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​US East South Central Division Best in State Rankings 2016

25 May, 2016

US East South Central Division Best in State Rankings 2016

Another four States in our South Region are updated in the fourth of nine US divisional revisions

We embarked on a mission to establish Best in State rankings for the United States of America in 2012. This year, we’re involved in the second biennial update of those inaugural listings. Last time around, we carried out this exercise in four separate geographical groupings – West, South, Midwest and North East.

On this occasion, we’re subdividing the reappraisal process into nine district divisions and this re-ranking announcement, the fourth of our 2016 US reviews, covers the four East South Central States of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

We’re also increasing the number of featured courses in almost every American State across the country. For example, in our four-state East South Central division, we now have a Top 20 for each of the states so our coverage of courses in this revision leaps up from 55 to 80, an expansion of almost 50%.


An additional five courses have been added to the Cotton State of Alabama, where the number 1 layout is still Shoal Creek, an early solo design from Jack Nicklaus. Host venue for the USPGA Championship in 1984 and 1990, the course was succinctly summed up by a reviewer in the following terms last month: “most fairways are wide and half of them have enough hazards to require some thinking off the tee. Greens are nicely contoured and slick.”

Rising three places to number 3, the Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry co-design at FarmLinks is described on the club’s website as “gently sculpted out of scenic farmland that’s been in the Purcell Family for three generations… the course features a mix of dramatic elevation changes, pristine fairways and immaculate greens.” It’s certainly a course that has made a big impact within the state in a relatively short space of time.

The highest new entry at number 9 is the Country Club of Mobile. The club operates within a massive 300-acre property, offering members the use of fourteen tennis courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool in addition to a golf course that was originally laid out by Donald Ross in 1928. The layout’s been modified a number of times down the years and the most radical of these alterations occurred recently when Ron Forse was tasked with completely redesigning and reconstructing the course.


Click this link to see full details of our 2016 Alabama Best in State rankings.


We’ve also added five courses to our chart for the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, where the top three tracks remain in the same position as last time. That means another Nicklaus design, Valhalla, retains its place at the top of the standings. The site of three recent USPGA Championships, as well as host venue for the Ryder Cup in 2008, the course offers golfers an archetypal “game of two halves” with a fairly flat, open front nine followed by a tree-lined back nine.

The highest climber on our new state listings is Triple Crown, which rises six spots to number 9. It’s a Gene Bates design that opened in 1990 and its hefty slope rating of 142 marks it out as one of the tougher tracks in the Greater Cincinnati area. With narrow, tree-lined fairways and lakes in play at ten of the holes, you can understand why this was the ideal place to test the course management capabilities of the nation’s elite golfing elders when the US Senior Amateur was held here in 1994.

The highest new entry comes in at number 15 and it’s Traditions Golf Club, which serves as the home course for the University of Cincinnati golf teams. Set amongst the woodlands of Boone County’s western rolling hills, this Ken Heil and Mike Macke co-design from 1992 is a thrilling test of golf that presents a variety of challenges. There’s no peripheral housing to distract, neither is there a swimming pool or tennis courts to divert attention away from the only thing that matters at this club – the game of golf.

1ValhallaNo change
2Olde StoneNo change
3Idle HourNo change
4Old SiloUp 1
5Big SpringDown 1
6Keene Trace (Champion Trace)No change
7Hurstbourne (Championship)Up 1
8Persimmon RidgeDown 1
9Triple CrownUp 6
10Lassing PointeUp 2
11Kearney HillDown 1
12LouisvilleDown 3
13Dale Hollow Lake State Resort ParkNo change
14Heritage HillDown 3
15TraditionsNew entry
16Cherry BlossomDown 2
17Eagle Ridge at Yatesville LakeNew entry
18Wasioto Winds at Pine Mountain New entry
19Boone's Trace NationalNew entry
20General Burnside IslandNew entry

Click this link to see full details of our 2016 Kentucky Best in State rankings.


