8 Great Courses Where You Can Shoot Your Lowest Score

If you've been watching the PGA Tour the last couple weeks, you've probably noticed that they've been putting up some incredibly low scores. Jordan Spieth shot 30-under par at Kapalua and Fabian Gomes shot 20-under par to win the Sony Open this past weekend.

And you can bet this week's CareerBuilder Challenge winner will put up some low scores as well.

So which do you think the pros prefer week in and week out: making birdies or struggling for pars?

Exactly - they love birdies. Can't get enough of 'em.

That's why I'll never understand why so many people go on golf trips and get absolutely beat up by brutal courses.

Whether they're playing from too long a set of tees or just selecting an absolute murderers' row of layouts for their itinerary, a lot of golf vacations come and go with too many double-bogeys and not enough birdies.

Now, there's nothing wrong with testing your game - we at Golf Vacation Insider love layouts like Kiawah's Ocean Course, for example - but there's also a lot to be said for shooting some low scores while on vacation, either. After all, it's supposed to be relaxing, right?

Check out our nominations, and don't forget to share your own in the comments below:

Gamble Sands - Brewster, Washington

By his own admission, architect David McLay Kidd went a bit off the reservation after the success of his original Bandon Dunes course. Both his Castle Course at St. Andrews and his course at Tetherow in Bend, Oregon needed to be softened from their original forms because not only were they exceedingly difficult, they were decried as downright unfair in places. Kidd seemed to have an epiphany of sorts, because his Gamble Sands course in central Washington has been lauded as a terrific mix of intrigue, fun and playability, with all grass cut at either green or fairway height. With a Rating of 69.7 and a Slope of 118 from the 6,200-yard middle set of tees, it might just let you shoot your career round. That philosophical pivot landed Kidd the privilege of designing the forthcoming second course at Mike Keiser's in-development Sand Valley project in Wisconsin. You can bet it will be more like Gamble Sands than the Castle Course.

Mid Pines - Southern Pines, North Carolina

The across-the-street neighbor of Pine Needles had always been regarded as the gentler of the two tests, even before its renovation by Kyle Frantz. Now, pesky Bermuda rough having been replaced by sandy waste areas, the course is both more eye-catching and a little easier to navigate after off-center tee shots. When one compares Mid Pines and nearby Southern Pines with the more burly Pine Needles and Pinehurst No. 2, it is easy to respect architect Donald Ross for his ability to build courses for the full range of golfers.

Old Macdonald - Bandon, Oregon

Bandon Dunes is regarded by many as the ultimate golf resort for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that its courses are playable for high- and low-handicap golfers alike. And Old Macdonald, which Tom Doak and a host of others crafted as an homage to Golden Age architect Charles Blair Macdonald, sports massive putting surfaces and spacious fairways. If you catch it on a calm day and have a good lag-putting round, expect a pretty low number to appear on your scorecard when all's said and done.

Coeur d'Alene Resort - Coeur d'Alene Resort, Idaho

With immaculate conditions and stunning mountain and lake views, this is pretty a course as you will find, with thousands of flowers accenting the course at every turn. Bunker rakes pop-up from hidden chambers so as not to spoil the aesthetic effect. Even the famed floating island green is a large target, and the rough tends to be cut relatively short in order to provide friendly lies.

Retreat Course at Sea Island - St. Simons Island, Georgia

None of Sea Island's three golf courses will beat you up - not even the Seaside course, which hosts the PGA Tour's RSM Classic. The Retreat, the Davis Love III-redesigned inland layout, wanders through a residential development but its hole corridors are wide enough so that out-of-bounds is not a constant concern. This, combined with generous fairways, large putting surfaces and a lack of significant forced carries makes the Retreat an enjoyable layout where you can go low, especially if your putter is hot.

Talking Stick Resort - North Course

Both the North and South at Talking Stick, being designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, are very playable due to their architects' commitment to designing fun but eminently playable golf courses in the tradition of the Golden Age designers. But it's the North that presents more opportunities for scoring, with a slope of just 125 from the back tees. Not only will Talking Stick's courses be gentle on your golf game, they will be gentle on your feet as well - tees are close to previous greens.

Cabot Links - Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada

The original course at Cabot may now be overshadowed by the cliffhanging Cabot Cliffs, but this Rod Whitman design is still stunning and fun, largely because even in breezy conditions, it is a manageable test for even high handicappers. Whitman, like Cabot Cliffs designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, embraced the open concept that makes the world's great classic and links courses so beloved.

The Old Course - St. Andrews, Scotland

This choice may surprise you, but you probably noticed that last year's Open Championship saw some incredibly low scoring, even from the 7,300-yard tips. But the pros aren't the only ones who can get around the world's foremost ancient links layout. For everyday visitors, the course is usually set up around 6,000 yards and on calm days, a lot of the course's nastiest trouble is not in play. Just calm your nerves for the opening tee shot (to a landing area that is 130 yards wide, remember), favor the left side off most tees and listen to your caddie, and you might be in for a pleasant surprise when you add 'em up at the end of the round.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
Commented on

If you play from the blue tees at Mid-Pines ("only" 6500 yds. on the card), it is
definitely no pushover, especially in the morning when the fairways are dewy.
Just played the Norman course in Orlando connected to the Marriott and
Ritz Carlton - wide fairways, large greens, etc. definitely more "resort,
user friendly" yet still interesting. Agree that some of the links courses in
Scotland add an interesting dimension (bump and run) where you can score better.

Commented on

Glad you mentionned the Old Course. Scotland Fife courses can definitely be had when the wind is not blowing. I'm a female 11-handicaper who shot 81 (par 75 for women) at the Home of Golf, 79 at Castle Course and 72 (yes, par) at Kings Barns in July 2013. The key is to keep the ball in the short grass and play lots of bumps and runs into greens.

Commented on

The Idaho resort course is my favorite, the floating island and driving range are fantastic!

Commented on

St Andrews is everybody's dream. Get the chance go it is not a course that will beat you up. Whenever you play the quality it oozes is well worth every penny. Just keep put of the bunkers, if in just get it out. The fescues on the green make them a pleasure to putt on. Gone on treat ypurself

Commented on

Dr. Pete--
You've got it! Thanks for saying hello; hope you are well too!

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Commented on

You would have to have someone better than me reading the greens at Mid Pines to go low. I am helpless there.

Commented on

I am hoping that this article was written by the Tim Gavrich that I know very well. I played the Retreat course at Sea Island. It was great and I could see how it"s possible to go low there but it was not a particularly great outing for me. Looking forward to trying some of the other ones.

Hope all is well w you. Great article!

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8 Great Courses Where You Can Shoot Your Lowest Score