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Best of the Best 2002: Golf: Best Courses

James Y. Bartlett and Ron Crowley

Link to Scotland
Compare the courses at Bandon Dunes with the checklist of what defines a Scottish/Irish links.  

Desolate seaside location; raw, tumbling dunes land; constant drumming of surf; open, treeless, and windswept; weather that changes three times in the space of a round, including at least one episode of rain? Check.  

Hard, rolling turf with dark, loamy underlay; wispy red fescue in the rough; sod-faced bunkers strewn everywhere; wild thorny gorse with sunlight-yellow blooms providing deceptively attractive backdrops on many holes? Check, check, and check.  

Right, then. The checklist says we must be in Scotland. Except we’re not. We’re on the central coast of Oregon.  

There are courses all over America that claim to be “links-like,” or “Scottish-style,” or which place the word “links” in their titles, in a vain attempt to capture some of the mystique and allure of the Auld Sod.  

The two courses at Bandon Dunes, on the other hand, are the real deal. Mike Keiser, owner of Recycled Paper Greetings, scoured the country until he found the perfect links land here on the Pacific coast. Then he turned the land over to two unknown architects. Scotsman David McLay Kidd built the Bandon Dunes course, which opened in 1998, and Michigan’s Tom Doak followed last year with Pacific Dunes. Both are superb courses that are not copies or derivatives or anything other than perfectly authentic windblown links-golf experiences.  

The setting is so remote that the only things to do are eat, sleep, and play as much golf as you can, which is precisely the point of the place. You don’t even have to squint and pretend. At Bandon Dunes, you’re in links country.  

Bandon Dunes, 888.345.6008, www.bandondunesgolf.com

Unspoiled Walk
Wander the finest courses in the world (presumably not looking for your misplaced golf balls), and you won’t find any that are as naturally resplendent as Cypress Point on California’s Monterey Peninsula. One moment you’re secluded among the cypress trees of an inland hole, watching deer nibble on the fairway grass, and a few holes later you’re teeing off atop a rocky cliff, bracing against the full fury of the wind and rain blowing off the sea.  

The course’s natural beauty is exemplified by the 16th hole, an alleged par-3 of 231 yards where Mother Nature appears in her rawest form: The wind is always hard to read, and the sea churns beyond the slender green. Despite its difficulty, it looks as though it were first played a year or two before the Old Course at St Andrews opened. Indeed, course architect Dr. Alistair Mackenzie refrained from forcing his hand anywhere, allowing nature to guide the layout of the holes. That is why Cypress Point is a wonderful exper-ience whether you actually play it or not.  

Cypress Point Club may be played by invitation only.

Aussie Augusta
Want to play a fantastic course by Alistair Mackenzie that is always in immaculate condition and is not in Augusta, Ga.? Unlike Augusta National, Australia’s Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne warmly welcomes visitors. It also has an extraordinary championship pedigree, having hosted the Australian Open many times, and the prestigious Accenture Matchplay Championship in 2001.  

Located in the famous sandbelt region south of Melbourne, the Met delivers a pure Aussie golf experience. Its fairways of couch (pronounced kooch) grass wend past towering gum trees inhabited by all manner of colorful and chatty birds. Its 106 sunken bunkers are mammoth, and its bent grass greens tumble and roll at lightning speed. In fact, its greens are especially precarious because each surface runs right up to the razor-sharp edges of greenside traps.  

It’s a long par-5 down to M’lbun, but a round at the Met is well worth the trip.

Metropolitan Golf Club, +61.03.9579.3122, www.metropolitangolf.com.au

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