No. 1: San Francisco
It’s not a stretch to include Pasatiempo, an Alister Mackenzie design, to the roster that is public golf in and around San Francisco. Built by the same guy who gave us Augusta National, Cypress Point, Crystal Downs and Royal Melbourne, Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz is only a few minutes more than an hour from the San Francisco airport. Add TPC Harding Park, both courses at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, Presidio and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the 17th tee at Lincoln Park, and you have quite an itinerary.
No. 2: Arizona
Admittedly, the Phoenix and Scottsdale area was No. 1 on my list until I granted San Francisco an extension of measuring distance to Pasatiempo from the airport. Having grown up an hour north of San Francisco might have also factored into my ultimate analysis. Regardless, with courses such as TPC Scottsdale, both at We-Ko-Pa, both at Talking Stick, both at Troon North, Quintero and the saddle fairways of Westin Kierland, the NFC West is dominating this list for a reason.
No. 3: Green Bay
Like Pasatiempo to San Francisco, with drive time a little over an hour, I’m giving Green Bay all four courses at Destination Kohler, which includes Whistling Straits, Irish and both at Blackwolf Run. Add the Bull at Pinehurst farms, Wander Springs, Mid-Vallee (Blue) and Brown County (muni), and it’s hard to think there are two better NFL cities for golf. Especially given the additional roll on anything deemed “frozen tundra.”
No. 4: New York
I had Tampa Bay fifth on this list, but in the end, I think the combination of Bethpage Black and Red is better than Streamsong Red and Blue. But it’s close. To the New York itinerary, I’m adding Ferry Point, Harbor Links and Ballyowen, which is in New Jersey. I’d also add Patriot Hills and the gritty charms of Dyker Beach, Van Cortland Park, Clearview and Pelham Bay/Split Rock.
No. 5: Seattle
It still bothers me, the way the USGA presented Chambers Bay to the masses. I had toured the course two weeks before the U.S. Open and conditions were impeccable. And not only is Chambers Bay a compelling narrative—gravel pit to major championship—it’s an impressive anchor to public golf in and around Seattle. The value golf at Gold Mountain is some of the best in the country. Home course, Washington National and Druids Glen are also formidable forces in what has quietly become a strong consideration for future buddies trips.