The annual list of Golfweek’s Best New Courses isn’t the biggest list we publish, but it might be the one that provides the best barometer of the golf industry and the broader economy.
Only a few years ago, scores of courses merited consideration for this list. These days, as the development pipeline has slowed to a trickle, we have far fewer candidates from which to choose. That’s reflected in the size of this list: A year ago, we capped it at 40 courses; this year, it’s 25.
This dynamic is forcing course architects to spend more time chasing business in less-developed golf markets, particularly across Asia. Still, we continue to see some very good – and occasionally transcendent – work being done in the U.S.
That’s best reflected by the top two courses on this list, Old Macdonald and Patriot Golf Club, which debuted earlier this year at Nos. 3 and 48, respectively, on Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses (since 1960) list. Old Macdonald, a tribute to the work of the late C.B. Macdonald, gives Bandon Dunes Resort four courses among the top 30 on our Best Modern list, an unprecedented feat for one property ...
2010 Golfweek’s Best: New Courses
1) Old Macdonald 8.90
2010, Tom Doak, Jim Urbina
2) Huntsman Springs 7.77
2009, David McLay Kidd
3) Shooting Star 7.75
Teton Village, Wyo.
2009, Tom Fazio
4) The Patriot 7.65
2010, Robert Trent Jones Jr.
5. Clear Creek 7.33
2009, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw
6. The Wilderness Club of Montana 7.13
2009, Nick Faldo
7. Red Ledges 6.90
Heber City, Utah
2009, Jack Nicklaus
8. Wine Valley GC 6.87
Walla Walla, Wash.
2009, Dan Hixson
9. Victory Ranch 6.75
Park City, Utah
2009, Rees Jones
10. Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort 6.71
French Lick, Ind.
2009, Pete Dye
11. Chicago Highlands 6.68
2010, Arthur Hills
12. The Prairie Club (Dunes) 6.67
2010, Tom Lehman
13. Payne Stewart GC 6.50
2009, Chuck Smith, Bobby Clampett
14. TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks) 6.50
San Antonio, Texas
2010, Greg Norman
15. Ballyhack 6.33
2009, Lester George
The valleys on either side of the Teton Pass – which connects the county seats of Jackson, Wyo., and Driggs, Idaho – afford visitors some of the most scenic mountain vistas in America. The Tetons seem to erupt from the earth, creating a striking juxtaposition between the mountains and the lowlands.
But the very nature of the pancake-flat valleys in Teton County, Wyo., and Teton County, Idaho, place a premium on the imaginations of course architects. They don’t so much have to “find” golf holes but rather conjure them.
That’s precisely what David McLay Kidd and Tom Fazio did at Huntsman Springs and Shooting Star, respectively. Those two courses occupy the second and third spots on Golfweek’s Best New Courses list, trailing only Old Macdonald, the heralded fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort.
Kidd still is best known for building the first course at Bandon Dunes, but he calls Huntsman Springs “the pinnacle of my career so far,” because it required him to completely re-imagine a featureless landscape. From an engineering standpoint, the job involved drawing nearby wetlands back up into the course, adding water features ...
John Tyson built Blessings Golf Club to challenge the world’s best players, but at the moment he’s the man in the crucible.
“Oh, Johnny, Johnny,” he chides himself, “you came at it too hard from the top. . . . Oh, Johnny, here comes that train wreck. . . . Oh, Johnny. . . .”
So it goes at Blessings, the course with the saintly name and the Old Testament-tough reputation. Tyson, the chairman of Tyson Foods – a 114,000-employee company that produces a quarter of the nation’s chicken and beef – believes that “golf’s about being tested on every swing.”
So he assigned architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. to build a course that does just that. And Tyson, a 10-handicapper with a tidy short game and intimate knowledge of the course, happily takes his lumps like everyone else.
“I told Johnny the first time I played it, ‘If you’re not careful, the course record’s going to be 108,’ ” recalls Butch Davis, former head coach of the Cleveland Browns and University of Miami and a friend of Tyson’s since second grade.
If the biggest criticism of Blessings is that it’s too hard, Tyson can happily live with that.
“Here’s my biggest ...
When it comes to design skill, working with native contours is a matter of restraint. The tougher test of an architect’s vision is being able to manufacture something out of nothing. Or, in the case of Bayonne Golf Club, to create a stunning dunes-like golf course out of an abandoned industrial wasteland.
Here on the piers of the New Jersey coast overlooking New York Harbor, Eric Bergstol has fashioned an amazing landscape. “We wanted to embrace the city and the harbor,” he said.
Anyone who thinks links-style golf is a matter of naturalism will be in for a shock here on these 50-foot-high, fescue-laden dunes.
The private course, which opened Memorial Day weekend, has arisen on the back of industrial waste and harbor dredge. And yet the whole contrivance assumes a soft and lovely demeanor, one that contrasts sharply with the iconography of a bustling, working harbor. Like Central Park or Yankee Stadium, this place offers jarring juxtapositions of the pastoral and the urban. This isn’t escapism from modern life. Golf here is a post-modern simultaneity of contrasting lifestyles and landforms.
