Pinehurst No. 2

Though it has steadily climbed in past-years balloting, the Crenshaw-Coore design at Cuscowilla golf resort on lake oconee never quite made it into the top 20 — until this year, when it vaulted to eighth. Resurfacing the greens last year may have helped.

Arnold palmer’s Bay Hill club & lodge is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a Golden Anniversary Package, including a bottle of Arnold Palmer-label wine. The legendary golfer was not involved with Bay Hill originally, but he was smitten after winning a 1965 charity tournament there and eventually made Bay Hill his own.

While golf courses seem timeless in many ways, they do evolve naturally and through endless tinkering and fussing. Palmer has tweaked Bay Hill several times; Donald Ross worked on his masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2, all of his designing life. The work continued into this year, with the unveiling of the major restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 — by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Early reviews have been uniformly ecstatic.

Readers also voted in blackwolf Run at The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin, the track that will be played at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Following renovations, both Blackwolf Run courses — the River and Meadow Valleys — are open this year, the first time since 2008.

A more critical eye is brought to bear any time a course is preparing to host a major tournament. With the 94th PGA Championship heading to the ocean Course at Kiawah Island in August 2012, Pete Dye has been busy grassing in bunker faces, adding and shifting some tee boxes, as well as improving gallery sight lines.

Visitors to the Kiawah Island Golf Resort from August 1 to 7 this year can not only see Dye’s strategic changes but also play The Ocean Course in the same setup and conditions the pros will face in 2012 — entangling rough, fast greens, and back tees set at 7,606 yards for those who dare.

Juniors may make the monument course at troon North golf club a favorite with the new Monument Express program, a 1,500-yard-long, nine-hole course created within the Monument layout, available each day after 3:30 p.m. The setup isn’t just for kids, though, but anyone looking for a quick and affordable workout.

Meanwhile, Bandon Dunes is the only U.S. links course on the list. There are only four links in all of the U.S., say the authors of True Links (see CL Recommends, page 22). Two of the others — Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald — are conveniently located at the Bandon Dunes resort.