World record holder Patrick Koenig picks his top 5 courses … sort of

You’re days removed from a year-long effort to set a world record for the most different 18-hole courses played in a year. A task that stretched over 35,000 U.S. miles driven in your Recreational Golf Vehicle (RGV), that blew away the old record and established a new one at 580.

Yet all pesky reporters keep asking is, “What are your top five courses?”, “Can you list your favorites?” and “What were your best and worst?” Scenes of infinite green begin flashing before your eyes, the same way they must be spinning on an endless loop in your dreams.

Related: Patrick Koenig gives us all something to shoot for

Sand Hills Golf Club, Mullen, Nebraska. :: Photo: Patrick Koenig

The first time this pesky reporter asked him for his top five, Patrick Koenig reeled off two without hesitation. Then he took a long pause before saying, “And about a 20-way tie for third.” Charitably given a week’s dispensation, he did little better then, deciding that deciding would have to wait for the book he plans to write about his remarkable year.

A glance at Koenig’s schedule on his website suggests how mind-bending picking five might be. Koenig played everything from munis to ultra-privates. Having already played many typical top-100 U.S. courses (i.e., Pebble Beach Golf Links) he attempted to mostly play courses new to him.

His top two are private indeed: Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Nebraska, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. The former is a 1994 Coore & Crenshaw design; the latter dates from 1891, though the current routing is largely the 1931 work of William Flynn. Koenig is smitten by both:

“Sand Hills and Shinnecock are in that rare space because they do all the most important things just slightly better: variety of the routing, beauty, challenge, history, setting, shot values, fun,” he says. “These two courses excel in every single area of what makes a golf course great.

“I played Sand Hills the last day it was open for play last year and everyone was clearly just so happy to be there. The course is its own thing; the people who run it make it even more special. Sand Hills, all day number one.”

Lajitas Golf Resort’s Black Jack’s Crossing, Terlingua, Texas. :: Photo: Patrick Koenig

As for the 20-way tie for third, Koenig did drop a few names — Black Jack’s Crossing, a 2011 Lanny Wadkins design at the Lajitas Golf Resort in Lajitas, Texas, seems likely to land a spot. Koenig calls it, “The king of public golf in Texas.”

More private courses high in Koenig’s estimation: Garden City Golf Club, New York; Myopia Hunt Club, Massachusetts; The Kingsley Club, Michigan; Stone Eagle Golf Club and Riviera Country Club, California; and Hollywood Golf Club, New Jersey.

But there are open tee times at Cape Arundel in Maine, The Lido at Sand Valley in Wisconsin, Devil’s Thumb in Colorado, Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Chambers Bay in Washington, where the RGV 2.0 tour ended on January 2. “They were all favorites,” says Koenig, “and Bandon Dunes is the best golf resort in the U.S., hands down.”

Koenig also liked the Landmand Golf Club in Homer, Nebraska, but in a few hours the public course managed to sell out all of its 2024 tee times, more quickly than it would take to play the course.

Other than rankings, one burning question remained — what was to happen to the RGV? Off to the Smithsonian? The Golf Hall of Fame? Out to stud?

Nothing so glamorous, says Koenig: “The RGV has been decommissioned and is headed to the sale lot here shortly after we take off the decals. Her purpose in life is complete.”