Golfweek’s Best Municipal Courses (2009-10)

Butterfield Trail, No. 3 in Golfweek's Best Muni Courses 2010
Butterfield Trail, No. 3 in Golfweek's Best Muni Courses 2010 ( Courtesy Kemper Sports/Rob Perry )

Thursday, May 6, 2010

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It will come as a surprise to no one that the Black Course at Bethpage State Park once again occupies the top spot on Golfweek’s Best Municipal Courses list for 2009-10. The A.W. Tillinghast masterpiece, which Rees Jones buffed up a decade ago, last year played host to its second U.S. Open in seven years.

The runner-up to the Black again this year is Chambers Bay, the University Place, Wash., links that will play host to the U.S. Amateur this summer.

What might come as a surprise is the strong debut by Butterfield Trail, a Tom Fazio design near the El Paso, Texas, airport that supplanted Torrey Pines’ South Course, another U.S. Open venue, at No. 3. Torrey Pines, in fact, this year got bumped two spots to No. 5, one notch below Piñon Hills, a 20-year-old Ken Dye design that put tiny Farmington, N.M., on the golf map.

Butterfield Trail is one of three newcomers to this list, joining Washington County Golf Course (No. 35) in Hartford, Wis., and Ol’ Colony (No. 49) in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

One of the things that is striking about this list is its diversity. It includes modern-day architecture stars such as Fazio and Robert Trent Jones Jr., but also icons from the Classical era, when the idea of municipal golf was conceived. Tillinghast and William F. Bell show up three times on the list, Donald Ross twice, and Alister MacKenzie, Willie Watson, John Bredemus, H. Chandler Egan, Seth Raynor, Charles Banks and George Hansen once each.

Their presence illustrates the care that has been taken to preserve – and, when necessary, refurbish – vintage courses. For example, San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park, a 1915 Tillinghast design that underwent a $7.5 million renovation in 2008, anchors the list at No. 50.

Decades from now, it will be fascinating to review this list and see whether modern classics such as Chambers Bay aged as gracefully.

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