9 Major Championship Courses to Play Before You Die

But May You Live to Be a Thousand Years Old

By Sam Eichner ·

The odds suggest you’ll never get to take a long, victorious stroll up the 18th fairway at Augusta National, remove your cap and wave to the crowd before sinking a birdie to win the Masters—as Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and everyone else in the field hope to do this Sunday. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend. Or shouldn’t pretend. (You would be remiss, really, not to pretend.)

Hence, this list of major championship courses to play before you die.

It comes complete with pretty pictures, gushing praise and some select intel on how to get a tee time.

Unless, of course, you were planning on sneaking your way in...

St. Andrews Old Course
Majors Hosted: The Open Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: Dating back to the 15th century, it’s simply one of the oldest and most iconic golf courses on the entire damn planet.
Is It Public? Yes. But you’ll either need keen foresight to book this year or a lot of luck if you want to show up the day of. If that doesn't work, you can always play the "New Course." It was built in 1895 (so, practically yesterday) and is located on the same St. Andrews complex.

The Riviera Country Club
Majors Hosted: The U.S. Championship and the PGA Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: 1) You’ll be hard-pressed to find a course of this caliber so close to Santa Monica Boulevard; 2) You just never know which celebs you might see out there.
Is It Public? No. On the contrary, it’s one of the most exclusive clubs in the country, with an extensive waiting list and an initiation fee rumored to be over $200,000. So you’ll probably want to either befriend Mark Wahlberg or Larry David, or drum up enough buzz around your Oscar-baiting script to get a big-time producer or studio exec to invite you out. Really shouldn’t be too hard...

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Majors Hosted: The U.S. Open Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: You’re walking in the footsteps of Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and scores of other legendary golfers. Given the course is carved onto a choice piece of Pacific coastline, you can rest assured it’ll be a nice walk.
Is It Public? Yes. But it’s cheaper for guests of the resort. And the resort is pretty sweet. So what we're really trying to say is, think of staying at the resort.

TPC at Sawgrass
Majors Hosted: The Players Championship (informally known as golf’s fifth major).
You Must Play Here Because...: Then you can tell everyone you birdied* (*double-bogeyed) the 17th hole par 3 with that famous island green.
Is It Public? Yes. You just need a little over 400 bucks and a willingness to stay the weekend in Ponta Vedra Beach.

Majors Hosted: The Open Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: Old Tom Morris—yeah, that Old Tom Morris—laid out the original 18 holes for this classic links course. And it’s the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who have been helping shepherd the game of golf since the mid-18th century.
Is It Public? Yes. But be prepared for match play, as it’s the standard for the club.

Royal Birkdale
Majors Hosted: The Open Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: Situated on the coastal town of Southport, it has played host to the most championship and international events since World War II than any other course in the world. It’s also probably the best exemplar of links golf in all of England. 
Is It Public? Yes. Although it's a popular spot for golf tourists, as you might imagine. So go ahead and start planning your trip now.

Bethpage Black
Majors Hosted: The U.S. Open Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: It’s probably one of the most challenging municipal golf courses open to the public. And you’re not one to turn down a challenge...
Is It Public? Yes. And seeing as it's on Long Island, it's only kind-of crazy to knock off work early and hop on a train to go play there.

Pinehurst No. 2
Majors Hosted: The U.S. Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
You Must Play Here Because...: It’s widely considered legendary course designer Donald Ross’s masterpiece, and is home to some of the most complex greens in the world. Plus, they have a new 18-hole putting course and a local brewery, the combination of which is either delightful or extremely frustrating.
Is It Public? Yes. 

Augusta National Golf Club
Majors Hosted: The Masters.
You Must Play Here Because...: You’ve always dreamed of conquering Amen Corner while eating pimento cheese sandwiches.
Is It Public? L-O—and I can't stress this enough—L. As one of the most secretive golf clubs in the country, mums the word on how exactly to become a member. What we do know: there are only around 300 members, many of them are old and wealthy and white, and women are few and far between. Our advice: ingratiate yourself with as many CEOs of large multinationals as you can, and go from there. Honestly, becoming a professional golfer and making it on the PGA Tour is probably the easier route.

An earlier version of this article ran on April 11, 2019. 

Sam Eichner

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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