The project is part of a wider Bayonne redevelopment program that ultimately will reclaim ...
By Bradley S. Klein
There’s nothing more exciting in course architecture than playing
a newly opened course for the
first time. Such a trek elicits a pioneer’s sensibility and fuels endless 19th-hole debates.
Even with the number of annual U.S. new course openings falling to one-third of their volume five or six years ago, there’s plenty of innovative work being done. In our annual rundown of Golfweek’s Best New Courses, we’re showcasing the finest examples from the class of courses that came on line in 2004-05.
Topping the chart is Bandon Trails, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and saddled with impossible expectations because its neighbors at Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes
(No. 2 and No. 9, respectively, on the Golfweek Modern list), were instant classics the day they opened for play.
Bandon Trails doesn’t sit on the Pacific Ocean like its siblings, instead wending its way from dunesland through meadow into classic Pacific Northwest parkland and back again. Along the way, golfers are treated to firm, fescue fairways and greens, all with the kind of inventive yet natural contours that have come to typify the Coore-Crenshaw style.
They achieve ...
Seen any good new golf courses lately? We have. Here is our top 40, all opened in 2003-04 and visited by Golfweek America’s Best raters.
Private clubs top our list, though more than half of the courses are daily-fee (14) or available to resort guests (7). Friar’s Head claims the No. 1 position. A links-inspired design by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw that brushes up against the shore of Long Island Sound, Friar’s Head is a modern ancestor of such classic windswept, shotmakers venues as nearby Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America.
Right behind Friar’s Head are a handful of brash upstart courses with distinctly modern sensibilities, born of the American West.
It helps having uncommonly dramatic land – along with some upscale panache. Our No. 2, Sutton Bay, designed by Graham Marsh, combines the remoteness of the central South Dakota plains with the theatricality of the Missouri River bluffs. At Dallas National (No. 3), principal owner and developer John MacDonald transformed an abandoned parcel of heavily rolling, wooded land on the outskirts of downtown Dallas into a stunning set of golf holes. There are many bold carries over ravines or creek beds here, thanks ...
Every now and then, David Buth, director of golf operations at 3-year-old Victoria Hills Golf Club in DeLand, Fla., fields a call from a wayward golf tourist stranded about an hour away along Orlando’s International Drive. The tourist invariably will ask whether it’s worth the drive to visit Buth’s course.
“I always answer the same way,” he says. “I tell them, ‘Please make sure to find me after your round if you think it isn’t.’ ”
Buth engages in his share of post-round conversations, but not to issue refunds. Most frequently, it’s another pleased customer thanking Buth for issuing his “long-drive” challenge. At other nearby courses, it’s a familiar theme: Good golf. Good value.
Which makes playing on Orlando’s north side a very good move.
Quality golf on the top side of the City Beautiful isn’t anything radically new, as those who have ventured to Timacuan and the Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes in the past decade can attest. But almost overnight, other necessary pieces of the golf destination puzzle have fallen into place. Posh new hotels have risen, and gourmet dining has been added to the mix, putting Disney World (sorry, Mickey ...
By Chris Hodenfield
Lake Oconee, Ga.
In America we’re accustomed to seeing some gleaming piece of fabulousness constructed where once was acres of nothingness. Disneyland was built on an orange grove, Las Vegas was built on desert scrub and Adam Sandler’s career was built on his wit. So what are we to make of Lake Oconee, which is now being trumpeted as a “golfer’s paradise,” a dream destination, even though it is located in the rambling hills of middle Georgia, in what was not long ago one of the state’s poorest counties?
The Georgia hills should be the ideal playland for a golf course, actually, when you think of the outpost that represents the ideal for a lot of high rollers, Augusta National. When the Reynolds Plantation people draped their four shining courses around the pine hills and shorelines of Lake Oconee, they certainly had the Augusta National ideal in mind. When you stand on a tee box almost anywhere on their newest showpiece, the Rees Jones-designed Oconee course, and see the snow-white bunkers garlanding the rolling hills, you can only think of that hilly major site just 90 miles to the east. Every April, when ...
The golf world in staid Old Dominion has a newcomer on its hands that’s already being talked about – rightly, in this reviewer’s judgment – as the state’s best course. Kinloch Golf Club, 12 miles west of downtown Richmond, is something of a throwback in an area of horse country that’s fast becoming the frontier of road development and residential expansion.
Luckily for golfers able to afford its pricey membership, Kinloch is an ideal refuge. This is a pure golf club. No swimming pool. No tennis courts. A walkable layout with well-trained caddies, and best of all a stunning layout in pristine shape that provides plenty of optional routes of play.
Inspiration – and sweat equity – for the project came from amateur golf champion Marvin “Vinny” Giles. His résumé includes British Amateur and U.S. Amateur titles, participation on four Walker Cup teams and a Walker Cup captaincy. He’s also president of a major sports marketing agency, Pros Inc. Now he has collaborated with course architect Lester George on a golf facility that takes the game to heart.
Kinloch, par 72, plays from 5,360 yards up to 7,112 (75 rating/138 slope). Befitting its ...