Royal County Down is definitely all it’s cracked up to be. I played there in 2017 in a trifecta with Royal Portrush and Portstewart, which hosted the Irish Open later that year. I was in a zone for those three days. Started with a 79 at RCD, 82 at Portrush, and 83 at Portstewart–and just as those scores indicate, I was starting to lose my game. Later in the trip, I couldn’t even break 90 on much lesser courses.
By the way, the secondary course at RCD is definitely worth a spin. Same great conditions and occasionally some spectacular shots required, just like on the big course.
My exclusive experience though was a three-day, two-night trip based at the Marriott at Sawgrass. Had access through one of those credit card “experiences,” and I was glad I took advantage. Two rounds of golf, one at the TPC, one at the Slammer and Squire at the World Golf Hall of Fame. On the latter round, all the groups got to play a par 3 with Colin Montgomerie who teamed with a golf historian later at a dinner at the Hall of Fame to do a tour and a post-tour chat about his life in golf. At most, between participants and non-participant spouses, maybe 60 people.
I even won a prize with a pair of Oakley TPC branded sunglasses and a $100 gift card to the TPC pro shop. Overall, from start to finish, the golf, the food and drink (all included), and having a chance to see a different side of Montgomerie (he was more engaging with us than I’d ever seen him at any of the tournaments I watched that he played in), it was a tremendous golf experience.
And maybe not as exclusive but still cool, attending a practice round at the Masters. Augusta National is more than they say.
I’ve been pretty lucky with my experiences with golf–especially since my rounds at Pebble, St. Andrews, Congressional outside of DC, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Ballybunion, Lahinch, and Bandon Dunes fall behind the above.