We’ve doubled the size of our Magnolia State chart, where we now feature a Top 20. Fallen Oak retains the number 1 position in the new state rankings and this 2006 Tom Fazio design – home to the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on the Champions Tour – is available exclusively to guests of the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi. The course closed temporarily a couple of years ago when a bunker renovation was carried out and a number of trees were replanted but it reopened stronger than ever once the strategic improvements had been implemented.

A couple of courses take small, one position steps in the right direction in our new Mississippi listings. The first of these is Annandale (at number two), an early Jack Nicklaus design from 1981 which hosted twenty editions of what’s now known as the Sanderson Farms Championship on the PGA Tour, starting in 1994. The other course to make a modest upward move is The Preserve (at number 8), where Jerry Pate set out the fairways adjacent to a huge nature reserve, routing the holes around a diverse landscape of Southern cypress swamps, marshy wetlands and pitcher plant bogs.

The highest newcomer in our newly extended state Top 20 crashes into the chart at number 4. Laurel Country Club was designed by Seymour Dunn back in 1919, two years after the club was founded, and the course is a shot maker’s paradise, with challenging downhill or side hill lies as the norm for many of the approach shots. It’s been described rather appropriately by one commentator as “a course that has not outlived its relevance” and this near 100-year old track is certainly one to savour.

1Fallen OakNo change
2AnnandaleUp 1
3Old WaverlyDown 1
4Laurel CCNew entry
5Dancing Rabbit (Azaleas)Down 1
6Grand BearDown 1
7ReunionNo change
8The Preserve GCUp 1
9Dancing Rabbit (Oaks)Down 1
10Shell LandingDown 4
11DogwoodsNew entry
12Beau Pre CCNew entry
13HattiesburgDown 3
14CanebrakeNew entry
15Bridges at Hollywood CasinoNew entry
16WindanceNew entry
17Oaks Golf ClubNew entry
18TimbertonNew entry
19Greenwood CCNew entry
20Deerfield New entry

Click this link to see full details of our 2016 Mississippi Best in State rankings.


The Volunteer State listings have been extended to a Top 20, which means we’ve added an extra five courses in this revision. The top four courses all retain the same position as last time so, by default, the Honors Course is still the state number 1. It’s also comfortably positioned within our USA Top 100 chart, rising two places to number 51 when we last updated the national ranking six months ago. The course has been described as “a well-preserved example of Pete Dye’s death-or-glory architecture” which sums it up rather well. The 1991 US Amateur, 1994 Curtis Cup and 2011 Senior Women’s Amateur are just a few of the prestigious championships that have been held here since the course debuted in 1983.

The highest new entry at number 11 on the new state chart is the course at Sweetens Cove, which Rob Collins and Tad King rebuilt on the site of the old Sequatchie Valley layout. Volume 2 of The Confidential Guide calls it “one of the most audacious designs we’ve seen” with the authors giving particular credit to “one of the most diverse and entertaining set of green complexes found anywhere”. Other commentators have also been generous with their praise, touting it as one of the best 9-hole layouts in all of America.

1Honors CourseNo change
2Holston HillsNo change
3Spring Creek RanchNo change
4Golf Club of TennesseeNo change
5MemphisUp 1
6Mirimichi (Championship)Up 2
7ChattanoogaUp 2
8Hermitage (President's Reserve)Down 1
9TPC SouthwindUp 1
10Black CreekUp 1
11Sweetens CoveNew entry
12Belle MeadeDown 7
13Tennessee NationalDown 1
14Fairfield Glade (Stonehenge)New entry
15Gaylord SpringsDown 2
16CherokeeNew entry
17RichlandDown 3
18The Course at SewaneeNew entry
19Bear Trace (Cumberland Mountain)Down 4
20River IslandsNew entry

Click this link to see full details of our 2016 Tennessee Best in State rankings

We always like to know what you think about our re-rankings so please feel free to share your opinion of our four newly updated US Best in State charts. Which course should have made the cut or maybe there’s one listed that really doesn’t deserve to be there? Whatever your thoughts are, please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page to let us know your point of view.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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