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|No. 15 on the AT&T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio, a par 4, features a long, skinny green guarded by bunkers. (Courtesy of TPC San Antonio)|
For some golfers, it simply isn't enough to travel to a top golf destination. They want to put their games on the line in tournament conditions, where every score counts.
That's where the major events shine on the Golf Channel Am Tour.
The Am Tour aims to deliver a tour-worthy tournament experience for every skill level. It has created a large following among local tours with events that lead to national championships in the fall.
Nineteen major tournaments serve as the centerpiece of the Am Tour. The majority are staged in top golf destinations, and that's no accident. While local events usually draw nearby players, majors attract more than 20 percent of their field from out-of-region golfers eager to play the area's best golf courses.
Major events allow for discounted preview rates at the host golf courses during the week of play. Usually, about 75 percent of the participants take advantage, playing an otherwise expensive golf course on the cheap.
You might also win your money back -- and more. Part of the entry fees fund payouts to the winners of each flight. The flight's size determines the payout, which must stay below the $750 amateur limit. Winners often pocket $400 to $500.
The top three finishers and ties in each flight at major tournaments automatically qualify for nationals.
The quality of the travel destinations varies for the major tournaments. Here are some notable major tournaments in key destinations around which you can plan your trip:
With the winter rains long gone, May is a great time to visit the Pacific Northwest, and nearby Portland ranks as a fabulous stay-and-play site for its microbreweries and wineries alone. Outside the city, two championship courses of the Reserve Vineyards resort provide a great introduction to the scenery.
Your Oregon golf trip: Play Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek for a championship warm-up. You're also close enough to hit Bandon Dunes Resort. It's about a four-hour drive to Bandon, Ore., from Portland. And as a rule, if you're ever within four hours, you owe it to your game to play America's great pure links golf courses.
A special event in this first year of the newest TPC-brand golf club and spectacularly Texas-sized JW Marriott Resort, it offers the chance to play two championship venues -- the AT&T Oaks, first-time host of the Valero Texas Open in 2010, and the next-door AT&T Canyons, a Pete Dye design that will soon host the AT&T Champions Classic.
Your Texas golf trip: The JW Marriott, with its two championship-caliber designs, replaced the Westin La Cantera resort as the big game in town. Find three of the Hill Country's best designs at nearby Horseshoe Bay Resort, home to one of Texas' toughest designs, the Robert Trent Jones Sr. Ram Rock. Old schoolers like prestigious Pecan Valley Golf Club and Brackenridge Park golf course.
So much for the buddy foursome on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass' Players Stadium course, with its famous island green; you'll have a tournament score on the line like all the pros at the site of the Am Tour's national championships. Shoot a low number on the Valley course next door, shorter than the Stadium but still a Pete Dye test with the TPC seal of approval.
Your Florida golf trip: Florida's First Coast is loaded with championship, quality golf, including King and Bear course and Slammer and Squire course at World Golf Village, which will also host its own Am Tour major, May 15-16.
Host of the Am Tour's Western Classic, Revere Golf Club's Lexington course is a modern and dramatic desert golf course near Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev. Revere Golf Club, boasts two designs by Greg Nash and Billy Casper. Troon Golf manages the resort, which features speedy, bentgrass greens and striking elevation changes against the desert breezes to keep your attention.
Your Las Vegas golf trip: Options abound in Las Vegas. Rio Secco Golf Club provides a tour-worthy test on Henderson-area terrain that will serve as a good warm-up to the Lexington. The PGA Tour makes an October visit to the TPC Summerlin, while the wide fairways at the Strip's Bali Hai Golf Club should bolster your confidence with the driver. And if you win big during your stay at an MGM property, consider splurging for a round at Shadow Creek.
Golfers get a crack at Michigan's newest Jack Nicklaus championship design, a test on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Harbor Shores features forest and wetland holes in addition to exposed beachfront holes.
Your Michigan golf trip: Michigan's western coastline includes plenty of top golf options. Heading north, hit Tullymore Golf Club, Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course and Bay Harbor for an ultimate trio. Forest Dunes, closer to the state's central area, features a layout that seems purposely conditioned to host top players. And get a taste of Nicklaus' toughest Michigan design, the The Bear Courseat Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
For more information on the Golf Channel Am Tour, visit www.golfchannel.com/amtour.
April 23, 2010
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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