The new year is always a fresh start. We start in January by setting new resolutions, evaluating life goals, and for golfers across the country, giving study to the released United States Golf Association (USGA) Qualifying Sites.
The chance to qualify for a USGA event is reason enough to get your index to the requisite level, but there is another reason to be one of the many-thousand golfers that make their run at a USGA championship -- experience new, compelling golf courses.
On the USGA’s championship list, there have been plenty of bucket-list courses like their five charter clubs: Newport Golf (now Country) Club, St. Andrew's Golf Club, Chicago Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and The Country Club. If you want to get to one of these top tier clubs, you’ll have to qualify. But even if you don’t, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many of the best and most interesting courses in the country are accessible through the USGA qualifier list.
As long as your skill meets the requisite handicap index, the USGA qualifier list gives on the opportunity to tee it up on a number of select public to ultra-private courses for a reasonable entry fee, especially if you’re willing to travel.
Because the list is so compelling, we wanted to take a look at some of our favorite courses that stand out in the USGA Amateur and Mid-Amateur qualifier lists (organized by event and date, * indicates a NewClub favorite).
Qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club
Pensacola Country Club (FL) - July 8-9. Destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, Pensacola Country Club redesigned the club to incorporate traditional features with modern touches. The bunkering is thoughtful, and the course includes a notable Biarritz adaptation on the 7th hole.
Longmeadow Country Club (MA) - July 8. A 1922 Donald J. Ross design, Longmeadow Country Club features a challenging group of par-4s. The club has a rich USGA history, having hosted the 1995 USGA Girls Junior Amateur and the 2005 USGA Junior Amateur.
Hackensack Golf Club (NJ) - July 8. Overshadowed by a lot of its famous neighbors, Hackensack Golf Club is a Raynor design that Banks put into the ground. Rees Jones has supposedly done recent work on the course, fortunately maintaining many of the template holes typically found at a Raynor-influenced course.
*Whippoorwill Club (NY) - July 8. The relatively rare combination of Donald J. Ross (1925) and Charles Banks (1930) had their hands on Whippoorwill Club. The resulting course gives you Ross influenced contours, a few template features, and Banks’ signature bunkering. The original routing was lost when Banks had to move several of the Ross-designed holes.
*West Shore Country Club (PA) - July 8. Originally a Donald J. Ross design, Ed Tabor reworked the course while serving as the superintendent and club professional. A rework by the resident professional can be a disaster, but Ed was trained by one of Ross’s associates. Gil Hanse completed a bunker renovation just after the turn of the century to further ensure the long-term quality of the course.
Metacomet Country Club (RI) - July 8. Yet another Donald J. Ross course on the USGA qualifier list (not a bad thing), Metacomet is a restoration away from being known both regionally and nationally. Sitting alongside the Providence River, the course is another example of Ross’s ability to get the most out of a piece of property.
Wakonda Club (IA) - July 15. A Langford and Moreau design, this 1922 course has more movement that you expect from an Iowa course. The trees have grown without much containment, but the layout is still worth the play. It’s another example of a Langford and Moreau that would be the talk of the town after a restoration, but don’t let that keep you from checking it out in its current state.
*Colleton River Club (Dye Course) (SC) - July 15-16. A course many claim overshadows the sister Nicklaus course, the Dye Course at Colleton River is a blend of low-country golf with Dye design. The bunkering is challenging throughout and the course offers a glimpse into just how creative Pete Dye was when he wasn’t designing for the tour player.
*Trinity Forest Golf Club (TX) - July 15. There is not much that needs to be said about this course to convince you to travel to Dallas. It is a Coore and Crenshaw design that plays firm and fast (the members play it faster than the tour did during their stop). They also have some of the best turf people in the nation (@KaseyKauff). It’s a must play if your schedule allows. (For more, “Trinity Forest Golf Club: Grasping goofy golf, the antithesis of TPC Sawgrass” and “Trinity Forest Golf Course” from Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg.)
Capital City Club (Crabapple Course, GA) - July 16-17. The Capital City Club Crabapple Course is a Tom Fazio design that offers one of the more compelling courses in the Atlanta area. It is in good condition and it will offer a test to all golfers.
*The Camargo Club (OH) - July 16. One of the more notable Seth Raynor courses, this 1926 design is a must play for any fan of golf architecture. The par 3’s and 4’s are notable throughout and present a few of the better template holes in the US. The club has also restrained from chasing distance, thus preserving much of the original design.
Palouse Ridge Golf Club (WA) - July 18. Washington State University’s home course offers one of the better university homes in the nation. Designed by John Harbottle, it roles through undulating dunes and is as difficult as you would expect from a course expected to test top collegiate golfers.
