Best New or Returning Courses on Tour in 2021

In golf, the new calendar year brings some fresh faces when it comes to golf courses. As the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Champions Tour get ready to make another trip around the sun, players will visit some new spots in 2021 and return to a few familiar layouts they haven’t seen in a few years. A couple of fantastic golf courses were set to make their debut this past year and then…well, 2020 happened.

For many, 2021 can’t come soon enough. Here’s a look at the top new or returning courses on the game’s top tours and in major international golf events.

PGA Tour

TPC Craig Ranch—McKinney, Texas

AT&T Byron Nelson: May 2021

The Byron will once again be on the move in 2021. After spending 10 years at TPC Las Colinas, and then 2018 and 2019 at Trinity Forest, the Dallas area event that dates back to 1944 is heading to TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney. The event will be played the week prior to the PGA Championship, giving players one final tune up before golf’s second major of the season.

TPC Craig Ranch is a Tom Weiskopf design that opened in 2004 to rave reviews in the Dallas suburbs. The routing makes its way through mature woods and crosses over the limestone banks of Rowlett Creek 14 times. The golf course also hosted the 2008 and 2012 Korn Ferry Tour Championships.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort—Kiawah Island, S.C.

PGA Championship: May 2021

Ocean Course 17th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

The PGA Championship returns for a second time to the shores of Kiawah Island in May. The 104th edition of the professional championship will mark the first time since 2012 that the tour visits the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, which can be as brutal as they come. With 10 holes set along the Atlantic Ocean, windy conditions often provide a stiff test for the game’s best.

Rory McIlroy took home his second career major title in a runaway at the 2012 PGA Championship, winning by a tournament record eight strokes. While McIlroy enjoyed great success, much of the field were blown away by the Ocean Course with just 18 out of 156 players finishing under par. The course also previously hosted the famous 1991 Ryder Cup, won by the United States and known as “The War by the Shore,” as well as the 2007 Senior PGA Championship won by Zimbabwe’s Denis Watson.

St. George’s Golf and Country Club—Toronto, Ontario, Canada

RBC Canadian Open: July 2020

After being delayed an extra year by the global pandemic, the PGA Tour brings the RBC Canadian Open back to the 1929 Stanley Thompson design in the west end of Toronto for the first time in 11 years. The course, tied for 23rd alongside Royal Birkdale and Royal Melbourne (East) on Golf Digest’s list of the “World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses,” traverses through undulating glacial terrain. Thompson’s bunkers were restored and greens rebuilt by Tom Doak and Ian Andrew in 2015. The coming year will mark the fifth time the club has hosted the RBC Canadian Open, having last visited in 2010 when Carl Pettersson was crowned champion, while 88 years ago Australian golfer Joe Kirkwood Sr. won the first-ever Canadian Open played at St. George’s in 1933.

Liberty National Golf Club—Jersey City, N.J.

The Northern Trust: August 2021

The PGA Tour will kick off the 2021 FedEx Cup Playoffs with a return to the New York metropolitan area. Technically in New Jersey, Liberty National sits in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty just a few miles across the Hudson River from the southern tip of Manhattan. In fact, a ferry ride from New York City to the gates of Liberty National takes just 10 minutes.

The golf course was built atop a Jersey City landfill by billionaire Paul Fireman and is no stranger to marquee events. Liberty National hosted the Northern Trust in 2009, 2013, and 2019 as well as the 2017 Presidents Cup won in dominating fashion by the U.S. team captained by Steve Stricker. Originally designed by Bob Cupp and Tom Kite, the course opened in 2006 but underwent extensive renovations to increase its overall playability (particularly the receptiveness of greens) after the 2009 playoff event following complaints from many of the tour pros. It has since transformed into one of the most visually stunning golf courses in the game with panoramic views of the New York skyline.

Caves Valley Golf Club—Owings Mills, Md.

BMW Championship: August 2021

A true newcomer to the list, Caves Valley will host the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the BMW Championship in August—marking the first time since 1962 that the PGA Tour visits the Baltimore area. The 962-acre Tom Fazio design opened in 1991 and quickly became one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the Mid-Atlantic region with iconic sports figures like Cal Ripken Jr. and Michael Jordan having memberships.

