Nothing beats a classic.
That’s the conclusion of Golfweek’s course raters, whose four favorite courses on the 2017-18 PGA Tour schedule rank among the top 18 on the Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list (those built before 1960). This underscores a schedule in which most of the season’s biggest events will be played on some of the game’s most time-honored designs.
After a dubious flirtation with untested modern designs two of the past three years, the U.S. Golf Association will take the national championship to Shinnecock Hills, about as safe and reliable an old-school test as one could ever find. It would be impossible to start the major-championship season with a better one-two punch than Augusta National (No. 4 on the Classic list) and Shinnecock Hills (No. 3). (They’re bettered only by Pine Valley and Cypress Point, which won’t host any Tour events, major or otherwise, anytime soon.) A British Open at austere, uncompromising Carnoustie all but ensures a memorable major season.
Similarly, adding two Golden Age venues – Ridgewood and Aronimink – to the FedEx Cup Playoffs (along with annual staple East Lake) should add some much-needed flavor to that season-ending competition.
Without question, the most interesting addition to the 2017-18 schedule is Trinity Forest, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw collaboration that is the new home of the AT&T Byron Nelson. Our raters seem generally approving of this venue, placing it at No. 20 on our list – not shabby given the quality of the schedule.
There are two other noteworthy additions to the list. The Champion Trace course at Keene Trace in Kentucky is the new home for the event opposite the British Open. The other is France’s Ryder Cup course, Le Golf National’s Albatross, a watery stadium venue created expressly to host the biennial competition.
There are three caveats on this list. Two of the Tour stops – TPC Kuala Lumpur and Chapultepec in Mexico – have not generated enough votes to be ranked here.
A tournament site has not been confirmed for The National in July, but indications are the event will return to TPC Potomac.
Finally, this list includes two courses – Coco Beach CC’s Championship and International – that were scheduled to host the Puerto Rico Open again this season. That tournament is taking a year-long hiatus while the island continues recovery efforts after being hammered by two hurricanes in September. An unofficial charity tournament will be held that week at TPC Dorado Beach to raise relief funds.
Golfweek’s Best: Tour Courses 2018
Courses ranked by Golfweek raters using multiple criteria that focus on playability, conditions, memorability, walk-in-the-park factors and others. Courses are listed with location, year opened, architect(s) and its Golfweek rating average.
1. Shinnecock Hills Southampton, N.Y. – 1931 – William S. Flynn, Howard C. Toomey – 9.37
U.S. Open: Arguably the top Open venue, though 2004 visit is remembered for runaway green. Let’s hope USGA doesn’t overreach with narrow fairways.
2. Augusta National Augusta, Ga. – 1932 – Bobby Jones, Alister MacKenzie – 9.32
The Masters: No. 1 at ANGC was the toughest opener on Tour in 2017 (+0.462). The slick greens generated the Tour’s highest three-putt percentage (5.76%).
3. Pebble Beach – Pebble Beach, Calif. – 1919 – D. Grant, Jack Neville – 8.90
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: America’s most-iconic resort course – ranked No. 1 by Golfweek’s Best – also is the shortest on the Tour schedule at 6,816 yards.
4. Riviera – Pacific Palisades, Calif. – 1927 – William P. Bell, George C. Thomas, Jr. – 8.13
Genesis Open: Perhaps the most-beloved venue among regular Tour stops. The drivable 10th might be the most confounding hole on Tour.
5. Muirfield Village – Dublin, Ohio -1974 Jack Nicklaus 7.98
The Memorial Tournament: Jack Nicklaus always draws a great field. Tough closing stretch starts at No. 16, the Tour’s toughest par-3 (+0.367) in 2017.
6. Carnoustie (Championship) Carnoustie, Scotland 1839 Old Tom Morris, Allan Robertson, James Braid 7.84
British Open: If 2007 Open is any indication, better start fast; front nine played much easier. No. 18 played the toughest (4.611 average), with GIRs of just 27%.
7. TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium) – Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. – 1981 – Pete Dye – 7.74
The Players: The island-green 17th gets most of the attention, but it’s the par-4 18th that played as the Tour’s toughest closing hole (+0.486) last season.
