Wynn Golf Club: How much does it cost, how to book a tee time

Wynn has one of the highest costs of a daily-fee course in the United States.

Wynn Golf Club, right behind the Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino, fits perfectly into its brash surroundings on the Strip. It’s as Vegas as Vegas can be when it comes to golf course architecture.

Much of the course is brand new, despite golf having been played on the site since 1952 when it became the Desert Inn Golf Club. 

Steve Wynn purchased the resort in 2000, and the Tom Fazio-designed Wynn Golf Club opened in 2005. But that layout was shuttered in 2017 as the operators of the adjacent Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino considered other uses for the ridiculously valuable land on which the course sits, and the resort lost millions of dollars in revenue from green fees and other golf-attributable casino earnings. 

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After scrapping plans to build a lagoon on the site with new hotel rooms and restaurants, Fazio and his son, Logan, were called to breathe fresh life into the abandoned track. Wynn Golf Club reopened in October 2019 with eight new and 10 refurbished holes, playing to a par of 70 at 6,722 yards. 

As far as playing Wynn Golf Club, you don’t have to know someone who knows someone. You just have to have some disposable income.

Tee times can be made by resort guests 90 days in advance, and general public play is open with 30-day advanced bookings. But be ready to fork over the cash: green fees are $550.

Wynn has one of the highest costs of a daily-fee course in the U.S. and while that sounds prohibitively expensive for many players, there are plenty of guests at the Wynn hotel and casino who spin through a lot more on the slot machines in less time than it takes to play a round of golf.

Brian Hawthorne, the resort’s executive director of golf operations, said there’s a lot of value baked into that fee when considering the location on the Strip as well as an all-inclusive experience that includes forecaddie and rental clubs if needed.

“And if you keep somebody from gambling for four and a half hours, we might be saving people money,” he said with a laugh.

So while that kind of green fee is not for every golfer, Hawthorne is right. As he said, “There’s different price points for every type of customer,” and many of the luxury resort’s guests simply aren’t worried about price. This is, after all, a Forbes Five-Star property that uses Rolls-Royce limos to whisk preferred guests back and forth to the airport.

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Open or closed: Golfweek’s Best top 25 resort courses

Amid the international coronavirus pandemic, more than half the top 25 courses on Golfweek’s Best list of resorts are temporarily closed.

After weeks of trying to keep their courses open during the international coronavirus pandemic, more than half the top 25 courses on Golfweek’s Best list of resort tracks have shuttered their operations temporarily or plan to this week.

Several of these resorts, stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, have posted to their websites or sent emails that operations have been halted. At others, the courses remain open while the hotel operations have ceased or been dramatically curtailed, and some are maintaining full operations.

Several of the top 25 are northern courses that have not started their golf seasons yet and as of now are still planning to open when their seasons begin.

Related: Live look at Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes and more

The situation is fluid and likely to change for some of these resorts that do remain open. Several of the courses that have closed have posted that they plan to reopen in April or May. Following are details on each.

 

1. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach, California (pictured atop this story)

CLOSED

Reopens April 17. The entire resort is closed.

 

2. Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

3. Pinehurst (No. 2)

Pinehurst, North Carolina

OPEN

The courses remain open, but all lodging operations have ceased. Limited to-go dining is available.

 

4. Whistling Straits (Straits)

Mosel, Wisconsin

CLOSED, OUT OF SEASON

The courses are scheduled to open in April as weather permits, but all lodging and dining at Destination Kohler is closed.

 

No. 7 on Old MacDonald at Bandon Dunes

5. Bandon Dunes (Old Macdonald)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

6. Bandon Dunes (Bandon Dunes)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

7. Shadow Creek

North Las Vegas, Nevada

CLOSED

MGM has ceased all casino and entertainment options until April 16.

 

8. Kiawah Golf Resort (Ocean Course)

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

OPEN

The resort has modified its services and dining availability, but the courses are open. The pro shops are closed, with booking and check-in being handled remotely.

 

9. Bandon Dunes (Bandon Trails)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

10. TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium)

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

OPEN

The Players Championship was canceled, but the golf courses are open for play.

 

No. 3 at Spyglass Hill (Ben Jared/PGA Tour)

11. Spyglass Hill

Pebble Beach, California

CLOSED

Part of the resort at Pebble Beach, which reopens April 17.

 

12. Sand Valley (Mammoth Dunes)

Nekoosa, Wisconsin

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The resort plans to open its two courses April 24 as planned after standard winter closures.

 

13. Sand Valley (Sand Valley)

Nekoosa, Wisconsin

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The resort plans to open its two courses April 24 as planned after standard winter closures.

 

14. Streamsong Resort (Red)

Bowling Green, Florida

OPEN
Group caddies are mandated instead of normal carrying caddies to promote maintaining a recommended distance between people.

 

15. Streamsong Resort (Black)

Bowling Green, Florida

OPEN
Group caddies are mandated instead of normal carrying caddies to promote maintaining a recommended distance between people.

 

Gamble Sands (Courtesy of Gamble Sands)

16. Gamble Sands

Brewster, Washington

OPEN

The course opened earlier than planned after a mild winter.

 

17. Kapalua (Plantation)

Lanai, Hawaii

CLOSING

The course will close March 25 and plans to reopen April 30.

 

18. Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs)

Arcadia, Michigan

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The course will open as planned April 1 after the winter season.

 

19. Sea Pines Resort (Harbour Town Golf Links)

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

OPEN

The course is open, but the Inn and Club at Harbour Town has been closed through April 16. The PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Classic was canceled.

 

20. Streamsong Resort (Blue)

Bowling Green, Florida

OPEN
Group caddies are mandated instead of normal carrying caddies to promote maintaining a recommended distance between people.

 

No. 18 at Fallen Oak (Courtesy of Fallen Oak)

21. Fallen Oak

Saucier, Mississippi

CLOSED

The Beau Rivage Resort and Casino has ceased all operations temporarily, including golf.

 

22. Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Manele)

Lanai, Hawaii

CLOSED

The resort has shuttered all operations until April 30.

