The Elite 8

A seeding of our favorite college golf courses
By Patrick Koenig

With March Madness in full swing, the eyes of the sporting world are on America’s universities as they battle on the hardwood. We decided to look beyond the basketball court, to the golf courses these colleges offer. Here is our Elite 8 of the U.S.’s best college courses.

8. Oklahoma State University: Karsten Creek

This Tom Fazio gem, which opened in 1994, winds through oak trees and around glistening Lake Louise. Karsten Creek was named after the founder of Ping, the late Karsten Solheim, and the lake carries the name of his wife. This tough test has produced a bevy of All-Americans.

7. Washington State University: Palouse Ridge

Given its remote location, in Pullman, this John Harbottle III design always flies under the radar, typical of how underrated the golf is in Eastern Washington. The back nine at Palouse Ridge features three par-4s, three par-5s and three par-3s, the sort of wild card we all love in March.

6. Stanford Golf Course

Here we cede the floor to Tom Watson (Class of ’71): “The Stanford course is a joy to play. It is both beautiful and difficult and requires you to master every shot. It is a complete golf course.”

5. Warren Course at Notre Dame

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw unveiled this beauty in 2000. It was immediately hailed as one of the finest college courses in the country. The Warren has hosted a number of big-time events, including the 2019 U.S. Senior Open.

4. PFAU Course: Indiana University

The 2020 renovation from Steve Smyers and Fuzzy Zoeller has transformed IU’s golfing prowess from nonexistent to one of the strongest in the Midwest. The Hoosiers basketball team didn’t get out of the first round this year, but look for the PFAU course to make a deep run in the golf bracket.

3. University of Michigan Golf Course

This is the first of two Alister Mackenzie courses to find its way into the Elite 8. The course sits across the street from the football stadium, and in one of the greatest travesties in all of golf, the historic layout doubles as a parking lot for football games. Someone on campus needs to get the memo: golf > football.

2. The Scarlet Course: Ohio State University

The second Mackenzie design on our list belongs to Michigan’s biggest rival, although Mackenzie died before his plans for the Scarlet Course came to life; Perry Maxwell, another architectural giant, completed the work. In 2006, Buckeyes alum Jack Nicklaus did some restoration work on the bunkers and extended the course to a stout 7,455 yards.

  1. Yale Golf Course

A perennial 1-seed, this Seth Raynor design in New Haven, Conn., possesses all of the usual tricks and boasts perhaps the finest Biarritz green ever created. When it comes to facing off against other college courses, it often feels as if this course is in a league of its own. “All hail Yale!”

15 thoughts on “The Elite 8”

  1. Great list, Firepit Collective! And, I invite you out to play UMGC on a football weekend. For a collegiate sports fan, you may not find a better weekend than playing our historic Mackenzie layout on a Friday, watching (and tailgating!) great collegiate football in the largest stadium in North America, then playing an emergency 18 on Sunday by 10am!! I’d love to host and/or collaborate with you…. Could be a great story;)

  2. Put a pin in the Nicklaus redesign of FSU. It needs to mature, but it’s a great layout that time should help

  3. Beautiful list. Huge fan of yale(the only course I’ve played on the list) The Cinderellas don’t seem to shabby

  4. Naval Academy’s course (William Flynn design) was just renovated by Andrew Green. Highly recommend playing that gem. Definitely liked it more than Pfau but I am biased.

  5. The UMGC does park a lot of cars on football Saturdays in Ann Arbor, but only in dry conditions. Additionally, great care is taken to ensure the fairways, bunkering, and greens are safeguarded from vehicles. I challenge anyone to find flaws on the course that significantly affect play the next day.

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