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Top 100 Golf Courses of the USA 2020

20 December, 2019
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Top 100 Golf Courses of the USA 2020

Welcome to the seventh revision of our biennial Top 100 for the USA, a chart which we first published at the end of 2005. A total of 163 courses have appeared in these listings down the years, some lasting for only one edition, others (like most of those that dropped out this time) enjoying long stretches in the national limelight before falling out of favour.

Of course, bear in mind these standings represent the crème de la crème of golfing layouts in a vast country where it’s reckoned there are more than 16,500 courses coast to coast, almost 2,000 of which we promote across our US state ranking tables. We’ll also be updating those Best in State charts in the New Year, announcing the revised listings on a rolling basis over several months.

In the latest edition of our Top 100 for the USA, 39 courses make upward moves, 16 remain in the same position and 45 slip down at least one position – with the 9 that have fallen away completely replaced by an equal number of new entries. So, without any further ado, here’s a brief overview of the main talking points in the new Top 100.

Cypress Point in California, which replaced Pine Valley as the nation’s No. 1 in 2016, remains in the top spot. Set out next to the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains at the end of the Monterey Peninsula, this Alister MacKenzie design has been thrilling members and their invited guests since it first opened in 1928. It was also one of the courses used for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event on the PGA Tour from 1947 until 1990 but those days are long gone, unfortunately,

Cypress Point Club

Our correspondent M. James Ward reviewed Cypress Point last year, calling it “the quintessential member’s course.” He went on to say: “The reputation of the layout embodies the central philosophy of Alister MacKenzie from start to finish. The intersection with Mother Nature is also central to the round of golf and the Good Doctor was wise enough to not attempt any heavy handed insertions.”

In the runner-up spot at No.2, George Crump’s Pine Valley reverses a surprising fall of one position last time around. All three reviews this year have been of the 6-ball variety, attracting comments such as “a test of nerve and shot making,” keeps you concentrated from hole 1 to 18” and “hard to find anywhere better than Pine Valley”. Laid out within the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, it’s been the supreme golfing test for exactly a hundred years and it’s still as formidable to play today as it was when it first opened in 1919.

Pine Valley Golf Club

Until now, only ten courses have ever been listed within the top ten tier of the US chart but that has changed with Crystal Downs easing one place up to No. 10. Occupying a headland site that’s wedged between Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake in the state of Michigan, this early 1930s layout from Alister MacKenzie and Perry Maxwell has had Tom Doak (who’s a member) and his Renaissance Golf Design company quietly carrying out small but significant refinements in the last few years.

Crystal Downs Country Club

Four courses climb seven places in the top half of the table.

A.W. Tillinghast’s Somerset Hills in New Jersey (at #24), the Macan/MacKenzie layout at the California Golf Club of San Francisco (at #28), Perry Maxwell’s Old Town Club in North Carolina (at #29) and the Seth Raynor-designed course at Shoreacres in Illinois (at #33) have all benefitted from recent architectural input from Brian Slawnik, Kyle Phillips, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak, respectively so it’s no real surprise to see each of them take such positives steps forward in the new rankings.

Old Town Club

Mention must also be made of the four courses that currently comprise the brilliant Bandon Dunes golf facility in Oregon. The 18-hole layouts at Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes and Old Macdonald have all resided comfortably inside our Top 50 since 2012 and they’ve just been joined by Coore & Crenshaw’s course Bandon Trails (up nine to No. 42) which has also now become a World Top 100 track, entering recently at No. 99.

Bandon Trails

Absolutely no pressure then on Bill and Ben to deliver another golfing showpiece when their new Sheep Ranch course opens at Bandon Dunes in June next year! Laid out along a mile of coastline, this exciting new layout will feature the only holes on the entire Bandon Dunes property to require a shot over the cliffs to the double green at the 3rd and 16th on the Fivemile Point promontory .

Three courses make major double digit advances.

Essex County Club in Massachusetts (up thirteen to No. 40) is a century-old Donald Ross layout that was extended to eighteen holes by the architect early in his career, during his time there as club professional. Historically important as one of the first clubs to affiliate to the USGA, Essex came under the spotlight when it hosted the 36th edition of the Curtis Cup matches in 2010 and it’s only now starting to attain the recognition it rightly deserves.

Essex County Club

Piping Rock Club in New York (up twelve to No. 52) is a Charles Blair Macdonald design from 1911, with Seth Raynor building the course for his partner. Situated at Locust Valley on Long Island, it’s long been a favourite track of our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary, even before the renovation work conducted initially by Tom Doak and then his former Renaissance Golf Design associate Bruce Hepner.

Piping Rock Club 13th hole - image courtesy of Jon Cavalier @LinksGems

Fergal had this to say about Piping Rock in a review last year: “the renovation work across 2015/2016 involved significant tree clearance, green expansion and increased width to the lined fairways. With the introduction of those fabulous cross-bunkers, the wide fairways have revived the emphasis on attacking the treacherous greens from the best angles… a day at Piping Rock is an incredible privilege and a lot of fun, but most importantly, it’s an opportunity to absorb many of the greatest holes ever built.”

The West and East nines at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey (up eleven to No. 71) have hosted several new millennium editions of the Northern Trust event on the PGA Tour (formerly known as The Barclays) but the club’s tournament pedigree stretches as far back as 1935, when the USA team played Great Britain in the Ryder Cup. Designed by A. W. Tillinghast, the three nines at the country club have been under the watchful eye of Gil Hanse for the last twenty five years.

Ridgewood Country Club

Another Gil Hanse project, this time an original production, is the 22-hole course at Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia, and it’s the first of nine new chart entries, arriving at No. 53. Laid out inside a massive 3,500-acre property that was once used for onion production, the twenty-two holes at Ohoopee are “overly wide and extremely generous” according to avid Top 100 blogger Paul Rudovsky, who visited last year. He continued: “the ‘ebb and flow’ of the course is brilliant… the property has about five different ‘looks/feels’ and the transition from one to another is seamless.”

Ohoopee Match Club - image courtesy of Gil Hanse

Three of the other eight newcomers are from New York state and Hanse Golf Course Design has had a hand in recent restoration work at all of them. The first two, The Creek in Locust Valley (new at #88) and the Upper course at Sleepy Hollow in Scarborough (new at #92) are classic Macdonald/Raynor ensembles, while the other one, St George’s in East Setauket (new at #100) is a Devereux Emmet track dating back to 1917, when the course was built by the architect to compete against his friend C.B. Macdonald’s National Golf Links of America.

Sleepy Hollow Country Club 9th hole - image courtesy of Gil Hanse


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To view the complete detailed list of the Top 100 Golf Courses of the USA click the link.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses

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