 

23. Omni Homestead Resort (Cascades)

Hot Springs, Virginia

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The Cascades Course is scheduled to open as planned May 1 after the winter season. This Omni property is still open, but eight others have closed.

 

24. Sea Island (Seaside)

St. Simons Island, Georgia

CLOSED

The resort is closed until May 15.

 

25. Blackwolf Run (River)

Kohler, Wisconsin

CLOSED, OUT OF SEASON

The courses are scheduled to open in April as weather permits, but all lodging and dining at Destination Kohler is closed.

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Make it count: Streamsong part of growing trend with destination tournaments

BOWLING GREEN, Fla. – First-tee jitters are real. Doesn’t matter if it’s the U.S. Open, a city championship, a high school match or even a two-day team event that’s meant to be a vacation. When most players step up to that opening drive with a …

BOWLING GREEN, Fla. – First-tee jitters are real. Doesn’t matter if it’s the U.S. Open, a city championship, a high school match or even a two-day team event that’s meant to be a vacation. When most players step up to that opening drive with a little something on the line, the internal butterflies take flight. 

That’s kind of the whole point of competition, of having to add up all those numbers and post the result on a scoreboard for all to see. It brings a whole new level of interest, even for 30-handicappers who spend four hours doing a lot of math to figure out where they are getting strokes. 

“Competition gives people the chance to do something they can’t do every day,” said Scott Wilson, director of golf at Streamsong in Central Florida. “Normal golf is every day, stroke play or match play depending on what you do within your foursome, and it’s fine, great. But with competition, now all the sudden you have something to play for. It suddenly matters even more.”

Streamsong, which boasts three courses among the top 20 on Golfweek’s Best 2020 list of top resort courses (see page 40), gives recreational players five great chances a year to stick their peg in the ground and experience real competition. With the resort’s Spring Classic, Summer Classic, Fall Classic, Holiday Cup and Family Cup, anybody can get their competitive juices flowing while enjoying a vacation at a top destination. 

Streamsong Blue (Courtesy of Streamsong Resort/Laurence Lambrecht)

Streamsong’s events are part of a larger trend, with ever-increasing teams of players traveling long distances to premium resorts to do more than sample the links – they want to play with something on the line. It’s not a new concept, but there are more opportunities than ever. Even resorts such as Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, both of which offer four highly ranked courses, offer multiple opportunities throughout their golf seasons to ratchet up a buddies trip or family retreat to another level. 

Basically, these events are like a classic member-guest tournament, but because they are at resorts instead of private clubs, nobody has to be a member. Check just about any top resort’s website to find such events, but try to book early, as they often fill up quickly. Wilson said most of Streamsong’s events feature 80 to 100 players. 

“We started with four events and we’ve grown to five, and we probably could have several more,” Wilson said. “Most of the folks are local, and by that I’ll say Southeast U.S., but there’ve been times people have come from California or Oregon and up in the Northeast to play with their families and friends. It’s been great.”

Top-ranked golf courses surely are part of the draw – Streamsong’s events are played on a mix of the resort’s Red, Black and Blue courses, which were built by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Gil Hanse, and Tom Doak, respectively. The remote courses – about 90 miles southwest of Orlando and 50 miles west of Tampa – rank as Nos. 2, 3 and 4 on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for public-access tracks in Florida.

Overall winners of Streamsong’s events receive packages to return and defend their title, and of course there are social events, trophies, prizes and bragging rights for various flights. Wilson’s staff uses a mix of formats – scramble, shamble and four-ball, for example – for its two-day events, some of which include two rounds and others three rounds.

“Any day of the week, any of the three courses could be a person’s favorite,” Wilson said. “And that’s the beauty of doing it over two or three courses, depending on the tournament – you get to see a lot of great golf. …” 

“And it’s not just stroke play. These are all just a little different, not your ordinary tournament. It just creates interest outside of normal golf. These have just been a lot of fun.”  

Streamsong Black (Courtesy of Streamsong Resort/Laurence Lambrecht)

 

Streamsong’s 2020 events

Spring Classic: March 22-25; 54 holes of four-ball stroke play on the Blue, Black and Red; $439 single occupancy per night, $339 per person double occupancy per night

Family Cup: June

Summer Classic: August

Fall Classic: October

Holiday Cup: December

Check streamsongresort.com for exact dates and formats as they are announced.

Pricing: To be determined based on event. (The price for the recent Holiday Cup was $685 per player for two night’s double occupancy in the resort’s hotel, two rounds of golf, plus a welcoming party, luncheon, putting contest and more. It was $908 for single occupancy.) Some events use carts, and others are walking only.

Paired to perfection: Champions Retreat raises the bar for fine dining near Augusta

EVANS, Ga. – The Food Network might be missing a major opportunity near Augusta. Champions Retreat Golf Club is best known as the host site for the first two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, run in conjunction with that other high-end …

EVANS, Ga. – The Food Network might be missing a major opportunity near Augusta. 

Champions Retreat Golf Club is best known as the host site for the first two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, run in conjunction with that other high-end private club 30 minutes away by car. But while winner Jennifer Kupcho and runner-up Maria Fassi stole the show in the inaugural ANWA in April, there might be an even better presentation on tap any given night at Champions Retreat. 

Call it the “Rouchi and Ross Dinner Show.” The Iranian-born Fariborz Rouchi and Englishman-via-Scotland David Ross trade congenial jabs as easily as they describe whatever deliciousness is presented on their plates and in their glasses. 

David Ross, left, and Fariborz Rouchi at Champions Retreat (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

“I’m not sure who let him outside, but the fresh air doesn’t suit him very well, does it,” Ross, the executive chef at the club, says with a sly smile within earshot of Rouchi. “And good thing he knows about wine, because he sure doesn’t know how to dress.”

“Hey, Dad, isn’t it your bedtime? Time to go home!” Rouchi, the club’s new director of food and beverage, retorts. “Shouldn’t you at least be in the kitchen where you can burn something? … We’re only supposed to let him outside twice a day.”

Their ease of banter is flawless, clearly deserving a prime-time cooking show or at the least a YouTube channel. It’s somewhat surprising that Ross joined the club in 2018 and Rouchi arrived in May of this year – it might be expected that it would take years to perfect a routine like this. 