The golf course is located on the rolling hills of Maryland’s estate and hunt country just 16 miles from downtown Baltimore and previously hosted the 1995 U.S. Mid-Am, 2002 U.S. Senior Open, and inaugural UL International Crown, a biennial team event organized by the LPGA, in 2014. Caves Valley tips out to just over 7,200 yards and tee box modifications will likely lengthen the course even more for the PGA Tour, which expects to flip the nines for the BMW at the end of the summer.

International Events

Royal St. Georges Golf Club—Sandwich, Kent, England

The Open Championship: July 2020

2021 courses
Royal St. George’s 6th hole (Photo by Kevin Murray)

2020 brought us the unthinkable—for the first time since World War II, the Open Championship was canceled. With the stunning move, The R&A chose not to shuffle up its entire rotation, instead deciding to simply slide its schedule back a year, meaning the 149th Open Championship would still be contested at Royal St. Georges and the 150th Open would still belong to St. Andrews.

It’s been 10 years since the R&A rota has brought the Open to the southern coast of England and Royal St. Georges. The links course brings back fond memories from 2011 where an emotional Darren Clarke hoisted the Claret Jug in victory, winning the first major title of his career at age 42. This year, the Open returns to the historic course for a 15th time.

The course along the Kent coastline was founded in 1897 and designed by Dr. William Laidlaw Purves. Just seven years after the club’s inception, Royal St. George’s became the first English course to host the Open Championship in 1894.

Kasumigaseki Country Club (East)—Saitama, Japan

Olympic Games: July/August 2021

Kasumigaseki 10th hole (photo by KOJI AOKI/AFLO SPORT)

Another victim of the global pandemic was the Olympic golf competition, and on a much grander scale the Olympic Games as a whole. Golf made a triumphant return to the Olympics in 2016 in Brazil and will return for another go at it in 2021 in Japan. The Summer Games in Tokyo will feature the men’s and women’s golf competition on the East course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, an hour northwest of the capital city.

The club was originally founded in 1929 and redesigned by Charles H. (Hugh) Alison who transformed Kasumigaseki into a challenging 36-hole layout—East and West. The East course was renovated by Tom Fazio in 2016 and has long been considered one of Japan’s most treasured golf courses.

Whistling Straits (Straits)—Kohler, Wis.

Ryder Cup: September 2021

Along with annual events on the schedule, Covid-19 had an effect on the major biennial events on the golf calendar. The Ryder Cup in September was moved back to 2021, while the Presidents Cup was bumped to 2022. On the LPGA, the 2020 UL International Crown was canceled and replaced on the schedule by a full-field official event.

Whistling Straits will play host to the Ryder Cup matches as the Pete Dye-designed layout along the shores of Lake Michigan will enter the international spotlight for the first time. The links-style Straits course has hosted plenty of major events over the last 17 years including PGA Championships in 2004, 2010, and 2015, as well as the U.S. Senior Open in 2007.


The Olympic Club (Lake Course)—San Francisco, Calif.

U.S. Women’s Open: June 2021

One of golf’s iconic west coast venues will play host to the 76th U.S. Women’s Open. The historic golf club has previously hosted 11 USGA championships, but 2021 will mark the first time a USGA women’s championship is contested at The Olympic Club. The Lake Course’s bond with the USGA runs deep—five U.S. Opens have been played at Olympic dating back to 1955, with the most recent coming in 2012 when Webb Simpson was crowned champion.

Designed by Sam Whiting in 1927, the Lake Course winds players through narrow fairways guarded by Monterey Cypress and Pine trees and has traditionally been considered one of the more difficult U.S. Open venues over the last 65 years. 2021 will add to the club’s legacy as Olympic will become just the 12th course all time to host both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open.

Champions Tour

Omaha Country Club—Omaha, Neb.

U.S. Senior Open: July 2021

After missing out on Rhode Island’s Newport Country Club in 2020, the U.S. Senior Open will head to a much different venue in 2021 at Omaha Country Club. The club on the north side of Omaha was founded in 1899 with the current golf course opening in 1927. Constructed by William Tucker and Wayne E. Stiles, the course underwent renovations by Perry Maxwell in 1952 and Keith Foster in 2006.

The hilly terrain combined with warm temperatures can be a stiff test for Champions Tour players, unless your name is Kenny Perry. OCC last hosted the U.S. Senior Open in 2013, where Perry won the event at 13-under par—tying the lowest score in Senior Open history.


Which course are you looking forward to seeing the professionals play in 2021?



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