Huntsman Springs, Driggs, Idaho
Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. might have an advantage in 18 holes of match play against our sitting chief executive: Huntsman can hone his skills on his family's remarkable new private course on the Idaho-Wyoming border. Founded by his billionaire father John Sr. (a chemical magnate and anticancer crusader who created the container that keeps McDonald's Big Macs warm), and run by his brother David, Huntsman Springs sits in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, but it's what's on the ground that is equally compelling. Designer David McLay Kidd moved mountains of soil,more than four million cubic yards, to turn a vapid high desert tract into a visual treat. Rumpled terrain, 153 fescue-fringed bunkers, ball-swallowing wetlands and massive putting surfaces form the bulk of the challenge, along with a championship yardage of 7,331.
2 of 7Ben Cowan-Dewar
Cabot Links, Iverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
Turn loose Bandon Dunes' Mike Keiser on any coastal property and the result is likely to be successful. Designer Rod Whitman, an Albertan who prepped under Pete Dye and Bill Coore, built Canada's first authentic links for Keiser and codeveloper Ben Cowan-Dewar on a rolling plot that starts at an elevated bluff and descends to the beach. Every hole offers views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the most dazzling postcard is the tiny par-3 14th, a downhill pitch of 102 yards that overlooks the sea and is a dead ringer for the 7th a Pebble Beach. Ten holes opened in July 2011, with the others to follow in the spring of 2012.
3 of 7Tom Breazeale
Mission Hills Resort Haikou, Haikou, Hainan Island, China
One of Asia's foremost tournament tracks is the centerpiece of the new Mission Hills complex in southern China that has 10 courses and counting. Amid the surplus of new layouts, there's no chance of this beautiful brute getting lost in the crowd. Following a host of celebrity designers who were enlisted to help out at the first mammoth Mission Hills site, located in Shenzhen on the mainland, Chinese golf patriarch Dr. David Chu let designer Brian Curley go it alone on Hainan, and he went on to carve out a relentless lineup of heavily bunkered holes draped on black volcanic rock, a striking if unplayable hazard that frames many fairways. At 7,808 yards and par-73, the aptly named Blackstone course should prove a worthy venue for any golfer expert or novice.
4 of 7Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort
Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, Cape Kaliakra, Bulgaria
Big-time golf in Bulgaria? Believe it. Designer Gary Player is the first to make inroads in this former Communist-bloc stronghold with a pair of designs along the western coast of the Black Sea. Most compelling is Thracian Cliffs, codeveloped by Krassimir Guergov, a media mogul, founder of the Bulgarian Golf Association and an associate member of the R&A. Bulgaria attracted 8.9 million visitors in 2008, predominantly Germans, Greeks and Romanians, and championship golf is now among the enticements. Said Player of Thracian Cliffs at its June 2011 opening, "I've seen a lot and can say that there is no course like Thracian Cliffs anywhere in the world." The rocky coastline indeed forms a stunning backdrop for golf, notably at the par-3 6th, the tee of which is perched 44 yards above the green with a full frontal panorama of the Black Sea beyond.
5 of 7Kevin Murray
Yas Links, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
The boom-and-bust economy of the Middle East obliterated Tiger Woods's first (and never completed) design in Dubai, but in Yas Links, the region finally produced a game-changer. Says course spokesman Graeme McDowell, "(Designer Kyle) Phillips created a genuine links course in the desert. Sometimes you close your eyes and you think you're on Kingsbarns (another Phillips design) the way the greens roll, the way they're shaped. ... You can run balls in; they have lots of different shots in and around the greens. I think Kyle has created something pretty cool here." The operative word here is create. Phillips literally created the coastline that edges the course, dredging 2.3 million cubic yards from the sea for the fill necessary to build the 7,414-yard layout. Yas Links is carpeted in platinum paspalum, perfect for tight, linksy lies, and peppered with 109 bunkers.
6 of 7Joann Dost
Royal Isabela, Isabela, Puerto Rico
Charlie Pasarell used to be known primarily for dueling Pancho Gonzales in the longest match in Wimbledon history, but Pasarell's new course in his native Puerto Rico might soon eclipse any of his tennis achievements. Together with brother Stanley and designer David Pfaff, Charlie has smacked a service ace when it comes to Royal Isabela. Strung on rugged cliffs in northwest Puerto Rico, 75 miles west of San Juan, this ferocious 7,538-yard, par-72 tropical test winds through junglelike flora on the hilly front nine, but it's the linksyback nine that will linger in memory, thanks to the cliff-top double green shared by the 12th and 14th holes as well as the 200-yard, par-3 17th, an all-or-nothing thriller perched high above the Atlantic. Up to this point, Puerto Rico has trotted out a series of amiable resort courses meant for holiday fun. Royal Isabela raises the bar considerably.
7 of 7John and Jeannine Henebry
Stoneforest International Country Club, Kunming, Yunnan, China
Doing a perfect Gary Player impersonation, designer Brian Curley said of his course in the mountains of southwestern China, "This is one of the most unique sites ever made available for golf." Stoneforest is more spectacular than any other new inland course in the world. The best and newest of a three-course complex situated at 6,500 feet, this fantasy-calendar design zigzags through ancient karst limestone rock formations adjacent to a national park designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. The course technically opened in June 2011, but with the Chinese government playing Ping-Pong on whether to enforce its 2004 moratorium on mainland course construction and operations, it's anyone's guess as to whether enough ranking panelists will have access by the '13 vote. If they do, it will be hard to keep a course this memorable out of the Top 100.
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