Even better than the laughs is the dining program, but that’s to be expected from two such pros – both of whom, interestingly, started as engineers before turning to food and beverage.

Rouchi (pronounced like Gucci), a master sommelier, joined the club after more than a decade at Lake Shore Country Club near Chicago, which followed various stints that included general manager roles at Spago and Club Macanudo.

Ross most recently was tournament chef at Berckmans Place at Augusta National, a well-heeled retreat near the fifth hole open during Masters week. Before that, Ross was proprietor and executive chef of the popular, French-inspired 5oclockbistro in Augusta, and he has taught at Le Cordon Bleu international institutes in Atlanta and New Hampshire.

The Grill House at Champions Retreat (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

They and their staff are accustomed to handling everything from intimate dinners in Champions Retreat’s palatial “cottages” to wedding-size functions at The Barn, the club’s new red-roofed facility that can seat 250 people. Want a post-golf libation after playing one of three nines designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player? They have you covered. Want to blow the minds of your C-suite corporate staffers? They can do that, too. 

Everything is taken to a different level in April, when out-of-towners rent the cottages as Champions Retreat becomes one of Augusta’s best places to see and be seen during the Masters. Normally a private enclave, the club accepts outside play (contact the club for information) that week, and the grounds host numerous parties and events. It’s up to Rouchi and Ross to surprise and thrill their guests, that week and every other. 

“The definition of culinary arts leans heavily on the arts,” Ross said. “It’s not just simply cooking or searing. It’s about thinking beyond that, thinking three dimensionally. … It’s like the best possible job, because I’m being paid to be an artist. It just happens to be with food. The textures, the colors, the flavors: It’s just so much fun.”

Rouchi can talk for hours about ideal dining experiences, bringing laughs the whole time while making his listeners think about flavors and scents in new ways. He will guide a table of guests through their meal, the diners at rapt attention. 

A seafood dish at Champions Retreat (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

“A lot of it has to do with envisioning the whole journey and putting ourselves in place of the guest to make sure every detail is met,” Rouchi said. “It should come across as effortless. At the end, the show is smooth and perfect.”

A recent dinner for a group of golf writers – hey, who let these guys in here? – included a charcuterie board with house-smoked duck pastrami, sesame-crusted ahi, arugula salad sourced locally, Chilean sea bass with jasmine coconut rice and jalfrezi curry sauce, followed by a chocolate Napoleon. The wines came from around the world. O.B. Keeler, Bobby Jones’ longtime biographer, likely never had it so good. 

“This isn’t just about food and drink; it’s a whole experience,” Rouchi said. “When the experience is perfect, you know it. That is our goal.”

Trending younger in real estate: Reynolds Lake Oconee sees influx of fresh buyers

GREENSBORO, Ga. – In those bygone eras before technology found its way into everybody’s pocket or backpack in the form of smartphones and laptops, promising executives could count on spending 30 or 40 years working their way up the ranks at a …

GREENSBORO, Ga. – In those bygone eras before technology found its way into everybody’s pocket or backpack in the form of smartphones and laptops, promising executives could count on spending 30 or 40 years working their way up the ranks at a corporate headquarters in or near a major metropolis. 

Then came a golden watch and the golden years, with nothing but open tee times for all of retirement. For the particularly successful, there might be a second home on a golf course, maybe at a choice destination. 

The only problem was those decades spent in cube farms and offices without a view. Sure, there were weekends and maybe a few golf vacations or afternoons spent at the boss’s exclusive country club. But clear expectations required that aspiring executives spend most of their waking lives attached to their office desks, surrounded by other likeminded professionals trying to climb a ladder that eventually might top out with a fairway view. 

Enter technology, and things have changed. Many working stiffs have realized that instead of churning in an office all those years to eventually live where they want and enjoy some of the finer things in life, why wait?

No. 14 on the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Evan Schiller)

With the advent of videoconferencing and VPNs, and the relaxing of expectations by many companies that staffers spend all their time in a corporate office, lucky 40- and 50-somethings can live just about anywhere. This trend has taken off in the past five years or so, said Dave Short, senior vice president of marketing, sales and strategic planning at the expansive Reynolds Lake Oconee community about an hour southeast of Atlanta. 

“There’s a lot of people now that are buying a second home first, if you will,” Short said. “That’s a significant shift over the last few years. … They’re on whatever technology, and they work out of a home office, and they can walk nine holes in the afternoon or walk down the hill and dive into the lake at the end of the day. It’s just a different lifestyle.” 

The trend has changed the market at Reynolds Lake Oconee, a sprawling lakeshore development of upper-level and top-tier homes that includes an on-property Ritz-Carlton hotel and covers about 14,000 acres – “We’re about 1,000 acres smaller than Manhattan Island,” Short said with a laugh. 

Lake Oconee, built in 1979 to generate power, offers about 400 miles of shoreline, and about a quarter of those are part of Reynolds. The resort community features six golf courses, four of them ranked in Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Georgia. It is one of just three properties in the country, along with Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon and Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, to have four courses on that list. 

“Ten years ago it would have been, let me pension off from General Motors and let me play golf six days a week for the rest of my life,” Short said. “And that’s just not who the only customer is today. It’s still a really important part of our existing membership, and certainly we have people who come here for that sole reason, but it’s really broadened out in the last several years. There are three families on my street (at Reynolds) in their early 50s that still work, but they work out of here.”

Short said Reynolds Lake Oconee has built out to about 3,000 rooftops and has another 26 miles of shoreline to offer as premium homesites. Atlanta provides the majority of prospective clients, and Short has seen a significant uptick in buyers from Florida and coastal Georgia in recent years as people tire of hurricanes and increasing congestion. 

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee)

The relative affordability to build at Reynolds is a major draw, with what Short called an “ornate” home available for about $230 a square foot. Much more expensive and expansive multi-structure properties are available – call them what they are: lakefront mansions with additional buildings – but research shows that all in all the cost of a new luxury home is better priced at Reynolds than at many destinations offering comparable living experiences and golf. 

