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When you look at lists of the top courses in the US, the top of that list is still old courses that we'll never play (Pine Vally, Cypress, Augusta, Merion, ect.). However, I've noticed a ton of the best modern courses have all been public. See golfweeks's list of top 100 modern courses. https://golfweek.usatoday.com/lists/golfweeks-best-2020-top-200-modern-courses/ . Sand Hills, Friars Head, and Ballyneal are are private, but there are way more public ones than the overall top 100 list. 

 

It seems like Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak are always working on a new course at golf resorts or other public facilities (Bandon, Sand Valley, Streamsong). I think this is a great trend that us normal golfers will be able to play some of the best courses in the US. I don't know if that's due to the market for private clubs already being saturated, just a change in culture, or something else, but I think this is a really good change. On another note, most of these are really really expensive. I'd rather have that though than no opportunity to play them at all. 

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One thing I have always hated was that US Open's are not held at courses that are open.   Playing an "Open" championship at a course that is not "Open" seems like an oxymoron.

You can't actually add in the cost of food lodging etc. and say a course is inaccessible. I live far away from Florida for instance, so by that definition a $50 green fee public muni in Florida is 'in

As others have said, memories are MADE at bucket list / famous courses.  Cabot Cliffs, The Old Course, Sawgrass, Carnoustie, Mauna Kea, Bethpage Black, Royal Melbourne, Royal Montreal, Shaughnessy, Ka

They may be public, but they are not accessible.  There is not a single true daily fee course on that list, and 36 of the 50 are private.   Sure you can book a tee time at Streamsong or Sand Valley, but they are so remote very few people who have the skill or the means to play them live within an hour. 

 

I agree that the "general golfing population" has more access to amazing courses, but getting on those courses are generally bucket list trips that take 12 months of planning, $3k+ to go, not to mention the stern looks from the spouse. 

 

Note:  I have been lucky enough to play both Streamsong and SV this year.  Favorites were Streamsong Blue and Mammoth Dunes.  Amazing.

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On 9/22/2020 at 5:55 AM, david.c.w said:

They may be public, but they are not accessible.  There is not a single true daily fee course on that list, and 36 of the 50 are private.   Sure you can book a tee time at Streamsong or Sand Valley, but they are so remote very few people who have the skill or the means to play them live within an hour. 

 

I agree that the "general golfing population" has more access to amazing courses, but getting on those courses are generally bucket list trips that take 12 months of planning, $3k+ to go, not to mention the stern looks from the spouse. 

 

Note:  I have been lucky enough to play both Streamsong and SV this year.  Favorites were Streamsong Blue and Mammoth Dunes.  Amazing.

I'm guessing this was kind of his point.  High end, top 100 courses that ARE accessible to those that can travel and pay.  I doubt there are expectations that more top 100 course are going to start populating the list that are in the middle of St. Louis and can easily walk on for $40?

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They aren't inexpensive but many can be had for $100-200 a round especially in the off season.   IMHO that's pretty reasonable  for what they are providing.  Most of the population lives within 2 hrs of some of these great deals.  

 

There's also plenty of really good courses that would be in the 200-500 range in the country.  Many you can get on for $100 or less and are as good as some on this list.  

 

But to your original point newer courses are usually built around financial reasons.  Often either a housing development or a resort for $$.  I'd guess the housing dev courses are more likely to be private.  It would be nice to see some great renovations of some more of the public owned clubs.  A few more city/county courses sneaking up there with Harding Park, Bethpage, etc would be great.    

Edited by PeteNC
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Things are definitely trending in the right direction. One of my least favorite things about golf is the "hero worship" of courses that realistically, none of us will ever get to play.  I get that places like Pebble Beach, Bandon, Streamsong, and others aren't exactly affordable, but at least we have the opportunity to play, even if it's just once in a lifetime.  They are great courses and they cost a lot to maintain. Most of us would be arrested within a mile of the typical highest ranked US courses, no matter how much disposable income we have.

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This topic reminds me of an interesting debate I had with a friend of mine. 

 

I've played a few bucket list golf courses, like Pebble, Sawgrass, and Kiawah. One day this friend of mine asked "how much did it cost you for a round at these courses?". I replied "$495 for Pebble, $500 for Sawgrass, and $380 for Kiawah".

He balked. "$500!!!!??? That's a ridiculous amount to spend on ONE round of golf. I'd rather go play one of our local courses 10-12 times instead!"

