20 COURSES TO PLAY-HOPEFULLY-IN 2020

THE VALLEY LODGE at the French Lick Resort and the WEST BADEN dome hotel. A perfect New Years Eve destination. Try the suites in the Valley Lodge at the French Lick Resort, attached to the casino and sports book, perfect for groups. #betthegames For more information visit Frenchlick.com and don’t forget to sign up for 2020 golf tee times. ______________________________________________________________________

THE GOG BLOG-by RORY SPEARS Director of Content and Creation. Follow Rory on Twitter @GogBlogGuy, and on Facebook or Linkedin. At the Pete Dye Course at the French Lick Resort.

ON A DAY, where snow flurries were starting to fall, and the warm temperatures we have had, dropped back into the 20’s. It was time to think about golf that needs to be played, in the 20’s, 2020 that is.

It’s not about making some sort of an all-time bucket list, just places you would like to play next year for one reason or another. Is there a course you have been itching to get to, but haven’t found the time to play there. Did you play bad somewhere, and you really need a mulligan.

Is one of your favorite courses reopening from renovation, is one of them closing down in 2020, and you just have to play there before it closes.

Did you shoot your best round ever at a course, and you want to go back and break that low scoring record one-more time. Well after some thought, there are 20 courses I want to play in 2020. Here is my list, and I am hoping to hit them all.

20. Erin Hills in Erin Wis.Yes-but Erin Hills new Drumlin putting course has peaked my interest, putting courses are fun, and this new venture at Erin Hills looks to be just that and worth a two-hour drive to get there.

The new Drumlin putting course at Erin Hills. 63,000 square feet of putting green.

19.The Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes, Bandon Or.. I have been on the land, but never have hit a shot on it. It wasn’t hard to realize that good golf holes could be built right there.

Finally now there are good golf holes there, courtesy of Mike Keiser, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

The Sheep Ranch Opens on June 1st, and is being promoted as the last new course at Bandon Dunes. It already sounds as if it’s a must play, right on the Pacific Ocean.

The 2nd hole on new Pfau Course at Indiana University, renovation work by Steve Smyers

18. Pinehurst No.5, Pinehurst NC., Pinehurst 5 might not be another Donald Ross U.S. Open Course, but when you look at the fact Pinehurst has 10 golf courses, 1-9 and the par three Cradle Course, and you have played 1-4,- 6-9 and the Cradle. The only course missing is #5. In baseball when you hit a home run, they say “touch’em all”. I can do that with a round of golf on Course No.5 at Pinehurst, and that alone would make it “special”, to touch all 10 of the Pinehurst Resorts great golf courses.

17. PFAU Course at Indiana University, Bloomington Ind., our first stop in Indiana is the new home course for the Hoosiers of Indiana. The long overdue renovation is done, and architect Steve Smyers has built a winner. It will be open this spring, and I can’t wait to play here. So will Indiana’s golf teams and new recruits. A great stop off on the way to the French Lick Resort.

Gamble Sands 6th hole, Washington State.

16. Gamble Sands, Brewster Washington. This David Kidd design put him back on the map, and it caught the eye of Mike Keiser, who then called Kidd, and told him he could build the second course at Sand Valley in Wis., the classic Mammoth Dunes layout. A must play.

I haven’t played golf in Washington State since October of 2012, where I got soaked at Chambers Bay, and tee’d off in 51 degree weather at one of the most scenic casino courses, Sallish Cliffs. Kidd is getting the second course ready at Gamble Sands, that is worth a look as well, even if it’s not quite open.

15. Suncadia Resort- Cle Elum, Washington. Former Illinois PGA professional Mike Jones is running the golf operation here, and he has invited me out for a look. Jones past stops include places like Cantigny, Kapalua, and Nemacolin, so I’m sure his current location ranks as a great place for golf. Two 18 hole golf courses, I think I need to play both of them.

Crooked Stick and the covered bridge.

14. Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel Ind., “The Stick” as I like to call the club is some really neat golf. It’s another one of Pete Dye’s really creative golf courses and it has some cool touches to it. Like the covered bridge, the train car you drive or walk through. Plus the statue of Pete and the late Alice Dye. Pete left a place for golfers to make suggestions about the course, it’s a mailbox in the middle of pond on the 18th hole. Just slice one about 30 yards right of the fairway, and your there. If you hook it 30 yards left of the fairway on 18, your in the backyard of Pete’s house. The Western Golf Association (WGA) will hold the Western Amateur there this summer, it’s worth the drive from Chicago to go see the amateur there. It’s also the last place I spoke with Pete, whose health was already declining, I’m glad I saw him when I did.

The front nine at the new Payne’s Valley at Big Cedar Resort

13.Payne’s Valley-Big Cedar Resort, Ridgedale Missouri. The new Tiger Woods designed course for Big Cedar Resort owner Johnny Morris looks like a winner. It’s a tribute to the late Payne Stewart, who grew up not far away. I’m not Tiger’s biggest fan, but he did a stellar job here with this golf course. It has several great holes, including an 18th and 19th holes cut out of hillside rock cropping’s. Really good. All 18 holes will be open at some point in the summer, I hope to be there when they do.

12. Olympia Fields Country Club-North Course, Olympia Fields Illinois. Olympia Fields North is a great Top 100 track and it will host the BMW Championship this August. I’m looking forward to seeing it before the pro’s do. Some of them will be back for the first time since the 2003 U.S. Open. 2015 U.S. Amateur Champion at Olympia Fields Bryson DeChambeau, has to be pumped to have a PGA Tour event on OFCC-North.

