THE TRIBUTE G.C.
THE COLONY, TEX.
18 HOLES, 7,002 YARDS
$50-$105 GREEN FEES
20 MILES FROM DALLAS
This is a replica course that definitely flatters the originals. The Tribute starts and finishes with dead-on versions of the first and last two holes of the Old Course at St. Andrews, complete with a Swilcan Burn, Road Hole bunker, and Valley of Sin. Royal Troon's Postage Stamp par 3 gets the royal treatment, and the par-5 15th captures the menacing stacked-sod bunkers of the 14th at Western Gailes.
Presiding over this prize layout is an English Tudor clubhouse, done in authentic old-country colors of mustard yellow with white trim and red shingles. Inside the Old Tom Morris Pub are benches and chairs, and many kinds of Scottish ales. One floor above the grand ballroom are eight guest suites, each with different imported décor and each dedicated to a famed Open site.
27 HOLES, 6,959/7,301 YARDS
$50-$65 GREEN FEES
10 MILES FROM HOUSTON
Occupying what once was the Gleannloch Arabian horse farm northwest of Houston, Gleannloch Farms is a 27-hole complex that still has reminders of its heritage. Horseshoes serve as tee markers, there's an equestrian center on the property, and riding trails wind through the pines and hardwoods near many of the holes.
The course is one of the best of veteran Houston designer Jay Riviere. Gently shaped to give movement to the flat terrain, it takes advantage of both natural features and man-made ones. A creek wanders the Loch nine, crossing the ninth fairway at a most strategic spot. Gleannloch Farms features some dramatic green contours and is seriously bunkered, as might be expected from a golf course architect who spent time as an assistant golf pro at Winged Foot Golf Club.
HAVRE DE GRACE, MD.
18 HOLES, 7,375 YARDS
$145 GREEN FEES
30 MILES FROM BALTIMORE
A decade ago the 500-acre horse farm that was once home to legendary thoroughbred stud Bulle Rock was scheduled to become a Formula One racetrack, so neighbors were ecstatic when a new owner chose to use the property for the more genteel pastime of golf. But if architect Pete Dye has any say, his Bulle Rock design some day will generate massive crowds. The closing hole is an amphitheater just itching to cater to a gallery of thousands for a major tournament.
For now Bulle Rock remains a daily-fee hideaway where play is limited to enhance the experience. The layout ranks as one of Dye's best, and holes test every club in the bag. Greens are generous but guarded and always offer an accessible portion for high-handicappers. Unless your game is of major-championship caliber, stay away from the 7,375-yard back tees, where Bulle Rock can be a rock-solid bully.
LAUREL SPRINGS G.C.
18 HOLES, 6,804 YARDS
$72-$90 GREEN FEES
30 MILES FROM ATLANTA
Someday it may be strictly private, but for now the semiprivate Jack Nicklaus-designed Laurel Springs Golf Club offers some of the best public golf in northwest Atlanta. It's a residential-development course that doesn't feel like it, with homes (most priced at $500,000 or more) tucked off to the sides, up slopes, and back in the trees. Nicklaus calls this one of the prettiest courses he has designed. Four of the five par 3s play over water hazards, ranging from a stone-littered creek to a tiny but deep pond.
With shapely but shallow bunkering and greens that are accessible, Laurel Springs is one of the most playable courses Nicklaus has done.
FALCON'S FIRE G.C.
18 HOLES, 6,901 YARDS
$75-$130 GREEN FEES
3 MILES FROM ORLANDO
Three miles from the front gate of Walt Disney World, this land was once earmarked for another theme park. In the 1980s the idea was replaced by the planned 600-acre Seralago development featuring hotels, homesites, and shopping surrounding a first-class golf course. Falcon's Fire Golf Club was built first in 1993 and received immediate acclaim. Other developments have gradually followed.
The course is one of the most imaginative from architect Rees Jones, with a million cubic yards of earth reshuffled to create humps, hollows, and hills. A regimen of 14 pot bunkers dominate the left of the 13th hole, dubbed "Bunker Hill."