Golf travel's greatest debates

Argue all you want at the 19th hole over these topics.
Are you Team Pebble Beach or Team Bandon Dunes?

Some golf debates will never be solved.

Tiger vs. Jack.
Augusta National vs. Pine Valley.
MacKenzie vs. Ross.
TaylorMade vs. Callaway.

There's just too much subjectivity and artistry involved in the game to declare absolutes. But that's the fun of it. You can argue all day long, a pursuit perfect over beers at the 19th hole.

Golf travel is no different. When the GolfPass Editorial Staff compiled our World Top 100 Golf Destinations this spring, it took hours of revisions and debate to settle on a number. Thankfully there was an odd number of panelists - few selections were unanimous. We get in friendly debates weekly, if not daily, about which course, resort or destination is better at this or that. We see the debates play out in 19th holes and in social media threads all the time. There are five debates that may never be settled, and we've listed them below. Where do you stand?

Where do you stand in these debates? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Best Resort: Pebble Beach vs. Bandon Dunes

    The short, par-4 16th hole at Bandon Dunes is one of the property's most dramatic tee shots.

    This has been bantered about in golf circles the last decade as Bandon Dunes has come of age. Bandon boasts more courses (5 plus a 13-hole short course to 4, plus a 9-hole short course at Pebble). It's also more affordable, if you consider $345 rounds "affordable" (compared to $575 at Pebble). Pebble has the edge in its deep connection to the pro game (hosting majors and annual PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions tournaments every year) and better year-round weather. Pebble is also easier to get to and offers much more to do off the course. When you're at Bandon, you're playing golf, not shopping or strolling the beach like you might be in the seaside town of Carmel.

    What it comes down to is taste. Do you cherish the challenges of links golf or the luxuries of Pebble's pampering? California chic or Oregon's version of man vs. nature?

    My pick: I have to go with what I know. Living only an hour away, I've been to Pebble Beach a dozen or more times and Bandon only once. The home team wins, for now. It could change if the Sheep Ranch blows me away on my next trip.

    FROM $1,037 (USD)
    MONTEREY, CA | Enjoy 3 nights' accommodations at The Lodge at Pebble Beach™ and 4 rounds of golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links™, Spyglass Hill™, Pasatiempo & Bayonet Golf Courses.

  2. Best overseas trip: Scotland vs. Ireland
    In the Highlands, historic Royal Dornoch is a scenic and challenging links on Scotland's A-list.

    Picking between Scotland and Ireland for a links golf trip? This is a question hundreds of American golfers lose sleep over. Thankfully, there's no winners and losers here. Combined, Scotland (17) and Ireland (11) feature nearly a third of the world's Top 100 courses outside of America, according to Golf Digest.

    Scotland's trump card is St. Andrews as the "Home of Golf". It's a pilgrimage every golfer must make, if only to see the contrast of historic, the Old Course, and modern, i.e. Kingsbarns. If golfers are only going overseas once in their lives, that's probably it. They can easily extend the trip to include East Lothian to the south (home to Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane No. 1) or Ayshire in the west (Turnberry's Ailsa, Royal Troon, Western Gailes) to check off a whole bunch of bucket-list stops.

    In Ireland, you have the same problems. So many links, so little time. The Southwest region surrounding Shannon airport has always been the first choice with the fivesome of Lahinch, Trump International Golf Links Ireland (Doonbeg), Tralee, Ballybunion and Waterville. Gaining momentum is Northern Ireland's twosome of Royals, coupled with a few courses from Northwest Ireland (Rosapenna, Ballyliffin, Enniscrone) or Dublin (Portmarnock).

    From my experiences, Ireland has a few built-in advantages. The Irish are so friendly. Their 19th holes feel more welcoming. Their links are generally more scenic with bigger cliffs and higher dunes.

    My pick: I've not been shy about my affinity for Ireland over the years. People tell me "Deegan" has Irish roots, although I have no family connections over there. It does feel like home, however. It might explain why I've been a dozen times and am already planning a return with the wife and kids.

