“We hope to be a source of inspiration for the great people of Maui and Lahaina by the time that we get to Maui in January.”
Good news for fans of Maui golf.
Kapalua Golf will reopen its Bay Course on Wednesday, Sept. 20 and its Plantation Course on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Both golf courses have been closed since the Maui wildfires on Aug. 8. Located in West Maui, the golf courses and facilities at Kapalua Golf were spared from the fires, which devastated Lahaina, about 10 miles away.
“Our team truly appreciates the outpouring of support from around the globe over the past six weeks,” said Kapalua Golf & Tennis General Manager Alex Nakajima. “Our staff was deeply impacted by the fires, with nearly a third losing their homes and possessions. As associates and the community work to heal, we continue to support them; welcoming back team members to work as they are ready. As we continue the recovery process, we are reopening our two golf courses for Kamaʻāina (local residents) on island and for those planning their return to Maui. As millions discovered during the pandemic, a round of golf can be good medicine for the mind, body and soul.”
Kapalua Golf’s Plantation Course and Bay Course are open to resort guests and daily-fee play. Arnold Palmer designed The Bay Course first, in 1975, which is more forgiving than the Plantation, a Coore-Crenshaw design that the duo built in 1991 and renovated in 2019. The Sentry, the longtime PGA Tour stop, is played annually at the Plantation Course, which ranks No. 17 in Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses list, in early January. The reopening of the course is an encouraging sign that the tournament can be staged there. In late August, Commissioner Jay Monahan addressed whether the tournament would be able to be held in its normal slot as the first event of the New Year.
“We hope to be a source of inspiration for the great people of Maui and Lahaina by the time that we get to Maui in January,” he said. “I think at this point there’s so many unknowns, and we want to be respectful of the challenges. We want to help be a part of the revitalization. There are a lot of considerations. We’re committed, you know, if it makes — if we’re allowed to, if we’re invited, if we’re embraced, given all that needs to be accomplished, we will be there 100 percent. But I think at this point right now that’s outside of our hands.”
For more information on Kapalua Golf and for tee times, visit www.GolfAtKapalua.com or call 1-877-KAPALUA.
Ross Bridge near Birmingham, Alabama, is slated to reopen this fall with new putting surfaces.
Ross Bridge, one of the highest-ranked golf courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, will reopen Oct. 13 after a complete renovation of its greens and bunkers.
The layout just outside Birmingham ranks No. 4 in Alabama on Golfweek’s Best list of top public-access courses in each state. The course wraps around the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa, a gorgeous AAA 4-Diamond Approved Hotel. With plenty of ground movement in its valley setting, Ross Bridge can be stretched to more than 8,100 yards off the back tee, making it one of the longest courses in the world.
The work to the greens was necessitated by an accidental poisoning of many of the greens a year ago. The operators of the Trail opted to start from scratch, switching the putting surfaces from bent grass to a much more heat-tolerant TifEagle Bermuda grass. That switch should result in much firmer and smoother green surfaces.
Every bunker on the course also was renovated with fresh drainage systems, and several cart paths were relocated. Architectural changes were also made to Nos. 1, 2, 10, 14 and 18, but details of those changes weren’t specified in a media release announcing the opening date.
The new Monster Golf Club routing takes land from two previous courses at Resorts World Catskills in New York.
The Rees Jones-renovated Monster Golf Club in Monticello, New York, has reopened with a new routing that incorporates parts of the old Concord Monster Course and the property’s Old International Course. The new layout took nearly five years to reach completion and is part of a $40-million investment by Resorts World Catskills.
The previous Monster layout, originally designed by Joe Finger and opened in 1963, had been closed since 2015. Jones used holes and corridors from the two former courses to create a 7,650-yard, par-72 new Monster Golf Club in the Catskill Mountains about a two-hour drive from Manhattan. The public-access course will be managed by Arizona-based Troon Golf.
“The opening of any golf course is a special time, but to do it in the picturesque Catskills and to be able to combine the elements of two celebrated golf courses makes this a truly remarkable occasion,” Monster Golf Club director of golf Uri Jimenez said in a media release announcing the news. “The magic of Rees Jones is omnipresent throughout the course’s 18 holes and the hospitality excellence of Troon Golf and Resorts World Catskills will offer golfers an unrivaled experience at the Monster Golf Club.”