 

My counter argument is that courses like Pebble, etc are "once, maybe twice-in-a-lifetime rounds of golf". You're not playing Pebble every day, thus you're not paying $500 each time you play golf (and if you are playing Pebble every day, well color me jealous). I can go play the local courses he's talking about any time I want. I can easily afford $50 a pop, I cannot afford $500 a pop, three times a week. But I can afford $500 once in a lifetime. 

 

Everyone has their idea of perceived value. 

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There are also many many ways to cut corners with cost on some bucket list courses.  Plenty offer discounted rates playing off season times of the year, there are twilight rates, stay and play options, etc.

 

You may sacrifice some comfort playing in weather that is cooler/hotter or playing during times of the day that aren't favorable, but this can get you on some of the world's best courses saving a lot of money.

 

Example being Bandon Dunes...play in November or December and costs are like 1/3 of what you'd pay playing in June - Sept.  Playing 5 of the worlds nicest courses for a total of $400 (assuming replay rates and staying on site) is a no brainer over paying $400 for a membership at the local 9 hole course for the summer.

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2 hours ago, tmvander said:

There are also many many ways to cut corners with cost on some bucket list courses.  Plenty offer discounted rates playing off season times of the year, there are twilight rates, stay and play options, etc.

 

You may sacrifice some comfort playing in weather that is cooler/hotter or playing during times of the day that aren't favorable, but this can get you on some of the world's best courses saving a lot of money.

 

Example being Bandon Dunes...play in November or December and costs are like 1/3 of what you'd pay playing in June - Sept.  Playing 5 of the worlds nicest courses for a total of $400 (assuming replay rates and staying on site) is a no brainer over paying $400 for a membership at the local 9 hole course for the summer.

 

Just my opinion, but I'd rather pay the extra $100 and play a bucket list course on a great weather day, than save $100 and play it in cold, windy, and dreary weather. 

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2 hours ago, Roody said:

 

Just my opinion, but I'd rather pay the extra $100 and play a bucket list course on a great weather day, than save $100 and play it in cold, windy, and dreary weather. 

Right, I probably would in most cases too, but the point is there are ways to cut corners if you think you can't play certain places due to the high costs.  If money is an issue just sacrifice and play the course in the offseason when it's cheaper.

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There is a huge market for high end public golf courses in the US. Look at Scotland for example. All of their high-end daily rate courses are geared towards the American market. I am not talking about the old course and Carnoustie type courses that have members and allow guest play after certain hours. Im talking courses like Kingsbarns which is marketed towards American golfers in general. I dont even think they opened this year due to Covid as no one could travel to Scotland. We want high end courses that are bucket list worthy and can pay about 250+ on for a amazing experience. 

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A lot of new courses are higher end resort courses.    Public courses have struggled to 
get or retain members, as younger golfers don't play enough or make enough to want to
join.   They tend to be not as avid.     
  
Instead of building new muni courses, most of the courses coming online as public 
affordable courses were previously private, ended up failing as a private course, 
when there are better private courses in the area, that take their members. 
 
People just don't join courses and clubs like they used to.    

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On 9/22/2020 at 5:55 AM, david.c.w said:

They may be public, but they are not accessible.  There is not a single true daily fee course on that list, and 36 of the 50 are private.   Sure you can book a tee time at Streamsong or Sand Valley, but they are so remote very few people who have the skill or the means to play them live within an hour. 

 

I agree that the "general golfing population" has more access to amazing courses, but getting on those courses are generally bucket list trips that take 12 months of planning, $3k+ to go, not to mention the stern looks from the spouse. 

 

Note:  I have been lucky enough to play both Streamsong and SV this year.  Favorites were Streamsong Blue and Mammoth Dunes.  Amazing.

Adding Travel into the mix is neither here nor there, the course is not inherently inaccessible just because it is not near you. 

 

Many of the top 100 public 'destination' courses have crazy good deals for locals and are very easy to get on - so for locals they are very accessible. I am not sure what else we should expect from a destination course - cheap and easy if you live near it, but your going to pay more if you are not a local.

Edited by 2bGood
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10 hours ago, Roody said:

 

Just my opinion, but I'd rather pay the extra $100 and play a bucket list course on a great weather day, than save $100 and play it in cold, windy, and dreary weather. 

My view on 'bucket list' courses is I will pay just about anything to play them, if I happen to in the area and I know I won't be again anytime soon. Then I balance my golf budget on 'regular' golf rounds before or after by not playing 5 or 6 rounds locally. For example, I will never forget playing the Old Course or Pebble Beach and I would have never remembered the 5 or 6 rounds I didn't play locally to pay for those rounds. 