The waterfall on Slick Rock, one of the four courses at the Horseshoe Bay Resort in Austin Texas.

11. Summit Rock-Horseshoe Bay Resort, Austin Texas. It’s been over 10 years since I last visited Horseshoe Bay Resort. I played the three courses that HSBR had open at the time, Apple Rock, Ram Rock, and Slick Rock on a 97 degree day. But Summit Rock by Jack Nicklaus was just under construction, and a year plus away from opening. I walked through a few of the dirt piles to check out what Jack and his team were doing. I knew I had to comeback when it was done, it’s well past my time to return.

The par 3, 17th hole on Copperhead at Innisbrook resort in Florida, just north of Tampa.

10.Copperhead Innisbrook Resort, Tarpon Springs Florida. Home of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Classic on the Florida Swing. The tour pro’s love Copperhead, and you will too since it’s a PGA Tour course you can play. I haven’t played Copperhead since 2017, and it was just settling in from renovation with some area’s still roped off. Now Copperhead is in mid-season form, and the Snake Pit is a fun challenge coming down the stretch on the back-nine.

9.Sea Island-St. Simons Island Georgia. Sea Island has three outstanding courses, so I’m told, including one of them recently renovated by resident Davis Love III and his team. I’ve never been there, it’s one of the best resorts in America I haven’t been to, that changes in 2020.

The first hole on the Tournament Nine is growing in at the Schaumburg Golf Club.

8. Schaumburg Golf Club-Schaumburg Illinois. The Tournament Nine should reopen from renovation at some point in July, combined with the other two nines, the Players Nine and the Baer Nine. This 27 hole facility will become one of the best public layouts in the Chicago area. After playing Todd Quitno’s redesign of the Players and the Baer this fall, I can’t wait for the Tournament Nine to open. Chicago area golfers will enjoy Schaumburg Golf Club, and it’s redone practice areas as well.

7. The River Course at Blackwolf Run, Kohler Wisconsin. I haven’t played the River Course in over 10 years, and I’m overdue for a round here. Pete Dye told me once, that the par 4, tenth hole, is the best par 4 he ever designed. Because of the four options golfers have to play this hole. Named “Cathedral Spires” this hole shows the creativity Dye always had in his design work.

TPC Colorado designed by Art Schaupeter.

6. TPC Colorado, Berthoud Colorado. Architect Art Schaupeter (Highlands of Elgin) shines again with his design of TPC Colorado, already one of the favorite stops of players on the Korn Ferry Tour. I have never played golf in Colorado, and in 2020 that needs to change.

5.The Great Waters Course at Reynolds-Lake Oconee Georgia. Last January I walked the dirt piles on Great Waters with GM Mike Scully, as Jack Nicklaus and his team were renovating the golf course. The project is now complete and the course is open for play. Scully has quite a property in Georgia, and Reynolds Lake Oconee is getting better all the time. I’m ready to go back for another visit, you too should plan a visit to Lake Oconee.

The morning fog rises from the valley by the Pete Dye course at the French Lick Resort.

4. The Pete Dye Course at the French Lick Resort, French Lick Indiana. Our third stop in Indiana is in French Lick. It’s been a few years since I last played the Dye Course. In my most recent rounds on the Dye Course over the decade, I’ve always brought some of Chicago’s windy and chilly weather with me. So I’m determined to play the course when the sun is out, and the temperature is at least 70. The Dye Course has some of the best views (40 miles worth from a few holes some say) you will find on a Midwest golf course. The Sr. LPGA Championship moves to July so plan accordingly when you visit. At first, Dye wondered if he could build the course on the hilltops where he did, but he got it done and you will be glad he did. Volcano bunkers and all.

3. Whistling Straits-Haven Wisconsin. Dye’s Straits Course along Lake Michigan will host the 2020 Ryder Cup in September. Go there before the pro’s do in September (sounds like a plan). Besides some of the worlds best players might be out there this summer practicing. So who knows who you might run into if your out golfing on the Straits. If your attending the matches this fall, enjoy watching how the pro’s hit shots from where you did during your round. Maybe you will have hit a better one, especially if it’s a recovery shot.

The 18th hole at Whistling Straits, home of the 2020 Ryder Cup.

2. Merion GC Ardmore PA. The course one of America’s Top 100, normally in the top 10 on most lists, has reopened after famed architect Gil Hanse did a historical restoration of the golf course. Merion is a special place, with a great history. If you ever get the chance to play there, don’t pass it up. I love the Wicker Baskets on the flag sticks instead of flags, it’s really a neat look.

1. Pine Valley, Pine Valley New Jersey. It’s been rated the No.1 golf course in America for many years, by multiple publications. The holes look incredible, if you see them online from the drone footage that was shot not long ago. It’s amazing how many courses today, have had some sort of inspiration from something the architect saw at Pine Valley. Like Merion, if you ever get the chance to play here, don’t pass it up. Pine Valley is pretty special and No.1 for good reason.

15 of the courses on my list are open to the public, just five are private. A few might require a stay at the resort, but you can play them. Courses hosting top level professional or amateur championships can get shut down as it gets closer to tournament week.

I have a few more courses I would like to play in 2020, but the above list is a start. I hope to see you on the course in 2020, get out and play. Make your list and try to knock-off as many courses as possible. Happy New Year from all of us at Golfers on Golf, Ed Stevenson, Bill Berger, and Rory Spears. We are back on Jan. 2, 2020.

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WNDZ Am 750 Chicago, he writes for both the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine, and formerly Chicagoland Golf. Rory has played over 525 courses in 39 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, within the golf industry.