(Editor’s note: All week long, Golfweek will celebrate the beautiful walk that makes this game great. We continue with a personal look at some of our favorite memories.)
Golf was invented on foot, and it’s still best played that way. Sure, there are times and situations where that golf cart beckons. A modern fleet keeps many older players going round and round, and there simply are days where the heat would chase just about anybody into the shade of a cart’s roof.
But the best of golf is sampled while walking.
This year has been at best a mixed bag for golf, with coronavirus concerns grinding golf to a halt in many states through much of the spring. But in many locations, participation is thriving as players look for any retreat to normalcy. And as states and municipalities have tried to slow the spread of COVID-19, some officials allowed the game to continue with a new yet old mandate: Walking only.
With a few noted exceptions, that’s as it should be.
And with that as a backdrop, welcome to Golfweek’s walking issue. We show the gear you might need, what goes into building a great walking course, how you might lighten the load and more.
And we start it off with some of our favorite walks in golf.
Steve DiMeglio crosses a bridge at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Golfweek
I’ve walked across the Swilcan Bridge and stepped into the Road Hole Bunker at the Home of Golf. Twice ambled through the forest, across the massive sand dunes and along the craggy California coast at Cypress Point Club. High-stepped 190 yards to the green at the 17th hole of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course after my lone hole-in-one – 6-iron, still have the golf ball. But no walk in golf matches the two I’ve taken alongside a caddie wearing white overalls and a green cap. Among the towering Georgia Pines. On a former nursery that became Augusta National Golf Club. Two bucket list jackpots hit when my number came up twice in the media lottery to play the Monday after the Masters – in 2008 following Trevor Immelman’s victory, and in 2017 after Sergio Garcia won the green jacket. From the moment you learn you’re one of the few lucky souls to have the magical number, you walk a bit taller and smile a bit more – and make absolutely sure
the alarm clock goes off and pray the sun is shining on Monday. On those two Mondays, when all the spectator bleachers already have been dismantled and the roars whistling through the pines have faded, the silence blissfully still rings and the colors still burst and one feels like a kid walking into the candy store for the first time. For each round, I never walked slower in my life. Every step was wonderful, and all the pictures from 10 instamatic cameras are still on hand. Each round was the best walk in golf I’ve ever taken, a stroll in an enchanted setting that leads you through history and the wonders of this game.
The view from the third tee at Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes
Golf is full of aha moments. Walk behind the clubhouse at Augusta National – aha, this place is really hilly. Stroll through 16 treelined holes at Harbour Town Golf Links – aha, saltwater. … and there’s the lighthouse. My favorite comes at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, but it might not be the one some players expect, which would be David McLay Kidd’s incredible aha moment on No. 4 at Bandon Dunes, the original course at the resort. After three holes up and down a giant ridgeline, players reach their approach shots on No. 4 to face a downhill shot between towering dunes with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. The scene is perfectly framed. It’s as aha as aha gets. But that isn’t my favorite walk. Maybe because I played the resort’s Pacific Dunes first, my favorite walk on the property is from that course’s second green up a wall of sand to the third tee. After two short par 4s in the dunes, which create a splendid sense of isolation, Tom Doak’s layout opens wide on the perched tee box of the par-5 third. There’s the ocean, finally in view. The cliffs some 500 yards away. Rolling, bouncy terrain. Tall grasses swaying in the breeze. Anticipation. Gorse. The whole gist of the property is laid out in front of you – they could charge double the green fee to use that back tee as a picnic ground. If this is your first round at the resort, this is the introduction to why Pacific Dunes ranks No. 2 on Golfweek’s Best list of modern courses.
The view across 18 fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links Photo courtesy of Pebble Beach
Beth Ann Nichols
If there’s a bigger goose bump walk in golf that’s open to all, I can’t think of it. In fact, a tee time isn’t even necessary. Anyone who’s simply in the area can drive onto Pebble Beach property, pull into the parking lot, walk past a line of boutique shops and the putting green, pop out on the other side of the lodge and – BAM! There’s the 18th green at Pebble Beach and all its splendor. You’ll speed walk up to the little wooden fence and stare at the Pacific Ocean, marveling that it looks as good in person as it does on TV. You’ll watch the players coming up the 18th, picturing yourself there later that day or the next or sometime in the distant future once you’ve saved up. Whether it’s your first time walking out to the 18th at Pebble or your 50th, the anticipation never changes. And each time you’ll find yourself thinking – God, please let it be a clear day.