 

But I have the advantage of travelling a fair amount for other reasons, so it typically only the added cost of the round and I never mind playing as a single with makes getting tee times easy.

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One thing I have always hated was that US Open's are not held at courses that are open.   Playing an "Open" championship at a course that is not "Open" seems like an oxymoron.

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8 hours ago, 2bGood said:

My view on 'bucket list' courses is I will pay just about anything to play them, if I happen to in the area and I know I won't be again anytime soon. Then I balance my golf budget on 'regular' golf rounds before or after by not playing 5 or 6 rounds locally. For example, I will never forget playing the Old Course or Pebble Beach and I would have never remembered the 5 or 6 rounds I didn't play locally to pay for those rounds. 

 

 

100% this. I have so many good memories from my rounds at the bucket list courses. I birdied #7 at Pebble. I parred 17 at Sawgrass, and got to go inside their Champions locker room. I shot pretty well in 4-club winds at Kiawah. Stories I get to share for as long as I live. You can't put a price tag on great memories. 

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23 hours ago, Roody said:

This topic reminds me of an interesting debate I had with a friend of mine. 

 

I've played a few bucket list golf courses, like Pebble, Sawgrass, and Kiawah. One day this friend of mine asked "how much did it cost you for a round at these courses?". I replied "$495 for Pebble, $500 for Sawgrass, and $380 for Kiawah".

He balked. "$500!!!!??? That's a ridiculous amount to spend on ONE round of golf. I'd rather go play one of our local courses 10-12 times instead!"

 

My counter argument is that courses like Pebble, etc are "once, maybe twice-in-a-lifetime rounds of golf". You're not playing Pebble every day, thus you're not paying $500 each time you play golf (and if you are playing Pebble every day, well color me jealous). I can go play the local courses he's talking about any time I want. I can easily afford $50 a pop, I cannot afford $500 a pop, three times a week. But I can afford $500 once in a lifetime. 

 

Everyone has their idea of perceived value. 

True, but when I think of "accessibility" I think of something that is easily obtained. So to me, once in a lifetime does not indicate accessibility. And it's not just the green fees, but there is the cost of lodging, food, etc. So for some, who don't have the money, those courses aren't accessible.

 

On another note, I think you could keep a course in pristine condition and not have to charge $500 in greens fees to do so. 

 

That's just my perception of it though. I know some will disagree. 🙂

 

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A golf course is simply another business.  Typically the owner will decide what market they are going after and plan accordingly.  Amenities, maintenance budget, staff, etc. Then they will set prices to match.  Raise them until business slows, then back off a touch.  Simple case of supply and demand.  These are bucket list courses because they have something special to offer.   

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3 hours ago, Sean2 said:

True, but when I think of "accessibility" I think of something that is easily obtained. So to me, once in a lifetime does not indicate accessibility. And it's not just the green fees, but there is the cost of lodging, food, etc. So for some, who don't have the money, those courses aren't accessible.

 

On another note, I think you could keep a course in pristine condition and not have to charge $500 in greens fees to do so. 

 

That's just my perception of it though. I know some will disagree. 🙂

 

You can't actually add in the cost of food lodging etc. and say a course is inaccessible. I live far away from Florida for instance, so by that definition a $50 green fee public muni in Florida is 'inaccessible' as it would cost me allot to travel there in addition to the green fee.   

 

I can't speak for every course in the world but with a few exceptions you typically do not have to stay on the property to play and courses almost always have a locals rate (ie Pebble, Bandon, Chambers, Whistling Straight, Port Rush, St. Andrews, Plantation etc)

 

This seems like a fair way to do it, as locals should have easier/cheaper access to course in their area, I don't think the course should be trying to make sure their course is accessible to everyone in the world - just the locals.

 

 

 

 

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I paid $275 to play Chambers and didn't regret it for a second.  Let's be honest, for most of us the courses in the "Top 100 You Can Play" will be the best we can do in the US.  We're not getting on the Augusta/Pine Valley/Shinnecock etc. courses without an invite from a member, and in most cases that invite is never coming.

 

I guess what I'm saying is there's a big difference between "inaccessible" meaning expensive versus literally impossible.  Even if it's just once or twice in a lifetime at some of the meccas of American public golf, at least we are welcomed there and have an opportunity to play the game we love on some of the best courses available to us.

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4 hours ago, Slippin_Jimmy said:

I paid $275 to play Chambers and didn't regret it for a second.  Let's be honest, for most of us the courses in the "Top 100 You Can Play" will be the best we can do in the US.  We're not getting on the Augusta/Pine Valley/Shinnecock etc. courses without an invite from a member, and in most cases that invite is never coming.