But it’s the new class of mid-career homebuyers who have changed the community most, bringing in children instead of occasional visits from grandchildren.

“In the last 10 years, it’s sort of migrated away from being just a golf retirement community to one that now where there’s a lot of vibrancy, a lot of music, a lot of culinary rhythms that didn’t exist here 10 years ago,” Short said. “Part of what has fed into that is there is a whole class of people that are professionally liberated enough from having to live inside the beltway, whether you define that as Atlanta or D.C. or some of the larger cities. They have enough gravitas with their companies to say I want to live where I want to live.”

On top of its golf game

With the membership growing younger, one thing that never gets old at Reynolds Lake Oconee is the golf. MetLife, which purchased the property in 2012, sees to that with a continuous flow of capital improvements to the six courses as well as the hotel, the 10 restaurants and the four full-service marinas. 

No. 11 on the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Evan Schiller)

For golfers, the largest of the recent undertakings was a renovation of the community’s featured course, Great Waters, which ranks No. 2 in the state on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list. The Jack Nicklaus design originally opened in 1992, and after 18 months of work that ended in October, it’s a familiar experience down the same wide playing corridors, but with a few new twists. 

“The golf course wasn’t broken to start with,” Nicklaus said during a reopening ceremony on the 18th tee next to the lake. “It was just the plumbing was broken, and we had to fix the plumbing. When you fix the plumbing, you get a chance to put a little lipstick on the outside of it.”

All the greens were rebuilt with TifEagle Bermuda grass, the entire course was re-grassed and a new irrigation system was installed. The fairways are now Zeon zoysia, and the rough is TifTuf Bermuda. All the bunkers were reworked.

The back tees were stretched to 7,436 yards, but perhaps more importantly, Nicklaus said, a new set of forward tees were built at about 4,500 yards to encourage older members and new players to take their shot.

With the setting, especially on the back nine’s eight water holes, there wasn’t any need to improve what was out there in view, just to open those views with fewer trees. Several greens and hills were reconfigured to take even better advantage of the views and water.

It’s rare for golf course architects to be given so much prime real estate on waterfront parcels, but Reynolds had a lot of lakeshore with which to work.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to do a pretty spectacular golf course on a pretty spectacular piece of property,” Nicklaus said of the original design. “The Reynolds people saw the vision and had the vision to understand that with 90 miles of waterfront, a little bit of that waterfront could go to golf to really create a golf course and situation that would be well worth the investment.”

Short said it’s all part of a theme of having room to enjoy the amenities, with housing set fairly far back from the playing corridors on ridges that offer long views. 

“A golf course lot has a great golf course view, but they’re not encroaching,” Short said. “It doesn’t feel claustrophobic, with every single lot pushed up as close to the golf course as it can be. We do, by design, push the houses back.”

It goes hand-in-hand with those executives trying to escape the hustle and bustle of city living. Even with so many luxury lifestyle amenities on hand, this is still rural Georgia, and there’s plenty of room to grow. It’s small-town to the point that several locals and employees mentioned that a new Chick-fil-A had just opened nearby. But along with traffic and congestion, there’s one thing missing that Short enjoys pointing out. 

“We’re 40 minutes from a Walmart and only five minutes away from a Ritz-Carlton,” he said with a laugh, not taking credit for a line he has heard from several residents. “That’s a pretty good selling point.”

The Oconee course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Brian G. Oar)

 

Golf at Reynolds Lake Oconee

Great Waters: The Jack Nicklaus design was built in 1992 and renovated in 2019. The course is No. 2 in Georgia on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list. It is 7,436 yards from the back with nine holes on the lakefront, including the final eight holes. 

The Oconee: This 7,158-yard Rees Jones design opened in 2002 and features rambling elevation changes and a handful of holes on the lake. It ranks No. 4 in the state among Best Courses You Can Play. 

The National Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Brian G. Oar)

The National: Designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1997, these 27 holes (Ridge, Bluff and Cove nines) feature significant elevation changes, with several holes on the lake. It ranks No. 8 in the state among Best Courses You Can Play.

The Landing: This original course at Reynolds was built by Bob Cupp and opened in 1986 among wooded areas and rolling hills. Stretching to 6,991 yards, it ranks No. 10 in the state among Best Courses You Can Play.

The Preserve: Built in 1988 by Cupp with Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green as consultants, this 6,674-yard course features a six-hole loop named the Quick Six. Each of the six is less than 130 yards and can be played in about an hour. 

Creek Club: This members-only track was designed by
Jim Engh and opened in 2007. With a mandate to build something “outside the box,” Engh built distinctive mounding and bunkers as well as three greens on the 18th hole of the 7,079-yard course. 

Jack Nicklaus’ top 10 courses as rated by Golfweek’s Best

Jack Nicklaus’ eponymous design firm has laid out more than 425 courses in 45 countries and 40 states.

Jack Nicklaus has done a lot more than win championships in his 80 years.

His eponymous design firm has laid out more than 425 courses in 45 countries and 40 states. Many of those tracks have garnered great acclaim, earning spots on the various Golfweek’s Best lists for course rankings.

Jack Nicklaus and Jack Vickers during planning at Castle Pines in Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Castle Pines)

Following are the 10 highest-rated courses Nicklaus has built, with seven of these on the Golfweek’s Best Modern list for courses built in or after 1960, and three appearing on Golfweek’s Best list for courses in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Golfweek’s Best course ratings are determined by an extensive group of players who judge each course on 10 criteria then provide their total rating from one to 10. Those ratings are then averaged for a final rating, shown with each course listed.

Four Seasons Punta Mita’ Pacifico course (Photo courtesy of Four Seasons)

10. Four Seasons Punta Mita (Pacifico)

  • Golfweek’s Best average rating: 7.09
  • Where: Punta Mita, Mexico
  • Year built: 1999
  • Status: Resort course
  • Golfweek’s Best: No. 10 on the list for best courses in the Caribbean and Mexico

Resurrection in Las Vegas: Wynn Golf Club is back with an in-your-face finisher

LAS VEGAS – Sin City is as subtle as a gold-sequin sport coat. Along the Las Vegas Strip on any given night, water cannons blast skyward to omnipresent musical accompaniment. Crowds of tourists gawk at skimpily dressed street performers. Headliners’ …

LAS VEGAS – Sin City is as subtle as a gold-sequin sport coat.

