A new top 100: The best public golf courses of the PGA Tour Champions circuit -- part 3

Simply put, the top golf courses to ever host a PGA Tour Champions event are some of the best tournament venues in the world, especially the links.

For example, eight of the top courses on my new top 100 list -- created to identify the best public courses to ever host the senior tour, all 112 of them -- have held dozens of major championships for PGA Tour pros.

I ranked my top 100 (plus a few extra) based on three criteria: The prestige of the tournament, the merits of the course and the current course reviews by Golf Advisor users. We can debate all day long where these courses should be ranked in this three-part series, but nobody can argue that when it comes to golfers wanting to "play where the pros play," these 38 selections all rank near the top of the heap.

Read part 1 here (courses 78-112) and part 2 here (courses 39-77).

38. Poppy Hills Golf Course; Monterey, Calif.

Tournaments: 2014-present co-host of the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach (John Cook, Estaban Toledo).

Comment: A 2014 remodeling re-established this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design among the best golf courses of the Monterey Peninsula.

37. Greenbrier Course at The Greenbrier; White Sulphur Springs, W.V.

Tournaments: 1985-87 The Greenbrier American Express Championship (January twice, Crampton).

Comment: This Seth Raynor routing dating to 1924 was substantially redesigned by Jack Nicklaus before the 1979 Ryder Cup. There have been discussions to bring the Presidents Cup to the course to complete the team Cup trifecta (Solheim, Ryder, Presidents).

36. Crosswater at Sunriver Resort; Sunriver, Ore.

Tournaments: 2007-2010 JELD-WEN Tradition (McNulty, Fred Funk, Mike Reid, Funk).

Comment: This course -- a five-star according to Golf Advisor -- headlines the three regulation courses at Sunriver. Bob Cupp routed it back and forth across the Little Deschutes River seven times.

35. TPC Harding Park; San Francisco

Tournaments: 1981 Eureka Federal Savings Classic (January). 2010-11 and 2013 Charles Schwab Cup Championship (John Cook, Jay Don Blake, Couples).

Comment: A multi-million-dollar makeover in 2003 revitalized this classic along the shores of Lake Merced near San Francisco. Next up is the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2025 President's Cup.

#TPCHardingPark a major worthy muni #PlayTPC #sanfrancisco #whyilovethisgame #GaBestPhoto

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34. Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort; Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii

Tournaments: 1988 Senior Skins Game. 2001-03 and 2005-08 Turtle Bay Championship.

Comment: The beauty of Oahu's north shore is apparent on the Palmer Course at Turtle Bay, even if the ocean really only comes into view at the 17th green.

Tournament: 2015 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid (Colin Montgomerie).

Comment: This Dye design -- the top public course in Indiana -- was built to attract tournaments. The wild mounding almost makes it look and play like a stadium course.

32. East Course at The Broadmoor; Colorado Springs, Colo.

Tournament: 2008 U.S. Senior Open (Eduardo Romero).

Comment: The historic classic feels more Robert Trent Jones, Sr. than Donald Ross to me -- both had a hand in its routing decades apart. Juicy rough delivers the ultimate defense against the thin air of the Rocky Mountains.

31. Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa; Hoover, Ala.

Tournaments: 2006-2010 Regions Charity Classic (Brad Bryant twice, Andy Bean, Keith Fergus, Dan Forsman).

Comment: This is my favorite Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail stop. The Marriott is nice, and the big brute of a course offers some scenery to boot.

30. East Course at TPC Dorado Beach; Dorado, Puerto Rico

Tournaments: 1990-93, 95-96 events under various names/sponsors. The 1989 Mazda Team Championships.

Comment: RTJ II renovated his father's Caribbean masterpiece in 2011, clearing out jungle and trees to give it a cleaner look and open up ocean views. The Mazda showcased Senior Tour and LPGA Tour players in a two-person best ball.

29. Ocean North and Ocean South Course at the Resort at Pelican Hill; Newport Beach, Calif.

Tournament: 1999 Diners Club Matches. 2000 Hyundai Team Matches.

Comment: Both these exhibitions featured two two-person teams from each major tour playing against the other -- LPGA vs. LPGA and so on. Since it was held on a hybrid layout of Pelican Hill's two courses (holes 1-14 on Ocean North and holes 15-18 on Ocean South), we will rank it as one course as well.

