Barring some overnight explosion in golf's popularity, we're not likely to see the sort of breakneck pace of new golf course construction that we saw in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s ever again.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Golf course restoration and renovation has become big business. Golf courses are constantly evolving and require periodic freshening. And several municipalities and private owners have realized that their existing courses could be better (and need to be, in order to serve their communities effectively), and so are recruiting big names and upstarts alike to take what's there and make it better.
Still, new courses are coming, and though there's decidedly more going on abroad than in the United States, American golfers will have their share of intriguing new places to play in 2019, 2020 and beyond.
Timelines for opening golf courses can be inexact, though. Oftentimes, a course set to open 9 months from a given date can have its debut pushed back because of weather, finances or other obstacles. Looking back at last year, of the 13 new courses we mentioned as opening in 2018, all but one of them actually did fully open. The outlier: Copper Rock Golf Course in Utah, where some preview play has taken place over nine holes, but the Dale Beddo design's website indicates all 18 will be open "Fall 2019."
Here are 16 more openings slated for 2019:
Big Cedar Lodge (Payne's Valley) - Ridgedale, Mo.
Ozarks National, Big Cedar Lodge's new Coore & Crenshaw design, will see its first full year of play in 2019, while Payne's Valley, the first public-accessible Tiger Woods design, is expect to be ready for preview play late this fall. Fellow Golf Advisor Senior Writer Brad Klein got a good look at the routing this fall; read his preview here.
THE GROVE XXIII - Martin County, Fla.
Michael Jordan's love of golf is well-documented, and history's greatest basketball player is set to open a new course for him and his friends on the edge of Martin and Palm Beach Counties in South Florida in late 2019. Architect Bobby Weed knows the local terrain well, having renovated nearby Medalist Club a couple years. It's a safe bet that THE GROVE XXIII will have a membership that enjoys a wager or two on the course. It should be a good match play course.
Pelican Golf Club - Belleair, Fla.
This course straddles the line between "major renovation" and "new golf course," but in any case, Beau Welling's team has been at work turning the former Donald Ross-design at Belleview Biltmore into an exclusive private club developed by local businessman Dan Doyle, Jr. Welling is sympathetic to Golden Age architecture, so plenty of nods to the site's 94-year history in golf should endure.
Desert Mountain Club (No. 7 Course) - Scottsdale, Ariz.
The high-end mega-community in the hills above Scottsdale grows by one, welcoming its first short course in late March. The par-54 design is also Desert Mountain's first non-Nicklaus design. Members Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett laid out No. 7, but before you start thinking this is some boondoggle, be aware that Brownlee and Pickett also designed the nine-hole Li'l Wick Course at Wickenburg Ranch, located about an hour north. No. 7 will serve ad both a bonafide course and a place for serious practice, as each hole has a bit of extra tee space for that specific purpose.
Indiana University Golf Course - Bloomington, Ind.
Architect Steve Smyers is a University of Florida alum, but got the nod from another big state university to overhaul its golf course for contemporary competitive play. The $12 million project commenced last year and the new-look IU Golf Course, build on the former course's land but with a new routing and layout, should open this summer with an eye toward hosting tournament play next fall.
Old Toccoa Farm - Blue Ridge, Ga.
Dave Axland and Dan Proctor are the talents behind Bunker Hill Design, a boutique firm that has produced a small but very high-quality body of work, including Wild Horse and Bayside Golf Club in Nebraska, along with providing valuable assistance to projects by architects like Tom Doak, Pete Dye and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Their first original design in two decades, in far northern Georgia, is set to open fully in July. Old Toccoa Farm is a real estate development, but given its architects, the course should be much more interesting than most. 2019 green fees are $40-65.
Braemar Golf Course - Edina, Minn.
Richard Mandell is not as well-known as some other architects, but he has quietly built an impressive resume, particularly of renovations and restorations of some Donald Ross designs. His work a couple years ago at historic Keller Golf Course in Minnesota was well received, and more recently, he has been working for the Twin Cities suburb of Edina to turn its Braemar course from 27 cramped holes into 18, plus an "Academy 9" par-3 course aimed at helping new players fall in love with the game. Among the benefits of the total re-think of golf at Braemar: a 22-acre reduction in the golf course footprint, providing some non-golf use for valuable spaces.
NINE GRAND at Grand Oaks Reserve - Cleveland, Texas
Architect Mike Nuzzo may have designed the best American golf course almost no one has heard of: Wolf Point in Port Lavaca, Texas, an homage to The Old Course on a ranch owned by late businessman Al Stanger. It was Stanger's own "backyard" course, but the few who have played Wolf Point believe it may be the best in the state, with a set of greens adored by architect and critic Tom Doak. NINE GRAND is a nine-hole course at the center of a new real estate development an hour north-northeast of Houston. Given 100 core acres to work with, Nuzzo opted to build a nine-hole regulation course, a nine-hole par three course called THREE GRAND and an as-yet-unnamed putting course (I'd name it BABY GRAND). This gives visitors and residents three distinct golf experiences in a space where others might have struggled to make just one work.
