCK FARMINGTON, PENNSYLVANIA
World Golf Hall of Fame member Pete Dye remains ageless (not to mention gainfully employed) at 91. In July, he will open a second course at the luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania, little more than an hour from Pittsburgh. Shepherd’s Rock will join his celebrated Mystic Rock course, which has been ranked among the top 100 public courses in the country. Built on rolling terrain in the Allegheny Mountains, the front nine of Shepherd’s Rock is lined with hardwoods, necessitating precision from the tee and careful approach shots. Meanwhile, the inward nine widens with inspiring vistas of the Laurel Highlands. Large grass mounds, wetlands, rumpled fairways and fortified greens ensure that this nonagenarian hasn’t lost his mischievous nature and still enjoys making golfers sweat. Nemacolin.com, 866-344-6957.
STREAMSONG RESORT BOWLING GREEN, FLORIDA
Florida golf brings to mind condo-lined fairways, man-made water hazards and tight course boundaries delineating the playing fields from adjacent backyards. However, Streamsong Resort, in the central portion of the state, about an hour east of Tampa, upended the notion of golf in the Sunshine State. The resort is a stunning transformation of what at one time was a phosphate-mining site, and the 16,000-acre property, with hills, sand blow-outs and numerous lakes and streams, is unsullied by housing or other developments. The first two courses at Streamsong, the Blue and the Red (the former designed by Tom Doak…the latter by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore) quickly made numerous “Best Of” lists. Now a third course is set to debut this fall. It is being built by architect Gil Hanse, who beat out almost every big name in his profession to land the contract to build the 2016 Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro. This new par-73 Black course is a capacious and strategic layout spread across acres of sandy terrain that reminds some observers of the great courses outside Melbourne, Australia, in what’s known as the Sand Belt. StreamsongResort.com, 888-294-6322.
GARY PLAYER COURSE RIDGEDALE, MISSOURI
One of golf’s ongoing concerns for working people with families is the time drain of a full 18-hole round—often upward of five hours. Some golfers are seeking nine-hole rounds or par-3 courses in the interest of saving time. Johnny Morris, the colorful founder of Bass Pro Shops, is capitalizing on this trend as he continues to expand his impressive Big Cedar Lodge property near Branson, Missouri. The latest addition is a Gary Player short course that is set to open in 2017. The layout, designed as an accessible experience for families, juniors and newcomers to the game, is a collection of par-3 holes in a setting with miles-long views. It joins the other fine courses at Big Cedar Lodge, the estimable par-3 Top of the Rock course designed by Jack Nicklaus and the championship-length Buffalo Ridge course created by Tom Fazio. This Ozarks oasis will add yet another championship course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, in 2018. BigCedar.com, 800-225-6343.
SAND VALLEY NEKOOSA, WISCONSIN
Mike Keiser is a greeting-card magnate turned course developer, and his success in developing four world-class courses at Bandon Dunes (coastal Oregon) and two at Cabot Links (Nova Scotia, Canada) proves that eager players will go to great lengths for premium experiences. Later this spring, Keiser will unveil his latest project, known as Sand Valley, amid more than 1,700 acres of sand dunes in the heart of Wisconsin, about 170 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The first course to debut is designed by the architectural duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and brings a dramatic, big-featured style of a seaside links to the epicenter of farm country. The layout has been coined “heathland in the heartland” by the designers because it unfolds through meandering ridges and valleys. A companion course designed by David McLay Kidd is in the works and will debut in the next year or two. SandValleyGolfResort.com, 888-651-5539.
BAYOU OAKS NEW ORLEANS
The new Bayou Oaks Golf Course in New Orleans City Park, scheduled to open later this spring, replaces 36 holes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The new championship-level course, which joins an existing 18-hole layout (the North Course), was designed by venerable architect Rees Jones. There are hopes that at some point it might host the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic, which has long been domiciled in New Orleans. There also are expectations that this city-owned course might someday be considered in the same breath as San Diego’s Torrey Pines or Long Island’s Bethpage Black—in other words, on the short list of the most desirable municipally owned courses in the nation. Bayou Oaks includes magnificent oak trees with their magical moss canopies and rippling lagoons that are characteristic of the 1,300-acre park. CityParkGolf.com, 504-483-9410.
SILVIES VALLEY RANCH BURNS, OREGON
Talk about getting away from it all—Silvies Valley Ranch is a working cattle ranch in Eastern Oregon about five hours from Portland and two hours from Bend. Visitors can observe cattle production, fence-mending and hay-baling and enjoy fine dining and spa services amidst these 140,000 acres with 100 different species of wildlife sharing the property. This year, the ranch is unveiling what might be the most unique new golf facility of 2017—with two 18-hole courses built on a property with 27 greens because nine are shared between the courses. These Dan Hixson designs, known as the Hankins and Craddock courses, will reverse direction each day when they open in July. What this means is that on one day you’ll start on the first hole and play through the eighteenth, and the next day you’ll start on the eighteenth hole and play backward. That may sound crazy, but the very first golf course in history, the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, was designed in the same manner! SilviesValleyRanch.com, 800-745-8437.