Welcome to the new Golden Age.
Beginning with Francis Ouimet's U.S. Open victory in 1913 and running through the onset of the Great Depression, figures like Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie, A.W. Tillinghast, C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor and others brought golf to the United States in a big way. The total number of courses swelled from fewer than 1,000 to more than 6,000, and included dozens now regarded as among the country's - and world's - best.
A century later, we find ourselves in a new Golden Age of golf course design. The current era will not match the late-1910s and 1920s in volume, but the average quality of course being built at the current moment is unprecedented. Architects like Tom Doak, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, Gil Hanse and a talented up-and-coming crop are busier than ever, crafting fun golf courses on some of the loveliest tracts of land ever set aside for playing this great game. One-off destination clubs like Sand Hills in Nebraska (1995) and golf-above-all-else resorts like Bandon Dunes (1998) continue to influence the landscape, helping it shake off the paradigm of the post-World War II decades, when design substance was often subjugated to style and off-course amenities often received more attention than the golf courses.
Golf's ascendant popularity in recent years has only helped swing the pendulum back toward the courses themselves. The average golfer is more savvy than ever before, armed with insight not just from legacy media but independent critics and social media. Scroll Instagram for five minutes and you'll likely see thousands of likes heaped on photos of lacy-edged bunkers, heaving greens and swaying fescue grasses. The excellence of well-designed golf courses has never been easier to see, and it's never been more readily available.
Course architecture's second Golden Age has been up and running for a few years now, but the middle of the 2020s are particularly packed with exciting new-build projects in exotic locales. These 23 courses opening in 2023 include a complete reproduction of a lost Golden Age masterpiece, a new resort home of one of the game's biggest institutions and an affordable addition to one of Canada's most remote destinations, plus the birth of a new American "super-muni." Given rumblings I've heard, 2024 through 2026 could be even better.
Keeping in mind that exact opening dates can be something of a moving target, here are the best new golf courses to put on your radar for 2023.
12 brand-new American golf courses opening in 2023
PGA Frisco - Fields Ranch East; Fields Ranch West
Architects: Gil Hanse (Fields Ranch East), Beau Welling (Fields Ranch West)
Why have one base of operations when you can have two? The USGA is staffing up in Pinehurst to complement its New Jersey roots, and now the PGA of America has headed West from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida to the suburbs of Dallas to establish an impressive, centrally-located home. The two championship golf courses are ready and will open fully this spring when the on-site Omni PGA Frisco Resort makes its debut. Several championships, including the 2027 and 2034 PGA Championships, are already booked, and a Ryder Cup is all but assured.
Architects: C.B. Macdonald, Tom Doak, Peter Flory, Brian Zager
It's not often that an architect who died 84 years ago gets a new golf course to his credit, but The Lido is no ordinary project. Painstakingly recreated by Tom Doak and his firm with crucial help along the way from historian and computer-aided-design expert Peter Flory and Brian Zager, who helped translate Flory's computer renderings into actionable topographic maps, the course is nearly an exact replica of a no-longer-existent Long Island masterpiece from the first architect who brought sophisticated golf to America. It may seem odd to expect a similar playing experience in Wisconsin as coastal New York, but the new Lido's location next door to Sand Valley Golf Resort in the state's sandy midsection makes it a solid comp, as do the prevailing winds, which blow in the same direction and with similar vigor as they do 1,500 miles east. Open to members and limited resort play starting in the summer, The Lido will be a step back in time whose 21st-century planning method will have a significant effect on how golf courses are designed going forward.
The Tree Farm
New Holland, S.C.
Architects: Tom Doak, Kye Goalby, Zac Blair
Most PGA Tour pros don't play nearly as much golf for fun as Zac Blair does, but the architecture buff has dreamed of building his own place to play when not competing at the highest level. After looking at sites in his native Utah, he settled on a sandy site near Aiken, S.C. for this new private club. With the help of Doak and Kye Goalby (whose father, Bob, won the 1968 Masters nearby), Blair is making his dream a reality in 2023 as he recovers from injury and restarts his PGA Tour career.
Some nice shadows on 5 this afternoon pic.twitter.com/YYMiD6UpYV— Zac Blair (@z_blair) December 13, 2022
Old Barnwell Golf Club
Aiken County, S.C.
