The Masters, the first of the four Major Championships to arrive every golf year, kicked off April 8 on the pristine grounds of Augusta National. It’s the only major that achieved its status largely due to the spectacular beauty and ambiance of the world famous golf course originally designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie.
The Augusta event, which Hideki Matsuyama won on Sunday, is an annual reminder that golf is played in the beautiful outdoors, and the game has a responsibility to look after the environment wherever possible. It’s become a 21st-century concern among golf designers to create or rebuild courses that protect regional ecosystems.
The following collection of new or recently renovated golf courses looks out across North America to discover venues where the minds behind the game work to enhance and never impose upon the natural world.
Costa Palmas Golf Club: Legendary golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. is a long-standing champion of environmental causes. The man behind more than 270 courses in more than 40 countries on every continent except Antarctica often says he grew up considering golf courses to be big parks more than sporting venues. His new creation at Costa Palmas Golf Club honors that philosophy with its gentle use of seaside desert along the Los Cabos East Cape on the Baja Peninsula.
A prime attraction of the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, these challenging 18 holes border untouched stretches of the region’s less tourist-trodden real estate. Trent Jones,Jr. even allows local cattle to nuzzle up to a couple fairways.
Mistwood Golf Club: Located in the Chicago suburbs, Mistwood is the creation of the late James McWethy, a beloved regional champion of the game. While McWethy loved the Scottish links golf style of his ancestral home, he made sure course designer Ray Hearn left Mistwood’s natural marshlands and tree lines untouched during both its original construction and recent renovation.
The Nest at Cabot Cape Breton: While the pandemic played havoc with the opening of this 10-hole, par three course in Nova Scotia, this friendly addition to the Cabot Cape Breton collection offers an escape from the majestic challenges of Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs.
Routed by Rod Whitman and Dave Axland, The Nest sits atop the highest point of Cabot Cape Breton, a designated Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. The certification program helps golf courses protect their environments and preserve their natural heritages. To secure Audubon approval, golf courses must meet standards in outreach and education; environmental planning; wildlife and habitat management; chemical use reduction and safety; water conservation; and water quality management.
Payne’s Valley: The most recent addition to the sprawling Big Cedar Lodge resort between Springfield and Branson, Mo., Payne’s Valley was designed by Tiger Woods to honor the memory of local legend and three-time major winner, Payne Stewart. Developed by property owner and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the wind-swept 18-holes honor Morris’ passionate commitment to preserving his native Ozarks.
The Big Cedar Lodge environmental plan promotes ecology and sound land management, conservation of natural resources, recycling, composting, water conservation, and sustainable gardens.
The Preserve at Eisenhower Golf Course: Set to reopen May 1, this 51-year-old track near Annapolis, Md., just completed a $5 million renovation and rebranding under the direction of golf course architect Andrew Green. The project focused on providing a sanctuary for local wildlife by promoting sustainability and eco-friendly maintenance practices. The redevelopment took place in tandem with the Anne Arundel County Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, increasing area wetlands by more than 13 acres.
The Preserve Golf Club at Santa Lucia Preserve: Tucked away in the private, elite Santa Lucia Preserve real estate community, the Tom Fazio -designed Golf Club instituted a major renovation with the surrounding Carmel, Calif., wilderness in mind. In cooperation with the Santa Lucia Preserve Community, Fazio Design installed new turf in the fairways and redesigned bunkers to preserve up to 35 million gallons of water a year.
Rancho San Lucas: Now open along the Pacific coast in Cabo San Lucas, this Greg Norman Signature Golf Course is a prime attraction for the adjacent Grand Solmar Resort and the Villas at Rancho San Lucas residences. Throughout his long career as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and course designer, Norman continues to carry through a strong environmental mission. His 18-hole layout at Rancho San Lucas utilizes and preserves the unique ecosystems only its stretch of Mexico can provide while importing no greenery from outside the area.
Sage Run Golf Course: A rugged but civilized gem studding the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sage Run Golf Course partners with nearby Sweetgrass Golf Club as the main attractions of the Island Resort and Casino, owned and operated by the Hannahville Native American Community.
Construction of the Paul Albanese design was environmentally friendly from step one. Careful planting and cultivation allowed for 300 fewer installed sprinkler heads and a 30%reduction in overall water usage.
Sand Valley: A spectacular installation near the quiet central Wisconsin town of Nekoosa, Sand Valley is a three-course property including its titular 18, the Mammoth Dunes and The Sandbox. From the outset, the property from golf developer Mike Keiser looked to not only preserve the natural environment around its golf courses, but to recover much of it for the enjoyment of nature enthusiasts. Sand Valley is now the heart of an 8,900-acre project to restore formerly over-harvested lumber acreage back into the region’s natural ecosystem.
Short Course at Mountain Shadows: There is no more bustling golf town in America than Scottsdale, Ariz. Home to more than 200 public and private courses, its reliable desert climate makes it a prime destination for traveling golfers and links-loving retirees.
The hotel and real estate development of Mountain Shadows serves up one of the Phoenix suburb’s more unique offerings, its Short Course. The par three, 19-hole course (18 plus 1 for friendly wagering) was originally designed in 1961 by Arthur Jack Snyder and redesigned by Forrest Richardson. Both designs made unobtrusive use of the peaceful desert surrounding Camelback Mountain.