Mike Hill knows his way around a golf course. Director of Golf Operations at Terranea Resort, Mike lives for the sport and takes a great deal of pride in helping guests improve their golf game. Also well traveled, he’s swung a club at some of the finest courses in the country. If you’re on the hunt for a new green to finesse your game, check out Mike’s picks for his top seven to visit.
1. Pebble Beach
This is the quintessential California course and ultimate bucket list track. With the mixture of ocean, trees, and the fantastic restaurants and other natural scenery of the Monterey Peninsula, it’s no wonder that everyone wants to play here. I recently played with my dad and it was one of the most enjoyable rounds that I’ve ever experienced. Even if you don’t play it, make sure to stop by and have a pint at the famous Tap Room and pick up a souvenir from the course that has hosted the most U.S. Open Championships.
Favorite Hole: It’s hard to pick one here, so I’ll pick the most amazing stretch of holes in golf: Holes #4 through #10 run cliff-side along the Pacific Ocean and will test your ability to hit terra firma.
2. Ballybunion – The Old Course
If you plan a trip to Southwest Ireland, be sure to stop by this historic golf course; bring your rain gear and a knock-down shot. The golf in this part of the world is so much different than the typical American golf course. If you’re playing into the wind, a driver may only go 150 yards, then when you turn around and have the wind behind you, a pitching wedge may go 175 yards! It’s a guessing game and so is understanding your caddie’s Irish brogue.
Favorite Hole: Hole #7 is the classic seaside Links hole. It’s a middle-to-longish par 4 that runs right along the ocean. A strong wind is usually blowing off the Atlantic, so sometimes you may need to start your tee shot out over the hazard to have it hit the fairway here.
3. Pinehurst No. 2
Pinehurst is a true golfer’s resort. With eight courses to choose from and a fantastic practice facility, there’s barely enough time to soak up any of the southern charm of this quaint North Carolina town. My favorite is #2 which has also hosted multiple U.S. Opens. Pinehurst #2 has so much history and was designed by Donald Ross. This was also the last place one of my favorite golfers, Payne Stewart, won. There’s a commemorative statue encapsulating the moment that he holed an amazing putt to defeat Phil Mickelson on the final hole of the U.S. Open.
Favorite Hole: Hole #5 is a middle length par 5. The dramatic part about this hole is the green. The entire left hand side of the green runs off into a waste area. It’s an extremely difficult green to hit and a par here is a fantastic score.
4. TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course
Although a newer golf course and so much different than all of the others on my list, The Stadium Course is an amazing golf course to watch the Pros play – and to play yourself. We’ve all seen “the island green” 17th hole and held our breath while watching our favorite golfers try to execute a pressure wedge shot coming down the stretch. I grew up just a few miles north of the course and played a few high school matches there, so it has a bit of nostalgic value for me.
Favorite Hole: While hole #17 is the most famous hole on the course, my favorite is #16. It’s a risk/reward par 5 with water guarding the entire right side of the green. This hole is really a fun one to play and even more fun to watch the pros play.
5. Torrey Pines South
Torrey Pines South is the crown jewel of municipal golf facilities. It has played host to the PGA Tour for many years and has also hosted the 2007 U.S. Open Championship. With amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and the La Jolla coastline, it is one of the few courses where you can play where the pros play.
Favorite Hole: My favorite hole is the par-3, #3 hole. It’s a dramatic downhill shot that plays directly towards the La Jolla Peninsula. Blacks Beach is just past the green, so proper club selection is imperative. There are tons of surfers in the waters below and para-gliders in the skies above. It’s quite a scene, and makes it hard to focus on the task at hand.
6. Bel Air Country Club
This private club is nestled in Beverly Hills where all the A-listers play. The golf course is super fun and plays through several canyons that run through the property. On one fairway, Howard Hughes (aviation mogul and club member) landed his plane when he was running late for a golf date with Katharine Hepburn. It’s these kinds of stories from your caddie that make the round unforgettable. Also, you never know who will be watching you from the men’s grill when you hit your tee shot on #1.
Favorite Hole: The par 3 #10 hole is such a unique golf hole. First, to get from the ninth green to the tenth tee you have to go through a tunnel, then take an elevator up through the hillside to the clubhouse. Once you get to the tee, you’re faced with a 200-yard uphill par-3 over a canyon. There’s a suspension walking bridge that connects the teeing ground to the hole. If you can make a three after all of that, write it down quickly.
7. The Links at Terranea
One of the most unique par-3 golf courses ever built. The golf course flows beautifully with the surrounding land and gives great views of the Pacific from every hole. The wind really plays into club selection and shot selection here. With big undulating greens and only one tree on the golf course, it really plays like its namesake. You will use almost every iron and wedge club in your bag and if you can two-putt every green, you’ll be a happy golfer!
Favorite Hole: The #3 hole at the Links at Terranea is one of the best par-3 holes in Southern California. Named “Captains Bluff,” the 200-yard hole plays out toward Pelican Cove and the Point Vicente lighthouse. The hole faces due west, so you get some amazing sunsets and on a really clear day can see all the way to Santa Barbara Island.