The sport of golf barely has an offseason. Sure, the PGA Tour concludes, but other major worldwide events occur into December. The holiday season is really the only offseason for the sport. However, golf has a great holiday gift for all of its fans this year.
The 2012 PGA Tour schedule looks as appealing as it can get. The last four US Open host courses will all be visited by non-major tournaments. The FedEx Cup brings two former major venues to its rotation. The course considered to be the hardest in the country is hosting the PGA Championship. One of the great tournaments and courses on the schedule was saved after finding a new sponsor.
Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood have taken up membership. Oh, and of course there is the ever-present Tiger Woods circus.
All of these courses and the tournaments they host follow.
The 2008 US Open venue of Torrey Pines hosts the Farmers Insurance Open. The 2008 US Open is of course remembered for the duel between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. Oddly, Woods will not play in the event this year.
Still it remains a great venue that produced a dramatic finish last year. Bubba Watson was able to hold off Phil Mickelson by holing an 18th hole birdie putt.
You do not have to wait very long to catch this tournament. It begins on January 26 in always warm San Diego.
Only two weeks later comes the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Pebble last hosted the US Open in 2010 and is considered one the world's top courses.
Additionally, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula CC also host a round each. Hopefully some of their spectacular views will be shown.
The early golf season certainly boasts some very impressive venues. Just try and remember that the golf season has actually started so you do not miss a great course.
The Heritage is played at Harbor Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The course is under 7,000 yards, but its tight and tricky layout do not allow for players to overpower the course. The closing stretch of holes is among the best on tour. The 18th hole features the candy striped lighthouse beyond the green.
The event was played last year without a sponsor and seemed on the verge of going by the wayside. Luckily, RBC Bank stepped in and one of the best venues on tour will remain. The Heritage takes place the week after the Masters.
Congressional Country Club regains the AT&T National after a two year hiatus. The course hosted the 2011 US Open and was undergoing renovations in 2010 in preparation for hosting it. The AT&T event moved to Aronimink Golf Club during this period.
The US Open will be fresh in the minds of viewers during the AT&T. This wasn't the case after the course hosted the 1997 US Open. A significant redesign and a long hiatus between professional tournaments blurred the memory of the US Open.
With the tournament squeezed in between the US and British Open's, the memory of Congressional's major will be even stronger. Rory McIlroy's record-setting US Open performance will always be referenced on these grounds.
The 2009 and 2002 US Open venue of Bethpage Black hosts the Barclays in 2012. The Black course is notable for its length, difficulty and for being an affordable public course. It is also critically acclaimed as one of the best venues in the country.
The 2012 season will have seen the last five US Open courses when the Barclay's arrives in Long Island. That really is quite a strong schedule—every US Open course from 2008-2012 will be seen in around seven months time. It is a true treat for the golf fan in 2012.
Bethpage should also add more hype to the FedEx Cup with the first playoff tournament on such a notable course. The Barclays is not the only FedEx Cup tournament that will see a major championship venue either.
The BMW Championship will move from Cog Hill to Crooked Stick in 2012. The later hosted the 1991 PGA Championship won by John Daly.
Cog Hill had been heavily criticized following its redesign by Rees Jones. Phil Mickelson was a notable critic of the course. Crooked Stick is a Pete Dye design located in Indiana. It is very well acclaimed and provides an upgrade to the BMW Championship.
Pete Dye as usual will make sure the course is a challenge, as it now stretches over 7,500 yards. However, Dye's greatest challenge will have already passed in 2012 by the time the BMW Championship tees off.
Pete Dye's Ocean Course at Kiawah Island hosts the 2012 PGA Championship. Located on the South Carolina coast, the course is widely considered the most difficult in the country. It has the highest combination of slope and course rating, which are used to measure difficulty. It was notable for embarrassing pros in the 1991 Ryder Cup.
Dye has taken out some of the elements considered unfair, but this is still a monster. If the wind picks up, the pros could very well get embarrassed again. They will face long carries over marshland, numerous waste bunkers and complex green structures. The course can be set up to play at nearly 7,900 yards.
It is also a fantastic, highly regarded golf course despite the difficulty associated with it. Whistling Straits, another Dye design, was similar in this aspect. The Ocean Course is able to capture a natural appearance unlike Whistling Straits. Despite its beauty, the artificial qualities were evident. That is not the case here—it is a masterpiece of golf design.
Do not fear another Dustin Johnson incident regarding waste bunkers that will be occupied by patrons. There will be no penalty for grounding a club in these trampled down areas, as there was at Whistling Straits.
Tiger Woods should be back playing a normal schedule in 2012 after two seasons of missed time. Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood have taken up PGA Tour membership for the season.
Regardless of how Tiger will perform, he draws major interest when he plays. McIlroy and Westwood have been battling each other for the No. 2 ranking in the world. Along with Luke Donald, the PGA Tour will have the top three ranked players as members.
So Happy Holidays from the PGA Tour, because they should have you very excited for 2012.