The World's Best Public Courses
Cigar Aficionado expert panel picks the best places you can play, plus names the top private clubs on the planet
From the Print Edition:
Kurt Russell, May/June 2006
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Multiple-Course Resort, U.S.
Bandon Dunes, Bandon, OR
Pacific Dunes is the highest-ranked public course in the world built since 1947, according to Golf Magazine. The course and its predecessor, Bandon Dunes, quite simply shocked the golf world when they opened, because they are that good. Last June, the powerhouse design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw opened the third layout, Bandon Trails, which is too young to be ranked but still made the Top 10 lists of some panelists. Our experts fell over one another to vote for this resort, and nothing else in the nation comes close to Pacific and Bandon Dunes for British Isles —style links golf, carved through epic sand dunes along the coast. Owner Mike Keiser is a purist and steadfastly refuses to build a spa, luxury accommodations or allow carts, insisting the resort is for true golf fanatics only.
Golf Odyssey's Baum is one convert: "Bandon Trails cements Bandon Dunes' position as the single best place to play golf in the world. Nowhere else on the planet can you drop your bags and have so many extraordinary golf holes at hand." It is worth noting that our two highly respected architect panelists, Arthur Hills and John Fought, both voted for Bandon in this category. Fought, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, said, "I love links golf and Bandon is the best links place in the U.S.," while Hills cooed, "Does it get any better then this, three world-class courses? My hat is off to Mike Keiser for building his dream."
Honorable Mention: Pebble Beach and Pinehurst came in second and third, respectively, rounding out the new pecking order in American golf.
Multiple-Course Resort, Abroad
Mission Hills, China
China? Twenty years ago, not a single golf course could be found in the entire country, and today 10 exist under one roof. In 2004, Mission Hills entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest golf facility. But quantity and quality co-exist at Mission Hills, where the courses were designed by an array of international player/designers, including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and even Annika Sorenstam —her sole design. The resort has two hotels, including a new boutique offering, several spas, and every other facility you could think of, all less than a 40- to 45-minute drive from Hong Kong.
Wide World of Golf's Hogan said, "There is really no comparison. Mission Hills has 10 excellent golf courses by 10 different famous golf course architects —and more are planned! For the price, the resort amenities, rooms and service are off the charts." Having just returned from a visit, I could tell you that if you moved any of the resort's best courses —the Faldo, the Nicklaus or the Olazabal —over here, people would clamor to play them. Mission Hills was just named Golf Resort of the Year by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.
Honorable Mention: Scotland's Turnberry took second place on the strength of its Ailsa course. Golf tour operator Sam Baker of Haversham & Baker could not decide between this and Mission Hills, explaining, "Mission Hills has 10 good golf courses and Turnberry has only two —but Turnberry has Ailsa."
Single-Course Resort, U.S.
See write-up on page 80.
Honorable Mention: The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, Hawaii, came in a very close second to Shadow Creek. Four Seasons just took over the hotel's management, and the Nicklaus-designed Challenge, with the most ocean exposure of any course in Hawaii, elicited strong support. "Views to die for —it's the real Hawaii you dream about," said Evan Rothman, former executive editor of Golf Magazine.
Single-Course Resort, Abroad
See write-up on page 80.
Honorable Mention: Waterville, Ireland. Talk about a hidden gem: Waterville House, the luxury mansion associated with this stunning links, is such a well-kept secret that many golf experts do not even know about it, and those that did quickly voted for Waterville as a resort. The first time I played Waterville, I came in for a Guinness after my first 18 and said, "I could play that course every single day." As I sat at the bar, another foursome came in and I overheard them say the same thing, then another. That is the effect Waterville has: it is a great links, but a fun one, not punishing like some, and you really do want to play it every day.
BEST NON-GOLF FACILITIES
Lodging, dining and activities
Multiple-Course Resort, U.S.
Destination Kohler, WI
A tight race showed how many great golf resorts in this nation live up to the term "full service." Kohler has all the spa treatments, shooting, horseback riding, fishing and other activities, but edged the competition with what may be the best golf resort hotel in the country, the American Club, where each bathroom is a unique work of art showcasing Kohler Plumbing's best fixtures and whirlpool baths. The hotel is home to the fantastic Immigrant Room restaurant and Kohler has something no other golf resort does: a huge interior design center, open to the public.
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