A panel of nearly 100 experts contribute to GOLF’s biennial ranking of the best golf courses in America, with a record 17 entries making the cut for the first time
New York, NY — In a year where so many things we’re accustomed to have changed, one constant remains: Pine Valley again tops GOLF Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Courses in the United States.
The historic New Jersey course – with a rolling, sandy landscape and one of the most sophisticated green complexes in golf – hasn’t budged from GOLF’s top position in decades. Beyond the top ranking, GOLF’s biennial list continues to surprise, with a record 17 new courses in 13 different states joining the rankings, and a number of jumps in ranking for courses that have been recently renovated or restored.
Within the Top 10, you’ll find the usual array of famous courses, along with a few surprises. Classic Northeast stalwarts like Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America and Oakmont hold 6 of the top 10 spots, but Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska, a 26-year-old gem designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, takes its place among them. As in past years, Augusta National, perhaps the most iconic course in America, remains in the Top 10, while California is well represented by two of its golfing treasures, Cypress Point and Pebble Beach.
The 2020-21 ranking was published as part of a 42-page super feature in the November/December issue of GOLF Magazine. Accompanying the print coverage is a digital rollout through GOLF.com that contains more than a dozen additional stories and videos, with more content and interactive features being gradually rolled out. Later this month, users will have the ability to input their “favorite” courses on the digital ranking, creating a shareable list of Top 100 designs that they have played—and a “to-do” list of courses left to play. State rankings are also on the way, in which GOLF’s panelists will identify the best courses in all 50 states.
For this current compilation, a premium was put on first-rate architecture. The result of this focus was that a number of reimagined American classics saw significant gains in ranking position. While the top new entrant, Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia, was built from scratch, nine of the 17 new entrants were actually the beneficiary of recent and significant restoration/renovation. Of the 16 courses experiencing an improvement of 10 spots or more from their previous rank, 12 are restoration/renovations, including Bel-Air in Los Angeles, which rose 12 spots, and Old Town in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which jumped 18. Sleepy Hollow in Scarborough, New York, made a tremendous jump of more than 60 places to 36th.
“We’re especially excited about this year’s Top 100,” said Hoyt McGarity, President of 8AM Golf, GOLF Magazine’s parent company. “We’ve made many changes over the past eighteen months to enhance our rankings’ integrity and accuracy—including hiring Ran Morrissett to spearhead our efforts as GOLF’s Architecture Editor. Ran is one of world’s leading authorities on course design, and his passion for the game is well known. Having immersed himself in architecture for nearly 40 years, Ran’s expertise and leadership have helped ensure that GOLF’s rankings remain the most trusted in the industry.”
Regarding the just released rankings, Ran Morrissett notes: “The US golf landscape enjoys two primary advantages. First, the diversity of its playing environments – from lava fields to deserts to mountains to prairies to glacial moraines to parkland to barrier islands – is unparalleled. And second, almost every great architect from Harry Colt to Donald Ross to the modern-day legends has worked here. Essentially, this country provides a wonderful array of canvases and very talented people have taken advantage of them.”
A Simple Process Focused on Design Excellence
The process for ranking this year’s U.S. list was designed to be simple and straightforward. Each panelist was provided a list of 489 courses, with 11 “buckets,” or groupings, for each course. If panelists considered a course to be among the top three in the country, they ticked that box. If they believed the course to be among Nos. 4-10 in the U.S., they checked that box, followed by 11-25, 26-50, and so on. Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, GOLF divided its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly.
One of the main reasons why GOLF’s “Top 100 Courses in the United States” is the most esteemed list of its kind, is the experience and expertise of their panelists. Each of the 97 handpicked and well-traveled golfers/aficionados has a keen eye for architecture. Moreover, each member of the seasoned group is capable of expressing their own sense of design excellence at the highest level. Finally, unlike many “best” lists that utilize thousands of raters, GOLF’s “less is more” approach, results in a smart and streamlined compilation of the best courses from every corner of the country.
GOLF’s “Top 100 Courses in the United States” ranking was unveiled online earlier this month and is featured in the November-December 2020 print issue now available on newsstands. The list of GOLF’s “Top 100 Courses in the United States” can be found on the GOLF.com website, here.
About GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com
Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019, GOLF – including GOLF Magazine, GOLF.com, and associated digital, video and social media platforms – is the premier media brand for all-things golf. GOLF Magazine reaches an audience of 4.2 million people, while more than 6 million people engage with the brand across our GOLF.com and GOLF social channels. GOLF’s celebrated franchise includes the GOLF Top 100 Courses (including World and U.S. editions); GOLF’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play; GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers in America; the GOLF Fix Finder app; and GOLF Films productions. With innovative content covering equipment, instruction, travel and lifestyle, GOLF is the definitive voice of the sport on and off the course, dedicated to enhancing every golfer’s enjoyment of the game.
About 8AM Golf
GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com are part of the 8AM Golf family. 8AM Golf was created by golf entrepreneur and GOLF publisher Howard Milstein as the holding company that oversees his golf companies—all of which are dedicated to helping golfers at every level enjoy the game more. In addition to GOLF and GOLF.com, other 8AM Golf companies include the Nicklaus Companies (in partnership with Jack Nicklaus); legendary club maker Miura Golf; True Spec Golf, a brand-agnostic club-fitting company that has fit more than 30,000 golfers worldwide; GolfLogix, the most-downloaded GPS app in golf; Club Conex, a global leader in the design and manufacturing of adjustable golf club adapter systems; and Chirp, a free-to-play gaming app that let’s golfers wager on the outcome of pro golf tournaments, rounds, and shots.
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