Copying golf holes dates back more than a century to the so-called "Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture".
During the 1920s, give or take a decade on either end, architects building courses in America used holes they experienced overseas as inspiration. C.B. MacDonald, Seth Raynor and Charles Banks - now revered as masters of course design - created "template" holes, which have been adapted over and over for decades around the world. The challenges of these holes have withstood the test of time. Cape holes boomerang around hazards, forcing players to take on as much of the carry as they dare. Redan and Biarritz par-3s are recognizable by their formidable greens. These holes are widely regarded as many of the greatest and most interesting in golf.
A different form of copycat architecture - the replica hole - emerged in 1980 and grew in popularity as a course boom flourished for the next two-plus decades. The effort to re-create famous "signature" holes from around the world became trendy for owners hoping to cash in on the notion that public golfers who can't get on an elite private clubs or travel overseas to play famous links will pay for the next best thing: holes that might look and play like the originals.
Critics generally pan the concept as a gimmick today, but in reality, many of these "replica" courses are actually quite fun to play. Yes, they can be quirky and disjointed, jumping from a hole located in Montana to one on rural Georgia, but the overwhelming sentiment is these designs are interesting enough to be worth your money, even if they aren't all that close to the real thing.
The Road Hole. Amen Corner. The Island Green. They're all represented in this wild collection of wannabes. In fact, 84 different courses from five countries are represented in our list of the 10 best "replica" courses in America:
Donald Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs, Michigan
Replica details: An influential group of lucky golfers - architect Bill Newcomb, Boyne USA Resorts founder Everett Kircher and his son, Stephen, now CEO; longtime Boyne Sr. VP of Golf Operations Bernie Friedrich and legendary teacher Jim Flick - scoured the globe for several years looking for the best holes by Donald Ross, eventually touring and playing more than 50 Ross designs before bringing 18 memorable holes back to northern Michigan. Since many of the holes have changed over the past three decades, Boyne has charged Michigan architect Ray Hearn to update some of the Ross Memorial's holes to stay true to its Ross roots. Golfers will be challenged by clever renditions from Seminole (6th and 15th), Plainfield Country Club (4th), the South Course at Oakland Hills (16th and 17th), Pinehurst No. 2 (2nd, 10th and 14th), the East Course at Oak Hill (13th), Scioto (2nd), Inverness (18th), Charlotte Country Club (11th), Bob O'Link (11th), Royal Dornoch (14th), Salem Country Club (13th), Detroit Golf Club's North Course (3rd), Aronimink (11th) and Wannamoisett Country Club (8th). Although not entirely what Ross is known for, bunkers seem to be everywhere.
Reviewer 'Tony8469134' says: "What an awesome course, loved that each hole was a duplicate of another course. Friendly and helpful staff. Course in excellent shape and greens were very fast."
Editor's Note: We did not consider The Architects Golf Club in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, a "replica" course. Its holes pay tribute to distinct features that notable architects used on famous courses but did not try to copy specific holes.
World Tour Golf Links, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Replica details: The introduction to this Myrtle Beach staple is a Magnolia Lane-like driveway, which sets the mood. The Open nine showcases the courses that have hosted the U.S. Open and Open Championship, among others, including the Old Course at St. Andrews (1st and 18th), Pinehurst No. 2 (16th), TPC Sawgrass (17th), Colonial (4th), English Turn (15th), Pine Valley (12th), Augusta National (16th) and National Golf Club of Canada (1st). The Championship Nine tees it up at Winged Foot's East Course (18th), Cypress Point (10th), the Postage Stamp par 3 on Royal Troon's Old Course (8th), Amen Corner (holes 11-13), The Olympic Club's Lake Course (18th), Oakmont (14th) and Bay Hill (11th).
Reviewer 'tiburonazo' says: "I thought this golf course was going to be gimmicky and fake, but boy was I wrong. This was an awesome experience. All 18 holes are different and inspired by famous holes from around the world. For those of us who can't have access to such places, this golf course makes you feel that you're playing at the best of the best of golf. The overall course conditions were immaculate, especially being winter time. Entire course was plush and green and the greens were stunning. The staff was super friendly, especially the starter. If you're in Myrtle Beach, please visit World Tour Golf Links, you won't be disappointed."
Bear's Best Las Vegas, Nevada
Replica details: Bear's Best Las Vegas debuted a year before Bear's Best Atlanta, bringing the Jack Nicklaus replica course concept to life. It continues to impress as one of the better public options around Sin City. Like everything Nicklaus did during his heyday designing courses, it's tough but beautiful with mountain and desert views complemented by striking million-dollar homes. Little touches like pine trees from Colorado and black sand from Montana help perpetuate the replica theme. Players get the chance to take on holes from the Jack Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West (6th and 10th), The Cove Club (12th), Desert Highlands (8th), Old Works (2nd and 7th), El Dorado Golf & Beach Club (10th), the Ocean nine at Palmilla Golf Club (1st), the Sunset Course at Las Campanas (1st and 13th), Castle Pines (14th), the Geronimo Course at Desert Mountain (6th and 9th), Bear Creek (14th), the Hill nine at Las Paloma (8th), the Chiricahua Course at Desert Mountain (4th and 5th) and the Nicklaus Tournament Resort Course at PGA West (18th).
