Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing email@example.com, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today we tackle the public golf courses that host PGA Tour events, which one is the best, and how much is too much to pay for golf.
Busbee: This week, the tour heads to Hilton Head to play at Harbour Town, one of the few courses on the circuit that will actually let you roll up and play ... provided, of course, you can come up with as much as $260 for a round. There's nothing quite like playing where the pros play, setting yourself up for that tee shot, approach or putt you know so well. And Harbour Town boasts one of the best-known finishing holes on the planet, with that candy-cane lighthouse in the distance. But how's it stack up against the other public courses on tour? Everybody send us a nickel; we'll play and report back ... or speculate right here. Mr. Bacon, your take?
Bacon: Well the obvious competition for Harbour Town is some of the ocean courses on the West Coast; Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. Did I mention Pebble Beach? Anyway, I've talked myself into driving from Charleston to Hilton Head before to play, but could never spoon out the green fee for Harbour. That said, it is probably on my top-three golf course list of places I want to play. It looks wonderful, and all the pros say it is one of their favorite stops on tour. Can a course like this rank up against some of those courses with the beautiful views?
Busbee: The knock on Harbour Town is that an already tight track is made even tighter by the condos that line every inch of the course. Really, it depends on what you're seeking out of a course: If you like shotmaking and a sense of history and don't pay much attention to what's happening out of bounds, Harbour Town is the way to go. If you want a course where every single shot on every single hole is worthy of a photo you'll hang on your wall and show everyone who comes near you for the rest of your life, you'll want Torrey or ... what was that other one you mentioned?
So, to follow up on your greens fee question: What's the most you'd pay to play one of these courses? (Public courses only; I'd tap into the kids' college fund to pay off a member to play Augusta.)
Bacon: I've always said $300 is as much as I'd pay for golf, unless it was Augusta or Pine Valley. Sure, there are some incredible tracks out there, but I find it incredible some of these resort courses can get people to fish over $200 to play 18 holes.
Is golf too expensive now? Would you pay $500 to play golf anywhere?!
Busbee: Depends on what else I'm getting. For half a grand, they better throw in a hot dog at the turn and a free shirt at the end. Plus a complimentary "I'm playing ______ and you aren't!" email photoblast to all my friends while I'm out on the course. (For the record, if you're looking to play, Torrey Pines is up to $292 per round, and Pebble checks in at just under your $500 benchmark.) So, as always, it comes down to why you play golf. If it's for the experience of the moment, sure, scrimp and save and play a round. If you're looking for the camaraderie, skip the round at Pebble and play a year's worth of rounds at your local dog track for the same price. Sure, no pro ever chipped in from the other side of the industrial highway that runs alongside the course, but there's no reason you can't try that shot.
OK, your take ... which public course would you most want to play, and how much is too much to pay to play a round of golf?