Whether you've played 20 courses in your life or more than 1,000 like me, we all have something in common.
We all have the courses that pull on our heartstrings, places where we feel most comfortable. We connect with these courses emotionally. They've been a part of our journey, and make no mistake, taking up this game is a vision quest of ebbs and flow, highs and lows.
They fit our eye. They fit our game. They inspire us to play better. And they've served as a gathering place for great memories with friends and family.
As I reflect on the 25 years I've been playing golf, I can't help but feel bound to certain courses. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized virtually every golfer feels the same.
We all have an affinity for a handful of special places. I've narrowed the list down to five of them: 1, the course where we learned the game; 2, the course where we shot our best score; 3, the best course we've ever played; 4, the one we dream of playing; and 5, our current home club (hopefully!). At first, I get a little misty-eyed thinking about this fivesome. Then motivation strikes. It's time to go play ...
Share with us the five courses that tug on your heartstrings by completing the categories 1-5 in the comments below and share the story on social media to get your golf friends involved, too.
The course where I learned the game
I tease my dad all the time that he ruined my life by not teaching me about golf as a kid. I picked the game up on my own at college, getting a job picking the range and cleaning carts at Eagle Crest Golf Club, Eastern Michigan University's home course in Ypsilanti. It is probably why I have such an affinity for courses on the water. Eagle Crest sits on Ford Lake. Its clubhouse and range are perched on a hill, overlooking the water.
I remember countless rounds playing by myself before or after my shift, trying to learn the game. I probably haven't played Eagle Crest in at least 7-8 years. I'm dying to go back. That par-5 16th hole with a peninsula green on the lake is one nobody forgets.
My current home course
I've grown so fond of my local muni over the past year that I proudly proclaim it as my "home club". The Santa Teresa Golf Club, owned by Santa Clara County, has so much to appreciate for a non-country clubber like me - a nice setting without homes near the surrounding hills; a great junior program; a par-3 course that offers Footgolf, too; and a big course that's walkable, affordable, fairly challenging and kept in nice condition. Best of all, it's within walking distance of my house. I shot a 77 there last month, so I'm itching to break my personal record there someday.
The course where I shot my best round
I've learned to enjoy golf without worrying about score. I've never been a great player, but I had a solid five-year run where I was a dangerous single digit. My best effort was a 74 at Royal St. Kitts Golf Club about 15 years ago. I remember the round like it was yesterday. I got up and down from everywhere. Putted like a Faxon.
I also vividly remember almost choking like a dog down the stretch. Johnny Miller would have gone berzerk in the booth. The two finishing holes along the ocean were playing directly into the wind. It was a slog. Somehow, after a horrible first putt, I sank a longish second putt to make par on the final hole. Joy wasn't the emotion I felt. It was relief that I had survived without throwing up all over myself.
The best course I've ever played
Whenever someone asks me my favorite course, I usually tick off at least five answers. You can never nail me down.
For this story, I'll pick one: Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand. I thought everything about the experience was perfect - the weather, the scenery, the routing, the thrill of finding a new and interesting challenge on every tee. I loved it. It probably pulls on my emotions hardest when I start wondering, "How could a boy from tiny Port Huron, Michigan, who didn't grow up around golf end up in New Zealand, representing Golf Channel, playing one of the best courses in the world?" This sentiment blows my mind every time.
The course I dream of playing
Reviewing golf courses for two decades has allowed me to check off a lot of courses from my bucket list. But not all of them.
The course that haunts my dreams is the Cypress Point Club. It checks off all I love about the game ... golf on the ocean designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Living just an hour away makes the pull of Cypress Point even stronger. It seems every Californian I know who works in the golf industry has already played it.
Getting on is harder than it's ever been. I'm told members can no longer invite unaccompanied guests. They have to play in the foursome. Maybe someday that invite will come.