Play Where the Pros Play: The top 50 public golf courses of the Tour - part 1

Golf courses that have hosted the Tour can't use the marketing ploy to "Play Where the Pros Play" as successfully as PGA Tour venues.

There are lots of reasons why. Many of them are located in smaller cities and markets that aren't exactly golf destinations. A number of these tournaments weren't around very long and only saw limited TV time (especially in the 1990s and early 2000s during the years of the Ben Hogan/Nike/ tours). And, let's be honest, the pros competing on them aren't exactly household names yet.

On the bright side, these courses don't cost nearly as much to play as PGA Tour tracks, either. Clearly all of these clubs are strong tests of golf where famous mini-tour graduates like Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker and scores of other future stars have honed their craft. Every venue is certainly a step up from your average local course.

I scoured the history books to find every public and resort course to ever host the Tour since the early 1990s, when the PGA Tour took over operations of the old Ben Hogan Tour. I've ranked them based on three criteria: prestige of the tournament, the merits of the course, and the current course rankings by Golf Advisor users.

This story is divided into two parts -- part 1 covering courses 50 through 26 and part 2 featuring the top 25, plus a few international courses, too. If you're on a quest to "Play where the Pros Play," it's not a bad idea to add these past and present Tour stops to your bucket list.

50. Heartland Golf Club, Elizabethtown, Ky.

Tournament: 1990-91 Ben Hogan Elizabethtown Open
Comment: The course used to be the Pine Valley Country Club during the tournament. It's also known locally for its pub.

49. Marcus Pointe Golf Club, Pensacola, Fla.

Tournament: 1991-92 Ben Hogan Pensacola Open
Comment: Earl Stone, an Alabama architect known for creating playable courses, designed Marcus Pointe.

48. Hickory Hill Country Club, Gautier, Miss.

Tournament: 1996-97 Nike Mississippi Gulf Coast Open
Comment: Another Earl Stone design, Hickory Hill used to be Mississippi National Golf Club during the tournament. Stay and plays are possible at the IP Casino, Resort & Spa or the on-site villas. A sister course is the highly regarded Shell Landing by Davis Love III.

47. Brookwood Golf Club, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Tournament: 1992 Ben Hogan Fort Wayne Open
Comment: Brookwood Golf Club dates to 1925, making it one of northwest Indiana's oldest courses. There is also a nine-hole, par-3 course at Brookwood.

46. Desert Hills Golf Course, Yuma, Ariz.

Tournament: 1990-93 Yuma Open
Comment: Four ponds come into play on Yuma's city muni. It also has an 18-hole par 3.

45. The Country Club at Lake City, Lake City, Fla.

Tournament: 1990-92 Ben Hogan Lake City Classic
Comment: This William Byrd design is home to water hazards and gators.

44. Three Ridges Golf Course, Knoxville, Tenn.

Tournament: 1995-98 Nike Knoxville Open
Comment: This popular Knox County muni -- which hosts more than 100 outings and events annually -- boasts 63 bunkers.

43. Deer Creek Golf Club, Overland Park, Kan.

Tournament: 1990 Ben Hogan Deer Creek Open
Comment: Robert Trent Jones II used Deer Creek as the primary hazard on a number of holes throughout the course.

42. Empire Lakes Golf Club, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Tournament: 1999-07 Inland Empire Open
Comment: The Arnold Palmer course closed at the end of June, 2016. It will be redeveloped into housing units and retail stores.

41. Heatherwoode Golf Club, Springboro, Ohio

Tournament: 1993-98 Nike Miami Valley Open
Comment: Plenty of trees, traps and water to keep things interesting. Golf Advisor reviews are split evenly between four and five stars.

40. Willow Creek Golf Club, Knoxville, Tenn.

Tournament: 1990-94 Ben Hogan Knoxville Open
Comment: Laying down new Champion Bermuda grass in 2013 has improved the greens at Willow Creek.

39. University of Maryland Golf Course, College Park, Md.

Tournament: 2010-11 Melwood Prince George's County Open Presented by Under Armour
Comment: The original George Cobb design was enhanced by architect William Love during a 2009 renovation that thinned out trees and made the layout more playable.

38. The Preserve at Verdae, Greenville, S.C.

Tournament: 1992-2000 Upstate Classic
Comment: The course formerly known as Verde Greens is located adjacent to the Embassy Suites Greenville Golf Resort & Conference Center. Four-star reviews slightly outnumber five-star reviews on Golf Advisor.

Tournament: 2002-07 Peek'n Peak Classic/Lake Erie Classic
Comment: After a hiatus of almost a decade, this ski-golf resort near Lake Erie will host the pros again July 4-10 at the 2016 Lecom Health Challenge, a new event on the Tour.

36. Windsor Golf Club, Windsor, Calif.

Tournament: 1990-95 Ben Hogan Santa Rosa Open/Nike Sonoma County Open
Comment: While 6,621 yards might be short for today's pros, Windsor played plenty tough during the tournament two decades ago.

35. Quicksilver Golf Club, Midway, Pa.

Tournament: 1990-92 Ben Hogan Quicksilver Open
Comment: Quicksilver's layout follows the rolling hills in western Pennsylvania close to the Pittsburgh International Airport. Many of its Golf Advisor reviews are five stars.

34. Santa Ana Golf Club, Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.

Tournament: 1999-2000 New Mexico Classic
Comment: This 27-hole facility co-hosted the 2009 PGA Professional National Championship with neighboring Twin Warriors. Although it touts some links qualities, those are overshadowed by eight lakes.

33. Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, Valdosta, Ga.

Tournament: 2007-14 South Georgia Classic
Comment: This semiprivate Davis Love III design opened in 2004 as part of a housing development.

32. Highlands Course at Hampton Cove Golf Club, Owens Cross Roads, Ala.

Tournament: 1998 Nike Huntsville Open
Comment: This faux Scottish links on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail was renovated in 2008.

31. Hombre Golf Club, Panama City Beach, Fla.

Tournament: 1990-94 Panama City Beach Classic
Comment: This tough, target test is famous for the names of its three nines -- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It's good and bad reviews on Golf Advisor balance out to exactly four stars.

30. The Oaks Golf Club, Pass Christian, Miss.

Tournament: 99-2000 Nike/ Mississippi Gulf Coast Open
Comment: The Oaks, which gets four- and five-star ratings on Golf Advisor, is considered one of the best values on the Gulf Coast.

29. Seven Oaks Golf Club at Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y.

Tournament: 1990 Ben Hogan Central New York Classic
Comment: The course's website indicates that Robert Trent Jones Sr. drew up 13 different routings before completing the classic course dating to 1958 that stands today.

28. The Golf Club at Yankee Trace, Centerville, Ohio

Tournament: 1999-2003 Dayton Open
Comment: Architect Gene Bates added the Vintage nine in 2001 to his original municipal course dating to 1995.

27. Windance Country Club, Gulfport, Miss.

Tournament: 1990-95 Ben Hogan/Nike Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic
Comment: The former private club, designed by Mark McCumber in 1986, was purchased by the Island View Casino Resort in 2007 and opened to the public.

26. Finkbine Golf Course, Iowa City, Iowa

Tournament: 1991-93 Hawkeye Open
Comment: Slick greens and a traditional layout characterize the University of Iowa's home course.

Click here to read about the top 25 courses.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations 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 @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Play Where the Pros Play: The top 50 public golf courses of the Tour - part 1