Planting your peg on the first tee of a great new course is like waking up on Christmas morning. You may have some idea about the gifts that await, but the surprise is half the fun. As each hole unfolds, it’s akin to unwrapping one present at a time. Each hole, and course, is different, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. As the calendar year comes to a close, GOLF.com will unveil its best of the best when it comes to new courses of 2018. Check the December 2018 issue of GOLF magazine for the full lineup.
On the tee: The best new golf experience of the year
The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch (McVeigh’s Gauntlet)
1,177 Yards, Par 23
As golf tries desperately to become more inclusive and more innovative, it needs facilities that greet all players with a bear hug. Silvies Valley Ranch extends its arms with a giant smile. Seneca, Oregon isn’t easy to get to—it’s 220 miles west of Boise and 320 miles southeast of Portland—but if you’re craving an amusement park of serious golf, together with the City Slickers experience of an actual working ranch, Silvies is tough to top.
It boasts not one, but two championship courses that are played in reverse on an every-other-day basis, a nine-hole par-3 course, and—new for 2018—McVeigh’s Gauntlet, a seven-hole spread of par 3s and short par 4s that features goats for caddies. As gimmicks go, it’s a great one, especially considering the layout’s steep, rugged terrain. The leashed goat-caddies are well-prepared; they tote a handful of clubs in leather golf bags, fully equipped with satchels for supplies and drinkholders for your beverages. As entertainment goes, from golf to goats to cattle drives to rifle shooting, Silvies Valley Ranch is worth the journey.