6 Affordable Golf Courses That Won’t Sink You
AN AFFORDABLE game of golf is almost as hard to find as that $5 ball you hit into the forest. One reason: Some golf operators have adopted dynamic pricing, which means that, depending on demand, premium tee times are not only difficult to book but can cost more. Still, one needn’t pony up $600 for legendary layouts like Pebble Beach; great golf can be played at lesser-known locales for $100 or even less. After an 18-hole game at these four exemplary spots, you’ll still have enough loose change to foot the bill for a ritual round of beer and banter with your fellow swingers.
1. Desert Deal
Scottsdale, Ariz., is a snowbird magnet and home to over 200 area courses, many of which can set you back a car payment for 18 holes. But with golf, timing is everything: If you visit after high season ends in April, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in nearby Fort McDowell offers 36 holes of gorgeous Sonoran Desert golf and one of the best 2-round summer deals in the state at $165. Take extra care to stay hydrated, as temperatures can exceed the price paid for a tee-time. Also, check out stay-and-play packages at the adjacent casino resort, but avoid the roulette wheel to use your savings for another round.
2. Hawaii Pick
In a state where tourists can drive prices sky-high, golf can be a costly habit, with resort green fees in the neighborhood of $300 per round. Wailua is a seaside marvel in Kauai at a fifth of the price, around $60 per 18-hole round, and is consistently ranked among the best municipal courses in the country. The front nine is flat and wide open, the back distinguished by gentle elevation changes and boundless ocean views. Host of three U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships, the course is no pushover, but is so popular among locals it can take a good five hours to play. Take a deep breath and chill—you’re in Hawaii.
3. Prairie Golf
Golf cognoscenti are well-aware of the celebrated Sand Hills Golf Club near North Platte, Neb., but fewer know that you can find a similar experience at a fraction of the tally at its public cousin down the road. Set on rolling, sandy terrain, Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg is a great example of minimalist design with wide fairways countered by trickily contoured and speedy greens. Native grasses shimmy in the ever-present wind, and conditions are impeccable all season long. Built for $1.6 million (including the cost of the land), it can be played for around $60 a round, if you walk the course, as its designers intended.
4. Texas Play’em
Better known for musical legends like Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings, Lubbock is also home to architect Tom Doak’s design for Texas Tech University’s Rawls Course. What was once a flat cotton field now features bulldozer-crafted valleys and canyons, after the designer relocated 1.3 million cubic yards of topsoil. With wide fairways and roller-coaster greens, the course is a championship NCAA layout that is as easy on the budget as it is difficult for those trying to break par (blame the strong, prevailing winds.) Sixty-five bucks probably won’t buy you a good rib-eye dinner in Texas. but it will net you four hours of challenging, playable golf.
5. Going Public
Los Angeles locals are lucky to have a Gil Hanse-designed public course in nearby Ventura County, where Rustic Canyon, in Moorpark, Calif., has earned a reputation for its distinctive layout and surprising affordability. Mr. Hanse, who crafted the Rio de Janeiro course for golf’s first Olympic competition, in 2016, transformed this former sheep ranch into a links-style experience that favors the ground game most amateurs prefer over precision, high-trajectory approach shots. Thus, you can putt from the closely shorn turf, even twenty-five yards away from the flagstick. At around $50 a round on weekdays, and with precious few trees to knock down errant shots, Rustic is about as good as public golf gets.
6. A Bit Of The Brit
For those in the know, Michigan is a sleeper golf destination, and Stoatin Brae—Gaelic for “grand hill”—is a terrific example of superior minimalist design in the southwest quadrant of the state. A product of celebrated architect Tom Doak’s Renaissance Design firm, the austere layout is inspired by the great inland courses of the British Isles and part of a six-course roster at Gull Lake View Resort in Augusta, Mich. Perched atop a former apple orchard, Stoatin Brae is windswept and wide open and would easily merit upward of $200 per round if located in a golf hub like Florida or Arizona. Priced at around $50 per 18-hole round during the week, it is a golf miser’s emerald dream.
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