SI senior writer Gary Van Sickle took an apologetic tone in a recent e-mail. “Forgot to give you my must-play list,” he wrote. Then he shared his list. Then he apologized again. “I’m sure I left out some big course I haven’t played yet, but this was right off the top of my head and, as you know, there isn’t much left up there.”
He continued: “Colonial? I’ve walked it so many times, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually played it. There’s still eight states I haven’t played golf in, but I’m working on it. Amazingly, Kansas is one of them. Also the Dakotas and most of the Pacific northwest, except Washington.”
Gary drew up his list of “great courses I have yet to play” in response to my own bucket list of must-play tracks, which was, in turn, inspired by “Travelin’ Joe” Passov’s wish list on Golf.com. Gary, like Joe, has played more than a thousand golf courses and, like me, he prefers to change his shoes in the parking lot. That may explain why Gary hasn’t gotten invitations from the most exclusive clubs on his list.
Anyway, here’s Gary’s bucket list:
1. East Course, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa. (“Covered my first U.S. Open there. David Graham beat George Burns.)
2. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore. (“Haven’t been there yet.”)
3. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore. (“The second course. Or is it the third?”)
4. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore. (“Isn’t there one they sing about in kindergarten?”)
5. Sand Hills Golf Club, Mullen, Neb. (“Haven’t been there either.”)
6. Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, Fla. (“If Bob Ford is their pro in the winter, it’s got to be a good club. Hard to believe a course in Florida could be anything special, though. It’s freakin’ Florida.”)
7. National Golf Links of America, Southampton, N.Y.. (“Who doesn’t love windmills? They’re fantastic in miniature golf.”
8. Fishers Island Club, Fishers Island, N.Y. (“Not even sure where it is, but everybody raves about it. I suspect it’s like Tickle Me Elmo. Fantastic when nobody can get one. When the shelves are full of them, it’s just another toy.”)
9. Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pa. (“Bamberger is a member there. Screw him.”)
10. The Camargo Club, Cincinnati, Ohio. (“Reminds me of my favorite knock-knock joke. Who’s there? ‘Argo.’ Argo who? ‘Arrr, go f— yourself.’”
“That’s my American list,” Gary wrote. “I could start talking about all the great courses I’ve missed in Scotland and Ireland, but there’s too many, and it’s just too sad to think about.” And finally, after thinking about it: “Castle Stuart!”
I have played only one of the courses on Gary’s list — Seminole — but four of his wannaplays are in my Top 50. This proves that courses can’t buy or bribe their way into my rankings.* It’s also a good test of Travelin’ Joe’s theory that a golf writer can shorten his bucket list by publishing a Ten-Courses-I-Need-to-Play column. (An invitation to play Prairie Dunes has already fallen into Joe’s hopper. Can Cape Kidnappers be far behind?)
*Although I’m always willing to parse the Top 50 over a sandwich and 7up at the halfway house of any course in GOLF Magazine’s Top 100.
I, meanwhile, have heard nothing from Indian Army 9-Hole Golf Course (Ladakh) or any of the other courses on my own wish list, posted a couple of weeks ago. Is it too soon to write my Ten-Most-Overrated-Golf-Courses column?
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the European Tour has confirmed that Castle Stuart Golf Links of Inverness, Scotland, will the new venue for the Scottish Open. The Eurotour’s decision was almost certainly driven by two-year-old Castle Stuart’s Top-10 ranking in this space. In appreciation, the technical staff at Catch Basin has boosted Castle Stuart two rungs to No. 7, replacing Pebble Beach Golf Links as the world’s best cliffside course. The Cal Sci Algorithm will be jiggered to reflect the change.