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Modern golf courses that are way above par

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We know all about fabled old courses such as Augusta and Pebble Beach. But the last few decades have brought remarkable creativity in golf architecture with many tremendous new tracks. Here are six of the most compelling:

THE STRAITS AT WHISTLING STRAITS

Kohler, Wis.

www.destinationkohler.com/golf /golf_index.html

The Straits, perhaps the finest of modern master Pete Dye's many creations, is gorgeous and fierce, an instant hit from its 1999 opening. The scary pot bunkers, crazy sand dunes and blue beauty of Lake Michigan put it near the top of must-play lists.

PACIFIC DUNES, BANDON DUNES GOLF RESORT

Bandon, Ore.

www.bandondunesgolf.com

Every wine snob has a favorite Oregon Pinot Noir, and every golf snob dreams about Oregon's Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Tom Doak's minimalist masterpiece, Pacific Dunes, is acknowledged as one of America's best courses, old or new. Located by the Pacific, it has the bare look of Scotland's ancient links.

DANCING RABBIT, AZALEAS COURSE

Pearl River Resort, Miss.

www.dancingrabbitgolf.com/courses.html Native Americans have gotten into the golf business, thanks to the multibillion-dollar casino windfall. The Mississippi Choctaw are just one of many tribes whose new courses attract legions of golfers. The tribe hired one of America's best-known golf-course architects, Tom Fazio, to design this crown jewel of the growing Indian golf world.

SPYGLASS HILL GOLF COURSE

Pebble Beach, Calif.

www.pebblebeach.com

The most intriguing new course on California's Central Coast is Mike Strantz's Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore course, the maverick architect's last design. But it's members only, and the stock of nearby Spyglass Hill has risen with new appreciation for this Robert Trent Jones Jr. design by Monterey Bay's dazzling cliffs and sea spray.

DINOSAUR MOUNTAIN, GOLD CANYON GOLF RESORT

Gold Canyon, Ariz.

www.gcgr.com

A desert golf course offers the dreamy promise of a palmy, watered refuge from the rainless world of sand and sirocco. There's none better than Dinosaur Mountain. The plush, green fairways of this Ken Kavanaugh layout wind through rock and cactus with spectacular vistas across the Superstition Mountains.

SAND HILLS GOLF CLUB

Mullen, Neb.

www.sandhillsgolfshop.com/ About_SHGC.html

This golf purist's dream is hidden in a patch of Nebraska sand hills smack in the middle of nowhere. No resort hotel here, just the stark beauty of tall grass bending to the wind, wild, sandy craters and sky that goes on forever. Even the pickiest critics hold this Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw course, in north central Nebraska, in something close to reverence.

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