3 Courses You Love: Sewanee, Furry Creek and Presidio

August 28, 2015

Why do powerhouse courses like Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2 and Pacific Dunes garner so much attention? They’re great designs, sure. But they also have great marketing departments with big advertising budgets. They can shout about themselves, which gives them a huge advantage over their less heralded brethren. For a new Gold series, we asked our well-traveled Gold Insiders to make the case for a hidden gem that they have discovered on their journeys: an under-the-radar course (or “golf experience”) that deserves more pub. Responses flooded in and over the next several weeks we’ll roll them out in groups of three. Played a diamond in the rough of your own? Tell us all about in the comments section below.

Par: 72, Yardage: 6,658
$20-$41 (18-hole rate)

“This nine-holer adjacent to the University of the South has been completely renovated by Gil Hanse and is a true testament to his genius. Alternate tees allow you to play the same holes The routing is hemmed in by thousand-foot drops, creating vistas that go for miles in the picturesque Tennessee mountains. Built nearly a hundred years ago by university students, it had potential but no funding beyond cutting the holes through thick forest. Two challenging par-5s are balanced by two par-3s that use the vistas as distractions to land on the tough greens.  The fairways slant in different directions, demanding fades and draws for perfect placement. Bring your imagination and your camera. Also leave time to take a short detour down the main road that leads through the campus’s center and check out the football field and then the chapel. (The latter has more seats!) It is truly worth the less-than-an-hour’s ride north west of Chattanooga. Be prepared, Sewanee is just west of the time zone line and you will lose an hour in travel.” — John Capers, III   

Par: 72, Yardage: 6,025

“On summer vacation in Whistler, I played the well-known Nicklaus North course. I was surprised by how flat the course was, given its in the middle of large mountains. After relating this to the locals in my group, they suggested a great hidden gem. They said if I wanted ‘mountain golf,’ I needed to drive part of the way back to Vancouver and play Furry Creek.  They were not wrong. The course is right on the scenic Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99), so it was very easy to locate. The routing winds from highway level, up the side of the mountain, to what felt like 1,000 feet, and ended up on the seaside. Favorite features? Six come to mind: (1) The cart path to the first hole crosses the most incredible mountain stream and waterfall. I stopped on the bridge and took in the beauty for at least 15 minutes.  (2) The first tee shot has an elevation drop of 100 or so feet. Wow. (3) The world-class views — and incredible conditions — as we climbed through the front nine. (4) Learning that one hole was the scene of Happy Gilmore’s fistfight with Bob Barker. I have since watched that part of the movie 50 times reliving my round. (5) The back-nine holes that descend down the mountain, a great ego boost for massive drives. (6) Reaching sea level at an incredible par-3 hole where the tee shot crossed over the sea inlet. I paused there for a long period hoping that a whale might appear; it looked like a movie backdrop.”  — Gary S., Frisco, Tex.

Par: 72, Yardage: 6,449
$52-82 (resident); $110-$145 (non-resident)

“For a cheaper alternative in the Bay Area and close to the Golden Gate Bridge, check out the Presidio. It’s a former Army base that was closed and turned over to the local authorities, and they have not forgotten their roots. Lots of military history, former generals and leaders of world wars have walked those grounds and tee it up while on R&R. I was lucky enough to play in 2012. Even though my Veteran status helped with my cost ($35), you do not have to be a part of the Armed Forces to play. My wife rode with me, and she froze: 52 degrees at my 4 p.m. tee time in July! While agonizing that I was not playing well, I needed to show the missus that this was all worth it. We got to the 18th hole — a 518-yard par 5 — and after a nice drive, I had 193 out. I hit a 5-iron to six inches. Eagle. It was a great way to end my round and even better way to play golf while staying in the city.” — Mike Salik, St. Augustine, Fla.  

The Gold Insiders are a group of more than 900 of our most well-traveled and discerning readers who contribute their opinions and expertise to the site. On average, they take seven golf trips per year and carry a handicap of 11.8. Want to join the Insiders? We’d love to have you on board! Click here to take our introductory survey.

For more of the best in luxury golf lifestyle, visit the new GOLD homepage, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @golf_com.