8. Spyglass Hill – Pebble Beach, Calif. – 1966 – Robert Trent Jones Sr. – 7.66
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Sitting in Pebble Beach’s shadow, it’s ranked No. 11 on Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses list and No. 23 on Best Modern.
9. Monterey Peninsula (Shore) – Pebble Beach, Calif. – 1961 – Robert Baldock, Jack Neville, Michael Strantz 7.50
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Modern classic (No. 37 on Golfweek’s Best Modern list) from the late Strantz had Tour’s easiest fairways to hit (75%) in ‘17.
10. Kapalua (Plantation) – Maui, Hawaii – 1991 – Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw – 7.42
Sentry Tournament of Champions: Tour’s easiest course (-2.625) in ‘17, with easiest greens to hit (80.73%). But, oh those views.
11. Ridgewood (Championship) – Paramus, N.J. – 1929 – A.W. Tillinghast – 7.40
The Northern Trust: The FedEx Cup Playoffs start with this 1929 Tillinghast gem, ranked No. 52 on Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list.
12. Aronimink – Newtown Square, Pa. – 1928 – Donald Ross – 7.34
BMW Championship: The third FedEx Playoff stop, a 1928 Donald Ross design, ranked No. 56 on Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list.
13. Harbour Town – Hilton Head, S.C. – 1970 – Pete Dye – 7.30
RBC Heritage: Annual cooling-off stop after Masters. Perhaps that (and small, subtle surfaces) explain Tour’s lowest three-putt percentage (2.03%) in ‘17.
14. Quail Hollow Club – Charlotte, N.C. – 1961 – George Cobb, Tom Fazio – 7.28
Wells Fargo Championship: As PGA host in August, it was the Tour’s toughest venue (+2.468), with the toughest greens to hit (54.79%) in ‘17.
15. Colonial – Fort Worth, Texas – 1935 – John Bredemus, Perry Maxwell – 7.28
Dean & DeLuca Invitational: Marvin Leonard founded Hogan’s Alley, No. 61 on the Golfweek’s Best Classics list, to bring Bentgrass greens to Southwest.
16. East Lake – Atlanta, Ga. – 1915 – George Cobb, Rees Jones, Donald Ross – 7.23
Tour Championship: Xander Schauffele won despite outperforming field in strokes gained: approach-the-green by +0.062, worst by a Tour winner in ‘17.
17. Corales – Punta Cana, D.R. – 2008 – Tom Fazio – 7.15
Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship: Site on island’s east coast ranks No. 7 on Golfweek’s Best Courses of the Caribbean and Mexico.
18. Sea Island (Seaside) – St. Simon Island, Ga. – 2000 Charles H. Alison, Harry S. Colt, Tom Fazio, Joe Lee – 7.06
The RSM Classic: Final full-field event of calendar year takes place on a classic design refurbished by Fazio in 2000. Ranked No. 23 on Golfweek’s Resort list.
19. The Club at Nine Bridges – Jeju Island, South Korea – 2001 – Ron Fream, David Dale – 6.85
The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges: In its first time on the Tour schedule, it produced a memorable playoff finish, with Justin Thomas getting his sixth win of 2017.
20. Trinity Forest – Dallas – 2016 – Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw – 6.84
AT&T Byron Nelson: New Coore-Crenshaw design joins the Tour schedule, presenting players an homage to classics of the Northeast and Great Britain.
21. The Greenbrier (Old White TPC) White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. 2015 Lester George, Charles Blair MacDonald, Seth Raynor 6.84
Greenbrier Classic: After remarkable post-flood recovery, it produced the year’s best strokes gained: approach-the-green performance (Kelly Kraft, +2.718).
22. Bellerive – St. Louis 1960 – Robert Trent Jones Sr. – 6.83
PGA Championship: 100th PGA, the club’s third major and first since 1992, comes to course known as the “Green Monster of Ladue” when opened in 1960.
23. Torrey Pines (South) – La Jolla, Calif. – 1957 – William F. Bell – 6.79
Farmers Insurance Open: This William F. Bell design, renovated by Rees Jones in 2001, is the highest-rated municipal course on Tour’s regular schedule.
24. Sedgefield – Greensboro, N.C. – 1929 – Donald Ross – 6.61
Wyndham Championship: Oldest regular-season Tour stop. Last season, Sedgefield’s Ross Course produced highest “Going for It” percentage (86.37%).
