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Best course on PGA Tour? Pebble, of course, and ...

Pebble Beach 7th Hole
Pebble Beach’s 7th hole has mystified generations of golfers, who hit anything from a wedge to a driver based on the wind at the iconic seaside par 3.

Hawk & Rude take their shots at 'underrated' and 'overrated' sites

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.

Among venues that regularly host non-major PGA Tour events, what are the best, most underrated and most overrated courses on the schedule?

Hawk’s take: I’m virtually certain that Rude will pick Pebble Beach as the best, so I’ll take a different route and go with Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C. Pebble is an absolute gem, an American treasure. Quail Hollow is very different but no less likeable as a balanced, straightforward task for tour pros of all shapes and sizes. It’s also playable for the Average Joe, a tree-lined beauty with a wonderful medley of holes and a sense of subtle elegance. I’ve never heard a single player say a bad thing about the Quail. These days, that’s saying something.

If we’d done this exercise 18 months ago, I could have picked Firestone, which stood the test of time (distance, equipment, etc.) for decades before the Tour moved its summer WGC to Memphis, as most underrated. That said, Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is a worthy successor. Another meat-and-potatoes ballpark where crooked driving becomes a serious liability. Some very good par-3s and a superb finish.

TPC Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship, is my most overrated. It’s not a bad layout at all, but so much tinkering over the years has resulted in too many chefs over the kettle. A classic example of modern overdesign, an obstacle course with an abundance of bells and whistles on almost every hole. The par-5 16th is a keeper, a terrific risk-reward challenge, but in trying to maintain its reputation as a stern test for the world’s best players, Sawgrass has become an over-the-top tribute to architectural excess.

Rude’s take: Book me a ticket to paradise, Monterey, Calif., and, embellishing Ernie Banks, let’s play three today: Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula’s Shore Course and Spyglass Hill. Go ahead and make it a one-way ticket. When it comes to best courses at PGA Tour stops, every other tournament is competing for second behind Bing’s old baby. Pebble speaks for itself. The first five at Spyglass are as good as anywhere. And the MP Shore makes you stop and wonder at times, Am I at Cypress Point?

There are underrated courses aplenty, most notably Innisbrook near Tampa and Waialae on Honolulu. While Innisbrook’s Copperhead course might be the best on the Florida Swing, the Seth Raynor-designed oceanside gem gets the nod, largely because of Redan, Biarritz and St. Andrews Road Hole features on top of gorgeous views.

If Doral still had a Tour stop, its Blue Monster would be most overrated, largely because it has had more tweaking and sculpting than the extended Kardashian family. The redone and somewhat bland Torrey Pines South, disliked by the likes of Phil Mickelson and others, seems to be a candidate, but then it’s hard to say a that U.S. Open track is too overrated when it’s 129 in one ranking (Golfweek’s Classics, pre-1960). That leaves the Sea Island Seaside and Plantation courses, which become overrated if for no other reason than they are overshadowed by the resort’s opulent accommodations, amenities and general luxurious feel.