Author Archives: Jay Bastian

The Masters, heading to Augusta from the south, and we don’t mean Savannah!

Magnolia Lane, Augusta National Golf Club

In the last post we approached Augusta and The Masters from the Columbia area, today, we’re approach Augusta from the south in small towns like Swainsboro, Statesboro, and Sandersville where, as in Columbia, significantly lower hotel rates and reasonably good public access golf is available. All there areas are around 1 1/2 hours from Augusta and the traffic into the city if you’re trying to be there before the gates open is a breeze compared to 1-20.

Near Sandersville, there the Twin City CC, a classic middle Georgia parkland layout through the pine trees. In Swainsboro just off I-16, there’s the Swainsboro Country Club, a semi-private Arthur Davis design just south of the airport where you’ll find narrow doglegs through the pines and a very welcoming clubhouse.

Swainsboro Country Club

Just down I-16 towards Savannah is the Willow Lake Golf Course in Metter. It’s set in scenic countryside and characterized by narrow pine tree lined fairways over slightly rolling hills with numerous water hazards and well protected greensites.

Georgia Southern University Golf Course

Finally, we’re just south of Statesboro where we find the 2013 restoration and renaming of Georgia Southern University Golf Club. Georgia Southern with an enrollment of over 22,000 has invested heavily in the update to the golf course and it’s impressive. The strategic layout meanders through a residential development with most of the holes bordered by homes without impacting play. It’s a parkland layout with scattered trees lining the broad fairways, water in play on the majority of the holes, and well bunkered fairways and greens. It’s an Arthur Davis original design from the 1980s updated by Robert Walker.

The Masters,Columbia, SC overnight best golf courses you can play

With The Masters coming up the week of April 3, many attendees find staying in the Columbia, SC area convenient and cost effective. Columbia is only 70 miles or so east of Augusta, but the difference in hotel and golf rates is significant. Whereas a La Quinta in Augusta is being advertised for $549, you can stay at an Embassy Suites for $166 in Columbia! Green fees in the Augusta area also are inflated to 3X the normal rates during Masters week as well.

In terms of golf, the former University of South Carolina Golf Club, now Cobblestone Park is your best bet for an upscale daily fee golf offering, but there are half-dozen others in our guide to the best public golf courses in Columbia that are worth considering depending on your budget.

Sandhills Golf, Nebraska

Frederick Peak Golf Course

The new golf course just outside Sioux City, Landmand, is going to generate a lot of inquisitive play to the area. Many, like us, may want to stretch the itinerary and make the trip to The Prairie Club in Valentine, a full 240 miles to the west. Along the way, there’s some interesting public access courses which add considerable value to the trek, maybe even creating the Northern Nebraska Golf Trail in addition to the Nebraska State guide to the best public golf courses.

First off would be the Tatanka Golf Club in Niobrara, 90 miles northwest. In addition to golf, there’s the Santee Sioux Nation’s Ohiya Casino. The course is a Paul Albanese design on a broad stretch of land with nary a flat lie to its credit.

Tatanka Golf Club

It’s just another 1 1/2 hours southwest to the Atkinson Stuart Country Club, a small town, 9 holes built by its members in the early 1970s. There also the Mill Race Park and Campgrounds adjoining if you’re the camping type, otherwise there’s several small motels and B&Bs in town for the overnight.

After another 1 1/2 hours west, we arrive in the Valentine area where the Prairie Club receives top billing nationally, but don’t overlook the 10 hole, Frederick Peak Golf Club. It’s a Tom Lehman design, a unique rolling layout bordered by prairie grasses at rates that might be equal to the cost of lunch at the Prairie Club!

Spring Training Baseball Golf Trails, Fort Myers, Florida’s Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox

MLB’s Florida Grapefruit League has a long association with Fort Myers Florida. While Spring Training in Florida began in Jacksonville in the late 1800s, it didn’t really begin in earnest until the mid-1920s. Fort Myer’s first team was the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925, followed by the Cleveland Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Kansas City Royals who departed in 1986. Today, it boasts the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox in separate parks in south Fort Myers. at Hammond Stadium and Fenway Park South Jet Blue Park.

If you’re looking to get in a round of golf while in Fort Myers for a game, we’ve compiled a list of twelve of the best golf courses you can play from the major golf periodicals and user reviews. While there’s a total of over 90 private, resort, municipal, and public access courses in the area, it’s been whittled down to the most highly rated. Hopefully, next year, the Dunes Golf Club on Sanibel will reopen after restoration from the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Ian in 2022.

Best Spring Training Golf Courses, Bradenton, Florida’s Pittsburgh Pirates

Florida’s MLB’s Grapefruit League now boasts 15 teams playing in twelve different cities dispersed throughout the state from Interstate 4 South. The season runs from February 24 to March 31, and during this time we’ll profile the best public golf courses in the areas convenient to the stadiums.

First off, the Pittsburgh Pirates play at Lecom Park just south of downtown Bradenton and the Manatee River on 17th Avenue. It’s an ancient stadium built in 1923 and is the third oldest stadium currently used by MLB after Fenway and Wrigley. It’s a classic design as well, old Florida Spanish Mission white stucco exterior with covered bleachers-at least over the reserved seating.