25. Bay Hill Club – Orlando, Fla. 1961 – Arnold Palmer, Dick Wilson – 6.60
Arnold Palmer Invitational: You had better hit it straight at The King’s place. Last season it was toughest Tour course to make birdie or better from the rough.
26. Mayakoba (El Camaleon) – Maya Riviera, Mexico – 2006 – Greg Norman – 6.60
OHL Classic at Mayakoba: Striking design, through mangroves and canals, has Tour’s easiest greenside bunkers (61.1%) and easiest par 3 (No. 8, -0.312).
27. Firestone (South) – Akron, Ohio – 1929 – Robert Trent Jones Sr., W.H. Way – 6.59
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Dubbed “The Monster” by Arnold Palmer, it was home to the Tour’s longest hole – the 667-yard 16th – last season.
28. PGA West (Stadium Course) – La Quinta, Calif. – 1986 – Pete Dye – 6.53
CareerBuilder Challenge: Ranked No. 51 on Golfweek’s Resort list, this is Pete Dye’s Sawgrass West, with island-green 17th and water lining left side of 18.
29. La Quinta CC – La Quinta, Calif. – 1959 – Lawrence Hughes – 6.5
CareerBuilder Challenge: La Quinta is back for a 53rd season. Was easiest course in ‘17 for scrambling (68.9%); Adam Hadwin torched it in third-round 59.
30. Sheshan International – Shanghai, China – 2004 – Robin Nelson, Neil Haworth – 6.48
WGC-HSBC Champions: Justin Rose shot back-nine 31 to rally from eight back Sunday for victory at Sheshan, home to the Tour’s toughest par 5 (No. 8, +0.173).
31. Austin CC – Austin, Texas – 1983 – Pete Dye – 6.39
WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: This club dates to 1899, though it relocated to its current site, north of downtown, in the mid-1980s.
32. Innisbrook (Copperhead) – Tarpon Springs, Fla. – 1974 – Edward Packard, Lawrence Packard – 6.38
Valspar Championship: The rolling topography and pine tree-lined fairways are unusual for Florida, and it has become a sleeper favorite of Tour players.
33. Montreux G&CC – Reno, Nev. – 1997 – Jack Nicklaus – 6.32
Barracuda Championship: This opposite-field event, on a layout 5,500 feet above sea level, is the only Tour event that uses Modified Stableford scoring.
34. PGA National (Champion) – Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. – 1981 – Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus – 6.30
The Honda Classic: Redesigned by Nicklaus in 2014, course is known for imposing back-nine par 3s; ShotLink data indicates it is the easiest on Tour to putt. Beware of the alligators.
35. TPC River Highlands – Cromwell, Conn. – 1991 – Bobby Weed – 6.28
Travelers Championship: Date right after U.S. Open might not seem ideal, but it produced memorable finish with Jordan Spieth’s hole-out victory in playoff.
36. Glen Abbey – Oakville, Ontario, Canada – 1976 – Jack Nicklaus – 6.28
RBC Canadian Open: The national championship returns to Glen Abbey for the 30th time in 2018, though there’s talk the course is headed for redevelopment.
37. Le Golf National (Albatross) – Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France – 1990 Robert von Hagge, Hubert Chesneau, Pierre Thevenin – 6.27
Ryder Cup: Built nearly 30 years ago by the French Golf Federation to host a Ryder Cup, it finally will get the chance to do that.
38. TPC Boston – Norton, Mass. – 2002 – Gil Hanse, Arnold Palmer – 6.26
Dell Technologies Championship: Justin Thomas effectively wrapped up Player of the Year honors with his fifth victory of the season here.
39. Country Club of Jackson – Jackson, Miss. – 1963 – John Fought, Dick Wilson – 6.23
Sanderson Farms Championship: Opposite-field events are opportunities for players such as Ryan Armour, who earned first Tour win here last season.
40. TPC Scottsdale (Stadium) – Scottsdale, Ariz. – 1987 – Jay Morrish, Tom Weiskopf – 6.21
Waste Management Phoenix Open: Amid rowdy atmosphere, Graham DeLaet posted 2017’s best strokes gained: off-the-tee (+3.313) in first round.