The course features six sets of tees to accommodate any player. The club has a new fleet of carts and a golf shop located in The Alder, Resorts World Catskills’ newest boutique lifestyle hotel adjacent to the property’s casino and resort.
“The grand reopening of the Monster Golf Club is a milestone moment for Resorts World Catskills as it completes the vision we had for this amazing property,” Robert DeSalvio, president of Genting Americas East, said in the media release. “We are proud to deliver on the commitment we made to the Catskills community to reimagine and reinvigorate this storied golf course in partnership with the legendary Rees Jones. We can’t wait to welcome golfers from around the world to face the Monster.”
Two of the hottest designers in golf will rework one of the main layouts at Pebble Beach Resorts.
Pebble Beach Company has hired the team of Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner to redesign The Links at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California.
Opened in 1987, the original layout was designed by the trio of architects Robert Trent Jones Jr., former USGA president Sandy Tatum and PGA Tour player Tom Watson. Situated between the Inn at Spanish Bay and the Pacific Ocean, the course was built on the site of a former sand mine with ocean views on nearly every hole.
Hanse and Wagner have become one of the most in-demand architecture teams in recent years, with original designs such as Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia and the Black Course at Streamsong in Florida. They also have completed historic restorations to many highly ranked courses including Los Angeles Country Club, site of the 2023 U.S. Open.
Details on the timing of the renovation were not included in a media release announcing the news.
“The Links at Spanish Bay possesses nearly every raw element you’d want in a golf course, from expansive ocean views to rolling, sandy terrain,” Hanse said in the media release. “With these natural attributes already in place, our team will have a significant head start on delivering a final product that will be in the top echelon of ‘must-play’ courses.”
Pebble Beach Company also operates Pebble Beach Golf Links, which ranks No. 10 on Golfweek’s Best list of classic courses in the U.S., and Spyglass Hill, which tied for 26th on the list of top modern courses in the U.S. The company’s Pebble Beach Resorts also operates Del Monte Golf Course and The Hay, a par-3 course designed by Tiger Woods.
Welcome to Golfweek’s Best 2023 Casino Courses in the United States. This list focuses on courses owned and/or operated by or in conjunction with casinos, with data pulled from Golfweek‘s massive database of course rankings.
The hundreds of members of Golfweek‘s course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on our 10 criteria. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings on each course are averaged to produce a final rating for each that is then used to compile the Golfweek’s Best course rankings.
From the gated entrance to the 18th green, Fallen Oak rolls out the welcome mat in Mississippi.
SAUCIER, Miss. – Golf architect Tom Fazio is a heavyweight in the private club world. His designs pepper the Golfweek’s Best list of top private courses across the U.S., with dozens of such facilities among the top modern courses in the country.
Wade Hampton Club in North Carolina, Congaree in South Carolina, Estancia in Arizona — those and more than 50 others rank highly, and they’re all private. His courses tend to be part of clubs that excel in catering to their memberships’ every whim.
Fazio also has excelled in building courses for another segment of golf: casinos. Fazio either designed or collaborated on seven of the top 50 casino courses in the U.S. Best of all, these highly ranked layouts are open to the public, albeit sometimes only to guests staying at the affiliated casino resort.
Fazio’s Shadow Creek in Las Vegas has topped the Golfweek’s Best rankings of casino courses in the U.S. for years. The over-the-top desert layout in North Las Vegas is a testament to what might be accomplished when money is no issue, and the layout’s $1,000-plus green fee is aligned with that. The amount of play at Shadow Creek is also limited — stay at the MGM, take a limo to the course, be treated like a star.
But there’s another way to experience the best of Fazio casino golf that shouldn’t be missed, and it’s much more attainable.
Fallen Oak near Biloxi, Mississippi, is a much more natural layout than Shadow Creek. And the course – operated in conjunction with MGM’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, a AAA Four Diamond award winner — might offer the best opportunity for public golfers to experience a top Fazio layout and all the first-rate trappings that generally come with it. Fallen Oak is No. 2 on the Golfweek’s Best list of top casino courses in the U.S.
From the gated entrance and long drive past live oaks and ponds to the stately clubhouse, all the way to the personalized lockers and frozen watermelon served at the turn on a hot day, Fallen Oak makes a public-access player feel like a member of an elite club. The service is second to none in the public-access golf world.
Director of golf Mark Powell makes sure of it.
“We want it to feel special, that, ‘Hey, I’m at a great golf course,’ ” said the longtime PGA of America pro who took the helm at Fallen Oak in 2021. “We want to be there every step of the way. We want everyone on staff to know your name.”
