US Mountain Division Best in State Rankings 2020

10 August 2020 Respond to this article

US Mountain Division Best in State Rankings 2020

We recently embarked on the biennial exercise to revise the rankings for all of our US Best in State charts, starting with updates for the five Pacific Division states. We’ve now moved away from the west coast to the Mountain Division, where we’ve refreshed the numbers for two hundred and twenty courses in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

In an area encompassing around 856,000 square miles, this region enjoys some of the most diverse natural terrain imaginable, ranging from towering mountain peaks to large desert waste lands and flat rolling plains, so many of the golf courses are laid out on fantastic landscapes that you’ll not find anywhere else in the entire country, with wonderful panoramic views thrown in for free.

We’ve added another ten courses to Arizona to create a Top 60 and that chart, taken in combination with the Top 50 for Colorado, comprises half of all the golfing layouts which are ranked in our Mountain Division. Looking across the board, eighteen courses appear as new entries in our refurbished tables, with five of the top tier tracks in those eight states also residing in our national Top 100.


Arizona

The top four courses remain in the same place as last time, which means the Canyon course at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff retains its #1 status, a position it has held since our revision in 2014. Designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, it’s been in operation now for more than thirty years, having first opened for play in 1988. Our regular contributor M. James Ward had this to say about it a while back:

“Morrish and Weiskopf did a fine job in creating a fun course meant for the day-to-day audience of seasonal property owning members and their guests. The Canyon course has often been touted as being one of the best courses in Arizona and for a time a member of various top 100 courses of America. I don’t doubt the merits of the course and salute what the architects did with the final routing.”

Forest Highlands Canyon course

Forest Highlands Canyon course

All of the courses at the Desert Mountain Club make impressive positional gains – Chiricahua is up three to #9; Geronimo is up four to #11; Renegade is up six to #12; and Outlaw is up seven to #18 – but the biggest leap forward is made by the Cochise layout (up ten to #38) which, although the shortest of the six courses at this gargantuan golf complex, formerly hosted the Tradition Championship between 1989 and 2001 on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.

Desert Mountain Club - Renegade course

Desert Mountain Club - Renegade course

The highest of our ten new entries appears at No. 17 and it’s The Other Course at Scottsdale National Golf Club. The Jackson Khan design team spent months on site overseeing the construction of this layout, shifting many tons of material to transform a rather flat and featureless landscape into the finished article. Anybody now playing the course that isn’t aware of the property’s former topography might well think the architects were fortunate to have had such great natural contours to work with.

The Other Course at Scottsdale National Golf Club

The Other Course at Scottsdale National Golf Club


Rank/ Course Move
1 Forest Highlands (Canyon) No change
2 Estancia No change
3 Desert Highlands No change
4 Whisper Rock (Upper) No change
5 Whisper Rock (Lower) Up 1
6 We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro) Up 1
7 Stone Canyon Down 2
8 Desert Forest No change
9 Desert Mountain (Chiricahua) Up 3
10 Silverleaf Up 3
11 Desert Mountain (Geronimo) Up 4
12 Desert Mountain (Renegade) Up 6
13 The Rim Down 3
14 Quintero No change
15 Scottsdale National (Mineshaft) Up 1
16 Forest Highlands (Meadow) Down 7
17 Scottsdale National (The Other Course). New entry
18 Desert Mountain (Outlaw) Up 7
19 Chaparral Pines Up 5
20 Troon Country Club Down 1
21 Pine Canyon Down 10
22 Dove Mountain (Saguaro & Tortolita) Down 5
23 Talking Stick (O’odham) No change
24 Verrado (Founder's) Up 7
25 Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Up 7
26 SunRidge Canyon Up 8
27 Troon North (Monument) Down 1
28 Wickenburg Ranch (Big Wick) Down 1
29 We-Ko-Pa (Cholla) Down 7
30 Wigwam (Gold) New entry
31 Ventana Canyon (Mountain) Up 2
32 Mirabel Down 12
33 Seven Canyons Down 12
34 Troon North (Pinnacle) Down 4
35 TPC Scottsdale (Stadium) Down 7
36 La Paloma (Ridge & Canyon) Up 5
37 Apache Stronghold Down 2
38 Desert Mountain (Cochise) Up 10
39 Boulders (North) Down 3
40 Gallery (North) Down 3
41 Flagstaff Ranch New entry
42 Grayhawk (Raptor) Down 2
43 Gallery (South) Down 4
44 Laughlin Ranch Up 5
45 Blackstone New entry
46 Talking Rock Down 17
47 Ventana Canyon (Canyon) Down 4
48 Boulders (South) Down 10
49 Grayhawk (Talon) Down 7
50 Starr Pass (Rattler & Roadrunner) Down 3
51 Talking Stick (Piipaash) Down 7
52 Terravita Down 6
53 Omni Tucson National (Catalina) New entry
54 Superstition Mountain (Prospector) Down 4
55 Country Club at DC Ranch New entry
56 Sewailo Down 11
57 Superstition Mountain (Lost Gold) New entry
58 Camelback (Ambiente) New entry
59 TPC Scottsdale (Champions) New entry
60 Camelback (Padre) New entry