28. Ocean Club Golf Course; Paradise Island, Bahamas

Tournament: 2000-02 Father-Son Challenge.

Comment: This stunning Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course sits on the ocean and now hosts the LPGA Tour. It's another luxurious amenity of Atlantis Resort.

27. South Course at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows; Hawaii

Tournament: 1990-2000 Senior Skins Game.

Comment: The lava rocks of the Big Island's Kona/Kohala Coast are the primary hazard until golfers reach the two par 3s on the ocean. Both holes make a splash -- visually and intimidation wise, too.

26. TPC Snoqualmie Ridge; Snoqualmie, Wash.

Tournaments: 2005-present Boeing Classic.

Comment: This private club is only accessible by staying at the nearby Salish Lodge & Spa, which abuts the Snoqualmie Falls.

25. Dunes Golf & Beach Club; Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Tournaments: 1994-99 SENIOR TOUR Championship.

Comment: Rees Jones renovated the Dunes in 2013, further restoring one of his father's best designs. Countless tournaments have been contested through the three-hole stretch on the back nine known as "Alligator's Alley" along Lake Singleton.

24. Atlantic City Country Club; Northfield, N.J.

Tournament: 1980 Atlantic City Senior Invitational (Don January).

Comment: Tom Doak restored much of the character of this 6,577-yard par 70 in 1999. The back nine roams the tidal marshes along Lakes Bay, serving up views of the city skyline.

23. Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course; Stateline, Nev.

Tournament: 1985 U.S. Senior Open (Barber).

Comment: This scenic course along the southern shores of Lake Tahoe hosts the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship every July.

22. Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa; Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Tournaments: 1981-1984 and 1986-2000 PGA Seniors' Championship.

Comment: This Nicklaus course, renovated in 2014, has been hosting tournaments since opening in 1981. The three-hole Bear Trap takes center stage these days at the PGA Tour's Honda Classic.

21. Stadium Course at PGA West, La Quinta, Calif.

Tournaments: 1995-96 Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf (Hill/Trevino twice).

Comment: One of Dye's most feared designs has hosted the national championships for the old guys of the Golf Channel Am Tour. If visual intimidation isn't your thing, play somewhere else.

"Alcatraz" looks good on TV at the #CareerBuilderChallenge • My pic from the 2015 GolfChannelAmTour nationals #haventplayedityet

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Tournaments: 1997-present under various names/sponsors.

Comment: The current Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai has been running since 2009. Golfers must stay at the Four Seasons Hualalai to play.

19. Fallen Oak Golf Club at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino; Saucier, Miss.

Tournaments: 2010-present Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic (David Eger, Tom Lehman, Couples, Michael Allen, Jeff Maggert, David Frost).

Comment: Only resort guests have access to this pristine Fazio course on the Gulf Coast. Taking a caddie adds a first-class touch to the round.

Tournament: 1976 Pepsi-Cola Mixed Team Championship (Jo Ann Washam/Rodriguez).

Comment: It's a little known fact that the famed Blue Monster has also hosted the ladies of the LPGA Tour and the old guys -- if only for one silly-season exhibition event.

Tournament: 2011 Senior Open Championship (Russ Cochran).

Comment: The crisp turf feels like a links, even though the Old Course offers a heathland style with bunker edges decorated by heather grass.

16. Harbour Town Golf Links at the Sea Pines Resort; Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Tournament: 1986 Cuyahoga Seniors International (Butch Baird). 1987 The Seniors International Golf Championship (Geiberger).

Comment: Even the great Tiger Woods feared Harbour Town's narrow corridors and tiny greens conceived by Nicklaus and Dye. The iconic lighthouse beckons at the end of the day.

15. Mid Ocean Club; Tucker's Town, Bermuda

Tournaments: 1998-99 Gillette Tour Challenge Championship (Michelle McGann/Trevino/Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper/Graham Marsh/Tom Watson).

Comment: This short-lived, silly-season team event paired a top pro from the three tours against one another on this world top 100 gem in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Each player earned qualifying points during the regular season and at unique six-hole exhibition matches.

14. Royal Porthcawl Golf Club; Bridgend, Wales

Tournament: 2014 Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex (Langer).

Comment: Langer pummeled the field by 13 shots, second in all-time margin of victory in a major only to Woods' 15-shot romp at Pebble Beach in 2000. The on-site dormy rooms sleep a dozen people.

