Golf courses are like mountains: There's always one more to conquer. In the last year 524 tracks, 87% of them public, opened in the U.S. Here are my favorites from that group, plus one from overseas.
1. Pacific Dunes
Bandon, Ore. Set hard by the Pacific 236 miles south of Portland, complete with cliffs and sandy blowouts, this course feels like Ireland. Quirky (three par-5s on the back nine), with seven oceanfront holes, Pacific Dunes offers an added bonus for purists: No motorized carts permitted. Greens fee: $50 to $150.
2. Doonbeg Golf Club
Doonbeg, Ireland For a new links experience, try this brute, which will be Greg Norman's Mona Lisa when it opens to the public next April. Built on a l�-mile stretch of beach along Doughmore Bay on Ireland's western coast, Doonbeg is a 6,800-yard course that winds between natural dunes as high as 100 feet. Greens fee: $165.
3. Golf Club at Redlands Mesa
Grand Junction, Colo. There's nothing like standing on the 1st tee at sunrise and watching the Colorado National Monument, a sprawling collection of sandstone monoliths and deep canyons, turn amber and gold. Watch for falling golfers from the rocky pinnacle that's the tee—and 150 feet above the green—at the 218-yard 17th. Getting down in three is easier than getting down from this box. Greens fee: $39 to $50.
4. Augusta Pines
Spring, Texas The 2nd hole at Augusta Pines is similar to the 13th at Augusta National, except it doglegs to the right. The Pines also has versions of the National's 11th, 12th and 15th holes. The second nine has a TPC feel. Stop me if you've heard this: The 17th is a par-3 with an island green. Greens fee: $67 to $85.
5. Thunderbirds Golf Club
Phoenix T-Birds has big, sweeping fairways and awe-inspiring views of Camelback Mountain and Squaw Peak. The par-3 17th, a 144-yarder in a box canyon, is a beauty, and the 9th and 18th holes share a double green guarded by water. Greens fee: $39 to $138.
6. Architects Golf Club
Lopatcong, N.J. A homage to classic designers Old Tom Morris, Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and others, each hole is patterned after the work of one of the masters. Ross is the only honoree with two holes, including the 9th, a 447-yard uphill par-4 with a lake in front of a two-tiered green. Greens fee: $65 to $85.
7. Otsego Club, The Tribute Course
Gaylord, Mich. Think big, really big. The Tribute's secluded, tree-lined holes ramble over 1,100 acres, and the course has almost seven miles of cart paths. On the 3rd hole the tee overlooks the Sturgeon River Valley and the fairway dives 140 feet through hardwood forest into wetlands below. Greens fee: $105.
8. We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
Fountain Hills, Ariz. The first 18 at We-Ko-Pa, a sprawling development 10 miles east of Scottsdale on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, is set to open to die public next week. There's already a casino, and plans call for a second 18 and a resort. Greens fee: $55 to $165.