  3. Best U.S. Destination: Monterey Peninsula, CA, vs. Pinehurst, NC
    The Putter Boy Shop in the Village of Pinehurst.

    It isn't toxic like Biggie/Tupac, but this is golf's version of an East Coast/West Coast rivalry. Each has an unrivaled history. Pinehurst and the Sandhills harken back to the days of Donald Ross and recently became an anchor site for the U.S. Open and secondary home for the USGA. Its famed No. 2 course will host five U.S. Opens in the next 27 years. Meanwhile, Pebble Beach Resorts celebrated a century in 2019 with its 6th U.S. Open. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am also celebrated its 75th anniversary on the iconic course in 2021.

    Saying the word 'Pinehurst' elicits visions of towering trees, sandscapes and rolling hills. Pebble Beach Golf Links - along with Spyglass Hill, Links at Spanish Bay, Cypress Point and Pacific Grove - is all about the connection to the Pacific.

    My pick: Tie. A cop-out, I know. The Monterey Peninsula is stronger at the top, but the Sandhills probably sports a deeper roster of more affordable, and architecturally unique, courses. There's nothing like Tobacco Road on the Monterey Peninsula. The Village of Pinehurst and Carmel are equally unique and special.

  4. Best links: Royal Portrush vs. Royal County Down
    The backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne and the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa add beauty to Royal County Down G.C., which hosted Shell's Wonderful World of Golf in 1968.

    These aren't necessarily the two "best" links courses in the world, although you could argue that point. The debate about which is better stems from their proximity and pride. Northern Ireland is a small slice of the world, so to have two world-class 'Royals' separated by 90 miles is something.

    Royal County Down is winning the rankings game, as Golf Digest's World No. 1 since 2016. Royal Portrush's Dunluce links has closed the gap, though, rising from no. 27 in 2016 to no. 8 in 2020. Hosting the 2019 Open Championship, its first major since 1951, certainly helped in the eyes of critics and likely put it in line for a future Open in the near future.

    'RCD' is equal parts more beautiful and more penal than Portrush thanks to so many blind shots. Dunluce counter punches with more memorable signature holes. Its fifth green cozies up to the beach with the ruins of Dunluce Castle in view. Calamity Corner, the name of the par-3 16th, requires one of the most nerve-wracking tee shots you'll hit in your life.

    My pick: If I had to choose one round, I'd go with RCD. If I had to pick a home course that I'd play every day, it would probably be Royal Portrush. I also love the Portrush Valley Course. My handicap and lost ball count would skyrocket at Royal County Down.

    FROM $607 (USD)
    NORTHERN IRELAND | Enjoy 5 nights' accommodations at Bayview Hotel in Bushmills and Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle and 5 rounds of golf at Portmarnock, Portstewart, Royal County Down, Ardglass, and Royal Portrush.

  5. Down Under: New Zealand vs. Australia
    New South Wales Golf Club's 6th tee during a past Australian Open.

    Only the luckiest of golf travelers can live it up with 2-3 weeks exploring both New Zealand and Australia on that once-in-a-liftetime golf trip Down Under. Alas, the rest of us probably can't squeeze more than 10 days away from everyday life and will be forced to choose.

    Australia's biggest cities are both incredible. Melbourne is minutes from the legendary Sandbelt, a string of private clubs with ties to Dr. Alister MacKenzie, Presidents Cups and the firmest sandy soil anywhere. A tour operator should have no problem getting you on a few.

    I fell hard for Sydney on a visit last January, despite the historic wildfires that shrouded the landscape and beaches with smoke, fear and destruction. Linksy layouts populate both north and south of the vibrant city. World Top 100 New South Wales, St. Michael's and Long Reef were a formidable trio.

    As long as we're talking trios, nobody does it better than New Zealand North Island's threesome of Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers and the new kid on the block, Tara Iti, a private club that does allow expensive one-off tee times. I cherish the stunning Kauri Cliffs among my most favorite rounds of all time. While you're here, the South island might even be more compelling. Touring Queenstown and the Remarkables Mountains might leave little time for golf, but Jack's Point is epic, as is the artwork lining The Hills if you can get on. The charming Millbrook remains the golf resort of choice.

    All this golf, and we haven't even touched on King Island or Tasmania, two islands with 36 holes of World Top 100 courses. Maybe it's time for that midlife crisis to go find my purpose for being. A six-month sojourn Down Under could help.

    My pick: Since I've yet to experience Melbourne, New Zealand wins. I like to compare it to a warmer version of Ireland. The people are friendly and the coastline for golf is among the most ruggedly beautiful in the world.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries 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 @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Golf travel's greatest debates