There’s 60+ golf courses in the surrounding Bradenton/Sarasota area with a mix of private, municipals, or public daily fees. To save you time in finding the better courses to play, we list just eight of the best public golf courses you can play in the area which range from resort offerings to upscale semi-privates. Next year, we hope to be able to include the newly renovated Bobby Jones Municipal Golf Course where Richard Mandrell is tackling a presumably faithful restoration of a Donald Ross original design.

The Stevens Point Country Club

SentryWorld commands most of the attention in Wisconsin this year. This is due in part to its recent renovation and reopening as well being selected to serve as the venue for the 2023 US Senior Open.

One should not, however, overlook the Stevens Point Country Club located just 3 1/2 miles southeast of SentryWorld. The club unfortunately lost over 2,500 Norway spruce and white pine along with several other varieties in the early 2000s due to Dupont’s Imprelis herbicide. After the EPA pulled it from the market in 2011, Dupont lost an estimated $2 Billion in a class action lawsuit and filed claims.

Stevens Point received their fair share-at least two commas in the number, and membership then voted in favor of a renovation plan by Craig Haltom of Oliphant Golf Management. While it’s still parkland in nature, the routing opened up nicely with the loss of the trees and is set on a natural tract of lowland on the east side of the Wisconsin River’s wetlands. Although water hazards affect play on less than 1/3 of the holes there’s a host of conventional and massive waste area sand bunkers yet with generous green complexes. 

If you’re in town for the US Senior Open this summer, Stevens Point is a must-play, and if there’s time for another round, check out the nearby Wisconsin River Club. Before or after the Open when SentryWorld is open for outside play, the Stevens Point area offers a great long weekend golf retreat. There’s plenty of reasonable lodging, restaurants, and shopping and a host of other outdoor activities in this Central Wisconsin Tourism Corridor.

Yet another new golf course, open, at the moment to public play, in Florida

Stillwater Golf Club is on the south side of Jacksonville below I-295 and off I-95 at FL 210 to the west in a 55+ residential community by Lennar.

The golf course is at the upper level of daily fees in the area in the realm of the World Golf Village just up the road. It was designed by Bobby Weed, a protege of Pete Dye, whose most notes for many TPC designs while working for the PGA Tour.

Stillwater was cut out of a large forested/wetlands tract of land over generally level terrain but with rippling and mounded fairways. There’s absolutely no rough in play, but an abundance of water features and an assortment of conventional, pot, and revetted sand traps. There’s five sets of tees with the tips playing to 6,745 yards, 71.6/127, course/slope ratings.

New courses we’re playing in 2023

Raindance National Golf Course is located just southeast of Fort Collins in Windsor off I-25 at Crossroads to the east sited with 180 degree views of the Front Range.

The layout, opened in 2022, is on a large, 300 acre tract of land with over 250 feet of elevation change from the top of the ridge to the Cache la Poudre River bottom. It’s routed along broad fescue fairway corridors bordered by arroyos generally devoid of trees but with with massive green complexes. It’s pricey when compared to most other public access tracks in the area and is part of a master planned community with a planned 2,500 homes. It’s possibly the second longest golf course in the world yardage-wise, but mitigated by the 5,000 feet above sea level. There’s six sets of tees from 4,919 yards to 8,463 yards off the Tour tees, the White tees are 6,273 yards, 68.6/126, course/slope ratings, designed by Fred Funk/Harrison Minchew, a former Arnold Palmer Golf Design architect. There’s also a 65,000 square foot putting green and short games area, the G.O.A.T. Ranch.

Durand Eastman Golf Course, a classic pedigree

Not sure why Durand Eastman hasn’t made it on @Bestgolfcourses till now, but thankfully one of our users suggested it, and once we looked into it, the course is a shoe-in to be included. Technically, the course is a Monroe County Parks municipal located on the north side of Rochester and Irondequoit near Lake Ontario on Lakeshore Blvd in Durand Eastman Park. It was donated to the County by Henry Durand and George Eastman (Kodak founder) in 1909 and contains almost 1,000 acres.

It’s an historic layout originating in 1918 with the second nine in 1923 by Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones, Sr. redesigning the entire layout in 1934.

The layout is carved through a mature forest of hardwoods along a blend of narrow and broad fairway corridors with a variety of green complexes sans bunkers. It’s a gently rolling walk in the proverbial park with streams bisecting both layouts on either side of King’s Highway. There’s four sets of tees from 5,198 yards to 6,033 at the tips where it’s 70.2/122, course/slope ratings.

New golf courses for 2023 we’ll be visiting this year

Another Nebraska golf course, new in 2022 is garnering widespread and appropriate attention. Problem is, it’s located on the far northeastern corner of Nebraska, a good 6 hours from Mullen in the Sandhills. Landmand Golf Course is 20 miles southwest of Sioux City on the north side of Homer, NE surrounded by rolling farmland. It’s situated on 550-acre tract of silty soil in the Loess Hills 200 feet above Homer providing views over thousands of acres of farms and on to the Missouri River.

The layout is characterized by broad, 80 yard wide and undulating fairways through towering dunes. It boasts massive green complexes, and gigantic, blowout and pot bunkers while it traverses over 150 feet of elevation change. It features a Punchbowl green on steroids and a sand bunker named “The Milk Carton”-we’ll leave that to the imagination. There’s five sets of tees at Landmand from 5,420 yards to 7,200 yards, the middle tees play to 6,440 yards, 71.3/130, course/slope ratings, designed by Rob Collins and Tad King (Sweetens Cove, Inness), their first original 18 hole layout.