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The Best Golf Courses (You’ve Probably Never Heard About)

They don’t have the name recognition of Pine Valley or Pebble Beach. And most golfers couldn’t tell you who laid …

They don’t have the name recognition of Pine Valley or Pebble Beach. And most golfers couldn’t tell you who laid them out or where they are located. But to the cognoscenti, they are some of the finest courses in the land-artfully designed, wonderfully conditioned and pure joy to play. They are hidden gems in the truest sense of the words, and their relative obscurity only enhances their value. Chief Executive sought to identify the 10 best golf courses you probably never heard of in the U.S., and the results are detailed in the following list. The first five are private layouts with limited access (which means you likely need a member to agree to host you to have any chance of getting on), while the second includes those open to the public.

 Myopia Hunt Club , South Hamilton, Mass.

Site of four U.S. Opens in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Myopia was founded by one of the sons of then Boston mayor Frederick Prince. It not only boasts perhaps the most unusual moniker in golf, born of the fact that several of the original members were nearsighted and wore glass-longer due to the weather. Its smallish greens and only moderately wide fairways put a premium on accurate shot making and its natural beauty make any visit there special.

Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course, Pacific Grove, Calif.

Often called a poor man’s Pebble Beach, this Monterey Peninsula course is as easy on the wallet ($40 tops for a round) as it is on the eyes, especially the back nine, which feels like a round in the British Isles. Golfweek architecture editor Dr. Bradley S. Klein called Pacific Grove the purest links to be found anywhere in the Western U.S.

Leatherstocking Golf Course,Cooperstown, N.Y.

Devereux Emmet designed this lovely, 18-hole course among the hills and along the waters where James Fenimore Cooper set several of his novels in upstate New York. Its name comes from the nickname Cooper gave one of his most popular characters, Natty Bumppo. Golfers can get a true sense of both the history and beauty of this placid village during their rounds, especially as they pass by the Farmers’ Museum to the right of the second fairway and the Fenimore Art Museum standing behind the eighth green. And don’t forget the National Baseball Hall of Fame just down the road.

 Memorial Park Golf Course,Houston, Tex.

Memorial Park just celebrated its 70th birthday; and the John Bredemus track remains a wonderful urban retreat in the Lone Star State’s biggest city. Built during the Great Depression with crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps, it was once the site for the PGA Tour’s Houston Open. The pros no longer play there, but the public does, and those who pay the extremely reasonable green fees ($22.50 for weekdays and $32 for weekends) are in for a golfing treat.

 Lake of Isles (North Course) North Stonington, Conn.

The Mashantucket Pequot TribalNation recently hired the noted architect Rees Jones to build two golf courses across the street from its fabulously successful Foxwoods Casino and Resort complex, and they are superb parklands tracks that wind in and around some 900 acres of gorgeous New England woods. The South Course is for members only, but the 7,300-yard North is open to all comers, and visitors claim it is the best public golf facility to open in the Northeast in ages. It not only provides an excellent test of golf but also an enjoyably bucolic reprieve from the gaming tables and slot machines of the biggest casino in the world.

 Montauk Downs Golf Course ,Montauk, N.Y.

This track is regularly ranked among the top 50 public courses in America. Located in the 160-acre Montauk Downs State Park at the eastern end of Long Island, it measures 6,762 yards from the championship tees, and that length feels even longer when the wind blows. Players usually have to contend with wind, as the course, which Robert Trent Jones Jr. revamped in the late 1960s, is located just off the Atlantic Ocean. But they don’t have to worry too much about denting their pocketbooks, as greens fees are only $39 for New York residents on the weekends, and $78 for those from out of town.


John Steinbreder (jsteinbreder@sbcglobal.net), a scratch golfer, frequently writes about the sport.

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