IMG Junior World/San Diego City
Torrey Pines, San Diego, Calif.
When the calendar turns over each January and the PGA Tour season begins in earnest, Torrey Pines is one of the venues we look forward to seeing on the Tour’s West Coast Swing in January. The Farmers Insurance Open has been played at Torrey Pines since 1968 (although it has been through various name and sponsorship changes).
After a 2002 Rees Jones redesign of the layout – as plans for hosting the 2008 U.S. Open unfolded – 'The South' has a place alongside Bethpage Black as a certain "new breed" of public course that can play host to golf's most important championship. The U.S. Open returns to Torrey Pines in 2021, in case you’ve been living under a rock. For the mere mortals (and California residents) among us, the San Diego City presents a chance to play the championship track. For juniors, the long-running IMG Junior Worlds continues to be a platform to make a name for yourself and ideally get the attention of a college coach or two.
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Battle in the Desert/Golfweek Senior Amateur
PGA West, La Quinta, Calif.
Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at PGA West is truly a bucket-list item, and there are two sides of it. From the tips, PGA West is penal enough to have once hosted PGA Tour Q-School finals. But the late Alice Dye’s hand is noticeable, too. From the appropriate tees, PGA West is challenging but hardly unfair. The carries over water are less intimidating and the angles into greens less severe.
If you really want to feel the nerves, though, tackle this course in tournament play. PGA Tour players do it annually at the Desert Classic, another stop on the Tour’s West Coast Swing. Senior amateurs can play the long-running Golfweek
Senior Amateur, a nice spring getaway each April.
Fun Golf Vacations also hosts the annual Battle in the Desert, a week-long, two-person best ball tournament played at La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West. All participants play six tournament rounds and get unlimited afternoon replay on six on the finest courses in Palm Springs. FGV also hosts the Palm Springs Golf Championships and Shootout at PGA West in the Palm Springs area.
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Palm Springs Golf Championships
Shootout at PGA West
Golfweek Senior Amateur
Jacksonville Match Play
TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
We all know the daunting closing stretch that faces PGA Tour players at the Players Championship each spring, but can you imagine standing on No. 16 tee, knowing you were all square in your match? Worse yet, how about going into those holes 1 or 2 down? Match play allows for a different kind of enjoyment of this signature Tour venue, but you have to make it to the semifinals to experience it. The first three rounds of matches are played on the Dye’s Valley course at TPC Sawgrass.
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Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Fla.
Innisbrook has become one of the country’s most celebrated golf destinations. Among its four championship layouts, the Copperhead Golf Course is probably the most recognizable not only for the challenge it presents, but also as host of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship. The surrounding lakes and ponds are home to abundant wildlife, including fox squirrels, bald eagles, alligators, blue herons, and many other types of waterfowl – and these are often captured in the Valspar broadcast.
The final three holes – aptly named Moccasin, Rattler and Copperhead – make up the Snake Pit. Some say the long, narrow par-4 16th is one of the hardest holes on the PGA Tour. Amateurs can test themselves there, and on the rest of the Copperhead course (plus the Island Course) at the annual Innisbrook Amateur in July. The 54-hole individual stroke play tournament includes championship and senior divisions, with flights in each division determined by handicap.
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Trinity Forest, Dallas, Texas
Collegians have the opportunity to play this venue, which hosted the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson for the first time last year, each year at the SMU-hosted Trinity Forest Invitational. It’s a relatively new course, having opened in 2016, and it is famously built on top of a landfill. The links-style layout was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and features tall native grasses and dramatic bunkering. It’s a course that demands mental fortitude. As Coore has notably said, “Good players hate uncertainty. Ben and I strive for uncertainty.”
In 2017, a Golfworld story on the Byron Nelson venue change
included this excerpt: “Trinity Forest is night and day from any other venue on tour. A windswept, nearly treeless expanse of dunes, waving prairie grass, and fast, undulating turf, the new place has every attribute of a links except cawing sea birds and an ocean.”
If you’re up for the challenge, the Dallas Amateur – which will be played this July for just the second time – is open to amateurs 22 and older and who are not on a college or junior college team. The 36-hole stroke play event has five divisions, and non-exempt players can gain entry through an 18-hole qualifier.
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Horton Smith Invitational
Detroit (Mich.) Golf Club
Detroit Golf Club has made plenty of headlines within the past year as it steps up to host the Rocket Mortgage Classic on the PGA Tour for the first time this June. In terms of its historic value, Detroit Golf Club is Horton Smith’s place. Smith, of course, was the man who won the inaugural Masters Tournament in 1934, was undefeated in five Ryder Cup experiences and won 32 PGA Tour events (and finished runner-up another 37 times).
Smith was a longtime professional at Detroit Golf Club, and the long-running Horton Smith Invitational celebrates him. The two layouts, called the North and the South, are Donald Ross designs. The North Course, which will host the Tour event this summer, is the longer of the two, and features narrow, tree-lined fairways, undulating greens and considerable bunkering, all of which put a premium on accuracy. The South, though considerably shorter, is no pushover either. Players in the Horton Smith will have to conquer each considering that the 72-hole tournament is played on both courses.
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