Winter is a great time to set the clubs aside, do other things, stay inside, or read, but the itch will come to play golf, and when it does, Canadians and the northern states turn to simulator golf.
Aside from being an A+ Launch Monitor, Trackman is a great way to play some excellent venues from around the world in the comfort of your own city. We played them all, so you do not have to search and search for a golf course to play.
To be clear, this is not a Top 20 of the best golf courses on Trackman. Instead, this is a top 20 list of golf courses to play on Trackman. Occasionally, great golf courses do not play as well as other golf courses for various reasons, like the trees at Valderrama, or the gorse at Royal County Down. That does not change that they are not excellent venues in person (Royal County Down is usually in the discussion for the best in the world), but that other courses play better on Trackman.
With all that being said, here is where you should be teeing it up when you book a simulator bay this winter.
All images are credited to Trackman unless otherwise stated.
St. Andrew’s (The Old Course)
This is the only choice, right? The Home of Golf hosted the 2022 Open Championship, spectacularly won by Cameron Smith over Rory McIlroy and Cameron Young. The chance to hit shots at The Road Hole, the original Eden and Long templates, and the drive & pitch 18th is an excellent winter venue. For added fun, change the fairways and greens to firm and have the greens roll at 11 with difficult pins for an excellent Open Championship Links experience.
Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course
Like The Old Course, Rio’s Olympic Golf Course is better suited for firm greens, firm fairways, and difficult pins, but be warned: the difficult pins are extremely tough. Playing with medium pins and a little slower greens than St. Andrews is preferred. Gil Hanse’s architecture here shines on the Trackman, with short grass run-offs and tight surrounds make short game difficult, yet fun on here. This is one of the few golf courses on a simulator you might have to shape shots on and work balls into slopes, and for that, it holds a higher-than-usual spot on a ranking like this.
Sweetens Cove Golf Club
Booking bays at a simulator vary, but typically, they book by the hour. If you’re a solo and want to practice a bit, then play and have 10-15 minutes left at the end of it, the nine hole Sweetens Cove is an excellent quick option. Likewise for a group, where four people can rip around Sweetens Cove in half the time than other golf courses on Trackman. Firm, fast, and difficult is the best way to explore this Rob Collins & Tad King design.
Franklin Hills Country Club
There is no Seminole, Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills, or any of the other notable Donald Ross masterpieces on Trackman, but you can play Franklin Hills, said to be one of his more underrated designs. Really classy greens with some fun strategic efforts off the tee, plus a volcano hole make this an excellent parkland option on Trackman.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Like The Old Course, this is an obvious choice. The opportunity to play alongside the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean is not quite as fun on the Trackman, but this is about as pure of a ball-striking test as it gets, and from the flat lies of artificial grass, a perfect place to put your skills to the test before adding variables. The stretch along the cliffs at the 6th-10th is still as good as it gets, even on a projector.
Royal St. George’s Golf Club
Even on a simulator where ball-striking is prioritized, Royal St. George’s showcases the greens in a way unlike any other. The old school contours, rolls, and hummocks showcase brilliantly when the golfer misses the relatively smaller greens and has to chip to a flag. Medium pins is best here—the difficult pins get a little too funky—and like all other links golf, firm greens and firm fairways is the way to rock.
Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)
While Pebble Beach plays atop the cliffs, Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog feels like it is falling into the ocean, even on Trackman. Both the front and back nine play alongside the ocean, and while not as imaginative on a simulator as a Royal St. George’s or Rio 2016, the golf course is consistently rated in the World Top 100, and escaping the cold, even by imagining one is in the Dominican Republic, puts it above other selections.
Leatherstocking Golf Club
Zach, a writer on this site, has played Leatherstocking and he raves about this Devereux Emmet design in Cooperstown, New York, so when it popped up on Trackman, I had to play. The quirky, old school golf course is only 6400 or so from the very back, but the green complexes are devilish, and some of the fairways are so severely tilted that even off an artificial mat, the art of shot shaping is not lost. The finishing stretch, including the all-or-nothing par 3, 17th and the risk-reward massive dogleg left par 5 around Otsego Lake, is perfect for a match.
Wentworth Golf Club (West)
Playing tournament venues can be fun, too, but even more when they are a Harry Colt design through the English heathland. Long par 4’s ask difficult questions, and like Pebble Beach, the opportunity to showcase a golfer’s ball-striking prowess adds to the enjoyment of a place like Wentworth, which annually hosts the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship.