Woodholme Country Club (MD) - July 22. A Herbert Strong course, Woodholme Country Club features a course full of movement and aggressive greenside bunkers. The course has been lengthened over the years and the bunkers have too much rough surrounding, but the layout remains intact.
*Meadowbrook Country Club (MO) - July 22-23. A Robert Bruce Harris course, Meadowbrook Country Club received a massive renovation from Keith Foster. The redesigned course offers much more width that better incorporates the course bunkering and green surrounds.
*Moraine Country Club (OH) - July 22. Moraine Country Club represents a pinnacle of course restoration and renovation. Originally designed by Alex “Nipper” Campbell in 1930, the glacier landscape in southern Ohio presents a compelling, wide, and interesting course. Between this is The Camargo Club, the SW Ohio USGA qualifiers represent the best in the nation. To read more about Moraine Country Club, see a recent review at The Fried Egg.
OSU Golf Club (Scarlet Course) - July 23. Dr. Alister MacKenzie has a few university courses, and this is one of them. Jack Nicklaus modified the course in 2006 to be, expectedly, more difficult. The course now presents a difficult challenge to the top amateur and collegiate golfers. For that reason, the golf course reflects as much, if not more, Nicklaus (and former Coach Jim Brown) than MacKenzie.
Qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Colorado Golf Club
Nassau Country Club (NY) - August 6. Established in 1896, Nassau was designed by Devereux Emmet along with its committee members before Raynor and Strong provided the finishing touches. The Fazio Design Group, Ron Forse, and Cynthia Dye McGarey have also supposedly worked on the course. It hosted the 1903 U.S. Men’s Amateur, the 1914/2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, and numerous state and regional tournaments.
Blue Hill Country Club (MA) - August 7. Designed in 1925 by Eugene “Skip” Wogan and restored in 2003 by Ron Prichard, it has hosted both PGA and LPGA tournaments. In one notable tournament, Jack Burke Jr. won the 1956 PGA Championship here in a match play final over Ted Kroll.
*Camden Country Club (SC) - August 8. Opened in the early 1900s, Camden Country Club has seen the hands of Walter Travis and was later redesigned by Donald J. Ross. Kris Spence was recently called in to renovate the course, thankfully returning waste area and wired grass to the grounds while maintaining the crowned greens often associated with Ross.
San Jose Country Club (FL) - August 12. It’s a 1925 design by Donald J. Ross that was redesigned by Bob Walker in 1989. Then in 2006, Dan Schlegel completed work to move the course closer to its original design and intent.
*Glens Falls Country Club (NY) - August 12. Another Donald J. Ross course, with this one started in 1912, finished in 1922, and got another upgrade in 1938. Tom Doak speaks highly of the course in his Confidential Guide, ranking it in “Ross’s top 10” and asks, “How has such a fine course escaped attention this long?”
Oak Tree National (OK) - August 12. Formally Oak Tree Golf Club, Oak Tree National is a 1976 Pete Dye design that held the 1988 PGA Championship and the 2006 Senior PGA Championship. It reflects Dye’s passion for complexity, iconic bunkering, and testing the golfer.
New Haven Country Club (CT) - August 13. Founded in 1898, the original course was redesigned in 1921 by Willie Park Jr. The course found today at this golf-centric club still captures much of Willie Park Jr.’s original intent.
*Orchard Lake Country Club (MI) - August 20. A Colt and Alison design from 1926, Orchard Lake Country Club is one of several nationally-overlooked courses in the surrounding Detroit area. This is especially true since Keith Foster’s restoration was finished in 2013
Bretton Woods Recreation Center (MD) - August 21. Built in the so-called “Dark Ages” of golf course architecture, this Edmund Ault course was updated by Joel Weiman of the McDonald Design Group. In addition to the interesting bunkering, the course is part of a large recreation center near the Potomac River.
Chattanooga Golf & Country Club (TN) - August 22. Designed by Donald J. Ross, Bill Bergin recently renovated the Tennessee Adjacent Chattanooga Golf & Country Club. Well-bunkered and decent in variety, the course has a notable punchbowl green on the 16th.
Don’t forget to enjoy your game
The USGA takes on plenty of criticism—and often rightfully so—but one cannot deny their championship courses and paths to them offer a golfer experiences that might otherwise be unattainable.
The above list is far from exhaustive and you should take a personal look at the qualifier lists to see what might suit your interests. The U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball also offer numerous sites worthy of a trip (see links below). We also suggest Tom Doak’s The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses as a cross-reference.