 

I guess what I'm saying is there's a big difference between "inaccessible" meaning expensive versus literally impossible.  Even if it's just once or twice in a lifetime at some of the meccas of American public golf, at least we are welcomed there and have an opportunity to play the game we love on some of the best courses available to us.

 I think it was $90 for me on a local promotion, so a great example of how accessible these course can be. 

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As someone who lives in New England the divide between private courses and public tracks is deep... as deep as the deepest trench in the world.  It’s a real buzzkill. I actually didn’t really think about it until my job (and coaching HA golf) landed me a series of insane invites (Myopia / Kittanset / The Country Club / Old Sandwich) etc to make me realize how crappy the 40-60 dollar courses here are.  There are maybe 5 (maybe, it’s a stretch) of public courses here that can compete with private tracks in terms of their layout and conditions.

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On 10/10/2020 at 11:16 PM, ddbowdoin said:

As someone who lives in New England the divide between private courses and public tracks is deep... as deep as the deepest trench in the world.  It’s a real buzzkill. I actually didn’t really think about it until my job (and coaching HA golf) landed me a series of insane invites (Myopia / Kittanset / The Country Club / Old Sandwich) etc to make me realize how crappy the 40-60 dollar courses here are.  There are maybe 5 (maybe, it’s a stretch) of public courses here that can compete with private tracks in terms of their layout and conditions.

I'm in the Boston area myself and couldn't agree more.  I haven't played the 4 courses you referenced but have played TPC Boston/Eastward Ho and a few others.  Miles above even the higher end public courses like Pinehills and Granite Links.  And then there's a big drop-off, as you mentioned, to the $40-60 courses that I typically play.

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To the Bean Counter owners of these expensive golf courses:  I wanted to make sure you heard from those that won't pay those silly prices.

Sure, the golf demographic has the financial means to play these expensive ones, but many of us think its financial foolishness to do so.

I have just as much playing a nice muni as I do playing an expensive course.

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On 10/10/2020 at 11:16 PM, ddbowdoin said:

As someone who lives in New England the divide between private courses and public tracks is deep... as deep as the deepest trench in the world.  It’s a real buzzkill. I actually didn’t really think about it until my job (and coaching HA golf) landed me a series of insane invites (Myopia / Kittanset / The Country Club / Old Sandwich) etc to make me realize how crappy the 40-60 dollar courses here are.  There are maybe 5 (maybe, it’s a stretch) of public courses here that can compete with private tracks in terms of their layout and conditions.


That stinks. It does make me realize how truly blessed we are in upstate NY then. I've got about 70 golf courses within an hour's drive. We have some great public courses here. 

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As others have said, memories are MADE at bucket list / famous courses.  Cabot Cliffs, The Old Course, Sawgrass, Carnoustie, Mauna Kea, Bethpage Black, Royal Melbourne, Royal Montreal, Shaughnessy, Kananaskis (some of my top plays) are burned into my brain

 

To me it is worth dropping the extra coin.  I failed to do this twice in my life when my family was with me and I wish I had played ... Plantation Course and Hilton Head

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18 hours ago, Lobby said:

To the Bean Counter owners of these expensive golf courses:  I wanted to make sure you heard from those that won't pay those silly prices.

Sure, the golf demographic has the financial means to play these expensive ones, but many of us think its financial foolishness to do so.

I have just as much playing a nice muni as I do playing an expensive course.

 

As long as the tee sheets are full that will justify a higher price for an outstanding course.  As I said in an earlier post - simple supply and demand.  I recall playing Bulle Rock (typically listed in top 100 public courses in US).  Its in a rural corner of Maryland and I recall paying over $100 several years ago as a senior.  I asked the manager how he could justify the rates and he said he gets virtually no local golfers but he was located well within 2 1/2 hours of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York.  

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On 10/9/2020 at 9:14 AM, Sean2 said:

True, but when I think of "accessibility" I think of something that is easily obtained. So to me, once in a lifetime does not indicate accessibility. And it's not just the green fees, but there is the cost of lodging, food, etc. So for some, who don't have the money, those courses aren't accessible.

 

On another note, I think you could keep a course in pristine condition and not have to charge $500 in greens fees to do so. 

 

That's just my perception of it though. I know some will disagree. 🙂

 

Simple supply and demand. Why charge $250 for a round of golf when your tee sheet is fully at $500 a round?

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