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Dream On: One Golfer’s Fantasy Courses

I’m about to commit an act of golf heresy so heinous, so contemptuous of conventional norms, I expect the game’s powers-that-be to sentence me to playing Pete Dye courses from the back tees for the remainder of my days. With a pink ball. And no beverage cart.

Are you ready to be shocked?

Here goes:

I don’t care to play Augusta National.

Augusta National

That’s right. I don’t care to play Augusta National. In fact, Bobby Jones’ “Cathedral in the Pines” doesn’t make my top 10 bucket-list courses.

Shall I get the smelling salts?

Let me make a couple of things clear. First of all, my stance isn’t about the club’s laughably stubborn, old-fashioned-to-a-fault rejection of female members. I think it’s absurd, contemptible even, but it wouldn’t keep me away. (I only wish the strength of my convictions was that strong.)

Nor am I protesting the recent changes that have sucked much of the strategy and nuance out of Jones’ and Alister MacKenzie’s brilliant design. It’s not like the alterations would make any difference in my game.

No, the real reason I’m not chomping at the bit to play Augusta is that in a way, I feel like I already have. My family lucked into a pair of Masters badges in 1988 and I attended a practice round five years later, so I’ve walked almost every inch of the place. Plus, I’ve hardly missed a second of the tournament on TV since 1984. For me, there’s no real mystery left.

Mainly, I prefer to tackle Augusta National in my fantasies, where I routinely break 60, ace at least one par 3 per round, and match Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle on 15 with a drive and a wedge. Yeah, Carl Spackler’s got nothing on me.

In other words, actually playing Augusta National could only be a letdown.

Then again, there’s only one way to find out. If any green jackets out there are scrambling for a member-guest partner, you know where to find me. And when that gender barrier finally does come crashing down – it’s only a matter of time – I’m prepared to go “Tootsie” if that’s what it takes.

Until then, I’ll keep dreaming up new ways to shoot 59 at Augusta while waiting for the chance to play these other fantasy tracks:

  1. The Old Course, St. Andrews (Scotland)

If you truly, madly, deeply love golf, the Old Course should top your list too. Swilcan Burn, Hell Bunker, the Principal’s Nose, the Road Hole, the Valley of Sin… Old Tom Morris, Young Tom Morris, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack, Seve, Tiger…No course can touch St. Andrews’ history, or its impact on architecture.

In all honesty, I’m just as intrigued by the town of St. Andrews. Pass me a pint of McEwan’s, sit me down next to a yarn-spinning old caddie and I’ll be one happy golfer.

  1. Cypress Point (California)

My idea of heaven on earth, at least judging by the photos. Greatest meeting of land and sea, indeed, and only enhanced by MacKenzie’s astounding bunkers and greenscapes. I might just skip the 16th hole, though.

Cypress Point

  1. Pine Valley (New Jersey)

Thanks to Google Earth, you can get a good look at the course that ranks in nearly everyone’s top three despite never hosting a high-profile event. Of course, an orbiting satellite is the closest most of us will ever come to Pine Valley.

  1. Sand Hills (Nebraska)

Golf, meet Nebraska. Twenty years ago, the idea of a world-class course anywhere in the state – let alone its remote western half – was as plausible as Donald Trump becoming President. (Here’s hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice.) The layout by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw upended the arc of modern course design. For the better.

  1. Bandon Dunes Resort (Oregon)

Talk about remote: Mike Keiser stumbled upon an ancient village of savages when he first scouted the location. Not really. But he did uncover some of the purest seaside golf acreage this side of Ireland, which now features four amazing courses and what must be the world’s finest par-3 track.

The Next 5

  1. Seminole Golf Club (Florida): I live 20 minutes from the Donald Ross tour de force, but it may as well be on Pluto. Seminole is so private, it makes Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes look like socialites.
  1. Turnberry (Scotland): A perennial pick as Scotland’s grandest destination, so it’s got to be great.
  1. Ballybunion (Ireland): Because I must play in Ireland some day, and this seems as good a place to start as any.
  1. Royal Melbourne (Australia): Fell in love watching last year’s Presidents Cup. Be still, my beating heart.
  1. Cape Kidnappers (New Zealand): If there’s a more spectacular locale than the Monterey Peninsula, this is surely it.

Daniel MitchellDaniel Mitchell is a golf writer and contributor who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.

You can read his regular musings at

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