Old Macdonald (No. 43 U.S./No. 74 World): Bandon Dunes Resort's fourth course might be its most distinctive and its most fun. Architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina managed to pay homage to pioneer American architect Charles Blair Macdonald and still build a one-of-a-kind seaside treat that is unlike nearly any course ever seen. Massively wide, rumpled fairways and putting surfaces that Doak labeled "probably bigger than any set of greens anybody has built in 30 years" still demand thoughtful placements and proper trajectories, as the crunchy turf and frenzied contours will funnel marginal shots in unexpected directions. Solving such puzzles is the enduring joy of Old Macdonald.
2 of 8John and Jeannine Henebry
Gozzer Ranch (No. 70 U.S.): Turn Tom Fazio loose on a canvas that includes a beautifully treed valley, rocky bluffs that sprout 100-foot spires and dazzling vistas of Lake Coeur d'Alene, and the results are typically stunning. Yet the aesthetics tell only half of the Gozzer Ranch story. The other half is one departure after another from the classic Fazio formula, which makes this four-year-old layout a true standout. Small, shallow, tattered-edge bunkers, a rare center bunker at the par-5 16th, and traps staggered diagonally at the par-5 8th are among the distinctive strategic touches. The spectacular views are the cherry on top.
3 of 8Rob Brown
The Alotian (No. 76 U.S.): Arkansas's answer to Augusta National features many similarities to the real thing, including a rolling, wooded tract studded with azaleas in springtime, the design hand of Tom Fazio, and an ambience of relaxed exclusivity. It's no wonder, given that Alotian founder Warren Stephens's dad, Jack, was the former Augusta chairman. Overlooking Lake Maumelle, the course embraces strategic bunkering, angled greens and excellent direction changes throughout the round. Flawless conditioning, risk/reward par 5s and forests dotted with dogwoods do make it sound a lot like a certain Georgia layout.
4 of 8Larry Lambrecht
Caves Valley (No. 82 U.S.): On the rebound is this 20-year-old Tom Fazio creation in Maryland hunt country north of Baltimore that's best known as the 2002 U.S. Senior Open venue. Long regarded as one of the great retreats in golf, Caves Valley now has a course to match, thanks to design tweaks that improved visability at the 2nd, 8th and 11th holes, making for more enticing strategic decisions. Untouched are modern classics such as the par-4 9th, an uphill beauty that transitions from meadow to forest, its right side guarded by a creek, and the two par 3s on the back, both drenched in water, wetlands and drama.
5 of 8Josh Smith/California Golf Club of San Francisco
California Golf Club of San Francisco (No. 97 U.S.): Forget the unwieldy name those in the know simply call it the "Cal Club" but remember the layout. Originally routed by Willie Locke, then constructed in 1926 by architect A. Vernon Macan, Cal Club received the Alister MacKenzie treatment two years later, then eventually disappeared from "Best Course" lists. Fast forward to 2007, when Kyle Phillips created five new holes, felled trees to open up the city skyline and mountain views and sculpted a set of bunkers that has few equals. It's easy to be overlooked in a city that boasts the Olympic Club, San Francisco Golf Club and Harding Park, but the Cal Club is a must-see.
6 of 8Castle Stuart Golf Links
Castle Stuart Golf Links (No. 56 World): Golf Magazine's Top New International winner of 2009 has lived up to its early hype. Developer/designer Mark Parsinen and American architect Gil Hanse draped generous fairways atop sandy linksland that's spiced with wild and woolly bunkers and panoramas of Moray Firth and the Scottish Highlands. By emphasizing width and strategy and maximizing views, the 2011 Scottish Open site is that rare course that appeals equally to our low- and high-handicap panelists.
7 of 8Angus Murray
Diamante (Dunes) (No. 58 World): Assisted by his brother Mark and associate Paul Cowley, Davis Love III carved a memorable test from the ocean dunes in Mexico's Cabo San Lucas. The variety at Diamante is evidenced by the par 3s, which range from 154 to 290 yards and include the 2nd, with a green cut into sandhills; the 11th, which overlooks a vast beach; and the tiny 16th, its target obscured by sand and scrub.
8 of 8Gary Lisbon
Barnbougle Lost Farm (No. 82 World): A limited number of panelists have evaluated this Bill Coore solo design since its December 2010 debut, but there were enough to catapult it into the Top 100. Situated in the northeastern Tasmania, an hour's flight from Melbourne, Lost Farm sits adjacent to our 41st-ranked course in the world, Barnbougle Dunes, yet is dramatically different. Coore's layout sports dunes that run both parallel and perpendicular to the ocean, whereas the elder track has smaller dunes that only run parallel with the sea. Coupled with holes that are flattish and others that are inland, the variety at Lost Farm is astonishing.
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