HALF MOON BAY, CALIF.
36 HOLES, 6,732/7,012 YARDS
$125-$145 GREEN FEES
20 MILES FROM SAN FRANCISCO
Right off California's coastal Highway 1, Half Moon Bay offers contrasting 18s. The Old Course was designed by Frank Duane and Arnold Palmer in 1973 and is a residential development layout with 11 water holes, an abundance of sharp doglegs, and country-club lushness. It ends with a dramatic 18th, a cliff-hugging 413-yard par 4 playing south along the Pacific, finishing beneath a magnificent Ritz-Carlton hotel.
The Ocean Course, opened in 1997, is a faux links. Thoughtfully shaped and bunkered, each fairway is edged by tall, golden rough. Some holes offer ocean panoramas, especially the last three along the coastline. Wind is a factor, but wide fairways and generous greens accommodate. When fog and mist roll inland, the Ocean Course is transformed into northern Scotland.PhoenixTROON NORTH G.C.
36 HOLES, 7,028/7,044 YARDS
$75-$275 GREEN FEES
30 MILES FROM PHOENIX
The standards in public golf that prevail at clubs nationwide were established by Troon North: amenities such as bag and locker-room attendants, premium rental clubs, complimentary bag tags and yardage books, pyramids of name-brand range balls, bowls of fruit at the first tee, and a parting gift.
Troon North's two 18s, Monument and Pinnacle, are genuine desert encounters, with fairways and greens integrated into an environment of rocks, boulders, saguaros, yuccas, pinons, and nasty bushes called brittlebrush. A towering rock outcropping is used as a strategic hazard in the fairway on the par-5 third of the Monument Course. Don't mess with it, a player assistant might advise you. That rock is zero percent air.Los AngelesPELICAN HILL G.C.
NEWPORT COAST, CALIF.
36 HOLES, 6,589/6,856 YARDS
$175-$270 GREEN FEES
40 MILES FROM LOS ANGELES
A glorious retreat from the otherwise hectic Orange County lifestyle, Pelican Hill has two 18s just off California's coastal Highway 1, but they're hidden away. The Ocean South Course (Golf Digest's Best New Resort layout of 1992) features several holes within a gorge called Las Tancos Canyon. It's so deep you might lose cell-phone service if it weren't for the plug-in antenna attached to the golf cart.
The younger Ocean North Course sits on a plateau high above the South Course at 300 feet above sea level and features fewer trees and waterscapes, bigger fairways and greens, considerably more wind, and even better views of Catalina Island.San DiegoTORREY PINES G.C.
LA JOLLA, CALIF.
36 HOLES, 6,885/7,607 YARDS
$95-$195 GREEN FEES
20 MILES FROM SAN DIEGO
If a course is known by the company it keeps, then The Ridge at Castle Pines North has the potential to be world-class. It sits next door to Sanctuary Golf Club and just up a Front Range mountain slope from Castle Pines Golf Club, home of the PGA Tour's International event. Sharing similar terrain as those stellar layouts, The Ridge plays through gambel oaks and ponderosa pines, with glimpses of the metropolitan Denver skyline to the north. The ninth tee is aimed at Pikes Peak to the south, with the green some 150 feet below and 450 yards away.
The green on the 175-yard 17th sits beneath a sandstone ridge. On top of that butte are the tee boxes for the short, tight dogleg-left 18th.SeattleTHE G.C. AT NEWCASTLE
36 HOLES, 6,632/7,024 YARDS
$50-$150 GREEN FEES
20 MILES FROM SEATTLE
Former Microsoft executive Scott Oki dreamed of bringing Scottsdale-quality public golf to the slopes above Seattle. His creation, The Golf Club at Newcastle, outdoes Scottsdale. Teaching pros work in shirts and ties. The clubhouse is patterned after a 19th-century English manor. An energetic forecaddie with your name stenciled on the back of his uniform will fix every divot and ball mark and scrub any dirt off your ball before you putt.DenverTHE RIDGE AT CASTLE PINES NORTH
CASTLE ROCK, COLO.
18 HOLES, 7,013 YARDS
$75-$120 GREEN FEES
16 MILES FROM DENVER
Perhaps the most famous municipal golf complex in the United States, Torrey Pines offers 36 holes and has played host to the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational for more than 30 years. The South Course, updated by Rees Jones in 2001, will be the site of the 2008 U.S. Open.
The stunning setting on a high plateau along the Pacific coastline, with fairways and greens strung along ocean bluffs, makes the location ideal for hang gliding. The sight of gliders leaping from the cliffs and drifting along the breeze is worth the price of a green fee.