Heath Golf & Yacht Club - Heath, Texas
Overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard east of Dallas, this real estate development with 27 holes designed by Roy Bechtol seems to be headed for a summer 2019 opening. Per the available Master Plan, though the property has some lake frontage, the golf will be almost entirely inland. A hotel also appears to be in the works. The Austin-based Bechtol's design credits include both the main University of Texas golf course and the recent six-hole short course at the facility, on which Jordan Spieth also consulted.
Irving Golf Club - Irving, Texas
John Colligan and his firm have played a Texas-sized role in improving municipal golf in the Lone Star State in recent years, with successful projects at Dallas' Stevens Park, The Mustang at Ross Rogers Golf Curse in Amarillo and San Antonio's famed Brackenridge Park. His team is at work transforming the former Twin Wells Golf Course into Irving Golf Club, where the corridors of nine holes' will be preserved and redesigned, with the other nine being totally rerouted.
Fox Hills Golf & Country Club - Watford City, N.D.
The now-receding oil boom in North Dakota has written a new chapter in the history of a largely quiet state. One of the side effects of the influx of high-paying work that has come to the state can be found in Watford City, whose run-of-the-mill nine-hole course is being gradually redesigned and expanded by architect Kevin Norby into a new 18-holes layout, which should debut in 2019 among some new housing. Norby's bunkering is distinctive, with vertical railroad ties turning some into true hazards.
Dumbarnie Links - Fife, Scotland, U.K.
Architect Clive Clark is best known for his designs in the American Southwest, but he's taken his talents of late to the Home of Golf, with a course on the vast Balcarres Estate about 20 minutes south of St. Andrews. Dumbarnie will not sit on "true" linksland, but Clark intends for the design and playing characteristics to remind its older neighbors. Any play in 2019 will likely be of the "preview" variety; the "official" opening is likely to be early 2020.
Torvean Golf Club (King's Course) - Inverness, Scotland, U.K.
Inverness has become a summer golf hotbed to rival St. Andrews in recent years, with the development of Castle Stuart as well as the wider golf world's rediscovery of older gems like Nairn, Golspie and Royal Dornoch. Torvean is more inland, but its new King's Course, designed by Stuart Rennie, a member of nearby Royal Dornoch who is making his solo design debut in the Highlands.
Costa Palmas - Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
This property is an hour north of Los Cabos' main airport, putting it far afield of the main resort district at the peninsula's southern tip. Costa Palmas is on the east coast of Baja California, home to a new Four Seasons resort. The attendant Robert Trent Jones, II-designed golf course is expected to open along with the resort in the middle of the year.
Rancho San Lucas - Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
On the other end of Cabo's golf hotbed, a new Greg Norman course is coming along at Rancho San Lucas in a new high-end resort-residential development called Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas. The course will sport stacked-artificial-sod EcoBunkers and an island green and is expected to open in fall of 2019.
Osterakers Golfklubb - Akersberga, Sweden
The first phase of this complete redesign on the site of an existing golf facility north of Stockholm will open in the summer, and it will be the first foray into golf course design by Henrik Stenson, along with Christian Lundin of the (re)Golf course architecture firm. Lundin describes the course as "a classic parkland course with quite a lot of risk and reward. Just like Henrik likes it." A par-3 course will also be opening on the site in the summer, with the second 18-hole layout to open by 2022.
What is a "new golf course," anyway?
Because straight-up brand-new builds have slowed to a trickle, golfers are starting to see just how much can be done to change existing courses.
It is common for architects to preserve a golf course's entrenched routing (either by choice or by necessity) and strip away layers of dirt and rebuild new holes. Other times, architects will essentially erase an existing golf course and build newly-routed holes on an existing plot of land. Other times, a hybrid approach is taken, as at Banyan Cay, where Jack Nicklaus' design team rebuilt holes mostly on the corridors of the previous Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course but also rerouted a handful of holes. Nicklaus' group called it a new course, and I'm not inclined to argue.
That's why Pinehurst No. 4, one of last year's highest-profile openings, deserves to be thought of as a new golf course. Tom Fazio and Donald Ross decades before both put 18 holes on that piece of property, but Gil Hanse completely transformed the place. For 2019 openings, Pelican, Braemar and Irving are all in this gray area.
Bottom line: There are some cases where one could potentially argue whether some of the "new golf courses" on this list are actually heavy renovations. To which I say, just pipe down and file this list away for your future travel considerations.