Architects: Brian Schneider, Blake Conant
Just a handful of miles away from The Tree Farm, two talented members of Doak's Renaissance Golf stable will make their debut as principal architects with a course that reminds of the British heathlands with a Southern twang. This private club has big future plans; a short course, a middle-ground "holiday course" called The Gilroy and a community-outreach component should come together to make Old Barnwell rock.
The 4th @Old_Barnwell pic.twitter.com/DzRDXFHKPQ— Brian Schneider (@bschneider126) December 17, 2022
West Palm Golf Park
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Architect: Gil Hanse
Yes, much of the recent golf development is higher-end, but municipalities continue to invest in their own golf assets for the benefit of the greater public as well. With a mix of public and private funding, the former West Palm Beach Golf Club is being remade by Hanse and PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh into a third place for locals that also functions as a destination-worthy stop for avid travelers. As is the case at beloved munis like Torrey Pines, TPC Harding Park and Bethpage Black, outsiders will pay steeper rates than locals, helping to subsidize the experience for those who use it most.
Wicker Point Golf Club
Lake Martin, Ala.
Architects: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
Georgia's Reynolds Lake Oconee is most famous for it, but golf along the winding shores of large lakes is a pleasure across the interior South. Two hours southeast of Birmingham, Coore & Crenshaw are finishing up a private club course with several lakefront holes that promises to compare strongly with their excellent, graceful Cuscowilla one state east.
Red Feather Golf and Social Club
Architects: Tad King, Rob Collins
Now that the praise for Landmand is rolling in on top of the plaudits for Sweetens Cove, the firm of King Collins will see their second 18-hole effort come to fruition in '23. Where Landmand's site is huge and hilly, Red Feather's is small (130 acres) and dead-flat, or rather it was until the duo and their band of shapers carved, shoved and massaged 1.3 million cubic yards of dirt around to create a totally new golfscape for the club's members.
Golf Club of Tennessee - Upper Course
Kingston Springs, Tenn.
Architect: Gil Hanse
With a highly-ranked Tom Fazio design already on property, club proprietor David Ingram is expanding the scope of this club thanks to Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner et al. As people flock to Nashville, an already strong private club scene is about to get even better when the hilly Upper Course debuts.
Lost Rail Golf Club
Architect: Scott Hoffman
A longtime Tom Fazio associate, Hoffman is spreading his wings on the solo design front with this passion-project of a private club in Omaha's western suburbs. The routing weaves through rolling hillsides and intimate trees, with a ravine and an old rail line providing character and identity along with some impressive bunkering and exciting greens.
Astor Creek Country Club
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Architect: Chris Wilczynski
Wilczynski, a Michigan-based former Arthur Hills associate, has become something of a snowbird's architect, building a portfolio of enjoyable courses within master-planned housing developments in southwest Florida while he also makes important changes at clubs in his native Michigan (including perennial LPGA host Blythefield Country Club) and neighboring states. Astor Creek is his first solo project along the east coast of the Sunshine State. There, he is honoring the architecture of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor with his interpretation of several of their "template" golf hole concepts. Florida is full of forgettable, boring courses; Astor Creek promises to bring a great deal more personality to the table. Expect the club to take outside play until its membership rolls are filled.
Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake
Architect: Tom Lehman
The 1996 Open Champion is gradually building a solid portfolio of work from Arizona to his native Minnesota. The Cragun's project is big and a little convoluted, but it will ultimately remix 36 holes into 45, including enough brand-new holes across the property for us to call this a brand-new golf course/experience/whatever. At any rate, our managing editor Jason Deegan got a preview and approves of the changes.
New short courses continue to pop up
PGA Frisco - The Swing
Architects: Gil Hanse, Beau Welling
Rounding out PGA Frisco's vertically-integrated golf complex, The Swing is a 10-hole par-3 course co-created by Hanse and Welling. In addition, Hanse's team crafted The Dance Floor, a vast putting course. This complex will serve as an on-ramp for casual golfers, as well as bonus amenities for those already enjoying Fields Ranch East and West.
Sandhill Crane Golf Course - Par 3 course
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Architect: Nicklaus Design
Located within a mixed-use mega-development and adjacent to the city's existing muni, this new 18-holer should provide a mix of fun, player-friendly short holes and more seriously-sized par 3s, including an island-green bonus 19th hole. There is also a golfertainment-style practice facility and 30,000-square-foot putting course being built on site, set to open imminently.
