1. The American Club, Kohler, WI; 800-344-2838, americanclubresort.com
Pair a hotel that's surpassed in the Midwest for dining, service and spa with four of the nation's greatest public-access courses and you've got the region's top-ranked resort. The headliner is its Whistling Straits' Straits course, the faux-Irish, beautiful brute along the shores of Lake Michigan that's twice hosted the PGA Championship. Seventy-foot-tall sandhills cloaked in native fescues, roughly 1,000 bunkers and firm, fast, breeze-fueled conditions make the Straits the next best thing to a trip across the pond. Pete Dye's other three courses, the Irish at Whistling Straits and the River and Meadow Valleys layouts at Blackwolf Run would be standouts anywhere else. The River, in particular, glitters anew, thanks to a recent restoration. With its partly open, partly wooded setting along the Sheboygan River and its spotlight this July as host of the U.S. Women's Open, the River is poised to add another memorable chapter to Kohler's remarkable story.
2 of 10Courtesy of Wolfdancer
2. Hyatt Regency Lost Pines, Lost Pines, TX; 512-308-1234, lostpines.hyatt.com
Austin may be best known for its live music, barbecue and Texas football, but developing its own distinctive status is the area's newest golf resort, the family-friendly Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. Its affiliated golf course, Wolfdancer is primarily the creation of Chris Wilczynski, then of Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest Associates, who let his imagination run rampant in solving the puzzle of how to route golf holes over three distinct landforms -- rolling prairie land, a forested ridgeline and a valley populated with pine and pecan trees. The upper section of the course could fairly be called Texas heathland, with breezes to match. The showstopper here is the 155-yard, drop-shot, par-3 12th, its green clinging to the side of a mountain, which looks like it could give way should a foursome of NFL lineman choose to putt simultaneously. If variety equates to fun, you'll have a blast at Wolfdancer.
3 of 10Courtesy of Hill Country Golf Club
3. Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio, TX; 210-647-1234, hillcountry.hyatt.com
Sea World and Six Flags are powerful nearby enticements, but many savvy travelers prefer to park themselves at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and never leave until it's time to go home. The wonderful Wildflower, the Hill Country Spa and the welcoming Rowdy's Camp Hyatt for kids are among the attractions, but topping the list is the 27-hole, Arthur Hills-designed golf course that rolls through an oak-studded acreage crisscrossed by streams and lakes. Equal measures bite and forgiveness make for enjoyable play for both scratch swingers and once-a-month Joes alike, but the key for all is to keep it in play.
4 of 10Courtesy of Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club
4. Inn at Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor, MI; 231-439-4000, innatbayharbor.com
Some might see the short season in Northern Michigan as a drawback, but it's long enough to accommodate an embarrassment of riches where quality golf is concerned. Start with Bay Harbor, a 27-hole Arthur Hills creation that wows with jaw-dropping holes that skirt Lake Michigan and complements the sizzle with a prime collection of strategic holes that zigzag among trees and rock outcroppings. A fistful of other solid courses in the Boyne Resorts family highlight the area's golf buffet and you can rest your head in comfort at the Inn at Bay Harbor, a Mariott Renaissance Golf and Spa Resort. As a bonus, take the short drive south to Traverse City, then west to the shores of Lake Michigan, where Arcadia Bluffs awaits, one of the nation's most spectacular tracks.
5 of 10Courtesy of Grand View Lodge
5. Grand View Lodge, Nisswa, MN; 866-801-2951, grandviewlodge.com
Grand View would qualify as a classic Midwestern golf resort even if its golf offerings were limited to its original 27-hole, Joel Goldstrand-designed Pines course and its family-friendly Garden 9. In particular, the Pines teems with variety and handsome challenges in its Northwoods setting. That said, Grand View then opened it's Preserve course in 1996 and the nearby Deacon's Lodge in 1999, the latter one of Arnold Palmer's finest designs. Combine the superb golf platter with the property's Glacial Waters Spa and some fine fishing and water sports on Gull Lake and you'll be thrilled you made the two-hour trip up to Brainerd from the Twin Cities.