Along the Las Vegas Strip on any given night, water cannons blast skyward to omnipresent musical accompaniment. Crowds of tourists gawk at skimpily dressed street performers. Headliners’ faces are splashed 50 stories high on casino hotels designed to separate mostly sane people from a chunk of their retirement funds. 

Love it or leave it, it’s all right there in your face. If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, that’s because no other place in the U.S. – short of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, maybe? – could handle it. Or just as likely, would want to.

Plopped into this slice of the Mojave Desert, not 500 yards from the Strip, sits the most Vegas of golf holes: a 249-yard par 3 over a pond and creek to a green situated at the base of a roaring man-made waterfall. No. 18 (pictured atop this story) at the newly renovated Wynn Golf Club is a do-or-die kind of challenge, one roll of the dice to win all the money or finish with empty pockets. 

If great golf holes fit seamlessly into their environment – think No. 18 at Pebble Beach or No. 12 at Augusta National– then consider adding this closing one-shotter to the list of must-sees. Like the rest of the Strip, there’s nothing natural about this oasis, meaning it fits perfectly into its brash surroundings. Make a great play on No. 18 and you might – might! – get lucky. Throw out a meek effort and forget about it. The hole is bold, loud, somewhat insane and possibly brilliant, depending on your success. At the least, it’s certainly memorable.

In other words, it’s as Vegas as Vegas can be when it comes to golf course architecture. The hole used to be a par 4 that played over water to the front of that waterfall, but a giant convention center now sits where the old tee box was located. The all-or-nothing par 3 better fits the Vegas vibe anyway.

No. 13 at Wynn Golf Club (Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas/Brian Oar)

As with the enveloping and ever-changing skyline of the Strip, much of Wynn Golf Club is brand new, despite golf having been played on the site since 1952 when it became the Desert Inn Golf Club. 

Steve Wynn purchased the resort in 2000, and the Tom Fazio-designed Wynn Golf Club opened in 2005. But that layout was shuttered in 2017 as the operators of the adjacent Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino considered other uses for the ridiculously valuable land on which the course sits, and the resort lost millions of dollars in revenue from green fees and other golf-attributable casino earnings. 

After scrapping plans to build a lagoon on the site with new hotel rooms and restaurants, Fazio and his son, Logan, were called to breathe fresh life into the abandoned track. Wynn Golf Club reopened in October with eight new and 10 refurbished holes, playing to a par of 70 at 6,722 yards. 

 “I think the emotion for the Wynn Golf Club is, it is a very distinct, unique, one-of-a-kind place,” Tom Fazio said. The hotels and casinos and general Las Vegas buzz are ”part of the experience. So I think the Wynn Golf Club … is something that maybe can’t be reproduced.”

The layout ranked ninth in Golfweek’s Best list of casino courses in 2017 before its closure. The reopening date didn’t allow enough time for the renovated Wynn Golf Club to rejoin the Golfweek’s Best list for 2019, but expect to see it back near the top in years to come. 

And while the relatively secluded Shadow Creek north of the Strip long has held the No. 1 spot on the Golfweek’s Best casino list despite allowing few tee times, Wynn Golf Club is taking a different approach. Tee times can be made by resort guests 90 days in advance, and general public play is open with 30-day advanced bookings.

No. 5 at Wynn Golf Club (Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas/Brian Oar)

With a green fee of $550, Wynn Golf Club clearly is not for everyone. But for deep-pocketed fans of the luxury hotel and its high-stakes gaming rooms, the return of the course offers a fantastic diversion and a chance to tee it up without ever leaving the hustle and bustle of the Strip.

Not that all 18 holes are so over the top as the closer. The first 17 are, for the most part, merely beautiful and unlikely, a respite from canned casino air where high-rollers can see the sun and play the game on surprisingly rolling terrain. 

The course sits on a relatively tight 129 acres, but through some sleight of hand that would make a Vegas magician proud, the holes never seem crowded. There are a few spots where a terribly wayward tee shot can find a neighboring fairway, but the streams and foliage – a very un-desert-like 100,000 shrubs and 7,000 trees – create a separation that feels somewhat natural even if it took a fleet of bulldozers to move all that earth.

“With the creation of the Wynn golf course, the idea was to incorporate not only the challenge from vegetation, but also relief and contour and framing and definition and also some excitement in the terrain,” Fazio said. “So we went from being a flat, narrow golf course (with the Desert Inn) to being a rolling, elevated, framed kind of a setting. So that was really the overall process, a totally different environment.”

Wynn Golf Club (Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas/Brian Oar)

A shallow valley runs through the center of the property, allowing for several elevated tee shots to fairways that roll down before climbing back to the greens. The player can see it all from most tees – perfect for resort play where golfers aren’t familiar with the layout. There are few tricks, just solid challenges into multi-tiered putting surfaces. 

The newly installed Dominator Bentgrass greens were fully grown-in and in excellent condition for the reopening, as was the rest of the turf of Tifway II Bermuda and seasonal rye overseed. It’s hard to believe such turf could exist at the end of summer in the middle of the desert, and superintendent Jason Morgan deserves a tip of the cap for the superior conditioning.

“There’s so much detail that went into that golf course in a short space of time, and Jason was the guy in the field making it happen,” Fazio said. 

The course’s six par 3s stand out. It might be expected that so many short holes are in play, as land was surrendered to the construction of additional conference space at the resort. Despite the plethora of par 3s, though, this is no sideshow pitch-and-putt. The best of the bunch might not even be the “wow”-inducing 18th but the 209-yard 12th, which drops downhill to a green guarded front and left by a creek. 

“If you had to rank them best to least, it would be hard to do that because there is no least,” Fazio said of these par 3s. “We don’t deal in anything that’s least.”

No. 16 at Wynn Golf Club (Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas/Brian Oar)

Best and least are opinions, of course, but the hole that might leave a few golf architecture fans scratching their heads is the 442-yard, par-4 14th.