13. Punta Espada Golf Club; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Tournaments: 2008-2010 Cap Cana Championship (Mark Wiebe, Fergus, Couples).

Comment: The Caribbean is so close on certain tees and greens that waves can splash golfers. This Nicklaus design is less than an hour's drive from Dye's Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo.

12. PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass; Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Tournament: 1988-89 Mazda Senior Tournament Players Championship (Casper, Moody).

Comment: The heart-stopping three finishing holes on the original Stadium-style course -- including the island green at no. 17 -- can wreak even the greatest of champions.

Tournament: 2010 and upcoming 2016 Senior Open Championship (Langer).

Comment: This fearsome links will host its eighth Open Championship in 2018. Not many Americans realize there are two other courses on property, the Burnside Course and the Buddon Links.

10. Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club; Ayrshire, Scotland

Tournament: 2008 Senior Open Championship (Bruce Vaughan).

Comment: Royal Troon's Old Course will host its ninth Open Championship this summer. Will the trend of American winners -- six in a row -- continue?

9. Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club; Bridge of Don, Scotland

Tournament: 2005 Senior Open Championship (Watson).

Comment: Many praise the front nine as one of the best in links golf. Visitors are welcome every day but only at certain times.

8. Pinehurst No. 2; Pinehurst, N.C.

Tournament: 1983 Hall of Fame Tournament (Rod Funseth), 2004 U.S. Senior Open (Simon Hobday).

Comment: Pinehurst No. 2, a Donald Ross original restored by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2011, doesn't wow golfers visually, but shot for shot, there's no better examination of a player's game.

Tournament: 2007 Senior PGA Championship (Denis Watson).

Comment: Dye's ultimate Lowcountry layout is actually fairly playable for golfers who hit a straight ball, play conservatively and can chip onto plateau greens. When the wind kicks up, though, all bets are off.

6. Royal Birkdale Golf Club; Southport, England

Tournament: 2013 Senior Open Championship (Wiebe).

Comment: The club's 10th Open Championship comes in 2017. It has also hosted four Women's Open Championships and two Ryder Cups.

Tournament: 2007 U.S. Senior Open (Brad Bryant).

Comment: It's hard to fathom that Dye's mounding and a thousand bunkers once sat on land as flat as a military airstrip. The walk around Lake Michigan is sublime.

4. Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club; Portrush, Northern Ireland

Tournament: 2004 Senior Open Championship (Pete Oakley).

Comment: Portrush first held the Open Championship in 1951. All indications are the tournament will return in 2019 once the two finishing holes are rerouted properly.

3. Muirfield; Gullane, Scotland

Tournament: 2007 Senior Open Championship (Watson).

Comment: Getting on Muirfield requires planning ahead. And don't forget your jacket and tie, two essential items for getting into the clubhouse.

2. Pebble Beach Golf Links; Monterey, Calif.

Tournaments: 2004-present First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.

Comment: What golfer hasn't played a round or two at Pebble Beach in their head or their dreams? The 2019 U.S. Open will celebrate this icon's 100th birthday.

Tournaments: 2003/2006/2012 Senior Open Championship (Watson, Loren Roberts, Couples).

Comment: Three new holes on the rocky coastline will debut this June during a major facelift aimed at attracting Turnberry's fifth Open Championship. The real question remains: Will the R&A return under controversial owner Donald Trump's watch?

Editor's Notes: The University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, Wis. - the University of Wisconsin's home course - will join this list once the new senior tournament, the American Family Insurance Championship, is played there at the end of June. The old Desert Inn Golf & Country Club in Las Vegas -- the current site of the Wynn Golf Club -- hosted the seniors from 1986-1992 but was not considered for this story since Fazio's Wynn design looks and plays dramatically different than the original. Also, the Senior Open Championship didn't become an official event on the Champions Tour until 2002. The tournament was first held in 1987 and became part of the European Seniors Tour schedule in 1992. Famous hosts before it was sanctioned include the Ailsa Course at Turnberry (1987-90), Royal Lytham and St. Annes (1991-94), the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush (1995-99), and Royal County Down (2000-2001).

Read part 1 here (courses 78-112).

Read part 2 here for (courses 39-77).

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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A new top 100: The best public golf courses of the PGA Tour Champions circuit -- part 3