6 of 10Courtesy of Cog Hill Golf & Country Club
6. Cog Hill Golf Club, Lemont, IL; 866-264-4455, coghillgolf.com
Chicago's Cook County is home to several hundred courses you can play, but top among them is the long, boldly-bunkered No. 4 at Cog Hill. The brainchild of public course maven Joe Jemsek, Cog Hill played host to the Western Open for roughly 20 years, beginning in 1991 and to the 1997 U.S. Amateur, won by Matt Kuchar. Tiger Woods once gushed, "I love this golf course. The holes fit my eye." However, in an effort to restore the bark and bite to the Dick Wilson/Joe Lee layout nicknamed "Dubsdread," Rees Jones reworked the course, deepening the bunkers and re-contouring the greens. Our Top 100 panelists gave two thumbs up, though many pros balked. Still, in one of the greatest sports towns in the U.S. Cog Hill (No. 4) remains the place to play.
7 of 10Courtesy of Longaberger Golf Club
7. Longaberger Golf Club, Nashport, OH; 740-763-1100, longabergergolfclub.com
Naturally, college football dominates the sporting scene in Columbus, Ohio, but its remarkable golf offerings, such as Muirfield Village, The Golf Club and Ohio State Scarlet, aren't too shabby, either. But you'll have to drive 45 miles east to find the top public-access track, Longaberger. Perennially ranked among GOLF Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play, this gift to the masses from its legendary basket-making parent is a 1999 Arthur Hills design mixing open and wooded holes, all flawlessly groomed, and boasts a superb practice facility. The downhill plunge at the par-5 5th and the long par-4 8th that's backdropped by a lake are two of the Midwest's best.
8 of 10Courtesy of the French Lick Resort
8. French Lick Resort, French Lick, IN; 888-936-9360, frenchlick.com
Hoosier State native Pete Dye held nothing back with his 2009 creation of his namesake course at French Lick. It's almost impossible to comprehend the 301-yard, par-3 16th, with water in play, no less, followed by a 518-yard, par-4 and a 657-yard par-5. It's difficult not to steer the ball when you see that a yanked drive on many holes will leave you clinging to a sidehill of rough, necessitating a baseball recovery swing with the force of Albert Pujols just to get back in play. And climbing into and out of the volcano bunkers? Some would rather be in an actual volcano. Nevertheless, there are shorter tees to play. The bottom line: There is one memorable, demanding, classic Pete Dye hole after the next, virtually all with panoramic vistas in as pristine a setting as there is in this part of the world. Less relentless, yet as equally rewarding is the resort's Donald Ross course. Laid out by the master in 1920 and draped over open, rolling farmland, it played host to the 1924 PGA Championship, won by Walter Hagen. Lee Schmidt of Schmidt-Curley Design recently restored the layout's classic flat-bottom bunkers and ingeniously contoured greens. No matter how you fare, the casino gaming and distinctive appointments at the French Lick and sibling West Baden hotels will satisfy.
9 of 10Courtesy of The Harvester
9. The Harvester, Rhodes, IA; 641-227-4653, harvestergolf.com
Iowa hasn't exactly produced a bumper crop of superior public courses, but this Keith Foster design 30 miles northeast of Des Moines is an exception. The Harvester sweeps across the prairie with sharp yet flowing lines that harken back to 1920s-era Midwestern classics. Strategic options abound, with grassy slopes, slender streams and perfectly slotted traps all well-poised to snare the careless shot, proving the adage here that you reap what you sow.
10 of 10Courtesy of Troon Golf
10. Branson Creek, Hollister, MO; 417-339-4653, bransoncreekgolf.com
Headliners such as Andy Williams, the Gatlin Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys have made this Ozark Mountain haven "the live music show capital of the world." It's also one of the better values in the golf world, thanks to layouts such as Payne Stewart Golf Course, Murder Rock and especially Branson Creek. Tom Fazio designed Branson Creek in 2000 with all his usual bells and whistles, including vast, flowing, tree-lined fairways, gorgeously sculpted bunkers and a number of handsomely sited water hazards.
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