Many top munis are championship-caliber tests

No. 1 Bethpage State Park – Black

No. 1 Bethpage State Park – Black

Rankings list: Golfweek’s Best: Municipal Courses (2010-11)

Municipal Courses list looks a lot like last year’s list, with the top six courses remaining unchanged. 

Arrowhead Pointe crashed the party at No. 7. That eastern Georgia layout leads a list of nine courses that weren’t on last year’s list. The newcomers include Neshanic Valley, at No. 48, which returns after a year’s absence.

photo

No. 25 Desert Willow – Firecliff

The Black Course at Bethpage State Park, which has hosted two U.S. Opens in the past nine years, remains a formidable force in the Golfweek’s Best rankings.

Aside from being No. 1 on the Municipal list, it’s No. 1 among public-access courses in New York, and No. 21 on the Classic (pre-1960) list.

The list includes two other major-championship sites: Chambers Bay, which hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur and is scheduled to host the 2015 U.S. Open; and Torrey Pines – South, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open.

Municipal golf historically has been positioned as a low-cost, no-frills alternative to privately operated courses. That’s changed in recent years. Twenty-eight of the 50 courses were built since 1995, and many of those are positioned in the marketplace as championship layouts that sometimes command green fees well above $100.

Chambers Bay, for instance, has a $205 peak rate and even charges county residents $115. At TPC Harding Park, which reopened in 2003 after a $23 million renovation, the standard weekend rate is $170 ($99 for county residents). At SilverRock, the peak rate is $165. 

By comparison, fourth-ranked Piñon Hills, located in a remote part of northwest New Mexico, might be one of the nation’s best golf deals, with weekend nonresident rates topping out at $47.

It’s noteworthy that several high-profile courses did not crack the top 50, including Brown Deer Park, a former PGA Tour site; The Crossings at Carlsbad, the most expensive municipal course ever built, at more than $60 million; and Sharp Park, an Alister MacKenzie-Jack Fleming design just south of San Francisco that has received more attention in recent years because of environmental litigation and a controversial restoration plan.

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