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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
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Kurt Russell, May/June 2006

(continued from page 4)

Architects Hills and Fought once again agreed in picking Bethpage.

Honorable Mention: Though no one came close to Bethpage, the category produced some interesting insights: Evan Rothman claimed that "the Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg, Nebraska, is a true links gem, worth a pilgrimage just as much as any more famous course," and Pedrero came out in defense of San Francisco's renovated municipal course, Harding Park, the Bay Area's answer to Bethpage. Women's golf expert Nancy Berkley chose Jim Engh's eye-candy Colorado design, Redlands Mesa, and Michael Patrick Shiels wanted to let golfers know about Michigan's newest shining star, Red Hawk.

Abroad
Kingsbarns, Scotland
Almost all the great links of the British Isles have no associated lodging, but the panelists gave Kingsbarns a lot of credit for being a truly public daily fee course with no members, even though private clubs in Britain are generally accessible. While it dominated other categories, the Old Course got just a single vote for this one, into which it neatly fits.

That does not detract from the awe-inspiring Kingsbarns, which made our experts' Top 10. The course was accurately described by golf journalist and author Ed Schmidt Jr. as "Scotland's modern-day answer to Pebble Beach —a wonderful combination of adroitly designed holes in a phenomenal seaside setting." Bill Hogan added, "Who would think that the year 2000 would have given birth to a classic old links? You would think it's been there 200 years."

Honorable Mention: Few categories inspired the passion of our respondents as much as this one, and second place fell to the majestic Royal County Down, often described as the greatest test of shot making in golf, but equally known for its incredible palette of purple heather, green grass and yellow gorse, all superimposed against crashing coastal waves with sweeping views of the mountains of Mourne. More than one panelist claimed the Northern Ireland course as his favorite, and Evan Rothman insisted that "Royal County Down is the prettiest and best course I've ever played —by far."

BEST GOLF DESTINATION
City or region

United States
Pinehurst, NC
"The Home of Golf in America" lives up to its nickname and swept our voters off their feet, easily outdistancing other golf epicenters. Why? Besides being the St Andrews of the States, the birthplace of public golf in this country with a history steeped in U.S. Open, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup competitions, the area offers an enormous amount of very good golf. It boasts the nation's largest golf resort, and its fabled Number Two cracked our top three, while several other courses in the complex, including Four, Seven and Eight, are standouts, too. But panelists also voted for the two other Donald Ross resorts in town, Pine Needles and Mid Pines, and architect John Fought mentioned The Pit, a well-regarded daily fee course nearby. Pedrero even put Tobacco Road, a visually stunning Mike Strantz design outside of town, on his Top 10 list. Throw in other modern courses by Jack Nicklaus and company, and one layout with llamas for caddies, and you really can have it all in Pinehurst.

Honorable Mention: The Monterrey Peninsula and Bandon, Oregon, came in a distant second and third, respectively, despite holding the first and second spots in our Top 10 courses.

Abroad
St. Andrews, Scotland
This was the one category we probably did not need any experts for. The birthplace of the game, St Andrews is golf's Holy Grail, the place to which every avid golfer wants to make a pilgrimage. Our experts agreed, and the town got far more votes than every runner-up combined. Sam Baker called St Andrews "a no brainer! The golf includes two British Open courses (Old & Carnoustie) plus Kingsbarns as well as another dozen good courses. No place has more golf history and tradition. The accommodations range from five-star luxury to delightful former coaching inns. You can dine on fine cuisine, devour good pub grub and drink with the caddies." Besides the Links Trust courses (Old, New, Jubilee and Eden), there are three awesome destination-worthy courses here: Kingsbarns, the Devlin and the Torrance, plus several other notables, including the just-renovated Dukes and the 36 at Crail. If you expand the town to take in the multiple courses at nearby Carnoustie, you have two weeks' worth of epic golf.

Honorable Mention: Northern Ireland was noted for its concentration of world-class links along one coastline, including Royal County Down and Royal Portrush, both in our top five, plus other jewels such as Portstewart and Ardglass.


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