Reviewer 'scottgolfmor' says: "If you have not had the chance to play Bear's Best, you absolutely need to. The layout is amazing. The course conditions are impeccable with the only downside was the firmness of the sand in the bunkers made it difficult to get under the ball. The black-sand bunkers, however, played much easier as they were much softer and the look from the tee box of the black sand made it feel like I was in Hawaii. The greens had just been aerated just 5 days before we played but were still very fast and not too bumpy. Can't wait to play them when the greens are normal. This is a must play when in Vegas and the opportunity to play some of Mr. Nicklaus' greatest designs. Winner!!!!"
Tour 18 Dallas, Flower Mound, Texas
Replica details: Edsall returns for an encore in Dallas with the same philosophy that made the Houston site so successful. It also features a mix of famous courses, some similar to Houston, but also a nice new collection of others: Cherry Hills (1st), Baltusrol's Lower Course (8th), Trump National Doral Miami (3rd), Crooked Stick (15th), Winged Foot West (10th), Medinah No. 3 (8th), Harbour Town (18th), Oakland Hills South (16th), TPC Sawgrass (17th), Oakmont (3rd), Southern Hills (12th), Riviera (6th), Pine Valley (17th), Firestone South (16th) and Muirfield Village (17th) with Amen Corner at Augusta National (holes 11-13) setting up the dramatic finish.
Reviewer 'jslenahan' says: "Tour18 made significant improvements to their greens. They rolled true and were in excellent shape. The course layout is challenging and fun. Pace of play was alright. There were no water coolers out on the course, but we saw the cart girl twice on both the front and back 9. It's a little pricey, but the course layout featuring holes from the PGA Tour courses is worth the money. Highly recommend playing here."
Royal Links Golf Club, Las Vegas, Nevada
Replica details: Royal Links pays homage to the links of Great Britain & Ireland that have hosted The Open. It does one of the best jobs of all replica courses of telling the story of each hole with its tee markers, yardage book and scorecard. The castle-like clubhouse isn't really in the spirit of a true links, but it's still unique. Along the journey, golfers encounter Royal Lythan & St. Annes (10th), Royal Troon's Old Course (7th, 8th and 17th), Prestwick (2nd and 15th), Royal Liverpool (8th), the Old Course at St. Andrews (12th, 14th and 17th), Royal Birkdale (6th and 10th), Royal St. George's (13th), Muirfield (5th), Royal Cinque Ports (6th), Trump Turnberry's Ailsa Course (5th) and Carnoustie (15th). On the "Road Hole" at St. Andrews, players bash drives over a billboard meant to simulate the Old Course Hotel. It's good, clean fun. The only thing missing is the miserable wet weather. The desert climate should keep you dry.
Reviewer 'cinotesnup' says: "It is every bit of a links course. Bring some balls. The course is very challenging and is based off of real British Open courses. Enjoy it while it is still around. It is truly one of a kind in the valley. Nothing is like it."
Tour 18 Houston, Humble, Texas
Replica details: Architect David Edsall was tasked with re-creating many of the holes you'll recognize from past and present PGA Tour events and majors. Tour 18 Houston starts off with a bang, the 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links, minus the lighthouse, and follows up with Bay Hill (6th), Pinehurst No. 2 (3rd), Inverness (18th), Amen Corner at Augusta National (holes 11-13), La Costa (4th) and TPC Sawgrass (17th) on the front nine. The back nine tours the old Desert Inn (10th), Disney's Magnolia Course (6th), Colonial (3rd), Pebble Beach (14th), Oakmont (3rd), Shinnecock Hills (8th), Merion (11th), Oak Tree National (8th) and Trump National Doral Miami's Blue Monster (18th). Being one of the older replica courses, one of these holes no longer exists, and a second will soon follow in extinction. The Desert Inn became the Wynn Golf Club in the mid-2000s, and Gil Hanse is slated to completely reimagine La Costa's Champions Course next year.
Reviewer 'DicksonR' says: "Played Tour 18 for the first time and had no expectations. I was impressed. Great course. Fantastic replica holes. Tough course but fair. I certainly will return. As often as possible."