Guests of the Beau Rivage gain access to all this on a course that’s never crowded, hosting just 14,000 or so rounds a year. Counting the several weeks a year Fallen Oak is closed for maintenance – a luxury most public-access layouts can’t afford — it works out to about 40 players a day.
Go ahead, stretch out. Enjoy the quiet. It’s rare these days.
Fazio’s layout at Fallen Oak opened in 2006, and for a decade it hosted the PGA Tour Champions event in Mississippi. And unlike the heavily manufactured Shadow Creek, Fallen Oak sits on a tremendous Southern site that seems entirely natural for golf. Aside from its high ranking among casino courses, Fallen Oak is the top-rated public-access course in Mississippi. The green fee tops out at $275 — you could play four rounds at Fallen Oak for not much more than one round at Shadow Creek — and the resort runs stay-and-play specials.
Fallen Oak’s rolling terrain is dotted with wetlands and specimen trees, some of which were relocated during construction. Conditioning is top notch, equal to elite private clubs even in the heat of a Mississippi summer. The greens have plenty of motion without ever crossing a line into too-difficult territory.
Best of all: the bunkering.
Many resort courses slash bunkers across their countrysides, threatening players of all levels and distance. Fallen Oak, by contrast, offers restrained bunkering, one well-placed trap often serving the job. Fallen Oak underwent a major bunker renovation in 2014 in which numerous traps were removed, and the remaining bunkers were given a face-lift again in 2022.
Many holes feature only one fairway bunker. No. 2 is a long par 4, and there is just one fairway bunker on the left side – the hole doesn’t need any more protection. It’s similar at Nos. 4 and 9 on the front side. No. 11 has no fairway traps, and the rest of the back nine is similarly restrained. The ground moves enough through the wide corridors to provide challenge without every stray shot splashing into sand.
Same goes around most of the greens. Play a round at Fallen Oak and you’ll face more chips and pitches than bunker splash-outs. The entire layout, since the bunker renovations, shows a lovely level of understatement married to an extremely comfortable Gulf Coast motif. The terrain and the trees, the ponds and the greens are free to shine without too much sand in your face. You can always head to the beach if you want more sand.
“The first re-do they did, I tell ya, I was really impressed,” said Powell, who was working at another Mississippi club at the time. “I had played here before, back in the early days, and that was always kind of a knock on the course, too many bunkers. After the re-do, when I saw the course, I said this is even better. It’s awesome.”
The par-72 layout can be stretched beyond 7,500 yards, but from the proper tees it’s a treat of attempted shotmaking into smooth putting surfaces. Good shots are rewarded, and the roll-offs around several greens require strategic approaches to the proper sides of the hole. There’s not a thoughtless approach on the 510-acre property, and at the same time there’s not one that’s unattainable.
It’s a perfect attribute to the Beau Rivage, which is packed with highly rated dining and other curated experiences besides the golf. A word of advice: Plan your visit during baseball season, and take in a Biloxi Shuckers minor-league game at MGM Park across the street from the casino resort. It’s an intimate ballpark that provides a great break from the gaming tables.
The golf club is open to any guests of the Beau Rivage, with Powell and his staff hosting frequent special events for VIPs of the casino. Put in enough time at the tables and you might be invited to play in a sponsored tournament for casino credit that can run into the thousands of dollars. The club also has a small membership of invited casino regulars, and Powell hosts all kinds of interesting events for them, too.
“We just want to make it fun for everybody,” Powell said. “We’ve got member tournaments, a great club championship, all kinds of games during the week.
“We’re constantly looking to do every little thing we can to improve the guest experience. Sometimes a little thing goes a long way.”
Sound like a public-access private club? That’s the idea, executed perfectly.
In a brief statement issued Wednesday, Calmwater Capital pledged to complete the unfinished hotel.
The Los Angeles-based lender said it has hired crews to complete the 150-room hotel and resort, which will feature three restaurants, a spa and fitness complex, wedding venue, meeting space and banquet facilities for up to 200 people. Calmwater said the resort also will include a resort-style pool and pickleball courts.
In addition to finishing the hotel, Calmwater Capital said the 18-hole, 130-acre Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course will reopen Sept. 30. The course closed in August after a would-be suitor, Westside Capital of Denver, failed to follow through on a $102.1 million purchase of the hotel and golf course.