Click the link to see full details of our latest Arizona Best in State rankings


Colorado

The No. 1 course in the state is still Tom Doak’s design at Ballyneal Golf Club in the chop hills of north eastern Colorado. Not only does it occupy a place in the US Top 100, it’s also ranked highly (currently #47) in our World Top 100, which tells you everything you really need to know about this remarkable inland links. Reviewers this year have passed comment such as:

“I feel extremely blessed and lucky to have played Ballyneal. It’s a place where you want to head right back to the first tee after your initial round and play until dark… fun shots abound when using the slopes in the fairways and around the greens… I have travelled the globe playing this game and, without failure, no matter what corner of the world I find myself in, it doesn’t take long for people to identify Ballyneal as one of the most sensational golf courses they’ve played.”

Ballyneal Golf Club

Ballyneal Golf Club

The biggest climber in the top half of the new table is the Jack Nicklaus Signature course at The Country Club at Castle Pines in Castle Rock, rising twelve places to No. 15. Jim Lipe, senior design consultant at Nicklaus Design, has worked at the club for more than thirty years, carrying out various improvements. His latest project involved a four-hole renovation, with a new greenside pond and waterfall installed on the 16th hole and mountain streams realigned on both the 9th and 14th holes.

The Country Club at Castle Pines

The Country Club at Castle Pines

The first of five new entries arrives at #20 and it’s the course at the Cornerstone Club in Montrose. Opened in 2008, this mountain layout closed just a few years later due to ownership issues but it’s been revived again, thanks to the renovation efforts of architect Matt Dusenberry (who worked on the original build when he was with Greg Norman Design) and Jason Stroehlein, the club’s former superintendent who was called back in to help bring the course back to life.

Cornerstone Club

Cornerstone Club


Rank/ Course Move
1 Ballyneal No change
2 Colorado No change
3 Castle Pines Up 1
4 Cherry Hills Down 1
5 Denver No change
6 Broadmoor (East) Up 1
7 Sanctuary Down 1
8 Ravenna No change
9 Maroon Creek No change
10 Redlands Mesa Up 1
11 Red Sky (Norman) Down 1
12 Pradera Up 2
13 Commonground Down 1
14 Roaring Fork Up 3
15 Country Club at Castle Pines Up 12
16 Country Club of the Rockies No change
17 Lakota Canyon Down 2
18 Red Sky (Fazio) Down 5
19 Four Mile Ranch Up 4
20 Cornerstone New entry
21 Cordillera (Valley) Up 3
22 Haymaker Up 3
23 TPC Colorado New entry
24 Frost Creek Down 5
25 Raven at Three Peaks Up 7
26 Lakewood New entry
27 Ballyneal (Mulligan) Up 17
28 Aspen Glen Down 10
29 Bear Dance Up 2
30 Ironbridge Down 10
31 Catamount Ranch Down 10
32 Devil's Thumb Up 1
33 Broadmoor (West) Down 11
34 Eagle Springs Up 6
35 Fossil Trace Up 1
36 Ridge at Castle Pines North Down 10
37 Breckenridge (Beaver & Bear). Down 9
38 Columbine Down 9
39 Riverdale (Dunes) Down 4
40 Bear Creek Down 10
41 Sonnenalp Down 3
42 Flying Horse Down 5
43 Murphy Creek Down 9
44 Red Hawk Ridge Down 5
45 Cherry Creek Down 4
46 Hiwan New entry
47 Arrowhead Down 5
48 Pinehurst CC (Maxwell) Down 5
49 Harmony Club New entry
50 Cordillera (Mountain) Down 4


