Travelin’ Joe’s 10 most anticipated golf courses of 2018

January 11, 2018
It’s quality, not quantity that defines new and remodeled courses that will open in 2018. Here are the ten layouts I’m most looking forward to.

1. Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley Resort, Nekoosa, Wis.

On the heels of Sand Valley’s new Coore-Crenshaw layout that debuted in 2017, the resort’s second course, Mammoth Dunes, looms large for 2018. Designed by David McLay Kidd, aptly named Mammoth Dunes occupies a massive, 620-acre plot. It features more dramatic terrain than Sand Valley’s original course, highlighted by an 80-foot-high, V-shaped ridge that gives rise to Ballybunion-style sandhills. More than a dozen holes opened for preview play in 2017, to enthusiastic reviews.

2. Hogs Head, Waterville, Ireland

With neighbors that include Ballybunion and Waterville, it can’t be easy for a new golf course to make an impact in Southwest Ireland, but Hogs Head, which had a soft opening in 2017, has the potential to do just that. Robert Trent Jones II forged an entirely new track atop the defunct Skellig Bay layout, which lasted just 11 years. Hogs Head sports a front nine with holes that tangle with the Finglas River, a superb stretch of 8 through 16 that overlooks the Atlantic and architectural nods to MacKenzie, Tillinghast and Colt.   


3. Big Cedar Lodge (Coore/Crenshaw), Ridgedale, Mo.

Joining acclaimed designs from Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, this new public-access creation from virtuosos Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has already been known as “The Ozarks,” The Ridge,” and “Ozark National,” but whatever its final name will be, expect the usual strategy-laced gambits on an unusually undulating piece of ground. Coore told me recently, “With all of these ridges, I was worried we’d wind up building 18 ‘Cape’ holes. But it worked out OK.” If their track record is any indication, it’s going to be much better than ‘OK.’

4. Ohoopee Match Club, Cobbtown, Ga.

Gil Hanse is one of golf’s hottest, most successful architects and his new low-key private layout an hour or so west of Savannah will continue his success run.  Pair Hanse’s emphasis on contour and angles with design partner Jim Wagner’s shaping skills and the acumen of their “Cavemen” crew and introduce the novel concept of a course explicitly created for match play and you have the makings of something special. Drape it atop a rolling, forested, lakeside property which will yield a series an outstanding risk/reward holes and you have a sure-fire winner.   

5. Rancho San Lucas, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Greg Norman has been quietly amassing a portfolio of excellent designs over the past 20 years, most recently with his Cathedral Lodge, near Melbourne, Australia, our “Best New Private” and “Best New International” winner of 2017. Norman’s newest project, with Senior Designer Jason McCoy, is Rancho San Lucas, just north of Diamante, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Stunning ocean views, desert accents and plenty of ground game options will be highlights.

6. Arcadia Bluffs (South), Arcadia, Mich.

Following the smashing success of the original course here, the Bluffs, a heavily mounded, partly forested, 19-year-old track that overlooks Lake Michigan, Arcadia Bluffs is going retro with its next design. Dana Fry and partner Jason Straka of Erin Hills fame are creating an homage — not a replica — of ultra-exclusive, ultra-historic Chicago Golf Club, one that will embrace the C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor style and strategies, with deep, flat-bottom bunkers and geometric lines to greens, tees and hazards.

7. Ha Long Bay, Ha Long, Vietnam

With most of their greatest work housed in Asia, Brian Curley and the Schmidt-Curley team have never gotten their proper due. Curley keeps reminding us of his talent, however, with such courses as Ha Long Bay. Located three hours from Hanoi, the hilltop layout features a fistful of spectacular holes that overlook a bay dotted with 1,600 islands and islets. After a soft opening in 2017, it will formally open this year.

8. Links at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels, Md.

The Dye family’s mulligan is a boon for Eastern Shore golfers. On a site that once held an early Pete (and brother Roy) design called Harbortowne, a new collaborative creation from Pete, wife Alice and son P.B. has emerged that will embrace a variety of Dye traits and influences. With a links-like/parkland mix, you’ll encounter a big-time “Biarritz” at the par-3 seventh, with its huge swale bisecting the front and back of the green, as well as a “Goodnight Kiss” finish reminiscent of TPC Sawgrass. 

9. Sage Run at Island Resort & Casino, Harris, Mich.

Architect Paul Albanese’s first course for the Upper Peninsula Tribal Casino was called Sweetgrass, and its reception was so sweet, they’ve retained him to create the follow-up, Sage Run. The new course is a rolling, heavily forested affair, compared to its linksy, more low-profile elder. Playing up, down and over a natural drumlin (a long hill or ridge formed by eons-old glacial ice), there should be plenty of drama, and even a hint of mystery, with the architect taking his inspiration from Northern Ireland’s wild and wooly Royal County Down.

10. TPC Colorado, Berthoud, Colo.

The first new course to wave the TPC banner since 2010, this Art Schaupeter design located halfway between Denver and Fort Collins and basks in scenic grandeur, with Rocky Mountain panoramas that appear early and often. Playability and variety are strong suits—but hey, this is a TPC, and they’re hoping to attract tournaments, so don’t let the 773-yard, par-5 13th freak you out.