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10 Most Unusual U.S. Golf Courses.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses.

Hi, I’m Mel Sole, Director of Instruction at the Mel Sole Golf School, headquartered at Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club in Pawleys Island, SC.  We conduct 1, 2, and 3-day golf schools, hourly golf lessons, and senior golf schools—any golf instruction program your heart desires. Give us a call at 800-624-4653 or 843-237-4993.  We will be happy to book a commuter school or a package that contains accommodations, golf, and golf school.

Golf Blog by the Mel Sole Golf School.

Unusual golf courses are not uncommon, but some, like these next 10, take it to a whole new level. Nature directs golf course designers with undulations that follow the natural contours of the land. Some architects create magic from the remains of abandoned mines, airstrips, and even huge dinosaur fossil footprints. 

I am most impressed with the story behind Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and Fossil Trace in Golden, Colorado.

Tell me which of these 10 most unusual U.S. Golf Courses you have played and how you rate them.

Thanks to Larry Olmsted of forbes.com for providing this for our entertainment!

These are 10 of the Most Unusual Courses in the US:

Brickyard Crossing, Indianapolis, IN: Plays in and around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses  This definitely fits that category!  The loud roar of an engine and the screech of burning rubber tires are not sounds one usually hears on a golf course. But they are part of the thrill of playing Brickyard Crossing.  A standout Pete Dye design in Dye’s hometown of Indianapolis. Brickyard Crossing is not just anywhere in Indy.  It is in and around the most famous auto racetrack on earth, the Indianapolis Motors Speedway.  Home to the largest single day sporting event in the world, the Indy 500.

When built, half the course was inside the infield of the immense oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, aka the Brickyard.  As race teams needed more modern garages and facilities, room in the infield shrank.  Dye redesigned the course so that now four holes are inside the oval, the rest surround the complex.  Golfers enter and exit through a tunnel beneath the grandstands.  The course is not open on the two big race days, the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.  All year long the track is in use as teams practice, car and tire companies run tests. As a result, golfers hit shots to the sounds and sights of race cars (or motorcycles) tearing down the asphalt at well over 200 MPH. There is no golf experience like this in the world.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses

Golfers hit shots to the sounds and sights of race cars (or motorcycles) tearing down the asphalt at well over 200 MPH. There is no golf experience like this in the world.

Furnace Creek Golf Course, Death Valley, CA.

Set at 214 feet below sea level, in the middle of Death Valley, this is the lowest altitude golf course in the world – and one of the hottest, with summer temperatures spiking to around 130 degrees. Winter is perfect, and it is part of the full service Furnace Creek Resort.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses

Furnace Creek is the lowest golf course on earth. Set in Death Valley, CA

Shadow Creek, Las Vegas:

I’ve written extensively about Shadow Creek here at Forbes.com.  I believe it offers the best luxury golf day experience in the entire country. It is perennially rated among the very best in the nation.  And is the highest ranked public course ever designed by legend Tom Fazio. What makes it unusual? It was built on a parking lot flat desert wasteland.  And when it opened, it was the most expensive course ever built. 

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses  With unheard of earth moving, tree transplants and it was the first course ever completely blanketed in sod rather than seeded. The numbers are stunning.  Fazio transplanted 21,000 fully mature trees, mostly pines and cottonwoods.  Many of them over 30 feet high. The elevation change on the site went from less than six feet to more than 213.  It has streams and even a waterfall.  And is so heavily wooded you usually can’t see one hole from another.

Before it was a barren patch of sand. When you play it, you feel like you are in North Carolina – it’s the ultimate manmade golf course.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses

The best luxury golf day experience in the entire country!

Whistling StraitsKohler, WI

Golf fans know this as the site of two PGA Championships.  And the fourth best public course in the nation on Golf Magazine’s rankings. It is a piece of Ireland or Scotland transplanted to the shores of Lake Michigan.  With towering sand dunes and high rough, rolling and beautiful. But when Pete Dye arrived it was a totally flat army base covered with concrete buildings, gun emplacements, and an airstrip. To turn that into a course that looks like it has been there since before man existed, a course that people come from all over the world to play, is simply amazing.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses

Whistling Straights is regarded as the toughest golf course in America.

