#GolfCrusade's Best of 2019
Updated: Jan 3
Hello Friends. ...Man I hope we don't have to pay Jim Nantz for that.
Oh the places we've been... For a couple of (nearly) forty year old dudes - each with our own non-golf playing spouses, young kids and careers - getting to play as much golf and as many courses as we do, consider us lucky. We certainly do!
We've been on this journey for a long time, but since launching The Golf Crusade just 19 months ago, we've been fortunate enough to have played fifty-six new courses and revisit another couple dozen others. Wonder how we do it? Start a golf site and make the focus playing 1000 courses!
No seriously. That's helped a ton. We've met tons of great new friends that support us and fuel the fire to play the long game! It's also helped legitimize some hall passes from the wives in that it's for a purpose... at least that's what we believe.
It's also opened our eyes beyond a standard 18-hole round. To play that many places, you sometimes have to take the road less traveled. We'll enjoy a nine or even six hole course as much as we do playing a championship track. It certainly helps the time constraint, especially while on the road traveling.
That's not to say we are putting the big boys on the shelf though, so without further a do, we proudly present The Golf Crusade's Best of 2019 Lists, as well as some of the places we look forward to visiting in 2020.
Best Alternative Golf Facility
Best New Public Course
Best New Private Course
Rapid Fire Round (New Superlatives!)
Best Of What's To Come
This category broke down pretty evenly as to who played what... We each replayed four courses with BMAC adding a 5th that Dooner had previously visited. BMAC had more variety in his plays, so we're yielding this category to him this year. The nominees are...
Plantation Preserve - Plantation, FL
Yeamans Hall Club - Charleston, SC
Laurel Island Links - Kingsland, GA
Atlanta National - Milton, GA
At first glance, nearly all our of half-dozen loyal readers would probably pick Yeamans Hall in a landslide. However, when you pay the unaccompanied rate for punched greens and top dressed fairways, it tends to slide down the list. Not that it isn't awesome - because it is - it just wasn't the best course we replayed this year.
Two Georgia courses were contenders this year. Atlanta National (left desktop/top mobile) was replayed on a much better day than the previous year's visit - which felt more like the Ice Bucket Challenge than a round of golf - so the photos revealed a lot more about the course's challenges and visceral charm. Down on the southern coast, Laurel Island Links is a coastal marshlands Davis Love III muni-design that has you thinking at the turn that its one of the best values in the southeast.
However the other half-dozen subscribers may know BMAC's affinity for Plantation Preserve and thus tops this year's BEST REPLAY List. It checks all the boxes for us: hidden gem, value,
good price, conditions and shot-making.
And as you can see, it's pretty easy on the eyes too! Maybe with the earnings (haha... earnings?) they take home from this win, they can upgrade their website. We know some guys that have some decent photos of the course we'd be happy for you all to use!
When in the Ft. Lauderdale area - drop in and thank us later! For now, enjoy a few of the best from an early trip down to South Florida.
Best Alternative Golf Facility
This is a new category for us in year two. We used 'facility' strategically in the title to make it a catch-all for all things golf not included in a traditional 18-hole course. This incorporates, but is not limited to, short courses, driving ranges, mini-golf, TopGolf, Par-3 Courses, 9-holers and indoor facilities. Our nominees here are...
TopGolf - Fort Worth, TX
GolfAMPLIFIED - Kingsport, TN
Independence (Short) - Midlothian, VA
The Cairn at McLemore - Rising Fawn, GA
Orchard Trace (Par 3) - Hendersonville, NC
The Golf Village - Pineville, NC
Lauderhill Golf Course - Lauderhill, FL
There were also a couple 9-holers we didn't even mention here. Needless to say, we enjoy experiencing the game in other ways. These are all legit contenders to top the list, but let's trim it down to a few.
While TopGolf is cool, they're virtually all the same, so we're going to drop them off. The Golf Village (Dooner) and Lauderhill (BMAC) were nice additions to our roster. Even if the conditions there prohibit them being best in class, it doesn't mean they're not fun as hell and worth a play with lower expectations (because at less than $10 each, they definitely are!).
