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Four Top 100 Courses to NOT Play

Four Top 100 Courses to NOT Play

Will welcoming non-golfers via on course walking paths help grow the game?


The notion that a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day in the office is a widely shared sentiment. It’s no accident that golf courses provide ravishing scenery. Course designers and architects identify locations largely based on their natural beauty and construct courses to enhance Mother Nature’s characteristics. Courses are molded in accordance with the natural canvas that the earth provides purposefully fitting the lay of the land. The result is a superior atmosphere that should be marveled by all.

Golf courses have the opportunity to rectify the land shortage problem in lots of fast-growth cities and suburbs by allowing activities outside of golf on their property. Exposing non-golfers to the grandeur that is a golf course will inadvertently promote the ‘grow the game’ initiative. Golf is a maddening sport but even when a round isn’t going a player’s way, they can still acknowledge the privilege of playing a game in the most serene atmosphere. Golfers enjoy landscapes and vistas that so many others never get the opportunity to experience.

Golf courses provide a combination of mowed turf, trees, and natural areas that deliver an overall diverse environment for people and animals. The preservation of these green spaces improves the environmental quality of their surrounding communities. The golf course ecosystem provides innumerable benefits to its region by improving the community aesthetic through the restoration of damaged land areas, restoring air quality, and maintaining wildlife habitats, just to name a few. Golf courses truly are ideal locations for every rest and relaxation activity imaginable apart from golf.

I am a lover of golf and the spectacle that is a golf course, but I’m not an avid player. Last Thanksgiving, I had the unique opportunity to run a 5k Turkey Trot on the cart paths of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida. Located on the Central Florida Parkway, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club is a vibrant green, lush refuge smack dab in the middle of a very urbanized area. I recently called the course to find out if similar events to the Turkey Trot were planned for the future as well as if activities like jogging were permitted on the course cart paths outside of coordinated events. What I found out is that the golf course is only used for activities outside of golf during orchestrated occurrences. For the purpose of safety, it makes sense. The resort has both a mountain bike trail and a brick running path separate from the golf course, but the experience of being on actual golf course grounds delivers something different. The sensory exposure to perfectly manicured greens and the shadowing of tree-lined fairways creates a magical, oasis-like feel. Earth is a golf architect’s canvas and a golf course is their work of art. Some of the world’s most spectacular golf courses however are sharing the wealth and allowing more than just golf on their grounds.

credit: NY Times

The Old Course at St Andrews

Every Sunday, the Old Course is closed to “let it rest” and allow the public free rein to marvel in its magnificence.

Anything goes on a Sunday at St Andrews. The only rule at the course on its weekly day of rest is no golf. Picnics, Frisbee, jogs, walks, strolls with baby strollers or prams as they’re called in Scotland—if it’s not golf, it’s welcomed. The centuries-old day of rest is a sacred part of the Old Course’s revered traditions. For many tourists keen on playing a Sunday round it can be maddening, but the bigger picture is that even if golfers don’t need their rest, the course does. Sundays are a chance for non-golfers to experience the majestic grounds of the Home of Golf. Its brilliant holes, ancient castle ruins that overlook its stunning West Sands Beach and overall mesmerizing scenery of the majestic East Coast of Scotland create the consummate setting for long-lasting memories whether golf is involved or not.

credit: Hiking Project

Rustic Canyon Golf Course

Happy Camp Canyon Trail Loop is a 10.9-mile track that runs alongside Rustic Canyon Golf Course providing beautiful views of its well-manicured fairways.

The Happy Camp Canyon Trail is parallel to the golf course for the first mile making the start of the excursion a peaceful and primarily flat trek alongside course fairways. Dogs are not allowed after the first mile of the trail, but as you progress through the fields you’ll share the road with a few horses. The long loop visits the canyon itself and climbs to a ridge providing consistent views of the golf course. You might as well be on it. Hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, running, walking, nature trips…the trail attracts all sorts of outdoor activities. Lush, riparian oak woodlands with an intermittent stream, Happy Camp Canyon Trail Loop provides an opportunity for non-golfers to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Rustic Canyon Golf Course while partaking in non-golf activities. If you are wanting to play, Rustic is arguably the best bang for your buck in America.

credit: Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Sports

Pebble Beach Golf Links

All beaches in California are public including the one that runs alongside the ninth and tenth holes of Pebble Beach. The golf course itself is private property, but a lesser-known piece of information is that the golf course provides access to beach paths and walking trails.

Prior to golf, Pebble Beach was enjoyed and explored for centuries. When you tell someone who has been to Pebble Beach that you are planning a visit, the customary response is notoriously some version of “Expect an unforgettable experience!” One thing for certain is that Pebble Beach provides consistency. Traditionally touted as the perfect meeting of land and sea, among the many charms of Pebble Beach is that it can be accessed from a public beach. Stillwater Cove provides one of the most incredible visuals and it’s not just the best backdrop for golf. The glassy waters are a sanctuary for kayakers, paddle boarders, fishers, boaters, and people walking along the beach. Pebble Beach is a course that people have marveled at for the way it hugs the coastline and incorporates the natural cliffs and terrain of the coastal land. It is a sight that continues to be revered by many more than just those who tee it up.

credit: Graylyn Loomis

North Berwick Golf Club

The course is open to local walkers as long as their activity doesn’t “interfere with other leisure pursuits.”

North Berwick Golf Club sits in the middle of a small Scottish border town along the south coast of the Firth of Forth and like many courses in the area, it is open to local activity. Caddies are often challenged with informing locals walking their dogs on the course that golf always takes priority. There are several public footpaths across the course and access for local residents is provided through specified gates. These paved walking paths allow locals and tourists to enjoy the spectacular views of the island and its beaches. It is a course where non-golfers are fully welcomed and partners of those playing are invited to accompany them on course as well as use clubhouse facilities. A warm and genuine welcome is offered to everyone who visits the 13th oldest golf club in the world. 

credit: Australian Golf Digest

New South Wales Golf Club

Bypassing through New South Wales Golf Club, the famous Bondi to Coogee coastal walk links all the way to Botany Bay National Park

The carved out coastal walkway through New South Wales Golf Club creates a safe stretch for walkers linking existing national tracks in Botany Bay National Park through picturesque greens. New South Wales Golf Club is a links-style, Alister MacKenzie design that hugs the Pacific Ocean coastline. Known locally as “La Perouse,” it is regarded as one of Australia’s most scenic layouts. It’s a gorgeous part of the eastern suburbs that the public now has complete access to. The sixth hole has been made manageable for walkers and hikers while preserving one of the world’s most photogenic holes. New South Wales Golf Club’s effort to allow non-members the opportunity to play is commendable. A must-play course when visiting Sydney. They have a heavy commitment to the community and want the exhilarating experience and sights of New South Wales to be widely enjoyed by all golfers and non-golfers alike.

Golf courses following suit after The Home of Golf’s weekly day of rest is farfetched, but identifying means to allow other activities on golf courses undoubtedly has its benefits. Even if a course is public and owned by the township, golf courses are not public parks and can be pretty dangerous places for non-golfers to just wander through. But pinpointing how non-golfers can experience and relish in the Narnia-like setting that is a golf course would definitely have its benefits. Exposing non-golfers to the golf course environment will lead to additional bonding opportunities with those who play the game and certainly add to the ‘grow the game’ initiative. 

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