I always get asked what courses I would recommend, not just in California, but in neighboring or relatively close states and countries.
It has got me to thinking, what are my favorite courses outside of California (and the High Sierra region)? Here’s a list of courses I have really enjoyed playing and why I like them. Each of the areas have several high-quality tracks, but these are the ones I would play again in a minute.
These range from public to private to resort courses. It ranges from Mexico up to British Columbia. Some you want to play in our winters, while others are perfect for the summer months.
This list is an ever-evolving list and figures to grow substantially the next couple of years. I have yet to take on the Oregon courses, but that is the plan this summer and then you can bet we will add some on to this list!
As always, I am interested to get your thoughts and comments as to what are your favorite places to play in these areas.
Circling Raven (Worley, Idaho): I have had the absolute joy to play this course many times and it is my favorite course. Located about an hour from Coeur d’Alene, the course is part of the Coeur d’Alene Indian tribe casino/resort. It’s as close to a spiritual round of golf I have found, enhanced by a back nine where you seldom, if at all, see any other golfers. The course is isolated from the outside world and is a classic, wonderful golf experience. I have recommended to several people and have yet to find someone that didn’t love the course. Peaceful, yet daunting – the perfect round of golf.
TP Scottsdale Stadium Course (Scottsdale, Arizona): Probably still fresh in the mind since the Waste Management Open PGA Tour event was recently held, the TPC Stadium Course is a fun and memorable course to tour. The closing stretch from 15-18 is as entertaining a four-hole stretch as you will find. It’s easy to catch yourself thinking of the WMO while you are on the course. Standing on the 16th tee is a moment to remember, especially if you can get out on the course when the stadium seating used in the tournament is in place.
Wolf Creek (Mesquite, Nevada): This course is not for the faint of heart and is a tough one to play fully sober. Throw in a Las Vegas hangover and it is a beast – fun – but a beast. About an hour from Vegas, this is arguably the most dramatic course on my list, featuring elevated tee shots throughout. It’s memorable from the time you step on the first tee until the time of you finish your round. I love the warning that only those in good shape physically should play from the blue or black tees. Don’t forget your camera for this round!
Poipu Bay (Kauai, Hawaii): Pick your poison in the Islands and this is mine. The former host of the Grand Slam of Golf, Poipu has everything for a Hawaiian course. Dramatic views of the ocean, great weather and the trade winds – ah the trade winds. While it is a beast to play in to the wind, when you get them at your back, it’s an incredible experience. The 16th hole is listed at 501 yards, but it plays downhill and downwind, making it one of the best ego-prodding holes I have played and the spot where I hit my only 400-yard drive. The hole has been dubbed “the Pebble Beach of the Pacific by Robert Trent Jones.” Of course, being on the Grand Hyatt property doesn’t hurt as well!
Coeur d’Alene Resort (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho): Some may say this a bit of a gimmicky course, but I think it is arguably the best resort course I have played. It’s not a tough track, but it is entertaining throughout, offering something for golfers of all abilities. Of course, the famous – or infamous – 14th hole featuring the Floating Green is possibly the hole every golfer wants to take a shot at playing. The par three which involves taking a boat to the green, is a thrilling tee shot. If this hole was in the middle of the course with land all around, it would be ordinary. Put it in the lake an it gets to be iconic. Your day round starts incredibly as you take a boat from the resort to the course to play.
Bali Hai Golf Club (Las Vegas, Nevada): Some of my golf writer buddies scoff at the idea of playing the course, but to me, it’s the definitive Las Vegas course. Located just off The Strip, the course screams the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. The course is set as the South Pacific escape and has seven acres of water features, 4,000 trees, including 2,500 towering palms and 100,000 Balinese tropical plants. Out of play areas feature Augusta white sand and black volcanic rock outcroppings. The color and design of the course gives you a break from the neon of Vegas, but just keep you remembering where you are, places such as Mandalay Bay and the Luxor serve as aiming points off some tees.
Predator Ridge (Vernon, British Columbia): At the time I played this course in the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia, it was three, nine-hole courses. It is now 36 holes featuring the Predator and the Ridge courses. The Predator was twice home of the World Skins game and at the time we were there, counted Sergio Garcia as a property owner. The high-desert area is a wonderful vacation destination, highlighted by the wine and the golf in the area. Predator Ridge is right at the top. The courses embrace the landscape of the region, blending rolling hills with the long grass of the region. Our 16-person skins game was legendary and will always be one of my favorite golf memories.
Cabo del Sol (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico): I have not had the fortune to play some of the newer courses in the area, but the Ocean course at Cabo del Sol is a special track to me. Stunning vistas, the course accents everything from the region. A fun, visually pleasing round awaits the golfer. The Jack Nicklaus Signature course does not disappoint, starting inland before working its way down to the water’s edge. There are seven holes that make their way along the Sea of Cortes. The tee shot on the par 3, 6th hole is one you will remember.
The Boulders (Carefree, Arizona): There are 36-holes of golf at this semi-private course for members, resort guests and daily fee players. I have stayed and played at the resort on a couple of occasions and loved it! The rugged beauty of the complex features the natural landscape of boulders framing and being part of the course. A perfect getaway for the couple, allows for world-class golf and lodging all in one place. The North Course is the older of the two, but I found the South a bit more scenic, as well as dramatic.
Grayhawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Arizona): There are 36-holes of excellence here at the complex that will host the 2020-2022 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships. The Talon and the Raptor are the two courses and as the names imply, there are plenty of danger looming on both. The day was started out perfect with classic rock being pumped out on the driving range and it set the tone for the day. I prefer the Talon course, highlighted by the par 3, 11th hole that features a box canyon that surrounds the tee box, with the golfer using a swinging, suspension bridge to get to the tee area. Following your round on either course, relax with a cold one at Phil’s Grill, named after Phil Mickelson, a long-time ambassador of Grayhawk.
That’s 10 courses for now! There are several other courses I would have had on the list, but I had to stop somewhere! I hope you enjoy reading this and if you haven’t played some of these courses before, I hope you get the chance soon!
By Dennis Miller