41. Torrey Pines (North) – La Jolla, Calif. – 1957 – William F. Bell, Tom Weiskopf – 6.19
Farmers Insurance Open: In 2016 renovation, Weiskopf flipped nines to put the most scenic holes on the back side, and widened fairways and greens.
42. TPC Deere Run – Silvis, Ill. – 2000 – D. A. Weibring – 6.12
John Deere Classic: Bryson DeChambeau used strong iron play – he hit 17 of 18 greens in the final round – to capture his first Tour victory in ‘17.
43. TPC Potomac* – Potomac, Md. – 2009 – Jim Hardy, Steve Wenzloff – 6.07
The National: Kyle Stanley won despite losing strokes to field on the greens. (Note: Tour has not confirmed event will return to TPC Potomac.)
44. TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks) – San Antonio, Texas – 2010 – Greg Norman – 6.06
Valero Texas Open: Cameron Smith posted the season’s best strokes gained: around-the-greens performance (+2.640 per round) last season.
45. TPC Summerlin – Las Vegas – 1992 – Bobby Weed – 6.01
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: The drivable 15th, 320 yards, was the easiest par 4 on Tour (-0.407) last season.
46. TPC Southwind – Memphis, Tenn. – 1988 – Ron Prichard – 6.00
FedEx St. Jude Classic: Little wonder explosive player such as Daniel Berger went back to back here; 87 hole-outs last season were most on Tour.
47. Waialae CC – Honolulu, Hawaii – 1925 – Seth Raynor – 5.96
Sony Open: Justin Thomas made a statement with an opening-round 59 on a course with the easiest hole on Tour, the par-5 ninth (-0.786).
48. Silverado Resort (North) Napa, Calif. 1957 Robert Trent Jones Sr., Johnny Miller 5.94
Safeway Open: Brendan Steele won back-to-back titles on a course redesigned by host Miller, a part owner of the resort.
49. TPC Louisiana – Avondale, La. – 2004 Pete Dye – 5.93
Zurich Classic of New Orleans: This tournament differentiated itself by switching to two-man teams playing alternate-shot and best-ball formats.
50. Coco Beach CC (Championship) – Rio Grande, Puerto Rico – 2007 – Tom Kite – 5.92
Puerto Rico Open: 2017 winner D.A. Points led the field in driving accuracy and GIR, including hitting 40 consecutive greens.
51. PGA West (Nicklaus Resort) – La Quinta, Calif. – 1987 – Jack Nicklaus – 5.91
CareerBuilder Challenge: Known for its two island greens, the “Nick Tourney” has been a regular Tour Q-School host over the years.
52. Sea Island (Plantation) – St. Simon Island, Ga. – 1928 – Walter J. Travis, Dick Wilson – 5.76
The RSM Classic: Local resident Davis Love III will oversee a 10-month renovation of the Plantation starting in December 2018.
53. Coco Beach CC (International) – Rio Grande, Puerto Rico – 2008 – Tom Kite – 5.57
Puerto Rico Open: Following two hurricanes, Coco Beach CC is open, but the tournament will take a one-year hiatus.
54. GC of Houston (Tournament) – Humble, Texas – 2005 – Rees Jones – 5.50
Houston Open: Will host again despite hurricane damage. Russell Henley won here with season’s second-best strokes gained: total (+4.924 per round).
55. Keene Trace (Champion Trace) – Nicholasville, Ky. – 1987 – Keith Foster & Drew Rogers – 5.43
Barbasol Championship: This course is new to the Tour, but not to tournament play; it has hosted major collegiate and statewide championships
Other 2018 Tour courses not yet rated
TPC Kuala Lumpur (East) – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 1991 – Robin Nelson & Rodney Wright
CIMB Classic: Produced back-to-back champions in 2014-15 (Ryan Moore) and 2016-17 (Justin Thomas).
Chapultepec GC – Mexico City – 1921 – Alex & Willie Smith
WGC-Mexico Championship: Caution on the slopes: Chapultepec was the toughest to putt inside five feet (94.5%) and from 5-10 feet (52.4%).
*Course for The National, June 28-July 1, has not been officially announced, but TPC Potomac is expected to remain host site.
(Note: This story appears in the January 2018 issue of Golfweek.)