Click the link to see full details of our latest Colorado Best in State rankings


Idaho

The course at Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club in Coeur d’Alene held off a strong challenge for the No.1 spot from David McLay Kidd’s 18-hole layout at Tributary (formerly Huntsman Springs) when we last updated the listings for the Gem State and it’s done the same again this time. It’s probably the most non-typical Tom Fazio course you’re ever likely to play, which came as something of a surprise for our US Correspondent Fergal O’Leary when he last visited:

“It is far and away the best Tom Fazio track I have ever played. It doesn’t look like a Fazio, feel like a Fazio, or play like a Fazio. Without question or debate, Gozzer Ranch looked, felt and played so much like a Coore & Crenshaw with its ragged edges to bunkering, wonderful use of fescue, holes perfectly placed on the land and fitting together beautifully… the course definitely grows on you through the round while you try to convince yourself that Ben Crenshaw didn’t sneak in after dark and cut out a few bunkers with his shovel before the sun came up again.”

Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club

Gozzer Ranch

Five courses make upward moves in the new standings and the biggest of these is Canyon Springs Golf Course in Twin Falls, a new entry two years ago and now easing up from No. 14 to No.10. Situated on the banks of the Snake River, it was described in a review last month as a “fun, albeit quirky course” where “the scenery is titillating.” In addition, “bunkers are few and far between, the layout is a bit choppy [so] pay attention to the course map.”

Canyon Springs Golf Course

Canyon Springs


Rank/ Course Move
1 Gozzer Ranch No change
2 Tributary (formerly Hunstsman Springs). No change
3 Teton Springs (Headwaters) Up 3
4 Golf Club at Black Rock Down 1
5 Club at Rock Creek No change
6 Circling Raven Down 2
7 Coeur d'Alene Up 1
8 Blue Lakes Up 3
9 Idaho Club Up 1
10 Canyon Springs Up 4
11 Whitetail Down 4
12 Sun Valley (Trail Creek) Down 3
13 Hillcrest Country Club Down 1
14 Jug Mountain Ranch Down 1
15 Quail Hollow No change


Click the link to see full details of our latest Idaho Best in State rankings


Montana

The Rock Creek Cattle Company course in Deer Lodge was our first No.1 for the Treasure State back in 2012 and it’s still top dog in our Top 20 for Montana. Texan owner Bill Foley was the man who engaged Tom Doak to design the layout and it opened for play in 2008, competing for attention with the spectacular Flint Creek Mountain Range setting. As Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design website states: “the sheer scale of Montana is beyond the scope of a mere golf course, but our 18 holes alongside the rugged mountain stream give a small preview of the natural beauty and variety of this part of the world.”

Rock Creek Cattle Company

Rock Creek Cattle Company

Advancing four places to the #6 slot, the 18-hole layout at Yellowstone Country Club in Billings is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design dating back to 1959, when the Billings Club as it was known then sold its old property and moved to a new site. A bunker renovation was carried out in the early 1990s and a number of other course improvements have since occurred, including the complete replacement of the irrigation system in 2007. A multi-million dollar new clubhouse was also built just a couple of years ago.