That gets us down to a more manageable four facilities to breakdown. Each is highlighted below with a photo followed by what we (and others) think makes these places so cool!
GolfAMPLIFIED - PGA Chris Woods has taken a space that once housed a resort's winery and turned it into one of the hottest & fun entertainment venues in Northeast Tennessee. The welcoming warehouse-esque venue is outfitted with clubfitting services, merchandise, PuttView (pictured above) & Full Swing Simulator (40+ courses from which to choose) tech in their own spaces, plus tons of TVs and tunes to provide good times for lessons, clinics, solo work or private parties (BYOB!). Our good buddy @matthewalawess stopped in for a sample. He promptly added a PuttView to his Christmas list (photo credit to him as well).
Independence Golf Club (Short Course) - Midlothian, VA - picked this one up as a warm up to the IRON MAVERICK weekend in Richmond. Cool little 9-hole 'true par-3' course versus a 'short'. The difference makers here were two-fold. 1.) Tom Fazio designed it and is beautifully maintained & 2.) It has THREE cups on each hole, one standard, one 8" junior and one Footgolf located putting surface adjacent. Very cool and inclusive theory that supplements a championship-level Fazio offering in the front of the property.
The Cairn at McLemore - Rising Fawn, GA - Bill Bergin & Rees Jones created a new 18th hole when they renovated an old course on Lookout Mountain just south of Chattanooga. It was needed since the old 18th green was to be the site of a new clubhouse (coming in 2020). In doing so, it rendered the corridor leading up to it useless. Bergin laid out a six hole shorty with an open concept, giving you ability to play cross-country or in large groups if desired. Since the course primarily caters to members, this is a dynamite edition with big views to settle some big bets (perhaps?).
Orchard Trace Golf Club - Hendersonville, NC - If this course were a beer, it would be Dos Equis. We would be playing the role of the Most Interesting Golfers in the World. It'd go something like this... "We don't get to play golf together often, but when we do, we play all night at Orchard Trace." This is a legit 18-hole par-3 golf course design (even if past its prime). Best of all... it obviously has lights! The conditions could use the benefit of more revenue, but the guy who runs it (and built it) is a treasure. Please support him and Orchard Trace if ever in Western North Carolina! PLEASE! (note: it is a cash-only facility)
So who wins? Well, since this is our site and we make the rules, we are declaring the entire foursome of facilities BEST IN CLASS FOR ALTERNATIVE GOLF FACILITIES for 2019. I believe this is where Matt Damon plasters a girl's phone number on the window and says, "How you like 'dem apples?"
Here's a further taste of the quartet of the best in the #ALTGOLF realm...
And here's Matt following the read at the PuttView at GolfAMPLIFIED:
Best New Private
How can you not have love for Mike Strantz's only private design? Bulls Bay Golf Club in Awendaw, South Carolina has been on our radar for years, not to mention it resides 22.9 miles from BMAC's front door. Our 'crusade' definitely opened this door for us and it was one we went through humbly.
The clubhouse seems to be the main character out there, as it is seen from 15 holes. However that doesn't mean the course itself only plays a supporting role. BMAC states at least 3 holes out there should be on a list of 'best holes in America' (We're looking at you Golf Magazine). Those would be numbers 9, 14 & 18 respectively. Lots of elevation changes and water throughout, this course is truly unique in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. We also give extra style points for the sand cart paths/waste areas.
First class views, first class conditions and first class weather make for a truly remarkable experience. As it has been said before, if you get an invite - GO!
Fun fact, every year Bulls Bay hosts 'The Hootie at Bulls Bay' for some of the nations top college golfers. This event is open to the public so it is a great way to get out there and see the course for yourself. We did! And while we didn't bump into Darius Rucker, we still got to witness some of the best college players and walk along the hallowed grounds step-for-step.
Best New Public
We love the fact that some high-end clubs that have attached resorts offer stay-and-play options for non-members. It's a really cool way to experience some amazing courses that most people only dream about. However, we don't consider those true public courses.
That asterisk rules out some strong contenders that would otherwise be on some major publication's radars (Linville, McLemore & Lake Toxaway being the three main players).