The only walk in golf better than the one from the 14th green across 17-Mile Drive to the 15th tee at Cypress Point Golf Club in Pebble Beach, California, is the short trek from No. 15 to 16, two of the most scenic par 3s on the planet. That sound you hear? It’s hard to tell if it is the waves crashing against the jutted Pacific coastline or your heart pumping with anticipation. Under a canopy of ancient cypress trees and down a dirt path is a short curve to what may be the most natural and picturesque challenges in golf. Good thing there’s a bench at the tee box, because the site of the 200-plus-yard carry over water will take your breath away. Of course, after you gaze at golf’s pin-up model of a hole, it’s decision time. Sure, there’s room to bail out left, but I didn’t come here to lay up at the 233-yard beauty. Who knows if I’ll ever get another chance to play Cypress again – I had the privilege to do so during my bachelor party – but I do know my video of the walk from 15 to 16 is second only in my heart to the one my bride took a few months later down an aisle.
My favorite walk in golf is short, maybe 75 yards in total, but it involves two holes. As you approach the seventh green at the Maidstone Club in New York, the eighth green is on your left. I always try to take note of it, because after finishing the seventh hole and strolling around a bunker that separates the putting surface from the eighth tee, you face a blind, 155-yard shot over a dune into the wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve been fortunate enough to have played Pebble Beach. Augusta National, the Old Course at St. Andrews and all the courses at Bandon Dunes except the newly opened Sheep Ranch. No tee shot unnerves me more than that little punch 8-iron at Maidstone, yet I adore it. The wispy grasses on the dune never stop bobbing in the wind, there is always a briny smell in the air and if the wind isn’t howling too loudly, you can hear the surf breaking on the beach some 200 yards away. That walk, to finish the seventh hole and play the tee shot
on eight, is my favorite 30 seconds in golf.
No. 1 of the Old Course at St. Andrews Photo courtesy of St. Andrews Links
Pure joy. Excitement. Wonder. Gratitude. Each step off the first tee of the Old Course in St. Andrews sent these powerful emotions rushing through my body. Standing on the tee and looking in all directions, I was struck with the joy and excitement of fulfilling a lifelong dream. The clock on the clubhouse, the Old Tom Morris Shop, the Swilcan Bridge, the rumpled turf that is better than you imagined. Your heart races when you realize you are about to take the walk that has produced so many of the game’s great moments. You see Jack and his yellow sweater. You see Rocca on his knees in the Valley of Sin. Tiger and his triumphant march. You wonder how a course could fit so perfectly with the town? How turf could be this perfect and firm? How a 127 yard-wide fairway could be so terrifying to hit? More than anything, you are grateful. Grateful to share this magical walk with your dad who taught you the game. Grateful that this Old Course is responsible for the career you wanted since you were a kid. Grateful that this place is truly for the people and you can’t think of a better place on earth for a picnic on Sunday.
Julie Williams on the Straits course at Whistling Straits. Photo by Golfweek
I hit a lot of golf milestones playing Whistling Straits in Wisconsin the morning after the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open wrapped up at nearby Blackwolf Run. It was easily the best course I’d ever played. I took a caddie (not my dad) for the first time. Then there were the sheep. We heard them before we saw them – a chorus of jingling bells in the distance. When we topped the next hill, we found the herd shuffling along with bells around their necks. Disgustingly hot temperatures plagued that Women’s Open, but Monday morning was crisp and comfortable. The walk was hilly but the course felt compact. Tall, waving fescue framed the holes perfectly. With someone else toting my bag, I concentrated on the golf. Most of all, I will remember the turquoise shade of Lake Michigan, the backdrop for the whole scene. If you’d dropped me there blind-folded, I’d have sworn we were in the Caribbean. Gwk
This story originally appeard in Issue 3 2020 of Golfweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.