Golf Crusade's Best of Lists for 2020
Right out of the gate, we acknowledge that 2020 sucked, right? No need to dive deeper on that! While it was a draining year on any number of levels, golf as a game thrived. Rounds were up at your local public course and country clubs had full tee sheets despite not many being able to welcome guest play for some (or all of) the year too.
Whether you're new to the game, picked it back up after some time away or set records for the amount of golf courses you played this year, we would like to say thanks for finding your way to us. We hope any of the content we produced helped you think, laugh, admire a course on your golf journey or maybe helped you escape a difficult time, if even for a fleeting moment of Zen.
Since we're just a couple of golf bums and do this for fun, we can't afford 'awards' to hand out, so we just recap the year with a series of lists highlighting the best of a number of categories. Additionally, since we were not really able to travel very far from home, we had the opportunity to replay a few extra courses than we maybe otherwise would not have done given the choice to play new courses.
Keep in mind our goal is to play one new course per month, per man. That said, we were still able to add twenty-five new courses to the map and replay eleven others, giving us thirty-six courses to choose from this year. We each face significant drives to play new courses these days, so to pull off what we did this year, we consider a notable achievement. Whether you're a course collector on a quest like us or just picking the game up, goals always help guide your journey. Set some! GET SOME!
Lesson over. Commence fun! Let's get into our 'Best of Lists' for the worst year ever!
Here is the format. Only change this year is that for the Rapid Fire Round, we are opening that up to any course we played this year, not just new courses. We each picked a winner for each category so you get twice the bang for your free read.
Best Alternative Golf Facility
Best New Public Course
Best New Private Course
Rapid Fire Round - Random Best in Show Categories
Best Of What's To Come
In the words of the great Miles Lane... "Let's get it on!"
[Photo Viewing Note: Click on any image to expand. Mobile photo viewing experience can vary based on phone, so tablet/laptop/desktop recommended for optimum pleasure]
We kick things off with a really competitive category! We probably replayed more than usual due to the lack of travel, so there was a lot of inventory from which to choose.
The Virginian was awesome to see again and will be a prime candidate when we go back in 2021 (after the bunker renovation is complete and hotel is open!). Graysburg Hills really shined after we went back for the first time in five years. The Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech got a run after many years away as well. Mountain Glen in the NC High Country, Dunes West down in the SC Lowcountry and Hickory Knob State Park Resort outside of Augusta would all be contenders in any other year too.
But just like Christopher Lambert used to say, "There can be only One." If you've never watched the movie Highlander, we realize you have no idea what we're talking about. Guess we can't use that since we pick two anyway. We digress... our Best Replays of 2020 are:
Dooner | Blowing Rock Country Club | Blowing Rock, NC BMAC | Caledonia Golf & Fish Club | Pawley's Island, SC
You can't get any different than these two. Blowing Rock CC (1915) sits high atop the Appalachian escarpment in the town of the same name. Three giants of Golden Age golf course architecture put their mark on this course. Donald Ross, Seth Raynor and Charles Banks all have their fingerprints on it. The club has embraced the Raynor-style after it was relatively recently discovered that Raynor worked on-site. Kris Spence has renovated some of the 'modern' holes back in the template style and it has paid huge dividends in our eyes. I'd join this course in half a minute if I lived in town!
We also have a series of videos pinned to our Instagram profile of four of the Raynor ghost holes that were closed due to highway construction years ago. It's narrated (poorly) to give you the tour of what once were the first four holes of the original nine hole course at BRCC.
In stark contrast, Mike Strantz built Caledonia in 1994. It was his first design (which you probably know if you read this site and know our affinity for his portfolio). In short, it's magic. Well inside the Top 100 of whatever kind of list it qualifies for, it was only our second spin on the course and first with a real camera. It was the dormant season, but it doesn't matter. Anytime you can play here, you should.
Best Alternative Golf Facility
We added this category last year to catch all the different kinds of golf activities outside of the traditional 18 hole golf course. This encompasses your standard par-3 courses, creative short courses, executive and 9-holers, TopGolf, indoor simulator facilities and anything else we come across we deem worthy enough to take some pics and share our experiences.
We had quite a few nominees this year - all from Dooner's end. With all apologies to English teachers, I'm switching to the first person for this one.
Between weather, work, family and the Corona outbreak in the Spring, it was a late start to the 'new course' golf season this year. I had come up with the idea to make the 100-mile drive each way to Knoxville to play all four of their par-3 courses in one day. Turns out, it was pretty awesome to pull off and still be home for dinner and not have the locks changed on me for playing 4 courses in one day! Williams Creek was first - an 18-hole, Tom Fazio designed par-3 course. The Loop, a 3-green, 2-flag, 3-tee, 18-hole combo course at Fairways & Greens Golf Center was next. The day finished up at the city-owned Concord Park and Beverly Park courses, both 9-hole par-3 tracks focused on youth golf.
A couple weeks later I followed that up with the 18-hole executive course at Sugar Mountain (NC) Resort which was recently voted the 2nd best short course in the country in a GolfAdvisor release. The shorts finished up with a double dip in the Roanoke area, playing the 9-hole Brookside Par3 (has lights!) and Salem Golf Couse, a 9-hole muni pasture complete with old-school sand greens!
This time, we'll take Christopher Lambert's advice. Our Best Alt Golf Facility for 2020 is:
THE LOOP at Fairways & Greens Golf Center | Knoxville, TN
Fairways & Greens would have been a contender on its own as it belongs to an elite club of the Top 50 stand-alone driving ranges and practice facilities in the country. It's also private, but they do offer out of towners a day pass for $20. I thought it was going to be a bit of an overpay to play "3 holes", but I couldn't have been more wrong. It was awesome, creative and incredibly imaginative. To read more about it, check out the recap of the day we played all the Knoxville Par-3s here. Check out some of the cool views below (sorry for the crappy iPhone photos).
Best New Public Course
While I, Dooner, played the majority of new public courses this year, nothing stood out given that they were just the closest to me. BMAC, however, hit the jackpot with his haul and as a result, I cede the entire category to him.
TRUE BLUE GOLF CLUB | Pawley's Island, SC
Scrubby...scrappy...sandy...all words to consider a compliment when applied to a golf course. True Blue was really a gift this year. Stunning par 3s, double greens and hazards galore make this Pawleys Island gem worth the visit. Mike Strantz's fourth design, it is miles away in form compared to its sibling across the street, Caledonia.
Best New Private Course
This category brings the thunder this year baby! The contender list is full of heavyweights and a couple of courses that punch above their profile. This one wasn't decided until these words were typed!
The heavyweights included in this category include
- The Country Club of Charleston, fresh off their hosting duties for the '19 US Women's Open
- Musgrove Mill, a challenging brute in the South Carolina Midlands that once hosted the ACC Men's Championship
- Currahee Club, a mountaintop marvel with 50-mile views of the North Georgia Mountains
- Champion Hills, home course of the man who built it, Tom Fazio.
Throw in Blacksburg Country Club (the underdog in the bunch, that packs that punch so well above its weight that it's members may not want us talking about the gem that they have in the hills of Hokie Country) and you have a pretty fearsome fivesome from which to choose!
It was hardly as easy as A-B-C, but we'll take 'C':
BMAC | Country Club of Charleston | James Island, SC Dooner | Currahee Club | Toccoa, GA
CC of Charleston lays out all the classic templates in impeccable condition butting up to Charleston Harbor and its marshy edges. Although not long off the tee, finding yourself on the wrong part of the green will make your day a long one. Pro tip: hit it close on the Redan Par 3 11th because long, short, left and right are dead. BMAC knocked it to about 25' and still managed to walk off with bogey. Well played BMAC!
Currahee took Dooner's top spot, but man it was hard not to pick Blacksburg. The similarities between the two are many. While the front nine at Blacksburg makes an incredible first impression, the back nine at Currahee leaves a lasting one. Our Best New Public winner last year (for each of us) was Royal New Kent - Mike Strantz's ode to Irish links golf. The back side at Currahee - designed by Jim Fazio - might as well be a third nine at RNK. Given Strantz's extensive time spent with Tom Fazio, there stands good reason that a common bond exists between the three architects.
Rapid Fire Round
[Category | Dooner's Pick | BMAC's Pick (appears as top/bottom on mobile devices)]
Best Opening Hole | Currahee Club | Musgrove Mill
Best Par 3 | Currahee Club #17 | True Blue #3
Best Par 4 | Blacksburg CC #8 (VA) | Hanging Rock #14 (VA)
Best Par 5 | Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech #3 | Musgrove Mill #3
Best Tee Shot | Lakeview Resort (WV) #7 | Champion Hills (NC) #13
Best Approach | Blacksburg #8 | Caledonia #13
Best Greens (Architecture) | Blowing Rock CC (NC) | CC of Charleston (SC) not pictured
Best Tee Markers | Williams Creek (TN) | Caledonia (SC)
Best Clubhouse (View Of) | Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech | Caledonia
Best Clubhouse (View From) | Musgrove Mill (SC) both picked this one!
Best Locker Room | Champion Hills (NC)
Best Risk/Reward Shot | Every Par 4 tee shot at Sugar Mountain (NC) (both photos) | 4th at Hickory Knob State Park (SC) (not pictured)
Weirdest Thing on Course | Sand Greens at Salem (VA) | Holes crossing state line at Farmstead Golf Links (SC/NC)
Coolest Thing on Course | Waterfall next to #8 Tee at The Rock (SC)
Best Hazard | Cemeteries at Blowing Rock #15 & Smoky Mountain CC (TN) #4 |
Fog at Williston CC (SC)
Best Halfway House | Blowing Rock
Best Practice Green | Johnson City CC (TN) | Champion Hills (NC)
Best Stairs (follow our buddy @golf_stairs)
Best Bridges (follow our buddy @golfbridges)
Best Walk from Cart to Green | Champion Hills #15
Best Signs | Johnson City CC | Williston CC
Best Clock Game
Best Flags | Currahee | Musgrove Mill
Best Mascot | Champion Hills' Blackbear | Farmstead's Rooster
Best Action Shots of People with whom we Played | Thanks to our Instagram Fam! In no particular order: @hsctigr @traveling_golfer @andrewdyer423 @kmrnkelly @thepersimmonprince @palmetto_golfer @warrend09 @a.k.barker @codynelson81 @strantzfantzclub @chriskrugergolf @wes_buckles @ndsiler @statsick @erichorvath1 @haganrhensley @bertgore
Best Barns, Farms or Silos | Graysburg Hills (TN)
Best Finishing Hole Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech Farmstead (767 yd Par 6 going from SC to NC in the process)
Best of What's to Come
Back in 2019 - man that seems like a long time ago - we put out a call on a whim to come play with us on a trip out to Royal New Kent. We called it "The Iron Maverick" and wound up making about about 50 new friends from nine states in a one day, 36 hole Mike Strantz themed golf event in Virginia! We had designs on an event in 2020, but we know that song and dance by now. Since we missed it, we figure we have to make up for the loss by doubling down in 2021.
Well, let this serve as the official teaser of what's coming...
SAVE. THE. DATES. September 27th AND 28th. Go ahead and take off the 29th too if you have to travel home the following day, because you want want to miss a minute of daylight for what we've got planned. Speculate all you want, we won't make you wait long...
Until that time comes, be safe, be healthy and get that time off in September! We'll see you in 2021.
Dooner & BMAC