Yellowstone Country Club

Yellowstone Country Club


Rank/ Course Move
1 Rock Creek Cattle Company. No change
2 Wilderness Club No change
3 Reserve at Moonlight Basin Up 1
4 Stock Farm Down 1
5 Yellowstone Club No change
6 Yellowstone Country Club Up 4
7 Spanish Peaks Down 1
8 Iron Horse Down 1
9 Old Works Down 1
10 Northern Pines Up 2
11 Black Bull No change
12 Eagle Bend (Eagle & Bear) Down 3
13 Whitefish Lake (South) Up 1
14 The Ranch Club Down 1
15 Whitefish Lake (North) No change
16 Canyon River Up 1
17 Buffalo Hill (Championship) Down 1
18 Meadow Lake Up 1
19 Briarwood Down 1
20 Big Sky No change


Click the link to see full details of our latest Montana Best in State rankings


Nevada

Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas remains the No. 1 layout in Nevada. Constructed from scratch in the late 1980s at a reputed cost of sixty million dollars, it was once the preserve of only a select few but now you can pay and play – for a pretty price – if you really want to follow in the footsteps of golfers like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who served up their contribution to growing the game of golf here a while back with their winner-takes-all match play challenge in November 2018.

Shadow Creek

Shadow Creek

Heading six places in the right direction as they move up to #19 in the new listings, the Desert Hawk and Coyote Run nines at the 27-hole Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City are well worth the half-hour drive from the Las Vegas strip to play. M. James Ward was here last year and his verdict was “if you’re seeking an exceptional golf experience and don’t want to spend much cash to do so then a visit to Boulder Creek should be explored… it amazes me how so few people – even those who play in the Vegas area frequently – fail to mention it.”

There’s one re-entry in our Nevada chart, reappearing at No.13, and it’s the course at Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas, which owner Steve Wynn and Tom Fazio co-designed twenty years ago. It closed for renovation in December 2017, re-opening only last October after an extensive makeover from the original architect and his son Logan Fazio. Now reduced in length to 6,722 yards and playing to a par of 70, the course presents players with “topography that was reimagined to offer significant elevation changes, set against water features and mature trees” according to the Wynn Las Vegas publicity material.

Wynn Golf Club Las Vegas

Wynn Golf Club Las Vegas


Rank/ Course Move
1 Shadow Creek No change
2 Clear Creek No change
3 Southern Highlands No change
4 Edgewood Tahoe Up 1
5 Coyote Springs Up 4
6 SouthShore Down 2
7 Cascata Down 1
8 The Summit Up 3
9 Montreux Down 1
10 Wolf Creek Down 3
11 DragonRidge Down 1
12 Reflection Bay No change
13 Wynn Las Vegas New entry
14 Conestoga Up 1
15 Las Vegas Paiute (Wolf) Up 1
16 Las Vegas Country Club Down 2
17 Incline Village (Championship) No change
18 TPC Summerlin Up 5
19 Boulder Creek (Desert Hawk & Coyote Run). Up 6
20 Bali Hai No change
21 Rio Secco Down 8
22 Bear's Best Down 4
23 Royal Links Down 2
24 TPC Las Vegas Down 5
25 Las Vegas Paiute (Snow Mountain) Down 1
26 Oasis (Palmer) Down 4
27 Las Vegas Paiute (Sun Mountain) Down 1
28 Falcon Ridge Down 1
29 Genoa Lakes (Lakes) No change
30 Mountain Falls Down 2


Click the link to see full details of our latest Nevada Best in State rankings


New Mexico

The 1st & 2nd nines at the 27-hole Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park maintain their grip on the No. 1 spot in the New Mexico chart. A new millennium design from Ken Dye, the course is routed around rocky outcrops, arroyos and a variety of native vegetation, with holes set out in wooded surroundings at elevations of between 6,500 and 7,000 feet above sea level. New owners took over at the start of 2018, leading to a revitalization that was termed by a recent reviewer as a “hard scrape, clearing and re-seeding” of the layout.

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club

Only five courses make any sort of chart progress and the biggest move is made by the Scott Miller-designed course at Sandia Golf Club (up three to #9) outside Albuquerque. Operated by the Pueblo of Sandia Tribe, this 18-hole layout is part of a huge hotel and casino complex located in rugged high desert territory, where the scale of the course somehow manages to match the enormity of the backdrop.

The Land of Enchantment's only newcomer is the Albuquerque Country Club course at No.13. It was designed by John Van Kleek in the late 1920s when the club moved to its present location, and it’s been renovated several times since then, most notably when the greens were rebuilt to USGA specification in the late 1990s by an in-house team using plans drawn up by Ron Fream. It’s been called “the most western course associated with Stiles and Van Kleek and decidedly different from any other course the architects produced”.