Sutton Bay (Championship)
Some courses on Trackman are great to play because you want to go see them in real life—like The Old Course, Casa de Campo, or Pebble Beach—while others are great because you have already had such privileges. For me, Sutton Bay is one of those courses, but it helps it is as good as it was in person. Firm fairways with big, firm greens make Sutton Bay the perfect modern Links style course to play in a match, stroke play, or anything else.
Le Touquet Resort
I will admit, I do not know much about Le Touquet, but what I do know after playing it on Trackman is this is a blast to play. Reachable par 5’s play through the French linksland, asking golfers interesting questions. Greensides sit tucked up atop hillsides and down below on-grade, but they all feature Harry Colt’s smart & savvy green contours. This is among the “NEW” additions for 2022, and it is an instant addition to the rotation.
Primland Resort (Highlands)
For us Canadians, Donald Steel built both Redtail and Goodwood—for most, unaccessible extra-exclusive golf courses—but Primland is a resort in Virginia, home to a public Donald Steel design. The greens are like Redtail or Goodwood, very difficult and undulating, while the mountain setting allows for dramatic shots and hilarious penalties, like coming up short on greens and rolling back 60 yards, or perhaps falling off the edge of a mountain. This is fun golf on the Trackman.
Royal Portrush Golf Club (Dunlace)
Links golf is the real winner of Trackman, allowing the golfer to swing openly off the tee if they want and deal with the consequences, or hit fairways and benefit from being in the middle. Either way, they both have to approach Royal Portrush’s devilish greens all the same, and with Trackman’s update that allows the golfer to not only see the lie they have in the game, you will have to pay attention to what is happening around your ball to get it to the next place.
The Reserve at Moonlight Basin
At 7,200 feet above sea level, this Jack Nicklaus design in Montana starts on a 430 yard par 4… that is drivable. It will be difficult to adjust to how far the ball is flying as Trackman adjusts for elevation, but the prospect of hitting 400 yard drives off mountains as the routing takes you up and down over 1,000 feet of total elevation change is the perfect atmosphere for a low-key setting to play a match or settle a bet.
Wilshire Golf Club
A regular stop on the LPGA Tour makes you realize how good they actually are… Wilshire’s greens are weirdly shaped and off rarely flat lies, they become difficult to get it close. The golf course is shorter than some of the other selections on here, meaning those good players might want to add difficult pins to the game settings prior, but this is a blast to see how good your short irons are, especially in contrast to the LPGA (hint: they do not compare).
Sebonack Golf Club
The modern style golf courses with big fairways and big greens (with insane contour in the actual surface) are a great way to play golf in Trackman because generally, there is little water hazards or Out of Bounds in play. At Sebonack, Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus collaborate for some awesome green complexes that make things interesting chipping and getting the ball close.
Meadowbrook Country Club
Author Alex Hunter enjoyed his time here in 2022—which I fully expect to show up on his year-end list—and it makes sense: this old Willie Park Jr. re-imagined by Andy Staples outside Detroit is over a rolling piece of land with excellent greens. Who doesn’t love a good Biarritz? With Trackman’s update that allows more ground game, it might be the play to set up practice on that hole and see how successful one can be running it through the swale.
Trinity Forest Golf Club
Where Tom Doak goes (Sebonack), Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw are around. Likewise for this list, which would not be complete without Trinity Forest. The PGA TOUR really fumbled the Bryon Nelson here, soaking out the golf course and not letting it play as it should, but you do not have to make the same mistake: put the fairways on firm, the greens on firm, and enjoy this experience.
Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club
Gozzer Ranch is a popular choice when people discuss Tom Fazio’s best design. A loop around on Trackman showcases why. Strategic charm on holes like the drivable par 4, 7th, interesting green complexes set on top of hillsides or down low between rock outcroppings, and gorgeous vistas of Lake Coeur d’Alene await. Par 5’s and drivable par 4’s at elevation only increase the fun factor.
Bonnie Doon Golf Club
Opening in February 2021 after a large renovation, Bonnie Doon is a beautiful Australian golf course that draws inspiration from the Melbourne sandbelt, but in Sydney. Michael Clayton, Geoff Oglivy, Mike Cocking, and Ashley Mead’s now seperated firm contributed to the renovation, adding short grass, unique green complexes, and some very strategic bunkering to provide an excellent risk-reward experience from the comfort of your own simulator bay.