One of the best things about tracking tournament golf on TV is that you can watch elite players on the same holes you’ve played. That’s especially the case with the LPGA, whose 33 events this year include 10 on publicly accessible courses here in the U.S.
Watching tournament golf is one thing. Emulating a version of it quite another. Of course, it helps if you can relate to the way they play. Which is why the LPGA is more realistic for most golfers. You can marvel at 310-yard drives and 170-yard eight-irons, but when we play a hole of that length it’s called a par 5 and requires a third shot of a full wedge. And drivable par 4s aren’t 330 yards; they’re closer to 260 and, even then, rarely within range without considerable roll and luck to barely make the front edge..
For those of you interested in going on tour in the footsteps of LPGA courses, here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll find:
Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort - Orlando, Fla.
Jan. 17-20: The Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America
Tranquilo, formerly known as Osprey Ridge, is a Tom Fazio design that’s a pleasant rarity in Florida: a core routing unimpeded by real estate. It ends with a dramatic, across-the-pond par 3. Dense woodlands line the course, giving it a remote feel that’s unusually pristine for a resort layout. $225 (must stay on property).
March 21-24: Bank of Hope Founders Cup
If you’re looking for a good excuse to play 36 holes, this is it. All in the name of research. The LPGA’s event is played on the back nines of the resort’s two adjoining courses – the Palmer Signature Course and the Faldo Championship Course, in that order. The composite routing makes sense for logistics and flow and entails some very conspicuous strategic bunkering framed by the sparse Sonoran Desert landscape on every hole. $79-$199.
Aviara Golf Club - Carlsbad, Calif.
March 28-3: Kia Classic
An elegant Arnold Palmer design that loops around a hillside overlooking Batiquitos Lagoon, 30 miles north of downtown San Diego. The front nine climbs steadily in a clockwise loop before tumbling back down on the par-5 8th hole; the back nine is more of a figure eight routing, with the short-drivable par-4 16th a lot of fun and the par-4 18th a lot of trouble. The real treat here is the par-3s, all of which are decoratively adorned with colorful flora. $175-$265.
Ko Olina Golf Club, Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii
April 17-20: LOTTE Championship
This attractive layout on Oahu’s west coast was designed by Ted Robinson in 1990. The holes circulate about the resort on the inland side but offer enough seaside sensibility thanks to the prevailing winds and ideal climate for year-round golf. $195-$225.
Kingsmill Resort (River Course) - Williamsburg, Va.
May 23-26: Pure Silk Championship
Pete Dye’s routing from 1974 is deceptively simple – a big clockwise front nine inland and a counterclockwise back nine that brushes up along the James River. The two concluding holes are gems – a riverfront par-3 and then the famous drive across a corner of Moody Pond to the 18th fairway (you hope). For all the attention Dye garnered for his railroad ties, this course conveys a more complex genius: the use of long, flat-bottomed linear bunkers to make relatively straight holes look dramatically doglegged. $90-$175.
Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club (Bay Course) - Galloway, N.J.
June 7-9: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer
Sam Snead won the first of his three PGA Championships (out of seven majors overall) here back in 1942. The place exudes history and a sense of place, thanks to Donald Ross’ 1915 routing, which heads right out to Reeds Bay on the strength of two elegant par-4s. From there it’s a minefield of pot bunkers, mounds and ever-present winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean, just on the other side of the sand barrier that lines the New Jersey Coast. This is one of those throwback treasures, a perfect home for the LPGA and for golfers interested in tradition (it also made Golf Advisor's Top 50 courses of 2018). $29-$119.
Thornberry Creek at Oneida - Oneida, Wisc.
July 4-7: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic
You can quickly tell this is the official golf course of the Green Bay Packers, whose home at Lambeau Field is only nine miles to the southeast. There’s a Packers helmet emblazoned in the hill along the first hole. This popular public layout designed by Rick Jacobson is a Wisconsin Northwoods special, with dense hardwoods lining the opening and closing holes, wetlands that occasionally cross the line of play and lots of pond frontage posing a lateral challenge. The most interesting hole is probably the par-5 15th, with a peninsula green just on the other side of a flanking pond. $39-$64.
Brickyard Crossing - Indianapolis, Ind.
Sept. 26-29: Indy Women in Tech Championship driven by Group1001
Pete Dye’s hometown ode to the American Midwest. This public layout has it all: a barn, high-voltage power lines, a railroad track, the backdrop of the stands on turn three and four finishing holes inside America’s most famous racetrack. The best of them is the par-3 15th hole, a Redan to an elusive platform green, with the second turn of the oval just behind you. $110.
Old American Golf Club - The Colony, Texas
Oct. 3-6: Volunteers of America Classic
Tripp Davis, a former Web.com tour player-turned-architect, teamed with 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard on a retro version of American golf along the shores of Lewisville Lake. Old American Golf Club, 25 miles north of DFW Airport, is a throwback to scruffy bunkering, much of it arrayed across the line of play and sometimes smack in the middle. There’s lots of short-grass around greens, which provides thoughtful options for recovery. It’s one of the few classic-era-style courses on the LPGA Tour and definitely a showcase for talented shotmakers. $125-$150.
Tiburon Golf Club (Gold Course) - Naples, Fla.
Nov. 21-24: CME Group Tour Championship,
Naples is pretty flat, so architects have to work hard to create definition. At Tiburon, designer Greg Norman relied upon dense native stands of woodlands laced with ponds for his routing, then cored out stacked, sod-wall bunkers to define the lines of play. The property has two courses, Gold and Black, with public access flip-flopping on alternate days. $99 to $319.