In golf-course architecture, things are looking up in the States

Sedge Valley in Nekoosa, Wis.

Sedge Valley in Nekoosa, Wis.

Brandon Carter/Sand Valley

GOLF Magazine and took a spin around the globe last year, with our 2023 iteration of the World’s Top 100 Courses list. But our focus in 2024 is on the U.S.

It starts with the type of course the States could use more of. In the era of go big or go home, consider this: a course that measures under 6,000 yards but still requires you to hit every club in the bag. Sedge Valley, a Tom Doak design tucked into Wisconsin’s Sand Valley Resort, has opened for preview play, and the reviews are glowing. Courses in the 5,500- to 6,200-yard range — where green-to-tee walks are tighter, the time to play 18 is well under four hours and maintenance is less costly — number in the hundreds in England and Scotland but are a rarity here. Sedge Valley represents a paradigm shift in the game: maximum fun enjoyed in an efficient time frame.

In fact, shorter courses of all shapes and sizes are gaining a foothold. Accessible, fun and fleet golf can be found under the lights at Tucson, Arizona’s 4,146-yard Rolling Hills GC. And soon to arrive (or already open) from a wide range of architects are a new par-3 course at Bandon Dunes (by Whitman, Axland & Cutten); a nine-hole muni at Oregon’s Lake Oswego GC (Dan Hixson); Tampa’s 751-yard niner at Rogers Park (Steve Smyers); and a 12-holer called The Clutch (Beau Welling) at Captiva’s South Seas resort. Design innovators King-Collins will open a nine-hole reversible course in South Carolina at Palmetto Bluff. Another diminutive gem is Coore-Crenshaw’s The Chain, at Streamsong in Florida. The 19-holer measures under 3,000 yards.

Panther National
Panther National, a Jack Nicklaus-Justin Thomas codesign. Courtesy of Panther National

The Sunshine State is never short on sand-based beauties, and 2024 boasts a crop of new full-length tracks, including two highly anticipated ones in the Palm Beach area: from Coore-Crenshaw, the second 18 at McArthur GC, and Panther National, a Jack Nicklaus–Justin Thomas codesign. Just north of Tampa, the Cabot brand comes to Florida with 57 holes at Cabot Citrus Farms.

There’ll be sizzle in other parts of the South too. In Georgia, muni golfers will definitely warm to Warmouth Sands by architect Mike Young. Just across the border in South Carolina, Old Barnwell officially opens in the spring. This feature-rich codesign between Brian Schneider and Blake Conant will be a huge hit with golfers who adore golden-age features applied in new and innovative ways. In North Carolina, Pinehurst No. 10 — set across hilly, rolling land — will have tongues wagging when play commences in April. Doak did the routing, and the parcel was so ideal that lead associate Angela Moser oversaw and finished the build in a mere nine months.

As always, major restorations proliferate from coast to coast, with some of 2024’s most notable ones in the country’s interior. Medinah, Colonial, East Lake, Interlachen — rest easy, the architecture world has got your back.

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