Tour Players' List of Best and Worst Courses...and Why You Should Ignore It

Not sure if you saw it, but Golf World recently published a list of golf courses that PGA Tour players like playing the most...and the least.

What jumped out at me was the sometimes wild divergence between what pros like and what we mere mortals are likely to enjoy.

For instance, the pros love playing at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.; it was their second favorite after top pick Augusta National.

It's a great golf course, to be sure, but one whose sharp doglegs, overhanging tree limbs, and microscopic greens can be absolutely brutal on everyone but the most skilled shot shapers.

Conversely, the pros ranked the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Golf Course near Tucson, Ariz., -- where they just finished playing the Accenture Match Play Championship -- almost dead last (51 out of 52).

If you went by that, you'd miss out on what the consumer-minded editors of Golf Odyssey said is, "a strategic game that is both fun and a scenic treat...No matter what you think of Dove Mountain's putting surfaces [which were improved due to earlier tour complaints], there's no dispute over the quality of the layout from tee to green. "

Other notables that "regular golfers" might have ranked higher:

TPC Scottsdale (pros rank: 28 out of 52)
Torrey Pines, South Course (pros rank: 31 out of 52)
The Greenbrier, Old White Course (pros rank: 34 out of 52)
Kapalua Resort, Plantation Course (pros rank: 43 out of 52)

Have you played PGA Tour courses that you loved...or hated? How would you rank them? Please share your comments below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine,, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Plainfield CC in New Jersey is really that nice?

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Anyone that has the opportunity should play Bethpage. It will overpower most players, but if you keep moving, you will absolutely appreciate shooting the highest score of your life on a municipal course.

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Whistling Straits Straits course is the most memorable tour course I've played. The tee confugurations make it accessible for all skill levels and its a fair course. Close second is Riviera. What a beautiful place.

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It has been a few years since I played Harbour Town but found it to be a real treat. The times I played it were about a week or two after the tournament in the course was in great shape. I probably prefer the small greens as the course I play weekly has pretty small greens. I would rate it behind my experience at Bandon, my two trips to some of the courses in Ireland and Pasiteimpo. I also liked the SArthur Hills course on Hilton Head.

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To Bruce,

Certainly most of the golf courses on the list are expensive but definitely within normal people's budget. For us average folks, it requires more dilligent planning. I'm in the 18% tax bracket (I make little over 2x the poverty level) but I was able to play 7 of the top 10 Best you can play on golf digest ranking. Air fare can be had for practically free if you utilize air line credit card and their promo miles with 3+ month advance booking. Saving little bit at a time here and there easily adds up for your green fee. I've played Pebble, SpyGlass, and Spanish Bay twice. Ocean course at Kiawah Island 3 times and 4th one planned in March, TPC Sawgrass Stadium 3x and 4th one planned for June. All the courses at Bandon Dunes x 1 and 2nd trip planned for July. Its matter of how much you work at it. Don't get me wrong, it requires lot of due dilligence and discipline but if I can do it, certainly 75% of people out there should have no problem golfing at those places. I am a normal working stiff and I can almost bet that you probably make 1.5 to 2x more money than me.

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TPC Scottsdale is a great course with a lot of interesting challenges for the average golfer. It is #1 on my list the next time I go to Arizona. I played Torrey Pines (both North and South) 26 years ago. At that tgime, they were only slightly above average.

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I liked Harbor Town but the price was way too high. I loved Kapalua and would rate the TPC in Scottsdale High. Looking at the Dove Mountain Course on TV, I would never want to play there, it looked very tough. Pinehurst #2 was interesting to play. Not too long, but holding the greens was a bear. I also enjoyed playing all the Whistling Straits courses, but you had better play them from the appropriate tee. If you play the tips, I don't think that you will enjoy yourself!! The hotels and service was also a great experience.

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to Bruce, I'm not "well to do" but love golf and have managed to save some money for special trips a couple of times a year. If you look hard you can find some special rates to play many of these courses. Anyway, here's how I would rank the ones I've played:
Pebble Beach (worth every penny)
Kapalua (might be higher for the pros if they didn't have to walk it)
Harbor Town (marvellous design that feels claustrophobic, tiny greens-I think I only hit 2)
TPC Sawgrass (extemely tough due to angles you have to play- no straightforward shots)
Greenbrier- Old White (clasic architecture was thrilling)
Glen Abbey- boring front nine, excellent back nine
Bay Hill (decent course, certainly the best Palmer course I've played)
Doral (nice surprise, better than I expected for a flat course with sand and water everywhere)
Spyglass (I just didn't get it, hated the greens)
Cog Hill (huge disappointment, it was so boring)

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I have played 19 of the courses on the list, and agree more than disagree with the order the pros put them in. I love Harbour Town. Might be hard, but it requires you to use all your clubs and be able to move the ball left and right. I like Kapalua but think it is overrated in the various magazine rankings. A few blind shots, long distances between greens and tees, impossible to walk. Rees Jones ruined Torrey Pines when he made it U.S. Open tough. Innisbrook is a nice resort course, but probably doesn't belong in the top half of the list. Monterey Peninsula should be moved up the list as should Spyglass. I haven't played Cog Hill since the re-model, but I liked the old version enought for it to be in the top half. Doral is a mystery to me. I don't think it belongs in the top 100 list. To me it is a flat boring course that uses penal water holes to toughen it up, but not to make it interesting. I haven't played Dove Mountain, but if the best golfers in the world can't figure out how to read the greens, how would I figure it out?

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I'm a 12 and have played Harbour Towne may times and thoroughly enjoy it. Other great courses I played were:

TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra)
River Course at Kingsmill in Williamsburg
Disney Course in Orlando (Palm?)
Mission Hills in Palm Springs

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Tour Players' List of Best and Worst Courses...and Why You Should Ignore It