Fossil Trace, Golden, CO.

Jim Engh is one of my favorite golf architects and way underrated by the general public.  10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses  Though the industry holds him in high acclaim, he has worked on a lot of unique sites, but even by his standards, Fossil Trace is unusual. Most recently the site, just outside Denver, was a clay mine.  And Engh preserved this history by leaving old rusty pieces of mining equipment alongside several holes. But the real history here is prehistoric.  As in the dinosaurs that tramped through holes 11 to 15 some 64 million years ago, leaving it rich with namesake fossils.  Triceratops footprints have been well marked next to the 12th green so golfers can take a look.  And more fossils, plaster footprint casts, and ancient history are in the clubhouse.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses


Old Works Golf Club, Anaconda, MT.

The infamous Anaconda copper mine ended up being one of the largest Superfund cleanup sites in America. Not only did Jack Nicklaus turn this environmental hazard into a top flight Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, but Nicklaus was able to incorporate many elements of the mining.  Including the smelter, oven, and flue. His use of black slag, the byproduct of copper smelting, to frame the bunkers, was an inspiring touch. There are a lot of former mines and environmentally damaged sites that have been reclaimed by golf, but this is the most dramatic.  And one of the earliest, examples of how golf can be a great environmental boon.

One of the Largest Superfund Cleanup sites in America.

Streamsong, Lakeland, FL.

Another mine site saved by golf, this is very unusual in that the phosphate mining operation that began more than half a century ago produced a giant pile of sand, some 2,000-acres worth, which over time grew grass and formed towering dunes, like a chunk of the Scottish coast dropped in the middle of South Central Florida. Not only is there no site like this in the Sunshine state, there is basically no inland site like this anywhere.  And the developer brought in acclaimed architects Tom Doak and Coore/Crenshaw to craft two layouts.  They both just debuted in Golf Magazine’s US Top 100, a historic first. Forget everything you think you know about Florida if you want to play the state’s two best public courses.

Forget everything you think you know about Florida if you want to play the state’s two best public courses.

Tobacco Road, Sanford, NC

In the Sandhills just outside of famed Pinehurst, this former sand mine, the seminal work of late, great designer Mike Strantz.  Avisionary who did too few courses, of which Tobacco Road is his best.

The site overloads, visually.  At every tee you must decide on various strategic options.  The unbelievable site dictates you options.  A series of raw sandy expanses and pits. The course is the golf equivalent of a cult movie.  Not widely known but those who know it love it. A secondary theme throughout is tobacco farming.  The course has antique implements like rippers, plows and cultivators as tee markers.


This former sand mine  the seminal work of late, great designer Mike Strantz, a visionary who did too few courses, of which Tobacco Road is the best

Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall, Hilton Head, SC.

Often nature directs golf course designers with undulations that follow natural contours of the land. Not so at this 1993 landmark of design.  Acclaimed architect Bob Cupp recast the game in a geometric image.  It features bunkers, tees and greens which formed squares, triangles and rectangles and fairways mounds of near perfect pyramids. The geometric design style never caught on.  But, it lives on today in Hilton Head, America’s first master planned resort.

Acclaimed architect Bob Cupp decided to recast the game in a geometric image with bunkers, tees, and greens that formed squares, triangles and rectangles, and fairways mounds of near-perfect pyramids.

Bay Harbor (Quarry), MI.

Famed designer Arthur Hills created the 27-hole course at Bay Harbor, perhaps his greatest work.  Bay Harbor ranks among the nation’s best. Golfers rate the Quarry nine best of the three.  Before it was a beautiful golf course on Lake Michigan, it was a lakefront eyesore.  A former cement factory, with 60-acres contaminated by kiln dust, and 50 on a defunct quarry, operated here.  Hills and Army Corp of Engineers encapsulated and stabilized the entire site and laid out the gorgeous course, carved through the former quarry, complete with gorges 40-feet deep flanked by stone cliff walls

A former cement factory site with 60-acres contaminated by kiln dust, and 50 that were a defunct quarry.

Source: Forbes.com   Larry Olmsted

Pictures: Forbes.com  Old Works

Thanks for reading 10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses.  I would love to try and play all of these.  A good reason to start another bucket list!

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