The 10 Best
From Bethpage to Bismarck, the most bang for your golf buck.
1. Bethpage State Park (Black)
Farmingdale, New York. $42
The quintessential public course, now spic-and-span for the 2002 U.S. Open. Rees Jones's restoration has placed A. W. Tillinghast's unmatched bunkering at center stage. A big, burly, brutal test for good players who carry their own bags or pull their own carts. Beats the diamond district as the best bargain in the New York City area.
2. Old Works Golf Course
Anaconda, Montana. $40
As much drama and character as any Jack Nicklaus course, at a rock-bottom price. On the site of a defunct copper smelter, Nicklaus mixed the remnants of smokestacks, flues and ovens with Big Sky native grasses, fast-running creeks and mountain backdrops. Black slag in the bunkers enhances the industrial theme.
3. Hawktree Golf Club
Bismarck, North Dakota. $45
A dramatic, moody course in the badlands. Through the tawny native grasses of a windswept prairie, Jim Engh carved a shotmaker's paradise framed by broad ridges and accented by huge bunkers filled with black slag. In the middle of nowhere, the effect is haunting, further enhancing a challenging but playable experience.
4. Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club
Sandia Park, New Mexico. $49
In the state known for value, the best deal of all. Amid the ruins of an Anasazi Indian pueblo, Ken Dye's 7,562-yard (from the tips) high-desert composition includes rock outcroppings and gaping arroyos. "I am most pleased with what I didn't do here," says the minimalistic Dye. Authentic adobe clubhouse is a perfect fit.
5. Lakewood Shores Resort (Gailes)
Oscoda, Michigan. $62
Before there was Bandon Dunes, there was The Gailes. Built on sandy soil just off Lake Huron, this hidden jewel (ninety minutes north of Saginaw) has the ruggedly bleak links look of Carnoustie. The wind blows, the bunkering is sod faced, and a burn meanders around the course. Eighteen flat lies--one on each tee.
6. PGA Golf Club at PGA Village
Port St. Lucie, Florida. $92
The PGA of America got this land forty minutes north of the Palm Beaches for a song, and the result is the best facility of its kind in the country. With fifty-four holes by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye and a dream thirty-five-acre PGA Learning Center that includes a six-hole short course, this place lives up to its mandate: "to make world-class golf accessible to everyone."
7. The Harvester Golf Club
Harvester, Iowa. $58
Golf's "field of dreams." After a developer on a quest to provide good public golf in corn country found this rolling, wooded site with a sixty-acre lake, architect Keith Foster built it, and yup, they came. Although thirty minutes from Des Moines and high priced for Iowa, this superb layout has become a Midwest magnet.
8. Diablo Grande (Legends West)
Patterson, California. $100
Until the inevitable sprawl from the encroaching Silicon Valley finds it, this bountiful Golden State complex will be a great value. On former ranchland on the western slope of the San Joaquin Valley, this tough Jack NicklausGene Sarazen collaboration wends its way through the hills, oaks, creeks and vineyards of the nation's fruit basket.
9. Wild Horse Golf Club
Gothenburg, Nebraska. $35
Two members of the construction crew from nearby Sand Hills, Dan Proctor and Dave Axland, built a compact course remarkably like that vaunted kingdom of golf on the same kind of windy, wavy, sandy land. Firm conditions make it crucial to judge the ball's bounce and avoid the fringed bunkers. The essence of fun golf.
10. BlackHorse Golf Club
Cypress, Texas. $69
This on-the-money, thirty-six-hole complex by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy just outside of Houston is a model of high-quality affordability in a pricey metropolitan area. Aesthetics and Texas golf are usually uneasy partners, but this blend of wetlands, forest, water and natural sandpits borders on the downright beautiful.