5 THAT I LOVE
1. Black Diamond (Quarry), Lecanto, Fla.
After years of high rankings, some have found flaws in this Diamond (pictured). Outside of homes encroaching on the front nine and perhaps some hit-and-miss conditioning, I can't see them, even with a jeweler's glass.
2. Blackwolf Run (River), Kohler, Wisc.
The River has suffered from three factors: a brief closure for renovation in '09, the splintering from its original 1988 layout and inevitable comparisons to its sibling, Whistling Straits. When the U.S. Women's Open visits in 2012, competitors will rediscover one of Pete Dye's greatest strategy-laced creations.
3. Desert Forest, Carefree, Ariz.
This favorite of Tom Weiskopf is the closest thing the Arizona desert has to a classic course. While narrow and framed with mostly trees and unplayable underbrush, it does put supreme emphasis on thoughtful ball placement. This low-profile 1962 design was ahead of its time.
4. The Country Club, Pepper Pike, Ohio
No designer in history built better gooseneck green complexes than William Flynn, the kind where only properly placed drives would reap the benefit on the approach. He did brilliant work on this suburban Cleveland layout, where a recent renovation makes it worth a look.
5. Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
The quirkiest "championship" course violates every rule of modern course design, yet succeeds in the "fun" department better than most highly-ranked courses. Long, blind par 3s, oncoming trains in the line of play, the freakishly deep, hidden bunker guarding the "Alps" 17th green—it all adds up to greatness in my book.
5 ... NOT SO MUCH
1. Colonial Country Club, Ft. Worth, Tex.
Storied Colonial has slipped in the respect department over the years, and I can see why. I love the Hogan aura and mystique, but this flat, cramped layout doesn't really inspire architecturally, nor does it sufficiently test the pros. Even par used to contend. Now, it won't even make the cut.
2. Sutton Bay, Agar, S.D.
Blame nature for the demise of one of the most acclaimed new courses of the past 10 years. Tragically, this 2003 Graham Marsh bluff-top prairie design is literally breaking apart due to fissures in fairways and greens caused by shifting landforms and will likely soon be abandoned.
3. Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
One of my personal favorites combines unmatched beauty and brawn, but wow—when the wind blows, the many blind, narrow, gorse-guarded valley fairways and infamous eyebrow bunkers make for a march of holes that are relentlessly penal.
4. Carnoustie (Championship), Carnoustie, Scotland
I have friends, all better players than I, who place Carnoustie on the top rung. Yes, it's great, but its lack of sea views, the overly punishing, artificial looking bunkers, and the strangely placed water features menacing the final two holes all leave me cold.
5. World Woods (Pine Barrens), Brooksville, Fla.
This is one of the nation's best values, but I'm surprised it hangs on to its lofty rankings since so many superior public and private courses have emerged in the past 18 years. The solitude, risk/reward options and Pine Valley-esque features remain appealing, but their novelty has long since faded for me.
(Photo: John and Jeaninne Henebry)