BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Golf courses' value to a recreational golfer isn't measured just by the quality of its greens, but how much green it takes to play on them.
If you want to play on the elite fairways, get ready to pay a lofty fair-market price for the privilege. According to the National Golf Foundation's annual survey of green fees throughout America, the cost of playing 18 holes on the Top 20 courses in the country starts at $275 for a round at 10-year-old Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., and soars to $500 for a day at Caesars Entertainment's Cascata Golf Course in Boulder City, Nev.
This may be worth the expense for high rollers and seasoned hacks, but considering how some courses are looking to Father's Day as a draw -- especially Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, which has packaged a three-night, two-round Father's Day weekend trip for $800 per person -- it's worth checking out the course before giving dad his considerable gift. The National Retail Federation says Americans will spend an average of $106 on Father's Day gifts this year, which, while up from $94 last year, isn't enough to play through the front nine holes of the Top 20 courses.
With total Father's Day spending expected to top $11.1 billion this year, some lucky golf dads will be getting some time on the greens, but only a savvy few will be getting the best lies and looks for their money. To save golfers and their fathers some time and expense,
put together a list of five courses with the highest costs and the least bang for their Big Berthas:
Torrey Pines Golf Course (North)
La Jolla, Calif.
$100 weekdays, $125 weekends
Torrey Pines is home to the PGA's Farmers Insurance Open every year and hosted Tiger Woods' shootout win over Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open, but Tiger's win was on the club's much better-kept South Course. The North Course only shoulders about half the load in the former event and landed at No. 4 on
's list of overrated courses in America for looking and playing like "a downtrodden muni."
So why are golfers forced to pay a fee awfully close to the $150 its East Coast counterparts in New York pay for a round at Bethpage Black, which hosted the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009 and which used to inspire golfers to sleep in their cars to ensure an early tee time? It's not the flavorless course, the haphazard design or the almost outright lack of manicuring in the rough, but the big, sweeping views of the Pacific over its bland fairways.
It's not that the South's fee itself is exorbitant, but that the experience you're paying for is available for free on a public beach or for half the price at other municipal courses. The South course is $80 to $100 more expensive, but at least golfers will get the sense that PGA spikes once settled there.
Shadow Creek Golf Course
North Las Vegas, Nev.
Want a glimpse of what pre-recession Las Vegas looked like and how it got to where it is today? Check into the
, sign up for a tee time at Shadow Creek and let a limo take you to one very rich man's desert delusion.
Despite the fact that the PGA has never held a major there and that nobody's ever swung a club there over anything more than a bar bet or business deal, its green fee is more than twice what it costs to play the Old Course and St. Andrews. "Golfers" such as Shadow Creek members Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Sylvester Stallone and George Clooney aren't there to improve their short game, but to gawk at the thick layers of grass, the rolling hills, the 21,000 trees, the floral growth, the wildlife (swans, rabbit, pheasant), creeks, ponds and waterfalls that Steve Wynn plopped down into the middle of the desert. This grifting actually used to be a "privilege," as only invited guests of Steve
could play on the course and check out the sweet home with two pools, a two-floor library and zero-gravity jacuzzi he'd built for himself on the 18th hole.
Is it ludicrous? Not really. People go to Vegas all the time to see "New York," "Paris," "Venice" and various other Sin City interpretations of reality. Is it far overpriced? Considering that there are courses in Washington state and upstate New York -- you know, places that actually look like this naturally -- with just as lovely views that can be played for a fraction of the price without necessitating a days-long stay in an ever-jingling money vacuum, certainly.
Green Monkey Course
St. James, Barbados
Golfers will sure pay a lot to let you dangle shiny keys in front of them while they play, and nobody knows how to dangle them better than course designer Tom Fazio. He's the guy who convinced Phil Mickelson and Paul Azinger -- two PGA pros who've actually played on better densely wooded courses in their lifetimes -- to become members at the Shadow Creek course he designed in Vegas and is the mastermind behind the Green Monkey Course at the Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados.
Fazio designed the course around an old limestone quarry, so the rolling green and colorful Caribbean flora contrasts with the stark, soaring rock faces surrounding the fairways. The views of the Caribbean are magnificent as well, but there's just one problem: It's not even the best course
at the resort
. That honor goes to the Fazio-designed Country Club course that hosted Tiger Woods' wedding in 2004 (USGA rules don't allow for a mulligan on that), the World Golf Championships and great views of the Caribbean to this day.
Oh, and it's almost $200 cheaper than the Green Monkey from now through October, when the Country Club course greens fee is $195.
Pinehurst Resort No. 2
$329 to $410
The No. 2, designed by Donald Ross in 1907, has hosted the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open (twice, most recently in 2005) but has spent the past few years hosting largely underwhelmed golfers.
They complained that the fairways were too short for a really challenging long game and the greens too hard and quick for those who struggled with their putting and chipping. Golf legend Ben Hogan summed up in two words how most golfers felt about naming a great hole at Pinehurst: "You can't."
Even after finishing a restoration project by Ben Crenshaw in April that attempted to bring the course in line with Ross' original vision, there's still a slight problem. Wider, faster, less forgiving fairways, native wiregrass instead of rough and new bunkers are great and all, but the fact that the course is similar to what it was in 1936 means nobody's really played it this way in the 75 years since.
Golf's early adopters are already clamoring for tee times, but the prohibitive greens fees and resort packages that feature a $175 upgrade for the No. 2 course are forcing most casual golfers to pay for a still-unknown commodity. It could be worth the price for a golf history buff, but discriminating players may want to put off Pinehurst No. 2 in favor of Ross' No. 3, the gorgeous Tom Fazio-designed No. 4 or a tee time after the next No. 2-hosted U.S. Open -- in 2014.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, Calif.
$495 plus cart
Every Pebble Beach patron wants to be
hitting the flagstick with a shot from his 1-iron on the 17th to clinch the 1972 U.S. Open, every pairing wants to be the Tom Watson to the other's Nicklaus and birdie the last two holes for the 1982 Open title. Unfortunately, that gust of wind from '72 doesn't come around very often and the spot where Watson made his chip shot on the 17th is somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific, washed away by a storm that winter.
What's left is the Pebble Beach of five U.S. Opens (the most recent was last year) and one PGA Championship that has one really great hole on the 18th, great views of the ocean and little else to warrant that hefty fee. You can still play that 17th all you like, but that Par 3 is nowhere near as tough as Watson had it back in '82. In fact, the course's fat, doughy middle of holes with no Pacific in sight is basically a sleepwalk even after changes in 2008.
It's not much of a discount, but the Pebble Beach Company's Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Monterrey that hosts the annual
Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is longer and more challenging for its $385 premium.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here:
>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to
>To submit a news tip, send an email to:
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.