Top 10 Golf Course Openings in 2020
From the Oregon Coast to Thailand, New Golf Destinations Woo Golf Travelers
By Eric Matuszewski and published courtesy of National Golf Foundation, January 2020
One of the many beauties of the game of golf is that every playing field, every canvas, is different.
From seaside links and mountainside layouts to classic parkland designs, there's an incredible diversity in the look, the land, the difficulty and the experience from course to course.
There's a reason the golf travel industry in the U.S. accounts for almost $21 billion in annual spending, a market that ranges from playing fees and accommodations to travel costs, meals and entertainment expenses. Did you know that approximately 40 percent of adult golfers take at least one trip a year that includes an overnight stay and one or more rounds of golf?
There were approximately 200 courses under construction worldwide last year, according to the NGF's global facility database. Here are 10 special ones scheduled to open in 2020 that just might inspire you to bring your clubs, whether it's a buddies or business trip, a couples getaway, a family vacation, or a special solo adventure:
Sheep Ranch, Bandon, Oregon (Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw)
There may be no more eagerly-anticipated opening in 2020 than the Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, the Oregon coast destination that's become synonymous with a true links golf experience on U.S. soil. Located on Five Mile Point just north of the main resort, the Sheep Ranch for years was a pure and mysterious golf landscape experienced by only a select few. Boasting one mile of ocean frontage, it's now been rebuilt by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw for full public use. Every hole at the Sheep Ranch has Pacific Ocean views and nine green sites sit right on the coastline, only heightening the bucket-list appeal for Bandon's sixth course, which officially opens on June 1. Uniquely, the layout has no sand bunkers whatsoever, with fescue where some bunkers were previously, leaving the property's significant undulations and ever-present wind as the chief defenses.
Rancho San Lucas, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (Greg Norman)
The rich lineup of golf offerings in Los Cabos gets deeper in February with the opening of a new Greg Norman design at the Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas Resort Golf & Spa. The layout is located within the 834-acre resort and residential community of Rancho San Lucas on the windswept shores of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. After starting amid majestic dunes, the 18-hole course climbs through a thick cactus forest and then culminates on the beach. But the course's defining characteristic is the use of revetted bunkers, which Norman has incorporated at designs such as Medalist and Tiburon in Florida, not to mention in Doonbeg, Ireland. Rancho San Lucas is the first course in Mexico to feature the stacked artificial sod bunkers which limit erosion by shoring up the face of bunkers whipped by wind.
Mickelson National, Calgary Canada (Phil Mickelson)
In rolling foothills just west of Calgary, Phil Mickelson is opening his latest design this spring as the centerpiece of a 1,700-acre family-oriented real estate community. Mickelson spent more than four years working on the layout with design partner Rick Smith, the co-designer of Michigan's Arcadia Bluffs, but the course has been in the works for far longer. Almost 14 years ago - before the financial crisis - Johnny Miller and Stephen Ames were set to be co-designers of a course on the same property. After a lengthy delay, however, developers went back to the drawing board and instead turned to Mickelson to transform the former farm field into a fun and challenging layout that stays true to the guiding principles of the private community: purposeful, caring and stable.
Cutalong at Lake Anna Mineral, Virginia (Tom Clark)
Another course that's been years in the making, Cutalong is finally set to open by July 4 - the seeming culmination of a project that's been both immensely frustrating and incredibly rewarding for architect Tom Clark, who first started working on the property way back in 1999. Clark owns a lake house five minutes from the course, which was originally intended to be a nod to National Golf Links on Long Island and features a variety of unique greens such as a Redan on a drivable par-4, punchbowls and a Biarritz. Ron Whitten has partnered with Clark in designing the course, which is on its fourth owner and has seen stops and starts over the years while evolving from a homesite development to a public course and now to more of a destination resort setting with limited memberships and stay-and-play units. Roughly an hour from Washington D.C., Charlottesville, Richmond and Fredricksburg, Cutalong is built on an old mining site and may soon yield untold riches of its own.
