Ok I am back since I get to write about one of my very favorite topics. It is mid May and I have already had a year for the ages. Here we go:
Pine Valley, NJ - designed by George Crump with consultation from virtually every other great classic architect. This was a dream come true. It is ranked as the top golf course in the world, and to me, there is a gap between it and the other courses. It is that good. What you have is 18 perfectly designed holes, any of which would be the best hole on any other course. The four par 3s are strong, the short four par 4s are excellent, the long par 4s are brutal and the two par 5s are impossible. I played one day at 6,600 yds and the 2nd at 6,300 yds, had 95 each day and was happy (would like to play it in 75 degrees with no wind). The experience is also perfect, five star lodging and food, a clubhouse which is a museum and the club is not stuffy. While I am always excited to play anywhere good, I will not be "cannot sleep" excited to play anywhere else.
Aronimink GC, Newtown Square, Pa - a Donald Ross masterpiece that is playable. This venerable Philly club has hosted many major events and is slated for the 2027 PGA. It is typical Ross, demanding strategy on every shot, and the green complexes are solid. The elevation on the site gives variety to the holes. While it is a hard course, the average player can get it around. Very worthy as a top 100 course.
Kinloch GC, Richmond, Va - luxury club by Lester George and Vinny Giles. This is another top 100 course which is stunningly beautiful and very difficult. There are some forced carries both off the tee and on the approaches. Another characteristic is split fairways on several holes, giving the player a choice of attack. This is club worth groveling to access and also worthy of its ranking.
Cherokee Plantation, Yemasse, SC - super exclusive club in rural SC. This is one of the hardest tee times to get in the US as there are only 22 members ($1 million initiation fee). It is a sportsman's paradise with 2,000 acres of untouched Lowcountry woods, water frontage and sheer beauty. The members have their own fishing, hunting, hiking. horseback riding and any other enclave. The golf course is pristine, featuring 400 year old live oaks, and very good. Designed by Donald Steele, it is very playable but will challenge the best. You can check it out by searching for a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf Episode with Els and Duval.
Inerlachen, Winter Park, Fl - Joe Lee design typical Florida with many forced carries. Good course but very difficult.
Isleworth GC, Windermere, Fl - the home of the pros and other famous athletes. A luxury club with the course designed by Arnold Palmer. The club is 5 star, and the course is good but not great. They have tees at 7,500+ for the touring pros. Just a great place for a country club experience.
CC of Orlando - A restored Donald Ross (disputed it is a Ross) in the middle of Orlando. Another luxury club with a really good golf course. The main limitation is that it is a flat site, but the holes are laid out nicely and the greens have character. This is a course you could play over and over without tiring of it.
Golden Ocala - another very nice club in horse country. The identity of the course is that it has eight replica holes (Augusta, St Andrews, etc), but the other 10 holes are solid. In fact, I enjoyed them more. This is another course that you can play over and over.
Tierra del Sol, Aruba - unusual in that Aruba has desert conditions and high winds (20 mph plus) which make for an interesting day. This Robert Trent Jones Jr design was laid out specifically for the wind direction (which I was told is constant 90% of the time). There were some nice holes over interesting terrain with deep water views. Nice course but rent sticks since the conditions will tear up nice clubs.
Pretty solid start.