Westside’s decision not to close on the purchase left Banyan Cay with no choice but to let the lender’s $96.5 million credit bid stand. The amount reflects the debt extended to the hotel and golf club.
On Aug. 31, U.S. Banktrupcty Court Judge Erik Kimball approved the property’s transfer to a Calmwater Capital affiliate, U.S. Real Estate Holdings III.
The hotel was supposed to open as a Destination by Hyatt property, the company’s only Destination brand in Florida. Now it’s not certain the Hyatt brand will remain. In its statement, Calmwater said the brand and timeline for completion will be announced at a later date.
The ownership change marks the latest twist for the troubled resort and golf club, which is located just east of Interstate 95 off Congress Avenue and north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.
The property previously was the site of the President Country Club, but the club fell into financial trouble and was sold to an investor group for $11 million in 2011. That investor group then flipped the property to Banyan Cay Dev LLC, led by Domenic Gatto Jr., for $26 million in 2015.
Construction of a resort hotel was beset by delays, to the dismay of The Lands of the President community, which overlooks Banyan Cay. In addition, residents in an adjacent new single-family community, the Residences at Banyan Cay by SobelCo, were supposed to be able to use the hotel’s club as part of the purchase of their homes.
In a July 16 complaint in Palm Beach County circuit court, U.S. Real Estate Credit Holdings III-A L.P., the Calmwater Capital affiliate, claimed Banyan Cay missed deadlines to open the hotel by April 30.
Calmwater Capital also sought repayment of two loans. One was a $61 million construction loan to build the Banyan Cay hotel. The other was a $24 million loan for construction of nearly two dozen unbuilt villas on the property.
By February, Banyan Cay had lost the lawsuit, and a judge issued two final judgments in favor of Calmwater Capital. The judgments totaled more than $95 million, an amount that includes the loans plus interest.
Banyan Cay filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in March in hopes of finding a buyer willing to pay a premium above the loan amount for the large, rare site.
Westside was the sole bidder at a bankruptcy auction and was scheduled to close on the West Palm Beach project before July 31. In June, an enthusiastic Westside official said the project needed about $5 million more to finish construction, including completion of exterior amenities such as the pool deck.
But Westside did not close the deal. At the last minute, it left Banyan Cay in the lurch and unable to pay its insurance, maintain the property or pay employees, according to a 130-page court filing submitted Aug. 9 by the lender.
Westside’s failure to complete its $102.1 million acquisition means Banyan Cay lost millions when the property went back to its lender for the loan amount, said Joseph Pack, a Miami attorney representing Banyan Cay. Court documents indicate Banyan Cay believes Westside engaged in fraud and intentional misrepresentations.
Come along for the full 18 at Belvedere Golf Club in Michigan.
CHARLEVOIX, Mich. – The past several weeks at home in still-steamy Florida have me dreaming of golf in different climates and some of the cooler places, both literally and figuratively, I have visited in recent months. In my mind, I keep hitting on the spots that offer a classic vibe, a great course and just a perfect atmosphere for golf.
Belvedere Golf Club in northern Michigan ticks all those boxes. Nestled inland between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix, its nines divided by a two-lane road, Belvedere is a step back in time with a central ridge that keeps balls rolling up and down hills the entire round.
Built by William Watson and opened in 1927, the layout was restored by Bruce Hepner starting in 2016. Hepner and longtime course superintendent Rick Grunch (who has since retired) received a blessing when Watson’s original drawings were uncovered in an old building nearby, giving them the blueprint for a restoration. The greens were returned to their original dimensions, their internal contours paired with frequent runoffs to keep players on their toes.
Belvedere ranks No. 6 in a very stacked Michigan on Golfweek’s Best list of top public-access courses in each state, and it also ties for No. 192 among all classic courses built before 1960 in the U.S.
Rankings aside, it’s just a very cool place to spend a day. There’s the right-sized clubhouse, its pro shop lined with photos of top professionals who have ambled through. It’s a private club that accepts some outside play, and it’s the type of course that surely makes every guest ponder a membership application. The peak guest green fee for walkers is listed as $125 in 2023, and the offseason rate is half that – a bargain for the experience.
I was lucky enough to play it for the third time this summer, and the experience was too good not to share. So here goes: photos of every hole at Belvedere, with multiple shots of some holes.
10 destinations have three or more highly ranked courses on Golfweek’s Best Top 200 Resort Courses list.
