1. PINE VALLEY G.C.
Pine Valley, N.J., U.S.A. / 7,057 yards, Par 70
A genuine original, its unique character forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest Jersey. Founder George Crump had help from architects H.S. Colt, A.W. Tillinghast, George C. Thomas Jr. and Walter Travis. Hugh Wilson of Merion fame finished the job. Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design -- penal, heroic and strategic -- throughout the course, often times on a single hole.
2. CYPRESS POINT CLUB
Pebble Beach, U.S.A. / 6,524 yards, Par 72
Alister MacKenzie's masterpiece, woven through cypress, sand dunes and jagged coastline. In the 2000s, member Sandy Tatum, a former USGA president who christened Cypress Point as the Sistine Chapel of golf, convinced the club not to combat technology by adding new back tees, but instead make a statement by celebrating its original architecture. So Cypress remains timeless, if short, its charm helped in part by the re-establishment of MacKenzie's fancy bunkering.
3. AUGUSTA NATIONAL G.C.
Augusta, Ga., U.S.A. / 7,435 yards, Par 72
No club has tinkered with its golf course as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament, an event it has conducted since 1934, with time off during WWII. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister MacKenzie and Bob Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and, most recently, extensive lengthening and rebunkering by Tom Fazio.
4. ROYAL COUNTY DOWN G.C.
Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland / 7,186 yards, Par 71
On a clear spring day, with Dundrum Bay to the east, the Mountains of Mourne to the south and gorse-covered dunes in golden bloom, there is no lovelier place in golf. The design is attributed to Old Tom Morris but was refined by a half dozen architects in the past 120 years, most recently by Donald Steel. Though the greens are surprisingly flat, as if to compensate for the rugged terrain and numerous blind shots, bunkers are a definite highlight, most with arched eyebrows of dense marram grasses and impenetrable clumps of heather.
5. SHINNECOCK HILLS G.C.
Southampton, N.Y., U.S.A. / 7,041 yards, Par 70
Generally considered to be the earliest links in America, heavily remodeled twice by C.B. Macdonald, then replaced (except for three holes) by William S. Flynn in the early 1930s. It's so sublime that its architecture hasn't really been fiddled with in nearly 50 years, although the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has made a few changes to prepare Shinnecock for the 2018 U.S. Open.