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5 outstanding (and overlooked) courses that you can play

December 20, 2018

Competition between siblings is as old as civilization itself. Right this minute in professional golf, the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Eduardo, the Korda sisters, Jessica and Nelly, and the Jutanugarn sisters, Ariya and Moriya, are entertaining proof that sibling rivalries are alive and well.

It’s no different for golf courses that compete against each other. We’ve identified a fistful of superb layouts that get completely overshadowed because they have the misfortune of sitting adjacent to an even better or more famous one. Here are five terrific tracks you can play that are worthy of much more respect than they get.

Whistling Straits (Irish)
Kohler, Wis.; $80-$220
Mo’ Famous Sibling: Whistling Straits (Straits)

Nearly as brawny as its older brother, the aptly named Irish mimics classic Emerald Isle layouts in some ways with its towering sand hills and a rolling landscape peppered with nasty bunkers (all man-made at the hand of Pete Dye.) In other ways, it’s All-American modern golf, with forced carries over creeks and ponds. What it adds up to is a strong, walkable course that sports a unique personality, which makes it a must-play in its own right.

Bethpage State Park (Red)
Farmingdale, N.Y. $43-$133
Mo’ Famous Sibling: Bethpage State Park (Black)

Few championship layouts anywhere serve up as stern a test as the fearsome Black course at Long Island’s Bethpage, the first municipal course ever to host a U.S. Open. Perhaps that’s why its reputation dwarfs that of its remarkable little brother, the Red. As with the brawnier Black, it boasts an A.W. Tillinghast design pedigree and is plenty tough on its own, starting with the monstrous 471-yard, par-4 first, which plays even longer. The Red may lack the drama that the Black provides, but with its walkability, variety, plethora of long par 4s and distinctive closer, it’s a worthy Plan B.

Life isn’t easy being Spyglass Hill when Pebble Beach resides nearby.

Spyglass Hill
Pebble Beach, Calif.; $395-$430
Mo’ Famous Sibling: Pebble Beach

One can see by the town it sits in and by its web address that Spyglass Hill basks in an enormously long shadow. It deserves better. The 1966 Robert Trent Jones Sr. design is actually the more demanding layout—unless the wind is howling—and boasts an opening five holes in the dunes along the ocean that is vastly superior to Pebble’s start. After the fifth, the course rises and falls through an enchanted pine forest, with deer prancing here and there. While it’s a letdown to some that it never returns to the sea, the quality of these inland holes is unquestioned, including two gorgeous, pond-menaced par 3s on the back nine. It ain’t Pebble, but it’s pure golf all the same.

Torrey Pines North has served as co-host for the first and second rounds at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Torrey Pines (North)
San Diego, Calif.; $116-$145
Mo’ Famous Sibling: Torrey Pines (South)

Torrey Pines North has long served as co-host for rounds one and two at the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open. But it’s generally taken a backseat to its beefier, more prominent sibling, even though the North is the more scenic of the two. Following a 2016 Tom Weiskopf renovation, however, the North shines with new luster. All 18 greens were rebuilt, all fairway bunkers were reconstructed, and more tee boxes were established for more variety. The stellar ocean views remain intact, although Weiskopf reversed the nines, so you’ll have to wait until the 15th hole for the jaw-dropping par 3 that goes full frontal with the Pacific.

Cabot Links might be the more overlooked course, but it is the elder statesmen compared to Cabot Cliffs.

Cabot Links
Inverness, N.S., Canada $93-$228;
Mo’ Famous Sibling: Cabot Cliffs

Ever since Cabot Cliffs debuted in 2016, it’s generated non-stop positive buzz thanks to Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s masterful design. While totally well deserved, the adulation has tamped down the love and respect for its equally worthy elder sibling, Cabot Links. The Rod Whitman creation may be less dramatic, but it’s remarkable in its own right for rumpled, seaside holes that play down closer to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, like a true Scottish links. The par-4 sixth, which boomerangs around a fishing harbor, and the tiny par-3   14th, which heads straight to the beach, are unforgettable.

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