What do you really want in a golf trip? If your answer is golf, golf, then more golf in one spot, sometimes followed by a wee bit of extra golf, we have you covered.
Golfweek’s Best ranks courses around the world by various categories, ranging from modern courses to the best in each state. One of our most popular rankings is the top 200 resort courses in the U.S.
Any of the layouts on the list would make for a great getaway. More than three dozen resorts have two courses on the list, always begging for a comparison between layouts over a nice cold drink and dinner after a full day of golf.
But if you’re looking for more, keep reading. Because 10 resorts are home to three or more courses on Golfweek’s Best ranking of top resorts in the U.S. From coastal Oregon to inland Florida, these destinations have the holes — and the pedigrees — to keep golfers swinging for days.
Six of these resorts have three courses ranked among the top 200. They are Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri, Firestone Country Club in Ohio, Pebble Beach Resorts in California, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, Sea Pines in South Carolina and Streamsong in Florida.
Two of these are not traditional resorts. The first is Firestone, which for the most part is a private members club. But Firestone offers stay-and-play packages open to the public. That qualifies it as a resort based on Golfweek’s Best standards in which any course that offers tee times to the public, even if the club is mostly a private facility, is deemed to be public-access.
The other in question is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which offers golf at 11 sites around the state. Because all the facilities are managed under one umbrella and offer great opportunities to bounce from one site to another with relative ease, we opted to include the Trail on this list.
Next up are the resorts with four courses ranked among the top 200 — rarefied air. They are Destination Kohler in Wisconsin (Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run are two clubs, each with two courses, that are part of one resort) and Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia, which is a sprawling resort and residential community.
Only two resorts in the U.S. have five courses among the top 200 in the U.S.: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon and Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. Both of them are bucket-list destinations that every golfer should see, hopefully more than once. They offer all the golf most players would ever want on one vacation — playing one round on each course would take days, and one round on each course is never enough.
The resorts with three or more ranked courses have gone about their development in multiple ways. Some were established more than a century ago and have added courses through the decades — these resorts often feature courses designed by multiple architects, offering an array of styles and architectural features. Others feature several courses by one designer, with the resorts sticking with the architects who proved to work best for them.
Either way, you can’t go wrong with a trip to any of these locations listed on the following pages. Included for each resort are its top-200 courses listed with their average rating on a scale of 1 to 10 as assigned by Golfweek’s Best rater program, their designers, the years they opened and their rankings on various Golfweek’s Best lists. We hope you enjoy perusing these elite resorts, both on these pages and in real life.
And it’s worth noting, there is one more resort destination that is very likely to join this list of 10 in the coming years. Pine Needles in North Carolina, not far from Pinehurst Resort, operates three courses, two of which are on the 2023 list of top 200 resorts: Pine Needles (No. 47) and Mid Pines (T-35). The company’s third course, the recently renovated Southern Pines, didn’t have the requisite number of votes to qualify for this year’s list but is almost a lock to appear on the list in upcoming years.
Troon, the Arizona-based golf management company that has seen rapid expansion in recent months, has been selected to manage one of the most interesting courses in the U.S.: Tobacco Road in Sanford, North Carolina.
Such players tend to love that Tobacco Road plays almost like a video game, presenting shots and strategic challenges not seen at many other courses. Think semi-blind shots to frequently crazy greens featuring dramatic contours and run-offs – Strantz wasn’t interested in the status quo of golf design, and he wasn’t afraid to turn up the volume with his designs.
With the right frame of mind, it’s all incredibly fun – judged by many to be as much art as a golf course. And after decades of family management, the course 25 miles north of Pinehurst will now be under the management of Troon, the largest golf and golf-hospitality management company in the world.
“After thoroughly evaluating our options for management of Tobacco Road, we are excited to select Troon as the steward of Mike Strantz’s uncompromising design,” Tobacco Road Golf Club founder Mark Stewart said in a media release announcing the news.
Troon has been on a tear lately, acquiring several other management companies. The company now manages the equivalent of 840-plus 18-hole golf courses. Under its care are multiple top-tier daily-fee courses and private clubs.
“Troon is proud and honored to partner with Tobacco Road and founder Mark Stewart,” Troon director of operations Dana Schultz said in the media release. “This Top-100 golf course has been a successful family-run operation for decades. We look forward to carrying on the Stewart family vision and welcoming golfers to Tobacco Road Golf Club.”
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