The 14th green runs from high-right to low-left, and mature trees block the left half of the green. Tee shots must be placed well to the right near a bunker if the player is to have any shot at a far-left pin. If a player hits a tee shot down the center of the fairway, a dramatic hook would then be required to feed the ball across the green and reach any hole on the left. A player could try to roll an approach beneath the branches and across several mounds, but that would be the equivalent of splitting a pair of 5s at a blackjack table – just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A safer shot to the right can leave a 50-foot-plus putt. 

Basically, it’s a very hard hole where the strategic demands begin on the tee shot. It’s a big ask for many resort players. 

But, again, that’s Vegas. The odds are never stacked in the player’s favor. It’s best to just take a shot and enjoy a setting that you likely will never forget.

Now about that green fee . . .

Wynn Golf Club has one of the highest costs of a daily-fee course in the U.S., charging $550 in season, $50 higher even than before the course was shuttered in 2017. That sounds prohibitively expensive for many players, but there are plenty of guests in the adjacent Wynn hotel and casino who spin through a lot more on the slot machines in less time than it takes to play a round of golf.

Brian Hawthorne, the resort’s executive director of golf operations, said there’s a lot of value baked into that fee when considering the location on the Strip as well as an all-inclusive experience that includes forecaddie and rental clubs if needed.

“And if you keep somebody from gambling for four and a half hours, we might be saving people money,” he said with a laugh.

So while that kind of green fee is not for every golfer, Hawthorne is right. As he said, “There’s different price points for every type of customer,” and many of the luxury resort’s guests simply aren’t worried about price. This is, after all, a Forbes Five-Star property that uses Rolls-Royce limos to whisk preferred guests back and forth to the airport. 

More options in Vegas

There’s a lot more to Las Vegas than the Strip, and while it might not be a classic golf town, there are plenty of interesting options to keep players out of the casinos. Here’s a sampling from a recent trip:

TPC Las Vegas (Courtesy of TPC Las Vegas)

TPC Las Vegas | Par 71; 7,104 yards

Built in 1996, this Bobby Weed and Raymond Floyd design is about a 25-minute drive west of the Strip near the base of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

With plenty of elevation changes, several of the sculpted fairways curve out of sight but with enough room to make a few bad swings and keep playing the same ball. Overall, a fun romp through the desert on a solid design in excellent shape on a course (formerly named TPC at the Canyons) that hosted PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions events for more than a decade. TPC Las Vegas is No. 13 on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Nevada. 

The Wolf at Paiute (Courtesy of Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort)

The Wolf at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort | Par 72; 7,604 yards

The Wolf is the newest (2001) of three Pete Dye tracks at this complex owned and operated by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, and this 18 is generally considered the most difficult of the three.

Fairways and playing corridors offer plenty of width, which is welcome as the wind frequently kicks up across the exposed course about 40 minutes north of the Strip. The desert views and isolation are worth the drive, offering a completely different setting devoid of houses and towering hotels.

The conditions are immaculate, but pick the proper set of tees on what the resort calls the longest course in Nevada. The Wolf is No. 9 on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Nevada, just ahead of its sister courses (Paiute’s Sun Mountain is No. 10, and the Snow Mountain Course is No. 11).

Bali Hai Golf Club (Courtesy of Bali Hai)

Bali Hai Golf Club | Par 71; 7,002 yards

Located on the south end of the Strip, this fun course is perfectly situated to serve the various groups that frequent its fairways. The halfway house is the property’s nerve center, serving drinks to bachelor parties and corporate golf days.

The Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley layout, which opened in 2000, is near McCarran International Airport and features a fair amount of elevation changes and some 4,000 trees that help create separation in the often forgiving playing corridors.

With a green fee that can be less than a quarter of the price to play the newly reopened Wynn Golf Club, it’s a solid choice. Bali Hai is No. 47 on Golfweek’s Best list of casino courses. 

Klein: Pete Dye offered plenty of treats, not all tricks, in genius course design as in life

Pete Dye was a skilled golfer and fearless experimenter with turfgrass, design forms and courses that bedeviled generations of golfers.

Pete Dye made a career of knowing that most golfers are easily seduced and that the brain is the weakest club in the bag. His self-effacing, aw-shucks approach to the game belied a genius that reached into golf’s past and made it relevant for the future.

More by accident than design, he proved himself to be a genius.

Known best for wooden railroad ties, deep bunkers and one particular island green, the Hall of Fame golf course architect, who discovered his craft in the form of a self-made second career after a brief but successful stint as an insurance salesman, passed away Thursday at the age of 94.

Dye was a skilled golfer and fearless experimenter with turfgrass, design forms and courses that bedeviled generations of golfers from the 1960s on. In an era when modern, post-World War II design was defined by the narrow, demanding, aerial power golf of the unchallenged master of his day, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Dye came along and did everything differently. He ran his business with a minimum of documented construction plans and seemingly innovated in the field when he decided that what he saw just didn’t work and needed to be redone.

Pete Dye and his German shepherd, Sixty, at Gulf Stream Golf Club in Delray Beach, Fla. (Golfweek files/Tracy Wilcox)

One story mid-way through his career reveals something of the infectious madness that charmed colleagues, clients and golfers alike. It was 1984, and he was just beginning work on a dead flat site in the desert of La Quinta, California, on land that eventually would become PGA West’s Stadium Course. Dye was, as always, assembling a work crew for his standard operating procedure of building the course himself – what’s called “design-build” in industry parlance. He was never much for detailed planning in advance and would leave the paper trail for others, often after the fact. He was much more at home playing in the dirt. Often that meant hopping on a bulldozer or Sand Pro to shape the features himself. His standard-issue work outfit of white golf shirt and khaki slacks usually would get filthy in the process.

As an apprentice named Brian Curley approached Dye for the first time to meet him on site, the recent college graduate did a double take. There was Dye taking a hose to his rental car to clean it off. Actually, to clean it out. All four doors were open. Dye was blasting away at a car interior that somehow was caked with mud.