Got a look at some exciting #Munaissance material earlier this week: a new 19-hole par-3 course + 30,000SF putting course in Palm Beach Gardens by @NicklausCo Design/Chad Goetz. Thank you @c_tingen for the tour! pic.twitter.com/PtGNqEuohT— Tim Gavrich (@TimGavrich) October 8, 2022
Promontory Club - The Hills
Park City, Utah
Architects: Forrest Richardson
Promontory already has two big courses - one by Pete Dye and one by Jack Nicklaus - but Richardson, along with design partner Jeff Danner, has brought a fun 18-hole par-3 course to a new complex within the property's 7,200-acre domain that will also include its own clubhouse and practice facility. The Hills is routed over 300 acres, making it one of the most expansive short courses built in recent years, taking advantage of the desert and mountain scenery. But with only 30 acres of turf, it will be efficiently maintained.
7 brand-new international golf courses expected to open in 2023
Te Arai Links - North Course
Architect: Tom Doak
Just down the beach from his Tara Iti course, couched in the dunes, Doak and associates Angela Moser, Brian Slawnik and Clyde Johnson have routed this publicly-accessible course through both dunes and forest landscapes, adjacent to a Coore & Crenshaw effort that opened in the fall of 2022.
Point Hardy Golf Club
Architects: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
The centerpiece of the new Cabot Saint Lucia community and resort promises some of the most epic oceanfront holes in the Caribbean. And given Coore & Crenshaw's attention to detail, you can expect the holes away from the ocean will have plenty of intrigue, too.
Golf La Tempete
Architect: Warren Huxham
This semi-private club half an hour south of Quebec City welcomes a second course in 2023 designed by the brothers, Darrell and Warren Huxham, who laid out its first.
Architect: Les Furber
Located in remote Fort McMurray, four and a half hours north of Edmonton, this Rotary Club-backed project will join the well-regarded Miskanaw Golf Club and Fort McMurray Golf Club when all 18 holes open in the summer (the first nine opened in 2018). In a place where it's light from before 5 a.m. until after 10 p.m. in the evening in summer, it will be possible to play Fort McMurray's 27 holes, Miskanaw's 18 and RotaryLinks' public 18 all in a single day with hours to spare.
La Finca Golf Los Lagos
Architects: Blake Stirling, Marco Martin
"Development hell" is not just a Hollywood concept; it has applied to many golf projects that got going in the mid-2000s and either stalled or died on the vine in the wake of the global recession. This one has been planned since 2006 and will finally debut in 2023, a significant achievement for its two architects, who were Pete Dye associates in the past.
Heritage Golf Club - La Reserve Course
Architects: Peter Matkovich, Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen has always been portrayed as someone who plays great competitive golf to support his love of farming, but the South African is also into design, including this collaboration at this island nation in the Indian Ocean that is expected to host a DP World Tour event as its coming-out party. Heritage's original course is a resort layout, but La Reserve is meant to be a private club within the development.
Worth the wait? We're looking for these 5 previously-mentioned courses to (finally) open in 2023
Golf course opening date estimates are often fluid. Weather plays a big role, as do any number of economic and supply-chain factors, which have been plentiful in the last few years. We have mentioned these courses in previous versions of this report, but they haven't quite fully opened yet. They should this year, though.
Brambles - Middletown, Calif.
This low-key private club with a Coore & Crenshaw course spearheaded by fellow architect James Duncan has taken its time; it has been in development for more than a decade. We announced it in the 2021 version of this article...whoops. At any rate, 2023 looks to be the year golfers tee it up along a valley floor in California's Wine Country.
Ladera Golf Club - Thermal, Calif.
Mentioned last year as "Coachella Golf Club," this super-private course's ownership includes Irving Azoff, famed entertainment exec. Gil Hanse and his band of Cavemen are building the course.
Panther National Golf Club - Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
This Jack Nicklaus/Justin Thomas collaboration - JT's first foray into design - is still a work in progress within a massive mixed-use development called Avenir.
Black Desert Resort - Ivins, Utah
Nine holes are currently open, with limited play, at Tom Weiskopf's final design (in partnership with Phil Smith). The full 18 should be online in the spring.
Terras de Comporta - Portugal
David Kidd's first course in continental Europe has been on-again-off-again since it was first conceived in 2010, but July 2023 looks to be the time when the course finally opens, part of a resort that will eventually be joined by a Jose Maria Olazabal design.