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Most Fun Golf Courses

By Peter Finch
March 29, 2014; 9:03 AM ET
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Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your ideal day of golf. The weather is sunny with a light breeze. Your partners are old friends, the kind you can count on for equal parts competition and laughter. And when your round is done, your body aches, you've gone through three sleeves of balls, four-putted, and marked "X" as your score on more than one hole.

The green at Cypress Point Club's classic par-3 16th (top) and the par-4 17th hole that features a divided fairway. Photo By Joann Dost. View photos of more fun golf courses

Anything seem wrong with that picture?

Golf doesn't have to be an ordeal. Honestly, when you think back on your most enjoyable rounds, were they on courses that left you bloodied and bruised? No. They were on courses that tested but did not torment you. Challenged but did not chafe you. Made you think but did not make you think about quitting.

Golf Digest celebrates the best of these layouts with our first ranking of the Most Fun Courses. All of these--50 public and 50 private--are very good courses, and some of them are great. But each shares one overarching characteristic: a good time is all but guaranteed.

We chose them with the help of Golf Digest's panelists, the roughly 1,100 enthusiasts who create our biennial rankings of America's 100 Greatest Courses, 100 Greatest Public and the Best in State. They gave "fun" scores to more than 500 courses throughout the country, which we averaged to create these rankings. For international travelers, we've also included a list of the 20 Most Fun Courses of Great Britain and Ireland.

Every golfer defines fun differently, but for the purposes of this ranking we urged voters to consider these points of view:

Length does not equal fun. Sure, a fun course might have a ridiculous set of Tiger Tees stretching to 7,700 yards, but we were looking for courses that good golfers normally play from, say, 6,500 yards. Ideally shorter hitters can choose from at least two tees of 6,000 yards or less. Some of the finalists, in fact, were par-3 or other "short" courses. Not all of them have 18 holes.

Hard is overrated. We're not saying a course has to be easy to make this list. It just won't have a lot of forced carries over wetlands or ravines. It shouldn't have out-of-bounds or water bordering every other hole. At a fun course, even less-experienced players have a good chance of finishing their round with the same ball they used on the first tee.

Walking is more fun than riding. Courses with short distances from greens to the next tees got bonus points.

A welcoming attitude beats a snooty vibe. We wanted to identify clubs that inspire repeat visits, not one-and-done trips.

Ready to turn that "ideal day of golf" into reality? Scroll down and start making plans.

TOP 50 MOST FUN PUBLIC COURSES

Click on underlined names for more info on public courses.

ALSO SEE:
TOP 50: PRIVATE GOLF COURSES
TOP 20: GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND

1. Pebble Beach G. Links

On every avid player's bucket list. With seven of the world's most spectacular holes, it's the ultimate combo of setting, scenery and history.

2. Old Macdonald
Bandon, Ore.

You'll have a hard time losing a ball on this open layout, an homage to C.B. Macdonald, where it's not rare to hit 50-yard putts to farm-size greens.

3. Bandon (Ore.) Preserve

The new 13-hole par-3 course at the No. 1 U.S. golf resort might become the most popular. Most holes have ocean views, and it can be played in less than 90 minutes.

Click here for the rest of the list

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