That, in a nutshell, is Dye’s career. He did everything upside down and inside out. He’s been called the nutty professor and the Marquis de Sod and the only architect who could outspend an unlimited budget.

Back in 1969, Gulf & Western handed him the keys to 400,000 acres (625 square miles) of the Dominican Republic to find a course routing, and when Dye came back with his 18-hole plan it turned out they needed to buy an adjoining 15-acre parcel to complete what would become Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog.

Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo (Courtesy of Casa de Campo)

Dye always was more sculptor than architect, responding to his own creations – usually by changing them, often after they were grassed. He worked instinctively and by feel, and along the way he surpassed his colleagues in imagination and creativity. In the process he transformed the American golf landscape and established himself as a certified legend – one of only four full-time course architects enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame (joining Charles Blair Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Robert Trent Jones Sr.).

It took a while for Dye to figure out his life’s calling. Born in 1925 in Urbana, Ohio, he picked up the game as a young boy when he had free run of nine-hole Urbana Country Club, a course his father, Paul Dye, built with some friends. Dye helped out on the maintenance crew when he was 7 years old. At first he helped water the course, then progressed to mowing greens and fairways. During World War II as the town’s labor force depleted, Pete found himself at age 16 as de facto greenkeeper.

Then came the first of his many career agronomic disasters. In those days it was common to fertilize greens with sulphate of ammonia mixed in a water barrel and then tossed on a green from a sprinkler can. Impressed with his initial results and laboring under the theory that if a little is good, more is better, he increased the concentration. Sure enough, the greens reacted. In a pacing of speech that would serve a stand-up comic well, Dye narrated in his typical Midwest tang what happened next: “Those greens turned light green to dark green to real dark green to black and then brown, and soon they were straw. And the next week my dad shipped me off to the Army to be a paratrooper.”

During a stint at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the commander asked if anyone could tend the base’s course. Dye stepped forward. Within two weeks, he and three officers were making regular afternoon trips 30 miles to a resort named Pinehurst. There they played golf, much of it on Pinehurst No. 2, and Dye got to meet Donald Ross.

With a flat swing and a draw that rolled the ball forever, Dye was a fine player, captaining the Rollins College team near Orlando in 1947 and competing against fine collegians such as Harvie Ward, Art Wall, Mike Souchak and Arnold Palmer. He was good enough to have qualified for the 1946 U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol, the first of five times he played that event. He also played in the 1957 U.S. Open at Inverness and won the Indiana State Amateur in 1958.

Dye never did finish at Rollins College. He got distracted by golf and a co-ed from Indianapolis, Alice O’Neal, the lead golfer on the women’s team, whom he married in 1950. She went on to an impressive amateur golf career: nine-times an Indiana State Amateur champion, winner of the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur in 1978 and 1979, a Curtis Cup team member in 1970 and captain of the 1992 U.S. Women’s World Amateur Team. Alice passed away in 2019 at age 91.

Alice and Pete Dye at the 2014 Golfweek Architecture Summit (Golfweek files)

After they wed, the pair settled in Indianapolis where they became successful insurance agents and staples of the local amateur circuit. She gave up her business career to raise their two boys, P.B. and Perry, and when Pete finally got the bug to give up insurance for designing golf courses, she reluctantly agreed, then threw herself into the task for the next half century as his business agent, co-laborer and design associate.

Dye had dabbled in turfgrass research with faculty at Purdue University. When he became green chairman of the Indianapolis Country Club in 1955, he put his newfound expertise to work. He oversaw tree plantings to replace the hundreds of Dutch Elms lost to disease, eventually creating shade issues. The bridges he built got washed out. And an experiment in weed control on part of the first fairway – members confined his experiment to the ill-fated “Dye half” – also did not pan out.

Undeterred, Dye slogged on, including making visits to Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Midwest golf architect legend Bill Diddle to solicit advice. Eventually his contacts paid off with a call to design and build the nine-hole El Dorado Country Club (now called Royal Oak) in Indianapolis. The routing called for 13 creek crossings and had out-of-bounds along the right on the majority of holes. Pete and Alice built the course themselves, Pete having taught himself to operate a bulldozer. The greens were likely the first set in the country built to the U.S. Golf Association’s then-nascent plans for perched water table, sand-based construction. The Dyes grassed the greens with sod cultivated on their front lawn that they hauled in the trunk of their car.

In 1963, Pete and Alice took a month-long tour of classical Scottish venues, a trip that changed their outlook entirely. At Turnberry they were impressed by the vastness of the holes. At Prestwick they discovered railroad ties shoring up the bunkers and slopes so steep that Dye measured them with a transit. The long ride north to Royal Dornoch paid off when they discovered how the greens there allowed for ground entry along low, scooped-out terrain that made the putting surfaces appear raised. They also were impressed how the North Sea was visible from almost every hole, an effect they later emulated at the Ocean Course at Kiawah, where they gave every hole a look out to or along the Atlantic Ocean.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah (Courtesy of Kiawah Island Golf Resort)

The big revelation was the Old Course at St. Andrews, where Dye played the 1963 British Amateur. He hated the course the first time around, finding the holes indistinct. But by his seventh tour of the course – he made it to the third round of match play before losing to a professional roller skater from Glasgow – he was fascinated by the place. He began to see the holes aerially in his mind, as if looking down on them, and was drawn by how the lines of play and strategies were suggested not by towering trees that hemmed you in, as in the U.S., but by modest vertical upsweeps of bunkers or dunes. He was intrigued by how so many ground features dead-ended into hollows and misled a player’s eye. He also saw how changes in vegetation texture would allow you to read the terrain – if you paid attention.

These were lessons he went on to incorporate in his most powerful and iconic landscapes, and he did so by personally overseeing a site from beginning to end.

This, says course designer Tom Doak, might be the most valuable lesson of Dye’s work. Doak went to work for Dye on Long Cove in 1981 for $4 an hour on a construction crew in searing heat.

