Even the most ardent fan probably won't be hitting backhands at Wimbledon or racing around a NASCAR track at 187 mph. Yet when the big boys' golf tour comes out West, it tends to hit courses that any of us can play. Here are three that might help you feel like a pro:
FOR THE RECORD:
Golf courses: An article in the March 14 Travel section about PGA courses where the public can play had an incorrect byline. The writer was Ken Van Vechten, not Kevin Van Vechten. —
Course: Torrey Pines South
Home of: Farmers Insurance Open
Why it's cool: Torrey hosted a U.S. Open in 2008 won in a playoff by a guy with a bum knee that had undergone surgery earlier in the year. (That would be Tiger Woods.) It's a truly public course, owned by the citizens of San Diego. A good bit of the way, players must skirt barrancas (arroyos choked with native vegetation) and Pacific headland. And it's a brute, particularly for the machismo crowd playing from tees beyond their expertise and hacking out of the Medusa's hair-like kikuyu rough.
How a pro sees it: "Because I grew up playing public golf courses, it's very rewarding to play in PGA Tour events at places like Torrey Pines," says Nick Watney, winner of the 2009 Farmers Insurance Open, "courses that I actually played before I turned professional, so winning on a public course seemed fitting." (Ben Crane won this year's tourney in January.)
The hacker reality: The course map should be imprinted with "terra incognita" to denote places whence previous golfer-explorers never returned.
The tab: $174-$218, plus a $41 advance booking fee for nonresidents. Or show up in the morning and wait for an opening, typically an hour for singles.
Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Home of: AT&T National Pro Am
Why it's cool: Perhaps the nation's most beloved course, Pebble is as robed in history — Bing Crosby's "Clambake," U.S. Opens won by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Woods and another champ to be crowned this June — as it is knee-buckling beauty. Seabluff-huggers eighth, ninth and 10th are the greatest par-4 holes in succession in the world and maybe the universe.
How a pro sees it: "Pebble Beach's aesthetic value is second-to-none in the world and this has allowed Pebble to be one of those courses that every golfer dreams about playing," says five-time AT&T winner Mark O'Meara. "No other place in golf offers such great views."
The hacker reality: You'll spend a fortune and your score may look like your speed on the Autobahn. You'll also thank, until the day you die, the Scottish shepherd who invented the game.
The tab: $495, for starters, as anything more than a one-day-in-advance reservation, typically a scarce commodity, requires a two-night stay and brochure room rates begin at $600/night.
Course: TPC Scottsdale Stadium, Arizona
Home of: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Why it's cool: This course was purpose-built to host a PGA Tour event yet it's owned by the city. For sheer mania, its No. 16, a short par 3. During the Phoenix Open, the entire hole is ringed in bleachers, skyboxes and as many as 20,000 folks who will greet any tee shot not hit to their collective satisfaction like the Dodgers entering San Francisco's AT&T Park — cubed. As with No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., most pros start thinking about 16 while driving to the course.
How a pro sees it: Four-time tour winner Andrew Magee, who once aced the par-4 17th, chimes in on the party hole: "Ah, 16, the raucous 16th that everyone is so scared of. If you can't hit an 8 iron on the green from 160 yards, you shouldn't be on tour anyway. That's the only hole of its kind in the world, and I love it. It's the Wild West out there."
The hacker's reality: Be thankful there aren't legions of well-lubricated, we-want-the-lions-to-win Romans, er, fans on 16 when we play it.
The tab: $77-$287Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun