5 Courses That Every Golf Fan Should Play Before They Die

Mike DudurichContributor INovember 5, 2014

5 Courses That Every Golf Fan Should Play Before They Die

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    One of the great views in golf, the clubhouse at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
    One of the great views in golf, the clubhouse at the Old Course at St. Andrews.Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    There are bucket lists, and there are golf bucket lists.

    The following list is one of those golf bucket lists.

    The five courses that every golf fan should play before they die might seem like an easy one to put together, but it wasn't really all that easy.

    The courses are all layouts open to the public, and they certainly aren't inexpensive.

    I have played four of the five courses that made my list and the fifth is at the very top of my golf bucket list.

    You may have others you believe should have made the list, but these are my five.

    Enjoy.

Pebble Beach Golf Links

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    It can get a little windy on the seventh hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
    It can get a little windy on the seventh hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links.Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    There are golf courses on both coasts that have holes running along—or at least close to—the ocean. 

    None, however, have as many as the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Nine of the holes on that very special piece of property overlook crashing Pacific waves. Once you hit the tee box on the fourth hole, you're along the ocean all the way through the 10th green. From there, it's an inland journey until the two finishing holes.

    There are too many really good holes to call one a signature hole, but one of the most photographed holes in all of the world is the seventh—a short downhill par three that, depending on the wind, can be anything from a wedge to a 3- or 4-iron.

    It's not cheap to play this spectacular place—the greens fee is $495 and that includes the cart.

    There's plenty of history here, with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell having won majors at Pebble, which will host the U.S. Amateur in 2018 and its sixth U.S. Open in 2019.

Old Course at St. Andrews

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    One of the great vistas in golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews.
    One of the great vistas in golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews.Associated Press

    The Old Course at St. Andrews is known as the home of golf and is undoubtedly the most famous layout in the world.

    Where else would you find large double greens on 14 holes that can result in monstrous putts if approach shots aren't accurate?

    And where could you find holes with great names like the Swilcan Burn, Hell Bunker and the Road Hole or the daunting tee shot over the edge of the Old Course Hotel on the 17th?

    Very little has changed on the original layout, and over the years, it has hosted 28 British Open Championships and will host No. 29 next summer.

    And talk about major champions—how about this group: Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods twice, Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones and Sir Nick Faldo.

    Yes, there are blind shots and gigantic greens and on one of those grey days, the landscape of the course looks more like a moonscape.

    But it is the Old Course, and it's definitely on the bucket list of every golfer who's even seen an Open Championship from there.

Pinehurst No. 2

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    The view from the fairway toward the green on Pinehurst No. 2's 18th hole.
    The view from the fairway toward the green on Pinehurst No. 2's 18th hole.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    And then there's Pinehurst No. 2, known as the home of American golf.

    The Pinehurst Resort, located in the Sandhills of North Carolina, has eight courses under its umbrella, but they are all just golf courses compared to the treasure that is No. 2.

    This is a Donald Ross classic and its calling cards are those wondrous greens—wondrous because you ask, "How can I possibly stop a ball on these things shaped like an upside-down bowl?"

    No. 2 has been the site of a Ryder Cup, a PGA Championship and four U.S. Opens. Two of those four took place this summer, when the men's and women's Opens were held on No. 2 in back-to-back weeks.

    The course is a wonderful walk in the Carolina pines, and unlike Pebble Beach or the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, there's no ocean within a few hours of Pinehurst. The only water on the course is a pond near the 16th tee that's really not in play.

    The course was restored to its earlier look in 2010 when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore took out rough outside of the fairways and replaced it with waste bunkers.

    A genuine classic that has to be played.

Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

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    There's a reason it's named the Ocean Course.
    There's a reason it's named the Ocean Course.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    If the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island isn't the hardest golf course in the world, it's certainly in the conversation.

    It's a Pete Dye creation, a diabolical combination of linksland and holes along the ocean that tests every aspect of a player's game. Oh, and don't forget about the breezes that come in off the ocean and add more mystery to the layout.

    An interesting aspect of this course is that it was built for a specific event: the 1991 Ryder Cup, also known as the "War By The Shore." The competition was one of the closest in the history of the event.

    The Ocean Course also was the venue for the 2012 PGA Championship, which was won by Rory McIlroy.

    Fairways and greens on this wonderful layout were elevated by Dye so that golfers can actually see waves hitting the beaches. Even the inland holes have plenty of character and make this a must-play for serious golfers.

Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass

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    A view from behind the world-famous 17th island green at TPC at Sawgrass.
    A view from behind the world-famous 17th island green at TPC at Sawgrass.John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has risen from a northern Florida swamp into a destination for amateur golfers and an annual tough test for one of the best fields of the year on the PGA Tour.

    It's a unique course, one that grew from the mind of the PGA Tour commissioner at the time, Deane Beman. This was a course built to not only test the best professionals, but it was also built for the fans. Fairways run through raised areas that make great viewing areas for spectators.

    The real draw at the Stadium Course is the world-famous 17th hole, a medium-length par three whose green sits in the middle of a lake.

    It's a true island green and it can be a bear. If the Florida winds blow, the degree of difficulty goes up significantly. The hole has played a significant role in several of the Players Championships.

    It's a beautiful course and one that is a real test, regardless of the tees a player chooses.