“A week into Long Cove,” Doak said, “Pete said to me, ‘I tried to draw plans and it just didn’t work out that way for me. It didn’t come out the way I wanted. The only way was to be right there (to) make sure it was the way I wanted.’ ”

Pete Dye during construction of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Bradley S. Klein)

It was a lesson Dye conveyed to other future designers who worked on Long Cove: Bobby Weed, Ron Farris and Scott Poole. And it’s a lesson conveyed to a whole generation of architects who worked under Dye in his half century of design: Dave Postlewaite, Lee Schmidt, Bill Coore, Jason McCoy, Brian Curley, Tim Liddy and Dye’s own two sons, P.B. and Perry.

The experience of watching John Daly obliterate his Crooked Stick course in the 1991 PGA Championship nearly proved traumatic for Dye. For the rest of his career he was adamant about trying to defeat the long-ball hitter and grew increasingly frustrated that, in his view, the USGA wasn’t doing enough to limit the distance modern golf balls traveled.

Tired of watching Tour-quality players hit driver and wedge to virtually every par 4, Dye became the first architect to champion extra-long par 4s, often in the range of 470 to 490 yards. He virtually dispensed with mid-range par 4s of 400 to 450 yards, relying upon a handful of short par 4s and the rest long par 4s.

In the last few years, Dye slowed down physically and mentally. But that didn’t stop him from maintaining a considerable workload, much of it undertaken with the help of his longtime associate, Liddy. In the last few years Dye completed Chatham Hills in Westfield, Indiana; a major renovation of the Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill, Georgia; a complete rebuild of Full Cry at Keswick Hall Golf Club near Charlottesville, Virginia; yet another overhaul of the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium course; a revitalization of his iconic The Golf Club in New Albany, Ohio; and a second course at Nemacolin Woodlands in Farmington, Pennsylvania, called Shepherd’s Rock.

After more than seven decades in the field, Dye was extending a legacy that will force players to think for generations to come.

– Bradley S. Klein wrote for Golfweek for 30 years, has worked with several other publications and is the author of multiple books on golf course design.

Pete Dye’s top 10 courses according to Golfweek’s Best rankings

Pete Dye designed more than 250 courses around the world, many of which have hosted major championships and PGA Tour events.

Pete Dye, who died Thursday at the age of 94, designed more than 250 courses around the world, many of which have hosted major championships and PGA Tour events.

Known for making tough courses that would challenge – even infuriate – the best players in the game, Dye left a lasting impression on course architecture. While perhaps most famous for his island green at No. 17 at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, his contributions to golf go way beyond that pond.

More: Pete Dye dies at 94 | Reaction | Photos

Following are the top 10 Dye courses in the Golfweek’s Best rankings for 2019, as compiled by our hundreds of raters. Nine are in the United States, and one is in the Dominican Republic. Each course was judged by 10 criteria before being assigned a total score between one and 10 by each rater, then those scores were averaged to compile the rankings below.

1. Whistling Straits (Straits)

Where: Mosel, Wisconsin

Year opened: 1997 (resort)

Average rating: 8.28

Golfweek’s Best: No. 7 Modern Courses in the U.S.

2. The Golf Club

Where: New Albany, Ohio

Year built: 1967 (private)

Average rating: 7.86

Golfweek’s Best: No. 12 Modern Courses in the U.S.

3. Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Ocean)

Where: Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Year built: 1991 (resort)

Average rating: 7.85 

Golfweek’s Best: No. 13 Modern Courses in the U.S.

4. Pete Dye GC 

Where: Bridgeport, West Virginia

Year built: 1994 (private)

Average rating: 7.78

Golfweek’s Best: No. 16 Modern Courses in the U.S.

5. Honors Course 

Where: Ooltewah, Tennessee

Year built: 1983 (private)

Average rating: 7.75

Golfweek’s Best: No. 19 Modern Courses in the U.S.

No. 17 at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

6. TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium) 

Where: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Year built: 1981 (resort)

Average rating: 7.74

Golfweek’s Best: No. 22 Modern Courses in the U.S.

Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course (Courtesy of Casa de Campo)

7. Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)

Where: La Romana, Dominican Republic

Year built: 1971 (resort)

Average rating: 7.54

Golfweek’s Best: No. 3 in the Caribbean and Mexico

8. Oak Tree National

Where: Edmond, Oklahoma

Year built: 1975 (private)

Average rating: 7.45

Golfweek’s Best: No. 41 Modern Courses in the U.S.

Harbour Town Golf Links (Courtesy of Sea Pines)

9. Sea Pines (Harbour Town GL)

Where: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Year built: 1970 (resort)

Average rating: 7.35

Golfweek’s Best: No. 54 Modern Courses in the U.S.

10. Long Cove

Where: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Year built: 1982 (private)

Average rating: 7.14

Golfweek’s Best: No. 77 Modern Courses in the U.S.

Coastal champs: South Carolina’s top five public-access courses

The best of South Carolina’s Low Country and Grand Strand is all about long marsh views, moss dripping from oaks and beachside living. Think shrimp boils, pickup trucks and Southern accents. And golf courses. From Myrtle Beach at the north end of …

The best of South Carolina’s Low Country and Grand Strand is all about long marsh views, moss dripping from oaks and beachside living. Think shrimp boils, pickup trucks and Southern accents.

And golf courses. 

From Myrtle Beach at the north end of the state’s beaches to Hilton Head Island near the southern end, it seems there are more fairways than back roads – and that’s saying something down here. 

It’s no surprise to most traveling golfers that South Carolina has great golf. Myrtle Beach is a long-time staple with its nearly 100 courses. Halfway down the state’s coast, Kiawah Island Golf Resort has hosted a Ryder Cup in 1991 and a PGA Championship in 2012, and the course is slated to host that major championship again in 2021. Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines hosts the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage each April. 

What is somewhat surprising is that in a state that stretches inland some 250 miles with a diverse landscape that rolls up toward the Appalachian Mountains in the west, all the state’s top-ranked public-access courses are near the beach. Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list includes 15 courses in the Palmetto State, and each of them is near the coast. 

My recent rounds on the top five on the list showcased the best of coastal South Carolina golf. Included with the highlights of my trip are comments from Golfweek’s Best raters, on whose opinions our comprehensive course-ranking system is built.