Category: Top 100 Courses in the U.S. and World

August 04, 2011

Maumee? Black Swamp? Six holes? One of the best ever

Posted at 3:08 PM by Gary Van Sickle

MAUMEE, Ohio -- I hate to nitpick but there is clearly a course missing from every Top 100 Course list I've seen.

Naturally, I'm referring to the Maumee Sports Mall Par 3 Challenge Course located right next to the Ohio Turnpike in suburban Toledo.

Luckily, thanks to my network of inside connections, I was able to secure a tee time at the Maumee Sports Mall Par 3 Challenge Course on the Sunday morning of the U.S. Senior Open's final round. That, and the $6 greens fee, enabled me to be the only player on the course.

Sure, when most people think of Maumee, they think of its Great Black Swamp from the 1800s that served as a major deterrent to settlers heading West. The swamp was slowly drained during the latter half of the century, creating some good farmland before finally -- the ultimate achievement in landscaping -- producing this course.

The first obvious reason why it's a Top 100 Course is that it's next to a major expressway. No offense to the Indiana Toll Road but the Ohio Turnpike is a clearly one of America's Big Four Pikes.

Second, the Par 3 Challenge Course has only six holes. For ages, courses have been bound to the silly and perhaps outdated tradition of 18 holes, or even nine holes. Six is a far better number. If you really need 18, just go around three times. Or play three balls per hole. It still adds up to 18. It's almost spooky how that works.

Third, having shrewdly finagled my way to the first tee, I faced a monstrous 69-yard hole back into a devilish Ohio breeze. I played two balls, opting for a less traditional 12-hole score. Again, points for originality.

The greens were tremendous. As in tremendously bad. As in so tremendously bad they were fantastic. They walked the fine line between super-slow and unputtably slow. "They were slow," I said at the time. (I've always wanted to quote myself.)

They were beyond slow. They were hairy. It appears that the pin positions are permanent so if you pace it off and draw up your own pin sheets, they'll be good forever! I didn't see any old cup marks on the greens, although they might've been difficult to spot through the spongy thatch. However, based on how badly overgrown the lips of the cups were, I'd say they're permanent. More bonus points here for letting nature take its course rather than doing some artificial trimming around the cup to keep a fine edge. These cups were as ragged as Randy Quaid and proud of it.

But unputtable? Hardly, sir. On my second ball, I made a nice shoulder turn, a good knee flex and a nice follow through and holed a 15-footer for birdie. Yes, I agree with you, it was brilliant.

That is only the half of it. The Maumee Sports Mall Par 3 Challenge Course lives up to its name -- Challenge! Not only did that magnificent birdie putt navigate what was a reasonable facsimile of how I imagine Sherwood Forest must have looked, I had to stroke it between the ant hills. Ant hills, you say? Yes. Brilliant!

This is the final reason why The Challenge at Black Swamp (my suggested new name, which is considerably sexier and could possibly lead to a 50-cent price hike) is Top-100 caliber. When you combine green speeds that I'd estimate at 2.1 on the Stimpmeter with all-natural hazards created by hard-working insects, you've got a unique challenge.

I'm guessing that to maintain the greens in this way requires a lot of work. Most courses would carelessly mow the greens on a daily basis, or perhaps every other day. I haven't studied ant behavior, so I can't say with any authority how long it takes a fleet of ants to construct an anthill that's a quarter-inch high, but I'll estimate that it's got to be five days to a week.

That's got to throw a real wrench into the Maumee Sports Mall maintenance schedule. The superintendent (I'm using that term loosely here) must have to be careful not to mow too often and thus destroy the most ingenious design hazards I've encountered since I ran into Pete Dye's Volcanic Zits (well, that's what they look like) at his spectacular resort course in French Lick, Ind.

Rather than bore you with the details of the rest of my round -- the longest hole was an intimidating 111 yards, which forced me to carry two sand wedges and a putter -- I'll simply wait until my proposed reality show based on this round comes out.

Suffice it to say that I fired a sizzling 33 (probably the two-ball course record but I didn't check in the shop) while overcoming a parade of ants reminiscent of the award-winning 1954 movie Them! I'm sure you're all familiar with this classic, so no need for me to rehash the plot. "Giant ants" says it all.

Great course, great location, great conditions, great price. Plus, the history of Maumee's Great Black Swamp lurking in every direction.

In conclusion, I urge the national course-raters to correct their oversight and include The Challenge at Black Swamp in next Top 100 rankings. Let's fight injustice.

After this memorable and possibly historic round, I stepped into an adjacent warehouse building at the Maumee Sports Mall and watched a few minutes of a girls' summer indoor soccer game.

What's that? You're right. The Maumee Sports Mall probably is the greatest place on Earth.

July 24, 2011

Front9 Exclusive: New Additions to the Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses Lists

Posted at 10:45 PM by Mike Walker

Golf Magazine will reveal its new lists of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S. and the World next week on, but subscribers to Golf Magazine's Front9 app can get a sneak preview tomorrow. Eight new courses made the list, and we'll reveal them exclusively in the Front9 on Tuesday.

To download the Front9 app for iPad or iPhone, visit our page in the iTunes App store. A one-time $2.99 subscription gets you access to a weekly collection of the best things in golf, from Top 100 Teacher tips to exclusive travel deals to the latest news and equipment.

Released every two years, the Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses lists are the most thorough and respected rankings in the game.

What courses do you think should make the lists this year? Tell us in the comments section below.