Bear's Best Atlanta, Suwanee, Georgia
Replica details: Jack Nicklaus dips into his vast portfolio by copying holes from his best designs around the world. Nicklaus used a private plane to visit each course, but all you need is a golf cart to experience St. Mellion (10th), Sherwood Country Club (1st and 10th), Spring Creek Ranch (13th), Old Works (2nd), The Golf Club of Purchase (5th), Muirfield Village (3rd and 12th), Shoal Creek (3rd), The Club at Nevillewood (9th), TPC Michigan (7th), Mount Juliet (11th), Champion Course at PGA National (15th), PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles (3rd and 18th), Governors Club (17th), Elk River Club (13th) and Castle Pines (18th).
Reviewer 'dgriff19' says: "All 18 holes on this course are designed to mimic courses from all across the world. This provides a unique and challenging golf experience. Approach shots are key for good play due to tight putting greens and lots of bunkers surrounding the surface. Some holes played fast and others were slow adding the exciting challenge. Golf carts are GPS enabled helping club selection."
Mount Airy Golf Club, Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania
Replica details: Hal Purdy designed Mount Airy, a 6,565-yard resort course affiliated with the Mount Airy Casino Resort, by using Sport’s Illustrated’s “The Best 18 Holes in America” as a guide. It is reputed to be one of the most challenging in the Poconos, probably because its replica holes come from many of America's most fearsome championship layouts - Merion's East Course (1st and 11th), Scioto (2nd), The Olympic Club's Lake Course (3rd), Baltusrol's Lower Course (4th), Colonial (5th), Seminole (6th), Pine Valley (7th), Prairie Dunes (8th), Cypress Creek Course at Champions (9th), Winged Foot's West Course (10th), Augusta National (12th), the Dunes Golf & Beach Club (13th), Cherry Hills (14th), Oakmont (15th), the South Course at Oakland Hills (16th), Quail Creek (17th) and Pebble Beach Golf Links (18th). While its flaws are obvious - the pond that's supposed to be the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach runs along the wrong side of the 18th fairway - Mount Airy generally gets good reviews, earning top 20 status in the Pennsylvania Golfers' Choice list since 2018.
Reviewer 'joeykolls' says: "This course was beautiful. Very scenic with peaks and valleys. Listen to the locals when they tell you it’s challenging! It’s an unforgettable experience and I will certainly come back when I visit the area."
The Golf Course at Northern Bay, Arkdale, Wisconsin
Replica details: The Golf Course at Northern Bay features 7 holes replicated from current and former PGA Tour hosts, including Augusta National (13, 16), the Players STADIUM Course at TPC Sawgrass (17), Firestone's South Course (16), the South Course at Oakland Hills (5), Oakmont (3) and Bay Hill (18).
Reviewer 'hornedwoodchuck' says: "I enjoyed the course and have only played a handful of the original courses the re-creations came from. Conditions were great and it was a memorable course."
Renditions Golf Course, Davidsonville, Maryland
Replica details: Renditions Golf Course offers replica holes from major championship venues, featuring plenty of variety from parkland to links. To start the round, golfers will tee up at The Country Club (17th), Inverness (12th), Southern Hills (17th), Royal Lytham & St. Annes (16th) and Royal Birkdale (5th). Holes 6-8 deliver average Joe hackers to Augusta National's famous Amen Corner (holes 11-13). After a brief stop at the South Course at Oakland Hills (16th), the back nine introduces Medinah No. 3 (6th), Oak Hill's East Course (17th), Carnoustie Golf Links (6th), the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass (17th), Merion's East Course (11th), Oakmont (3rd), Shinnecock Hills (16th), Winged Foot's West Course (7th) and Cherry Hills (16th).
Reviewer 'Mbmorris2010' says: "Would be nice to have the story about each of the holes on the GPS system, maybe with a picture of the real hole and then the actual 'Renditions' hole. The good, it was fun to play some of the great holes of golf, especially Amen Corner 11, 12, & 13, as well as the Island Green par 3 at TPC Sawgrass."
BONUS PICK: Brickshire Golf Club, Providence Forge, Virginia
Replica details: Although the Brickshire Golf Club only offers four replica holes, it is worth including as a surprise bonus selection. It kicks off with its first hole "emulating" the third hole at Augusta National, and sprinkles in other replica efforts along the way: No. 7 (the 11th at Pinehurst No. 2), No. 9 (the 14th on the Old Course at St. Andrews) and No. 11 ("shades" of the dangerous short par-4 10th at Riviera). Playing Royal New Kent by Mike Strantz across the street makes for a thrilling 36-hole day.
Reviewer 'ajwilly21' says: "I had played Royal New Kent across the street a couple times before and finally decided to give Brickshire a try. I was pleasantly surprised with the layout and conditioning of the course. There are a few holes inspired by famous holes on the PGA Tour, and for the most part, I could tell which ones they were even without the signs. The layout winds through a neighborhood, but the houses don't infringe on the course by any means. It's one of those courses where you can't see another hole from the hole you are playing, every hole is its own corridor."
Royal Links in Las Vegas is closed.
Wooden Sticks Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada would be in a North America Top 10 list of replica hole courses.