The major championships in professional golf undoubtedly provide the biggest stage for both the golfers and fans. Golfers are faced with added pressure along with a course that is among the most difficult they will play all season. There is much greater interest to the casual fan, as the majors will attract crowds and television audiences unmatched by other tournaments.
Naturally one would think that the greatest courses are the ones on which the major championships are contested. That is not entirely the case, as logistical factors play a huge role in which courses get selected to host major championships.
Some courses are passed over by selection committees due to a lack of sufficient crowd space. On the other hand, many private clubs do not want a major championship. The course has to be closed for months in order to make changes that the governing body would want.
Here are 10 courses that would be great major championship venues.
Ridgewood was targeted as a potential US Open site for years by the USGA. However membership never was in love with the idea. The course is now in the rotation for The Barclays, the first tournament in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Its location near New York City in suburban New Jersey would be sure to attract huge crowds.
The host course of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina would be an intriguing major championship venue. While it may not be a long course, the 2012 US Open at Olympic Club proved length is not the only factor in making a course difficult. The narrow corridors and small greens would provide a very different type of challenge from the ones that most top pros are used to.
Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio is the annual host of the Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus. The course proves to be a tough test of golf year after year. It is clearly one the top courses that host professional tournaments. Making the course tough enough to host a major championship would not require a massive overhaul, as it plays close to that standard in its normal setup.
The suburban Denver area course had previously hosted three US Opens and two PGA Championships. The course is slated to hold the 2012 US Amateur Championship and the 2014 BMW Championship. In 1960, Cherry Hills was the site of arguably the greatest US Open in history as Arnold Palmer charged from seven strokes back to fend off Ben Hogan and a teenaged Jack Nicklaus. A renovation has lengthened the course to the point where it can be challenging enough to host a major championship.
Royal Portrush, located in Northern Ireland, is widely considered to be one of the top golf courses in the world. In 1951 it hosted the Open Championship. To this date it is the only course outside of Scotland or England to serve as an Open venue. Considering the caliber of the course and the recent performances by golfers from Northern Ireland, Royal Portrush should be given another Open Championship.
Royal Melbourne is undoubtedly one of the top golf courses in the world. However its location in Australia makes it unsuitable for a major championship. The Alister Mackenzie designed course resembles a combination of Augusta National and a traditional seaside links. It hosted the President's Cup in 1998 and 2011.
The only real possibility of a major championship would be a British Open. Remember, the term British Open is unofficial, as the event is simply called "The Open Championship." Theoretically "The Open" could be played anywhere. However I would not bet on the Royal and Ancient board doing such a thing anytime soon.
Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles is the annual host of the Northern Trust Open. It is a widely acclaimed venue that proves to be a tough and exciting test of golf. That was clearly evident in the 2012 Northern Trust Open as Bill Haas defeated Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a playoff. The course hosted the 1948 US Open, won by Ben Hogan. It also hosted PGA Championships in 1983 and 1995.
Prestwick hosted the first Open Championship and first ever major championship in 1860. The Scottish course went on to host the Open 24 times. Prestwick has not hosted the Open since 1925 due to the small space for galleries. The course is also very short by modern standards, though this can be largely irrelevant depending on the wind. While the lack of space makes a return of the Open unlikely, it would be a very cool site, given the historical nature of the venue.
Cypress Point is located on the Monterey Peninsula in California. It is widely considered the best of the courses in the area, quite a feat given that Pebble Beach is in that vicinity. Cypress Point can make a legitimate claim to be the best course in the country. Unfortunately, the membership at Cypress Point kills any chance the course has at hosting a major. It previously was used in the Pebble Beach pro-am, however the club refused to change its membership policy to comply with the PGA Tour's policy and withdrew from the tournament after 1991.
Pine Valley is another course that is regarded as perhaps the best, and one of the most challenging, in the United States. The issue with the New Jersey course is that the design does not allow for any sizable crowd. Each hole is isolated from the next, so moving galleries would be nearly impossible. Additionally there is very little spectator room on the holes themselves. While Pine Valley will continue to be rated as one of the top courses in the country, the lack of space makes a major very unlikely.