If you dream of ticking some of the top private golf courses in the world off your bucket list, this might be the most wonderful time of the year.
That's because the Rounds 4 Research auction is underway. The 2019 edition of the annual week-long online auction, organized by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), got underway on April 29 and closes on May 5. It features a stunning list of items, including threesomes and foursomes at dozens of exclusive private clubs, as well as stay-and-play packages to premier golf resorts.
Best of all, it's for a good cause: the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), which is the GCSAA's philanthropic, research-focused arm. The EIFG funds programs in different fields of turfgrass reasearch and has steered more than $125,000 in funds to the cause so far in 2019. The 2018 Rounds 4 Research auction raised more than $312,000 alone, and this year's edition promises to match or potentially eclipse that number.
Here's a sampling of the courses successful bidders will be able to access through this auction:
Course: Ansley Golf Club (Settindown Creek) - Roswell, Ga.
Details: This private Atlanta has two locations: a nine-hole "Midtown" course and the modern, 18-hole Settindown Creek location, whose Bob Cupp design regularly hosts USGA qualifiers, as well as the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2005, won by Morgan Pressel.
Opening Bid: $140 for a foursome with carts
Course: Bald Peak Colony Club - Melvin Village, N.H.
Details: One of the most under-the-radar private enclaves for golf in New England, Bald Peak is a quintessential summer club, meaning access can be next to impossible for non-members at this Donald Ross gem with canted fairways and undulating greens.
Current Bid: $267 for a foursome with carts
Course: Boot Ranch - Fredericksburg, Texas
Details: This high-end residential community club in the Texas Hill Country made it through the Great Recession with a new outlook and membership/ownership concept that enables families to pursue fractional ownership of some over-the-top, multi-million-dollar residential compounds on the property. The Hal Sutton-designed golf course is a stunner, too.
Opening Bid: $900 for a foursome with carts
Course: Broadmoor Country Club - Indianapolis, Ind.
Details: This Donald Ross design is one of the best in the Midwest, owing to the way in which the club's leaders have kept the course true to its original design. The club hosted the PGA Tour Champions from 1988 through 1993.
Opening Bid: $170 for a foursome with carts
Course: Bulls Bay Golf Club - Awendaw, S.C.
Details: Mike Strantz's last original design sits just north of Charleston, South Carolina. Massive fairways, heaving greens and a sense of adventure combine to make Bulls Bay one of the South's best golf courses. The clubhouse sits on a 70-foot, manmade mini-mountain and overlooks the entire golf course.
Opening Bid: $500 for a foursome with carts
Course: Champions Golf Club - Houston, Texas
Details: With 36 holes of golf, Champions is the domain of 1956 Masters and PGA champion Jackie Burke, Jr., who at 96 years of age still rules the roost. The Cypress Creek and Jack Rabbit courses are both regarded as among the top in Texas, enjoyed by a membership with one of the highest percentages of single-digit handicaps in the country.
Opening Bid: $500 for a foursome with carts
Course: Chechessee Creek Club - Okatie, S.C.
Details: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are among the hottest figures in golf course architecture, and their Lowcountry gem at Chechessee is a big part of the reason why. The walker-friendly, classic-style design weaves through centuries-old live oaks and out along tidal marshes, giving its members a peaceful retreat that feels like it's been there forever.
Opening Bid: $400 for a foursome, plus $100 per person in caddie fees
Course: Des Moines Golf & Country Club - West Des Moines, Iowa
Details: With two Pete Dye-designed courses, Des Moines G&CC has a unique heritage among Midwest private clubs. It hosted a decisive win by the Americans in the 2017 Solheim Cup, played over a composite of the club's North and South courses
Opening Bid: $267 for a foursome with carts
Course: East Lake Golf Club - Atlanta, Ga.
Details: The site of the annual TOUR Championship has seen its share of dramatic moments over the years, including Tiger Woods' triumphant win in 2018, announcing his return to greatness in golf. The Donald Ross designe, reworked over the years by Rees Jones, is a stern, classic test.
Opening Bid: $1,400 for a foursome, not including mandatory $288 in group caddie fees
Course: Frederica Golf Club - St. Simons Island, Ga.
Details: A super-exclusive club located just north of Sea Island, Frederica is the home club of several of the PGA Tour's "Sea Island mafia" - players who call the area home. The Tom Fazio design doesn't have grass rough, instead transitioning fairway grass into native sandy waste areas, complementing the large greens and pristine bunkering.
Opening Bid: $800 for a foursome with carts (not including forecaddie fees)
Course: Nanea Golf Club - Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Details: Nanea falls into the rare category of "personal golf courses," as the David McLay Kidd design is the exclusive domain of Charles Schwab, founder of the massive brokerage empire of the same name. The course sits high on the hills above the Pacific Ocean.
Opening Bid: $400 for a foursome with carts, not including $200 forecaddie fee
Course: Ohoopee Match Club - Cobbtown, Ga.
Details: This Gil Hanse design is one of golf's new "cool kids," debuting to considerable fanfare from those in the know in 2018. The course's flexible design makes it ideal for its purpose: match play, not medal play.
Opening Bid: $667 for a foursome, not including $120 walking caddie fee per person
Course: Old Town Club - Winston-Salem, N.C.
Details: This longtime home course of Wake Forest's golf teams was originally designed by Perry Maxwell in the late 930s and restored by Coore & Crenshaw in 2012. The expansive, rolling terrain and undulating greens make for a spectacular everyday golf experience. The sensitive restoration included the importation of local riverbed sand for the bunkers.
Current Bid: $600 for a foursome with carts
Course: Orinda Country Club - Orinda, Calif.
Details: Orinda is not a household name among golfers - even Californians - but the club prefers to stay under the radar. A 2017 renovation by Todd Eckenrode has the course looking more like original designer William Watson intended.
Current Bid: $167 for a foursome with carts
Course: Sahalee Country Club - Sammamish, Wash.
Details: Host of the 1998 PGA Championship won by Vijay Singh, Sahalee is one of the Pacific Northwest's most famous golf clubs. Playing golf down corridors lined with massive redwood trees is something few golfers from outside the area ever get to experience. Sahalee's most recent star turn came in 2016, when Brooke Henderson won the KPMG Women's PGA Championship there.
Opening Bid: $435 for a foursome with carts
Course: Somerset Hills Country Club - Bernardsville, N.J.
Details: A.W. Tillinghast is regarded as one of the great classic golf course architects, and Somerset Hills represents some of his best and boldest work. The par-3 second "Redan" hole is one of the most dramatic examples of the form, and the course has a rustic feel.
Current Bid: $730 for a foursome; $75 per bag caddie fees not included
This selection of courses only scratches the surface of the offerings in this year's Rounds 4 Research auction. Even if you're not keen on dropping big money on a foursome at one of the exclusive clubs above, the site is worth checking out, as there are plenty of lower-cost items, including rounds at solid public and resort courses that can be had for a song. No matter your level of involvement in the auction, the proceeds all go to the cause of turfgrass research, which has a positive impact on all the courses we play.