Golf course architect Tom Fazio's name is synonymous with spare-no-expense development and exclusive golf courses.
It would also be a tough argument to say any architect since 1980 has been more prolific. Who has more designs on top 100 lists, at swanky private clubs and some of the country's finest resort courses? He's the go-to name for high-roller casino courses (Shadow Creek, Fallen Oak), resort courses (Turning Stone Resort's Atunyote, Omni Barton Creek's Fazio Canyons) and privates (Gozzer Ranch and Quail Hollow among many, many others).
Oh, he's also done work for Augusta National and Pine Valley.
His career began in the 1960s working for his uncle, George Fazio, and all these years later Tom's own firm is still going strong. Over the past five decades he's hired and shepherded a talented roster of associates (including but not limited too: Dana Fry, Andy Banfield, Beau Welling, Jan bel Jan, many of whom have gone out on their own or partnered with other big names). His firm recently opened the exclusive Summit Club in Las Vegas and is working with Discovery Land Company in Austin on a new 18-hole centerpiece of their new community.
So the term "value" isn't going to be the first thing you think of when it comes to a Fazio experience. But if you look at his extensive portfolio a little closer, there is a small collection of courses you can play on the relative cheap. And it's worth doing. Over 8,000 reviews on Golf Advisor and his average Overall and Layout scores are 4.5/5. A Fazio experience typically features broad earth moving with large greens and rounded bunkers with crisp edging. Most of his courses can be enjoyed the first time you play them and have little in the form of blind shots or perpendicular hazards shortening landing zones. Driver off the tee is typically a safe bet. His holes are generally sweeping, artistic and downright comfortable to be on. All this explains why homes on Fazio designs are typically among the most expensive in golf, and those developers willing to pay for his services also typically roll out high-end clubhouses and off-course amenities.
Many of these affordable Fazio courses we found below, all of which can be played for less than C-note, are associated with a casino development. No architect makes more golfers feel more high-roller than Fazio.
Butterfield Trail (Green fees: $40-80)
Around the time of the golf course slowdown and economic downtown in 2007, Fazio provided his services to the city of El Paso, Texas for a brand new, signature golf experience for the city they could show off right next to the airport. It may be an affordable muni course, but Fazio still moved a ton of earth to create 55 feet of elevation change and plenty of dunes to navigate.
Fazio transformed this desert land into an oasis of golf. The course is absolutely beautiful. Similar looks as Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. Undulating fairways, raised greens, and deep bunkers characterize the course in true Fazio fashion.
World Woods Golf Club (Green fees: $70-119)
With little if any doubt, the best combination of affordability, convenience-to-metro and overall experience of Tom Fazio is 36-hole World Woods Golf Club, about an hour north of Tampa. This ambitious 1990s development was a precursor to the "if you built it, they will come" mindset developer Mike Keiser unleashed with Bandon Dunes a few years later. World Woods' development never fully materialized, but the golf facility remains. Fazio's two layouts are wildly different but both excellent. Rolling Oaks is more manicured, winding through mature oaks and enjoys unlikely elevation change for the gulf coast. Pine Barrens, typically rated a little higher (and made our U.S. Top 50 list), is aesthetically more rugged and dramatic. The facility also has a remarkable practice area and short course. Peak season mornings are $119, but seasonality and dynamic pricing means they can be played easily for less than $100 and often times closer to $70.
Primm Valley Golf Club ($69-99)
In Las Vegas, everyone immediately points to Fazio's ambitious effort at Shadow Creek. But if you aren't a big-shot celeb or casino whale, head towards the Nevada-California state line for 36 holes of Fazio at Primm Valley. The Lakes Course is the original course here and features 11 water holes with similar shaping and trees as Shadow Creek at a fraction of the cost, while the Desert Course blends more into the native desert surroundings.
Dancing Rabbit Golf Club ($80-100)
Another 36-hole Fazio facility associated with a casino (Pearl River Resort), this northern Mississippi facility features two Fazio designs spread out on a secluded 700 acres, the Oaks and the Azaleas, with Mississippi native player consultant Jerry Pate. The trees, shaping and flowers give its guests leaving feeling that Augusta-type vibe. The $60 twilight rate after 1 pm is an especially strong deal.
Several years ago I played The Oaks course and thought it was one of the prettiest courses I'd ever played - and everyone told me The Azaleas was even better.
Lost Lake Golf Club (Green fees: $60-80)
There are a handful of Tom Fazio designs around Florida that were intended to be more exclusive than what has become golf's post-recession oversupply reality. Semi-private Lost Lake Golf Club in Hobe Sound is earning the highest marks of the bunch. It recently began offering online tee times and the Treasure Coast public has relished the opportunity. It made our Best of 2018 Florida ranking as guests here love the conditions and staff as much as the layout.
I have not played here in years and I had forgotten how beautiful the course is. It is also very challenging with wonderful greens and the fairways were in excellent shape
The Missouri Bluffs Golf Club ($65-75)
Typically, Tom Fazio courses in urban cores are of the private variety, but not in St. Louis. Public golfers have a Fazio gem at Missouri Bluffs. And considering it's in the metro and not in a destination like Fazio's Buffalo Ridge Springs at Big Cedar Lodge, it comes with a much more competitive price tag.
This course is a lot of fun to play. Challenging, woodland type course with lots of elevation changes. One of the best Par 5’s in St. Louis: tee box in the sky and fairway back on earth - great hole.
Belterra Casino Golf Course ($80-125)
In Indiana, the big, high-roller casino course isn't a Fazio, it's French Lick's exclusive Dye Course (one of the country's most expensive rounds at more than $300). So Belterra is another case where a Fazio casino course is the unsung "value" pick in the destination.
The layout is one of the best in the state of Indiana as it is picturesque and captures your complete attention on every tee box.
What's your favorite Tom Fazio design to play? Let us know in the comments below!