September 08, 2009

Tell us what you think of the 2009 Top 100 Courses List

Posted at 9:39 AM by

GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the U.S. and the Top 100 in the World lists are out, so now it's time for the debate to begin. Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

More Top 100: New courses in the Top 100 | 10 courses to watch | Top 100 Courses Home

November 12, 2008

Top Course Rankings

Posted at 4:30 PM by

Have an opinion about one of our course rankings? Would you have ranked them differently? Do you think there's a course our panelists overlooked? Share your opinions with us below.

Need a refresher? Here are our latest rankings:

Top 100 Courses in the U.S. and World

Top 100 Courses You Can Play

Premier Resorts

To read what readers had to say about the Top 100 Courses in the U.S. and World, click here.

November 05, 2008

Ask Travelin' Joe: Orange County, Calif., Tuscon and Missouri

Posted at 12:58 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
My boss and I are attending meetings near Orange County, Calif. and were curious on your thoughts on the best course to play. Strawberry Farm is not available, but we were looking at Coyote Hills or Oak Creek and/or possibly making the drive to Trump National.

Daniel Robison
Via email

You can't go wrong with any of the O.C. tracks you mentioned, but if you want maximum views for maximum dollars, make the drive to Trump. Six weeks ago in this space, I also recommended Arroyo Trabuco and Tijeras Creek. If you're looking for a shorter commute, both the Ocean North and Ocean South courses at Pelican Hill Golf Club (877-735-4226,; $235) in Newport Coast dish out rolling Tom Fazio designs with stunning Pacific views. Twilight rates are $135.

Just east of Anaheim is Black Gold Golf Club (714-961-0060,; $92-$120) in Yorba Linda, not far from the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, which offers an unimpeachably solid Arthur Hills design set among steep hills and pumping oil wells.

Hey Joe,
I'm getting married in Tucson and am getting the guys together for a round of golf before the wedding. We want to play a good, quality course but don't want to break the bank. I was reading up on Randolph North in the city. It's listed as an LPGA Tour stop as well as a former PGA Tour stop. Any suggestions?

Drew Igana
Via email

If you're saving your dough for the wedding cake, centrally located Randolph North (520-791-4161,; $42-$70), that formerly hosted the Joe Garagiola Tucson Open and the Seiko Match Play, is a good bet. Its equally priced, shorter, but more interesting sibling, Dell Urich, was the scene for LPGA events in 2003 and 2004. Both are parkland layouts.

If you want to sample a modestly priced desert design, try Crooked Tree Golf Course (520-744-3322,; $35-$48), a sturdy layout with mountain views and no homes that can be walked after 2 p.m. for $18.

Dear Joe,
We're planning a trip to Missouri. Can you recommend courses in the Branson area?

Patrick Ginnelly
San Antonio, Texas

Branson Creek (417-339-4653,; $48-$99) in Hollister is absolutely worth the splurge. Ranked No. 76 among GOLF Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play, this heavily undulating Tom Fazio design stretches more than 7,000 yards from the tips and sports panoramic vistas of the surrounding Ozark hills.

A notable newcomer is the Payne Stewart Golf Club (417-337-2963,; $50-$65), a rugged, sandy test that pays homage to the late Missouri native. Nine holes are currently open (1-8, 18), with the balance slated to debut in May 2009. 

October 27, 2008

A return to The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Posted at 2:42 PM by Rick Lipsey

My power is hardly Dalyesque, but supercharged clubs and balls have turned even pipsqueaks like me into relative Paul Bunyans. I was reminded of that ego-inflating fact a few days ago when I played The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. I was at TCC as a guest the day after I’d given the members a talk about my book, Golfing On The Roof of the World: In Pursuit of Gross National Happiness and the Bhutan Youth Golf Association (, a youth golf program that I created while teaching golf in the Himalayan kingdom in 2002.

I’d last played TCC, the venerable 115-year old site of 15 USGA championships, including Francis Ouimet’s epic 1913 U.S. Open victory, just before it hosted the 1999 Ryder Cup. Way back then, at the end of the last millennium, the 7,033-yard course seemed like a monster. Every par four felt like a par five, and the 515-yard par five 11th hole had a most appropriate moniker –- Himalayas.

Now, though, the course (we played from the blue tees) seemed, well, manageable. No, I wasn’t going driver-wedge into par fours all day or launching eight-iron approaches into par fives. But I never stood on a par-four tee and felt like I’d need a miraculously long couple of shots to reach the green. And the Himalayas? It felt like a cute little par five. (I topped my second shot into a creek and still had a chance to make par.)

Don’t get me wrong. The Country Club is still as stout a test as I’ve ever seen, a track not far behind Bethpage and Pine Valley on the difficulty scale. The serpentine fairways, topsy-turvy and miniscule greens, devilishly deep and oddly shaped bunkers conspire to wreak havoc with golfers of all levels. But distance is not a key factor. Perhaps that’s why the club is embarking on a grand refurbishment project that will add considerable length, reshape some fairways and include a massive tree removal project. The work will be complete well in advance of 2013, when TCC could host the U.S. Amateur as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of Ouimet’s Open victory.

I walked off TCC feeling like a victor. After an up-and-down first 16 holes, I morphed into Curtis Strange circa 1988. At 17, the 400-yard par 4, where Justin Leonard drained a 28-mile putt to clinch the ’99 Ryder Cup, I crushed a drive, flushed an eight iron to the back, top shelf and drained a 10-footer for birdie. On 18, a 420-yarder that ususally plays into the wind, I again split the fairway. After a decent three-wood to the deep front bunker, I lofted a sweet little sand shot eight feet past the hole, which was in front of the back-to-front sloping green.

And when I dropped the putt for par, I smiled widely.

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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