Rolling Hills at Siam Country Club, Pattaya, Thailand (Brian Curley)
Rolling Hills will become the fourth course at Siam Country Club when it opens later this year, but architect Brian Curley has made sure it will stand out from the crowd. The signature element of the layout is a 19-foot deep bunker - with two levels of railroad ties - that's nicknamed the 'Wall of Death.' Curley had been toying with different ideas and this hazard emerged after his team dug a massive reservoir to create significant elevation change that's uncommon in Thailand. "I figured I'd emphasize that," Curley said. "At the time I was also, as usual, battling a song in my head - Richard Thompson's 'Wall of Death,' also covered by R.E.M." Curley is excited about the overall design, but also hopes the unique feature will help Rolling Hills appeal to the resort golfer seeking a memorable experience, similar to 'Hell's Half Acre' at Pine Valley or the 'Hell Bunker' at St Andrews.
Copper Rock, Hurricane, Utah (Dale Beddo)
Nestled between stunning copper cliffs and sweeping desert vistas in the heart of Southern Utah, Copper Rock will open to the public in late February. Nicknamed "The Rock," the 18-hole Dale Beddo design winds through a grassy valley for the front nine before moving to hillier terrain for the back nine. The layout features a double green for the 9th and 18th holes as well as a 5th hole with the longest green in Utah (210 feet). Outdoor activities abound in the St. George area, so golfers can play Copper Rock in the morning and, that same day, hike nearby Zion National Park or Sand Hollow State Park, take an ATV trail ride at Coral Pink Sand Dunes or explore Mystery Canyon.
Dumbarnie Links, County Fife, Scotland (Clive Clark)
On Scotland's East Coast, along the north shore of the Firth of Forth, just 20 minutes from St Andrews, Dumbarnie Links is set for its eagerly-awaited May 2020 debut. When U.S. golfers think about playing in Scotland, it's typically on links courses that climb through and over sandy dunes along the sea, with classic layouts like the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Muirfield and Prestwick coming to mind. Yet less than 20 percent of courses in Scotland are true links courses. Dumbarnie will soon be added to that list, designed by former Ryder Cup player Clive Clark and draped across 345 acres of sandy links land in the Kingdom of Fife that's been owned by the same family since the 16th century.
With the growing trend of par-3 course projects in new construction, it's only fitting to also recognize a trio of these layouts in the works.
Par-3 Course at Forest Dunes, Roscommon Michigan (Keith Rhebb & Riley Johns)
Forest Dunes in Northern Michigan will open its 10-hole par-3 course in summer of 2020, a fun and strategic mix of holes that range between 50 and 155 yards. The layout is being built by Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns, the creators behind the ballyhooed Winter Park 9 course in Orlando, and offers an engaging complement to the original Forest Dunes course and the property's fun and innovative reversible course, The Loop. Forest Dunes owner Lew Thompson says golfers will be able to play music, go barefoot or even tee it up in large groups, like an eight-some. Said Thompson: "The land gave us such a great canvas to create something fun that offers a 'welcoming handshake' to entry-level players and says 'this is what golf can be."
Pebble Beach Par-3, Monterey, California (Tiger Woods)
Located high above Stillwater Cove, just a short stroll from the first tee at iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links, the property that was home to the Peter Hay par-3 course has long held significant potential. Tiger Woods is now giving the property the treatment it deserves, while helping the Pebble Beach Company get in on golf's short course movement. Woods and his TGR Design firm are designing a new short course that's set to open in fall of 2020 and will take advantage of the peninsula's expansive water views while incorporating more variety into hole lengths and shot options. The goal is to elevate the quality of the short course to the resort's other golf courses (Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, and Del Monte Golf Course).
Cabot Links Par-3 (Rod Whitman & Dave Axland)
The Cabot Links Golf Resort already has two world-renowned 18-hole courses - Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs - and later this year is set to unveil a ten-hole short course called "The Nest," built by architects Rod Whitman and Dave Axland. The inland layout sits on rolling land that overlooks the final eight holes of the Cliffs course, with dramatic panoramic ocean views. "For those newer to the game, this great collection of par threes will be a nice, unassuming on-ramp that provides a tremendous amount of fun," says GM Andrew Alkenbrack. "For our guests that just can't seem to get enough golf, the swift pace of the short course will allow them to pack in a few more holes into a day that is already teeming with golf." With holes requiring either a short or mid-iron, The Nest will feature interesting greens, short grass surrounds and the rustic, rugged bunkers that are found throughout Cabot when it opens to visitors later this year.