From Bandon to Pinehurst: Six must-play short golf courses, Part I

One of our favorite trends over the last few decades is the emergence of the short course.  For any golfer that has ever been on a golf vacation, you know the constant mental battle that occurs during the planning process of how to maximize your schedule to squeeze in as many holes as possible, all while not overdoing it to the point where you can’t walk the next day. 

Insert the short course.  The perfect addition to your golf itinerary, a leisurely stroll around a shorter, fun design can be the perfect way to add on more golf to your morning 18 holes, or serve as a great way to get on the course if you arrive close to sunset or need to catch an early flight.  

Many of the best resorts in North America have embraced this concept, and we’ve selected a few of our favorites to share with you. And we’ve got a few more to come in our second part.

The Cradle at Pinehurst (top) and Big Cedar’s Top of the Rock (above)

Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes Resort 

Ocean vistas, the genius of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, thick fescue rough, and the ability to tee off with a putter all highlight one of the best short courses in the world at Bandon Preserve.  

This course is far from an easy pitch-and-putt as this 13-hole design will test all facets of your game.  And for a bit of fun, feel free to hit your putter off of the 109-yard 13th hole, as the ball will bound all the way down to the green if played correctly!  This course is a ball striker’s dream, as the undulating greens are highly protected by difficult bunkers and steep run-offs, placing a premium on finding the green with your tee shot. 

This course features some of the best views on the property of the Pacific Ocean, and ensuring you fit this into your Bandon Dunes itinerary is an absolute must during your trip.  As if there weren’t already enough reasons to love this course, all net proceeds go to the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance that supports conservation, community, and economy on the Southern Oregon Coast serving as yet another example of how the team at Bandon Dunes does it right across the board.

Bandon Preserve

Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge 

This 9-hole, par-3 course is stunning, and it took the main stage when the Champions Tour brought the Bass Pro Shops Legend of Golf Tournament to this Jack Nicklaus Signature design making it the first ever par-3 course to host a professional championship. Hole after hole you’ll be blown away by Top of the Rock, with the variety as the course provides an incredible array of holes that will leave you captivated from start to finish.  We could go on and on about this course, but the exclusive drone footage we’ve captured for you here does the course more justice than our words can provide.

The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort  

The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort represents everything that is right about the game of golf.  Located right off the main clubhouse at Pinehurst Resort and designed by the one-and-only Gil Hanse, The Cradle is a 9-hole short course that features holes that range from 56 to 127 yards, and for a mere $50 you can play this course, while kids 17 and under can play for free with an accompanied paying adult (two kids maximum per paying adult).  It is the only course on property that does not require you staying onsite in order to play it, and it’s a testament to Pinehurst Resort’s dedication to growing the game and giving golfers of all skill levels a welcoming place to come enjoy one of the game’s most special destinations for an incredibly low cost.  As a bonus, be sure to slide over and play the 18-hole putting course Thistle Dhu which is modeled after the Himalayas Course at the Old Course at St. Andrews and is free to play for resort guests.

The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort

The Baths at Blackwolf Run at Destination Kohler 

The last great present bestowed on the golfing public by the iconic Herb Kohler Jr., The Baths at Blackwolf Run at Destination Kohler provide the perfect fifth installment to the golfing itinerary for a golf vacation at this legendary resort.  This 9-hole par-3 course has four water features that you’ll find throughout your round that serve as “baths” meaning that you can literally go in the water, and it is the result of Mr. Kohler and Pete Dye disciple Chris Lutzke’s design.   A premium is placed on accuracy here as the greens are extremely tricky and will require all of your attention to score here.  There’s also a putting course located onsite here that has an 18- or 27-hole routing where you can enjoy a beverage or two while capping off a perfect day at Kohler.

The Baths at Blackwolf Run

Sunriver Resort: Caldera Links Course 

Designed by the team of Bob Cupp and Jim Ramey – the same team that created the resort’s flagship Crosswater Course – the Caldera Links Course at Sunriver Resort in Bend, Oregon, is a perfect warm-up course or additional round to add to your day during a visit to this incredible property.  With holes ranging from 100 to 172 yards, the course is maintained at the same high standard you’ll find across the resort and features undulating greens with some tucked pins available to test the better player if they decide to fire at the pins here.  With the stunning landscape of Mount Bachelor in the background, you’ll be glad you fit this 9 into your stay-and-play package at Sunriver Resort.

Caldera Links at Sunriver Resort

Mountain Top at Big Cedar Lodge 

As if one short course beauty wasn’t enough, the team at Big Cedar Lodge also provides their guests with another epic short course design with the Mountain Top course.  Designed by the iconic Gary Player in conjunction with the resort’s owner and celebrated conservationist Johnny Morris (who also founded Bass Pro Shops and is still their CEO today), this 13-hole par-3 course features several infinity greens and pristine backdrops of the Ozarks that make you feel like you are one with nature.  You’ll find yourself immersed in incredible rock formations that the team carefully excavated through thousands of man hours with a pick and a shovel revealing 300-million-year-old limestone formations that create a unique setting you’ll want to experience again and again.

Mountain Top at Big Cedar Lodge