Masters 2012: Augusta and the Most Famous Courses in Golf

Mike WalshCorrespondent IApril 3, 2012

Masters 2012: Augusta and the Most Famous Courses in Golf

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    The Newport Country Club on the quiet coast of Rhode Island boasts a special piece of history. It was the host club of the first ever US Open and US Amateur Championship in 1895.

    Newport can be considered the first place where the modern game was unified. Theodore Havemeyer created the course and was also responsible for forming the initial group that eventually became the USGA.

    Newport is one of the most popular spots for amateur players. Each year the winner of the Amateur Championship is awarded the Havemeyer trophy, including Tiger Woods, who won the event in 1995 in Rhode Island.

    Though many find the course as nothing special, its unique history is what landed the Newport Country Club on the list of the most famous courses in the world. 

Pebble Beach Golf Links

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    Pebble Beach is no secret to the outside world. The most beautiful course in the most beautiful part of the United States deserves a spot on this list for its ocean views alone. However, the links are also worthy of recognition as is the many popular tournaments it has played host to. Pebble Beach held its first professional tournament in 1926 and most recently held the 2010 US Open. 

    Another reason for Pebble Beach's fame amongst all demographics is that the Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game series has featured Pebble Beach since its early versions. That put this fantastic course on the map for young fans as well as old. The bottom line is, Pebble Beach passes the mom test. My mother knows Pebble Beach better than any other course on this list, and that makes it one of the most famous courses in golf. 

The Old Course at Saint Andrews

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    This list would be indefensibly incomplete without the oldest golf course in the world. Saint Andrews' oldest documented golfing took place in the mid-1500s. Scotland is a popular destination for spectators as well as amateur and professional golfers alike. 

    The aptly named "Old Course" is widely known for its unique setup of "double greens." What some may view as a pain, others enjoy in an old school sense of the game. Many of the holes on the course share a green with another hole, something you won't see in any of the newer courses.

    Also making Saint Andrews uniquely known are its unusual hazards. Particularly the well-known 17th hole which features a blind drive at the start, as well as a possible rock wall or tarmac obstacle. 

    All these quirks give Saint Andrews a special place in the hearts of golf fans. 

Bethpage Black Course

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    The pride of Long Island is one of the younger courses on the list but has made strides recently in the public eye that have it poised to be one of the greatest courses in the future of golf. 

    The Black course is the most difficult of Bethpage State Park's five courses. It gained notoriety in 2002 when it became the first publicly owned golf course to play host to the US Open. The fact that Tiger Woods won the tournament at the peak of his career only helped forge Bethpage's reputation among golf's elite.

    In 2009, the Black course once again hosted the the US Open, and this coming August, it will be the location of the 2012 Barclays, which marks the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. All this, coupled with high rankings from Golf Digest, means a bright future for Bethpage.  

Kiawah Island Golf Resort

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    Kiawah Island gives golfers a tropical island feel while on the East Coast of the United States. Located in sunny South Carolina, Kiawah boasts courses designed by Pete and Alice Dye, and Jack Nicklaus. 

    Kiawah has hosted both Ryder and World Cups and received the nod to hold this year's PGA Championship. Though the course is a young 36 years old, it has made great strides to assuring its spot with the most renowned golf destinations in the world.

    The fact that Kiawah is a public course located in such a picturesque setting helps its fame drastically. This is a spot where amateurs can come to enjoy the scenery and the links that the pros do on a regular basis. 

    The young generation is also growing more familiar with Kiawah's Ocean Course which was featured in the Will Smith and Matt Damon film The Legend of Bagger Vance. Kiawah is also a popular choice for gamers in the World Golf Tour video game.

Newport Country Club

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    The Newport Country Club on the quiet coast of Rhode Island boasts a special piece of history. It was the host club of the first ever US Open and US Amateur Championship in 1895.

    Newport can be considered the first place where the modern game was unified. Theodore Havemeyer created the course and was also responsible for forming the initial group that eventually became the USGA.

    Newport is one of the most popular spots for amateur players. Each year the winner of the Amateur Championship is awarded the Havemeyer trophy, including Tiger Woods, who won the event in 1995 in Rhode Island.

    Though many find the course as nothing special, its unique history is what landed the Newport Country Club on the list of the most famous courses in the world. 

Muirfield

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    Our second entrant to the list from Scotland is course at Muirfield in Gullane, East Lothian. Muirfield is in the steady rotation of clubs which host the British Open and has been the fortunate beneficiary of some of the greatest individual tournament performances in the Open Championship's history. In 1980 Tom Watson won his fourth major by posting a 13-under at Muirfield, an impressive score for the difficult course.

    Muirfield has hosted the Open Championship 15 times and will again next season. That is good for the second most hosts among active courses behind Saint Andrews. Muirfield is also the home of the Edinburgh Golfers, the oldest known golf club in the world. 

TPC at Sawgrass

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    The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass houses the PGA Tour Headquarters. Another stunningly beautiful course located in pristine Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the TPC at Sawgrass is a favorite of professionals worldwide.

    The home of the PGA obviously hosts the Players Championship every year. That type of consistency has only added to the Florida course's fame. It is also another course which was selected for numerous installments of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise. 

    Individual performances at the Players Championship like that of Greg Norman in 1994 (-24) and KJ Choi last season (-13 in a playoff) have also increased the notoriety of Sawgrass. 

Augusta National Golf Club

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    All these courses have their valid reasons for being in the conversation of the most famous courses in the world. However, they all have one similar detriment... they aren't Augusta. 

    The Masters is the most televised golf event of the year which gives Augusta more press coverage than any other course. With members like Pete Coors, Warren Buffet, Jack Welch and Bill Gates, Augusta has to be the world's most famous golf course 

    The Augusta National Golf Club is the pinnacle of the sport. It may not be the toughest, the prettiest or the favorite of the pros, but there is no questioning the fame of Augusta. Solely for hosting the most popular golf tournament of the season every year in the Masters, Augusta is clearly the most famous course on the planet.