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10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses - #5 gets my vote!

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses – #5 gets my vote!

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses – #5 gets my vote!

Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

Unusual golf courses are not uncommon, but some, like these next 10, take it to a whole new level.

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses – #5 gets my vote!

Most golf course design is directed by nature, with undulations following the natural contours of the land. However, some architects have had to create magic from the remains of abandoned mines, airstrips, and even huge dinosaur fossil footprints that are well marked for your viewing.

I am most impressed with Whistling Straits’ story in Wisconsin and Fossil Trace in Golden, Colorado.

Tell me which of these 10 you have played and how you rate them.

Thanks to Larry Olmsted of for providing this for our entertainment!

These are 10 of the Most Unusual Courses in the US:

10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses – #5 gets my vote!

When built, half the course was inside the infield of the immense oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, aka the Brickyard.

As race teams needed more modern garages and facilities, room in the infield shrank and Dye redesigned the course so that now four holes are inside the oval, the rest surround the complex, and golfers enter and exit through a tunnel beneath the grandstands. 

While the course is not open on the two big race days, the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, all year long the track is in use as teams practice, car and tire companies run tests, and the track offers tourists “hot laps’ in real Indy cars with real Indy drivers. As a result, golfers hit shots to the sounds and sights of race cars (or motorcycles) tearing down the asphalt at well over 200 MPH. There is no golf experience like this in the world.

Brickyard Crossing is the only golf course located in a major motor race track, but it is hardly the only unusual setting for golf course. At least a dozen prominent US courses occupy the sites of former mines, quarries and sand dumps. Widow’s Walk, a popular and high quality daily fee course on Boston’s South shore, is atop a former garbage dump.  Courses have been built on airstrips and military bases. Some courses are not unusual because of their setting but due to their features, like the Legacy Golf Club in Las Vegas, where all the tee boxes are shaped like suits of cards, Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds. Sometimes golf is strange.

Brickyard Crossing,

Indianapolis, IN: Plays in and around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Furnace Creek Golf Course,

Death Valley,  Set at 214 feet below sea level, in the middle of Death Valley, this is the lowest altitude golf course in the world – and one of the hottest, with summer temperatures spiking to around 130 degrees. Winter is perfect, and it is part of the full service Furnace Creek Resort.

Shadow Creek,

Las Vegas: I’ve written extensively about Shadow Creek here at, because I believe it offers the best luxury golf day experience in the entire country. It is perennially rated among the very best in the nation and is the highest ranked public course ever designed by legend Tom Fazio. What makes it unusual? It was built on a parking lot flat desert wasteland, and when it had it’s grand opening, it was the most expensive course ever built, with unheard of earth moving, tree transplants and it was the first course ever completely laid out in sod rather than seeded.

The numbers are stunning: not only did Fazio relocate 21,000 fully mature trees, mostly pines and cottonwoods, many of them over 30 feet high. The elevation change on the site went from less than six feet to more than 213. It has streams and even a waterfall, and is so heavily wooded you usually can’t see one hole from another. Before it was a barren patch of sand. When you play it, you feel like you are in North Carolina – it’s the ultimate manmade golf course.

Whistling StraitsKohler, WI:

Golf fans know this as the site of two PGA Championships and the fourth best public course in the nation on Golf Magazine’s rankings. 

Fossil Trace, Golden, CO:

Jim Trace has worked on a lot of unique sites, but even by his standards, Fossil Trace is unusual. Most recently the site, just outside Denver, was a clay mine, and Engh preserved this history by leaving old rusty pieces of mining equipment alongside several holes. But the real history here is prehistoric, as in the dinosaurs that tramped through holes 11 to 15 some 64 million years ago, leaving it rich with namesake fossils – Triceratops footprints have been well marked next to the 12th green so golfers can take a look, and more fossils, plaster footprint casts, and ancient history are in the clubhouse.

Old Works Golf Club,

Anaconda, MT: The infamous Anaconda copper mine ended up being one of the largest Superfund cleanup sites in America. 

Streamsong, Lakeland FL:

Another mine site saved by golf, this is very unusual in that the phosphate mining operation that began more than half a century ago produced a giant pile of sand, some 2,000-acres worth, which over time grew grass and formed towering dunes, like a chunk of the Scottish coast dropped in the middle of South Central Florida. Forget everything you think you know about Florida if you want to play the state’s two best public courses.

Tobacco Road, Sanford, NC:

In the Sandhills just outside of famed Pinehurst, this former sand mine is the seminal work of late, great designer Mike Strantz, a visionary who did too few courses, of which Tobacco Road is the best. 

Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall, Hilton Head, SC:

Golf course design is traditionally a design by nature. Not so at this 1993 landmark of design, when acclaimed architect Bob Cupp decided to recast the game in a geometric image with bunkers, tees and greens that formed squares, triangles and rectangles and fairways mounds of near perfect pyramids. But it lives on today on Hilton Head, America’s first master planned resort.

Bay Harbor (Quarry), MI:

The 27-hole course at Bay Harbor is perhaps the greatest work of known designer Arthur Hills, and is regularly among the nation’s best. The Quarry nine is the best of the three.  Hills and Army Corp of Engineers did a fine job stabilizing the entire site and laid out the gorgeous course, carved through the former quarry, complete with gorges 40-feet deep alongside stone cliff walls!

Source:   Larry Olmsted

Pictures:  Old Works

Thanks for reading – 10 Most Unusual US Golf Courses – #5 gets my vote!

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