For anyone who thinks that great golf course architecture is found only at old, stuffy private clubs, the 2010 Golfweek’s Best lists should be an eye-opener.
We’re not just celebrating our annual lists of the top 100 Classic (pre-1960) and top 100 Modern (1960 and after) courses. We’re also highlighting the fact that 38 of them are in the public domain as readily accessible resort or daily-fee layouts that also sit atop our state-by-state public-access courses list.
This is, after all, an unprecedented year for public golf, with three of the four men’s professional majors to be played on such courses: the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links (No. 8 Classic); the British Open at St. Andrews, Scotland; and the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits’ Straits Course in Wisconsin (No. 3 Modern). It’s also the culmination of an extraordinary three-year run of U.S. Opens on public layouts, including a pair of municipal tracks: Torrey Pines’ South Course in San Diego (ranked No. 9 in California) in 2008 and Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. (No. 19 Classic) in 2009.
Our national panel of 550 raters has voted Pine Valley (N.J.) Golf Club back into the No. 1 Classic slot for the first time since 2005. Four pre-1960 courses have earned comeback honors for bouncing back onto the Classic list following various restoration efforts: Country Club of Buffalo, N.Y. (No. 90); Westchester Country Club’s West Course in Rye, N.Y. (No. 93); Laurel Valley Country Club in Ligonier, Pa. (No. 94); and Moraine Country Club in Kettering, Ohio (No. 96).
Ironically, the one “rookie” on the Classic list, Palmetto Club in Aiken, S.C. (No. 97), also is the oldest continuously operating 18-hole layout in the southeastern U.S.
As usual, there is more movement on the Modern list, even as there has been a noticeable falloff in new-course openings.
The highest debut is a Tom Fazio-designed stunner, Gozzer Ranch in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (No. 38 Modern), overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene. With Frederica Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Ga. (No. 94 Modern) also new to the list, Fazio, with 21 original designs, leads all modern architects. He is followed by Pete Dye (11) and Jack Nicklaus (eight), including his newest entry, Whispering Pines in Trinity, Texas (No. 45 Modern).
Veteran designer Arthur Hills has broken through with Olde Stone Golf Club in Bowling Green, Ky. (No. 87 Modern). The design tandem of John Fought and Tom Lehman triumphed with Windsong Farms in Independence, Minn. (No. 100 Modern).
And, as evidence that even modern courses can benefit from significant overhauls, two layouts return to the top 100 after major renovations: Dick Wilson-designed Cog Hill Golf Club – No. 4 in Lemont, Ill. (No. 64), a favorite of Chicagoland daily-fee golfers, and the Pete Dye-designed Oak Tree National Golf Club in Edmond, Okla. (No. 91). Oak Tree returns after work by architect Tripp Davis.