Albuquerque Country Club

Albuquerque Country Club


Rank/ Course Move
1 Paa-Ko Ridge (1st & 2nd) No change
2 Las Campanas (Sunset) No change
3 Las Campanas (Sunrise) Up 1
4 Black Mesa Down 1
5 Pinon Hills No change
6 University of New Mexico (Championship). Up 2
7 Rainmakers No change
8 Rockwind Community Links Up 2
9 Sandia Up 3
10 Twin Warriors Down 4
11 Red Hawk Down 2
12 Cochiti Up 1
13 Albuquerque New entry
14 Taos Down 3
15 Inn of the Mountain Gods Down 1


Click the link to see full details of our latest New Mexico Best in State rankings


Utah

It’s a case of “as you were” with the top four positions in the Beehive State listings so the Championship course at the Sand Hollow Resort near Hurricane continues to hold sway as the #1 in Utah. Constructed entirely out of native red sand by architect John Fought, this 18-hole layout is complemented by a delightful 9-hole Links course at an entertaining 27-hole golf complex. A 5.5-ball post from three months ago concluded with this comment: “I have driven past Sand Hollow for 15 years heading for ‘other’ golf courses. That will never happen again…”

Sand Hollow Championship course

Sand Hollow Championship course

All the notable chart activity for Utah takes place in the bottom half of the new standings, with a couple of courses both making 4-place upward moves: the Mountain course at Wasatch Mountain State Park (up to #14) in Midway is the newer of two 18-hole layouts at a superior public golf facility, while the Pointe and Woodbridge nines at Sunbrook Golf Club (up to #15) provide pay and play golfers with a very enticing 18-hole municipal offering in St George.

Wasatch Mountain - Mountain course

Wasatch Mountain - Mountain course


Rank/ Course Move
1 Sand Hollow (Championship) No change
2 Glenwild No change
3 Red Ledges No change
4 Victory Ranch No change
5 Salt Lake Country Club Up 1
6 Promontory Club (Canyon) Down 1
7 Promontory Club (Painted Valley). Up 2
8 Entrada at Snow Canyon No change
9 Thanksgiving Point Up 1
10 Tuhaye Down 3
11 Hideout No change
12 Soldier Hollow (Gold) No change
13 Park Meadows Up 3
14 Wasatch Mountain (Mountain) Up 4
15 Sunbrook (Point & Woodbridge) Up 4
16 TalonsCove Down 3
17 Wasatch Mountain (Lake) New entry
18 Green Spring Up 2
19 Coral Canyon Down 4
20 Ledges of St George Down 6


Click the link to see full details of our latest Utah Best in State rankings


Wyoming

Shooting Star in Jackson Hole took over as the No.1 course in in our Wyoming chart back in 2014 and it prevails in that position after our latest reappraisal exercise. Laid out between the Snake River Ranch and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this outdoor recreation facility occupies a large 1,300-acre property that was once nothing other than flat pasture land. Tom Fazio is said to have shifted more than one and a half million cubic yards of soil to fashion the fairways here but you’d never know that now, which is a great measure of how well the course now integrates into its environment.

Shooting Star Golf

Shooting Star

The Rochelle Ranch Golf Course in Rawlings rises two places to No.6. It measures an eye-watering 7,925 yards from the back markers, which is pretty extreme, even at an altitude of 6,800 feet above sea level. The course was gifted to the City of Rawlings by a local sheep farming family and even though it operates as a successful municipal recreation outlet there are plans in place to make further improvements to this Ken Kavanaugh design.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Shooting Star No change
2 Snake River No change
3 Teton Pines Up 1
4 Jackson Hole Up 1
5 3 Creek Ranch Down 2
6 Rochelle Ranch Up 2
7 Powder Horn (Mountain & Stag). No change
8 Three Crowns Down 2
9 Devils Tower No change
10 Bell Nob No change


Click the link to see full details of our latest Wyoming Best in State rankings

Next up – the West South Central Division states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses