Your Chance to Play the Majors
As much as we want to, we can’t make a trip to Fenway Park in Boston and go to bat against Pedro Martinez. Nor can we visit Lambeau Field in Green Bay and run a post route to catch a ball from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And of course, we can’t go wheel to wheel in the streets of Monaco against Sebastian Vettel. But there is one sport where you can play in the fields of the great and somewhat recapture great moments in your own special way. The sport is golf and luckily for enthusiasts and avid players of the game, you can play on the same courses as the pros. In fact, you can play on some of the courses that have hosted majors. Of the three major golf tournaments that are played on American soil, two of them, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, can be played on public golf courses.
Let’s focus on the national major for the United States, the U.S. Open. This annual event is considered the “hardest test in golf”; Often played on the longest, most difficult and demanding courses, the tournaments sole purpose in the opinion of the tournament organizer, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is to “identify the best golfer”. You, the traveler and everyday hacker have the chance to play and possibly match the records of Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, and Woods. As a side note, all of Tiger Woods’s victories at the U.S. Open all took place on public courses and they will be highlighted in this article. You have the chance to drive the same Par 5’s, approach the same greens and hit the same clutch putt as some of the all-time greats.
Bethpage Black, New York, NY
Considered the “peoples’ golf course” of the East. It is a municipally owned set of golf courses in Long Island, near the metropolis of New York City. There are five golf courses of varying difficulties that you and your group will enjoy. But the ultimate test -- the course that Tiger Woods won the Open is the “Black”. The monstrous Black contains extremely long par 4’s and plenty of elevation changes that will make think twice before choosing a club.
Torrey Pines, San Diego, CA
If Bethpage is the “peoples’ course” of the East, then Torrey Pines is the “peoples’ course” of the West. Just north of San Diego, the Torrey Pines facility has two championship level golf courses. And it is on the South course where Tiger Woods won a thrilling 2008 U.S. Open that went into a Monday playoff. Upon the cliffs of seaside La Jolla, golfers will often get distracted by gorgeous views of the Pacific and the nearby hang gliders.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, CA
Considered one of the grand cathedrals in American golf, Pebble Beach is an annual host to PGA Tour tournaments and once a decade, it hosts the U.S. Open. Best known for its association with Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby and Clint Eastwood, the course hosts a Pro-Am every year which usually brings the likes of Bill Murray to its fairways. The seaside course is found in a picturesque area of Northern California, where you can play other great seaside courses or go on one of their well-known drives.
Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC
If you’re looking for the ultimate golf and resort experience, Pinehurst is the place. It looks like it’s a resort especially made for the golfer. The resort offers Southern-style accommodations that include villas, condos and manor style residences. But the course that golfers flock to is the No. 2 course. Another course that hosted U.S. Opens, it is best known for the thrilling duel between Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson in 1999. The win by Stewart would be his last as he was tragically involved in a plane crash months later. Besides the 18th green is a statue of the late golfer that has become a shrine for many playing the No. 2.
U.S. Opens being hosted on public courses looks to be the trend now as Chambers Bay in Washington state as well as Erin Hills in Wisconsin will be holding the major in the next few years. Part of being a golfer is learning and struggling through with this difficult and silly game. Another aspect is to have the great opportunity to play where the greats won their greatest championship -- you can’t consider yourself a golfer unless you played one of these great courses.