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July 26, 2011

Take it from Joe: Play the PGA Championship Here!

Posted at 2:14 PM by Joe Passov | Categories: California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon

Sebonack
Sebonack Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y. Photo: Larry Lambrecht.

Atlanta Athletic Club, site of the 2011 PGA Championship, is a strong test of golf, but does anybody really enjoy the PGA's choices of rough-choked layouts in hot August temperatures? Here are my 10 picks — some realistic, some fantasy — for where I'd like to see the PGA played next.

1. Los Angeles Country Club (North)
Los Angeles, Calif.

This famously exclusive club that abuts Hugh Hefner's mansion will finally open its doors to the outside world when it hosts the 2017 Walker Cup, the better to show off its stunning 2010 Gil Hanse restoration. Tree removal has opened up long-hidden vistas, bunkers now resemble their 1920s George Thomas originals, and a succession of meaty par-4s would test even the best.

2. Trump National Bedminster (Old)
Bedminster, N.J.

Tom Fazio designed this modern masterpiece in 2004, not far from USGA headquarters. Together with its younger sibling the New, the course would make a worthy challenge for the pros, with plenty of gallery space as well. Say what you want about its owner—and this course—but the publicity build-up would be off the charts.

3. Sebonack Golf Club
Southampton, N.Y.

The PGA enjoys going to new places from time to time, so why not Sebonack, the 2006 Jack Nicklaus/Tom Doak collaboration right next to the National Golf Links of America and overlooking Peconic Bay? The U.S. Women's Open visits here in 2013, but I wouldn't mind spending part of my August in the Hamptons, watching the Bubbas and Rorys battle the breezes.

4. Sand Ridge Golf Club
Chardon, Ohio

One of the more tranquil golf experiences I've enjoyed took place at this private 1998 Tom Fazio creation built for the folks at Best Sand, whose adjacent quarry supplies bunker sand to many other courses. I'll admit that August in suburban Cleveland can be toasty, but the city's rabid sports fans would turn out in droves—and hey, Cleveland could use a break.

5. Spyglass Hill
Pebble Beach, Calif.

Every year at the AT&T, Spyglass is dumbed down to get amateurs around in under seven hours. I'd love to see the pros cope with this course set up in full fury. Plus, August on the Monterey Peninsula is pleasant duty indeed.

6. Muirfield Village
Dublin, Ohio

Sure, this course already enjoys tons of exposure from Jack's annual PGA Tour shindig. But it would be nice to see the PGA show a little additional love by tossing a bone to the five-time winner of its premier championship, whose hometown course is easily deserving of a Major.

7. Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley, N.J.

One of my fantasy picks hosted the 1985 Walker Cup and is home to the annual Crump Cup, an invitational event that no top amateur turns down. Alas, Pine Valley has too much sand and scrub to allow for efficient gallery flow, but wouldn't it be awesome to see the game's best tackle the best course in the game?

8. Pronghorn (Nicklaus)
Bend, Ore.

Formerly a private real estate development spread, Pronghorn now offers limited public play, although few will take on the 7,379-yard tips, with a 75.2 rating and 151 slope. I'd relish watching the pros try it, especially amid Bend's dry, perfect August climate, at 3,200 feet in the shadows of Mt. Bachelor.

9. Nantucket Golf Club
Siasconset, Mass.

This exclusive, low-profile Rees Jones design ripples with moguls and is long enough when the wind blows to challenge the play-for-pay crowd. And any excuse to spend a portion of August on the island of Nantucket justifies its inclusion on this list.

10. Crystal Downs
Frankfort, Mich.

Perched upon a bluff between Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake, this Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell collaboration is a bit too remote and lacks sufficient length to bother today's stars, but toss in gusts off the lake, dense native roughs and enough classic holes to fill a design textbook, and it would provide a memorable PGA site regardless of scores.

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