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An annual listing of the 100 top public golf courses has crossed my desk (right there near the Tostitos), and this always brings a bit of sadness.

Of the 100, I have played only four: Pinehurst No. 2, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (S.C.), Trump National Doral near Miami and Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (S.C.). 

Although all of the 100 courses technically are open to the public, many are beyond my bank account and/or travel limitations. Any quest to play all of them would be a fool’s errand. Some of my friends would say such a definition would fit, but that’s another story.

Rankings of this sort are of course subjective, although it’s hard to argue with such choices as Pebble Beach (ranked first), Pinehurst (second), Pacific Dunes (third), TPC Sawgrass (10th), Banff Springs (17th), Shadow Creek (21st) and Spyglass Hill (30th). As of today, I will be accepting invitations to play at any of those. You pay the greens fees and provide the transportation; I’ll cover lunch and even give you a sleeve of balls (but not Pro V1s).

I will not bore you with my personal top 100, but I will list several of the best I’ve played, simply for your consideration:

Sedona Golf Resort, Sedona, Ariz.: I have never had more fun on a golf course than this one. Located in the middle of Arizona’s red rock country, the views from its tee boxes are sensational, making concentrating on the golf difficult. The course is so cool that scores there are mostly irrelevant, although, in full disclosure, I did have a birdie on the lovely downhill second hole, a par 3.

Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, Pawleys Island, S.C.: A beautiful track through South Carolina’s lush Lowcountry. The closing 18th hole is one of the wonders of golf along the coastal Grand Strand, an area populated by great courses.

Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.: Sand and pines and a brilliant Donald Ross design. Bring a lot of patience for a very challenging course. It’s worth the visit to see the Payne Stewart statue off the 18th green commemorating his 1999 U.S. Open victory.

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, S.C.: A staggering beauty along the Atlantic shoreline, where sometimes you think you can still hear the roars associated with the Ryder Cup in 1991. Bonus: the occasional alligator.

Mount Mitchell Golf Club, Burnsville, N.C.: A great mountain course in a state that has many. The tee boxes at No. 6 and No. 11 offer views you won’t forget, particularly in autumn. If you hit a ball into the South Toe River, which runs through the course, you might pull out a trout with it.

It’s a five-course start on a top 100. Get to work on yours.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.