|Taconic Golf Club is home to Williams College|
No other sport can boast such breathtaking playing areas as the game of golf. Beautiful courses carefully designed by master architects become once-in-a-lifetime destinations for visitors from all over the world. Though courses on the U.S. Open tour may spare no expense in order to keep the likes of Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson coming back, college courses have to do their best with often tighter budgets. Decent enough links can be found on campuses from coast to coast, but 10 schools in particular have courses so impressive, we have to tip our plaid cap to them.
1. Taconic Golf Club, Williams College:
Created on land owned by Williams College, Taconic is not just one of the best college courses in America, but one of the best, period. Created in 1896, it has a long and impressive history, infamous for tough greens and the strategic shot placement required to make par. It’s also known for Nicklaus Rock, where the pro once hit a hole in one, and the suggestion box on number 4, located in the middle of a pond. Renovation has seen the removal of more than 1,000 trees, but there are still 5,000 more that, coupled with the gently sloping hills and vibrant grass, make this course a golfer’s Mecca.
2. Stanford University Golf Course:
Nestled in the hills of Silicon Valley lies this gem that Tom Watson called “a complete golf course.” Players are regularly treated to sightings of exotic wildlife like golden eagles, green herons, deer, and foxes. After you tee off over a road on Hole 1, you’re treated to scenic views of the famous Stanford barn, San Francisquito Creek, and on a clear day, San Francisco and Oakland from Number 18. Players rave about the challenging course layout, with its dog-leg par 5s, long par 4s, and those beautiful oak trees.
3. Seven Oaks Golf Club, Colgate University:
The maintenance crew is to be commended for keeping the golf course here on Colgate’s campus in beautiful, pristine condition. Though at 6,900 yards its length is not overpowering, the water hazards on 12 holes and the thick roughs provide a stiff challenge to players young and old. The greens are some of the best in New York, large but quick. In the fall, the changing colors of the trees in the surrounding forests make the course look like a Hallmark card, and you’d be forgiven for holding up play to enjoy the view.
4. Birdwood Golf Course, University of Virginia:
Spread out on 500 acres of lush Virginia land, Birdwood is owned by UVA and is home to the men’s and women’s golf teams. Located just a mile west of campus, everything is scenic here, from the driving range, which players say makes you feel like you’re hitting balls off a cliff, to the cobblestone bridge to the green at Hole 14. A member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, maintenance helps keep chemical use low to protect wildlife. But there’s no mercy for players, with elevation changes, high roughs, and slick greens that will challenge even scratch golfers.
5. Scarlet Course, Ohio State University:
In 2005, OSU brought in hall of famer and alum Jack Nicklaus to oversee restoration of the course originally built by renowned architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie in the early 1930s. The result is this impressive 7,455-yard gauntlet with newly restored bunkers that forces players to bring their A-game or spend the day hacking their way out of the sand. If you’re lucky enough to hit the narrow fairways, you’ve still got the well-guarded, severe MacKenzie greens to deal with. Fun fact to remember if you find yourself in the left-side bunkers on 9: they spell out “OSU.”
6. The Course at Yale:
Praising Yale for its golf course has become almost cliche, but there’s no denying that this is a fantastic set of links. Course architect Charles Blair Macdonald transformed a 700-acre area of swamp and woods into one of the best-designed courses around. The 6,700 yards are loaded with hills, lakes, and deep bunkers, with huge fairways and even bigger greens. Rounds begin with an intimidating tee-off from high above Griest Pond, and things only get trickier from there. The ninth hole is considered one of the toughest in America and is capped off by a gigantic 12,000-foot green with a gulley running right through the middle.
7. Orchards Golf Club, Mount Holyoke College:
In 2004, the U.S. Women’s Open could think of no better course than The Orchards. As the home base of the golf team for the all-women’s school Mount Holyoke, the course is truly a hidden gem here in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The gently undulating holes buffeted by tall trees make this 90-year-old course an iconic spot for lovers of the game. Players often must drive through a corridor of trees to the fairway, helping give this course this cozy, quaint feeling of playing the gentlemen’s game in New England.
8. Karsten Creek, Oklahoma State University:
Golf Digest called it the best new public course in 1994, and with good reason. Karsten Creek stretches 7,400 yards and was designed by celebrated architect Tom Fazio. As the course was forged in the heart of oak forests, players see nothing but the hole they’re currently on from the first tee-off to Number 17. The course earns its five-star rating with lush zoysia grass fairways and some of the finest bunkers in the country. The lovely Lake Louise caps off the back nine, eating up errant shots and reminding players why this is one of the toughest yet most beautiful courses in America.
9. The Rawls Course, Texas Tech University:
“The most sophisticated irrigation system ever devised” helps make this course on the dry Texas panhandle an oasis for Red Raider golfers and members of the Lubbock public. Consistently rated one of the top collegiate courses in the country, Rawls’ 7,200 yards cover what was once ultra-flat cotton fields. But while the constant West Texas wind and 80-plus bunkers provide the challenge, the sprawling, open fairways provide the scenery and remind you you’re in the plains of the Lone Star State. And if you forget, just check the flag pins: they’re Texas flags, of course.
10. University of Michigan Golf Course:
Ohio State and Michigan agree on one thing at least: Alister MacKenzie can make a fine golf course. The legendary architect actually completed this course before beginning work on OSU’s project, and a multi-million dollar renovation in 1994 returned it to world-class status. Located right next to campus, the course boasts lush, green hills and beautifully-maintained, criss-cross-patterned fairways. The course has hosted numerous junior and amateur championships, but usually the clientele are Wolverine students who come to enjoy a round in their down time on one of the best courses in the state.
To view images of each course, visit The Best Colleges website.