If you follow us regularly, you probably know that really just leaves one course it could possibly be... and this one doesn't need the asterisk!
Royal New Kent Golf Club - Mike Strantz's follow up to Caledonia that earned Golf Digest's Best New Upscale Public Course in America in 1996 - now add's The Golf Crusade's Best New Public in 2019. Their marketing hook - "Golf Ireland in Virginia" - is right on the money. Strantz toys with your mind off nearly every tee and the grounds crew has this course on absolute fire just a few months after being resurrected from closure.
It's a rock star golf course in every sense. It made for the perfect venue and reason for our first event - THE IRON MAVERICK - this past September. Fifty players from nine states, playing thirty-six holes in four different formats, on one bad ass golf course on one perfect fall day. So good. Do yourself a favor and get there.
Rapid Fire Round
Twenty superlatives that define the Best of the Best of the little things you remember about a course or a trip to the company you keep or meet. Let's go!
[Category - Dooner's Pick | BMAC's Pick (followed by photos of each)]
Best Opening Hole - Golden Apple (Stephens City, VA) | Royal New Kent
Best Par 3 - Linville #9 | Hickory Knob #6 (McCormick, SC)
Best Par 4 - Lake Toxaway #2 | Bulls Bay #9
Best Par 5 - Royal New Kent #5 (both)
Best Tee Shot - Lake Toxaway #4 | Royal New Kent #14
Best Approach - Achasta #9 (Dahlonega, GA) | Plantation Preserve #9
Best Greens (condition) - Royal New Kent (both)
Best Greens (architecture) - Lake Toxaway | Yeamans Hall Club (suckers for square greens)
Best Tee Markers - Linville | Bulls Bay
Best Clubhouse (view) - Gettysvue (Knoxville, TN) | Bulls Bay
Best Cart Paths - McLemore | Bulls Bay
Best Hazard - "The Wall" at Linville Land Harbor #17 | Atlanta National #14
Best Risk/Reward - Royal New Kent #2 | White Columns #15 (Milton, GA)
Weirdest Thing on Course - Telescopes at Linville Land Harbor (NC) | Bridge & Stairs to Nowhere at Bulls Bay (Astute Ghostbusters fans would know Bill Murray would love these!)
Best Beer Cart or Snack Shack - Independence (VA) | Grande Oaks (Caddyshack!!)
Best Putting/Practice Green - Clarksburg (WV) | Royal New Kent
Best Stairs (follow our friend @golf_stairs on IG) - McLemore | Bulls Bay
Best Bridges (follow our friend @golfbridges on IG) - Achasta | Grande Oaks (Davie, FL) | Rivertowne (Mt. Pleasant, SC)
Best Finishing Hole
(Dooner) - McLemore (arguably the best inland finishing hole in the United States. Disagree? Find us another one more dramatic than this and we'll share it)
Best Finishing Hole
(BMAC) - Bulls Bay
Best Day of Golf - THE IRON MAVERICK at Royal New Kent (Newly minted #7 Course in Virginia - GolfAdvisor.com)
Best Of What's To Come
Like any with a goal would do, you have to have a to-do list. Some are places we've had on our respective wish lists for quite awhile, others we may have seen driving by and stopped to snap a few pics to marinate on over the winter.
True Blue (above) - Pawley's Island, South Carolina
Shaftesbury Glen - Conway, South Carolina
Stonehouse - Williamsburg, Virginia
Spring Creek (above) - Charlottesville, Virginia
Chattanooga, Tennessee (Sweetens Cove, Lookout Mountain (pictured), Black Creek Club, Chattanooga G&CC, and about half a dozen more...)
Old Toccoa Farm - Blue Ridge, Georgia
Highlands, North Carolina - anything there will do - pictured is Highlands CC
Iron Maverick II - Stay Tuned (dates & location in early '20)!
Thank you for being a part of the journey! If you're ever in our areas, please let us know if you're teeing it up while in town. We love hearing from folks that are travelling somewhere new and need a good reco on where to go. Keep us top of mind - we haven't steered anyone wrong yet!
Until the next time...
BMAC & Dooner
Your Golf Crusaders