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US New England Division Best in State Rankings 2016

16 July, 2016

US New England Division Best in State Rankings 2016

Six States in the Northeast Region are re-ranked in our ninth and final US divisional update

We conclude our biennial Best in State re-ranking exercise for the United States of America with new listings for courses in the New England division. This article, the ninth one to accompany our review of courses in the US, concentrates on the northeast states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Our coverage of the US has increased significantly over the last four months, with almost every state featuring a newly expanded ranking list. For instance, in this new England division, we’ve added an extra sixty courses, up from the previous total of eighty-five. Nationwide, the total number of courses listed in our state charts has now reached 1,650, an increase of more than 40%.


The top seven positions in our Bay State chart are all nationally ranked, which gives some indication of the high quality of courses found at the upper end of the state listings. Also, such is the architectural strength in depth within Massachusetts, we’ve decided to expand the number of courses that we feature for the state, adding a further twenty layouts to form a new Top 50.

The top three spots in the state chart remain the same, which means the Clyde and Squirrel nines at The Country Club in Brookline holds onto the number one slot. One of five founder members of the American Golf Association (later named the USGA), the club is best known by many for hosting the US Open that Francis Ouimet famously won in 1913, though the notorious Ryder Cup matches in 1999 might be a little fresher in the minds of contemporary golfers.

A couple of courses make noteworthy upward moves in the new standings: Essex County Club in Manchester (up two to number 4) is where Donald Ross rebuilt the 18-hole layout during his seven-year tenure as club professional in the 1920s and Eastward Ho! in Chatham (up five to number 5) is another fine Golden Age design from the same decade, one of only a handful of American courses designed by English architect Herbert Fowler.

Another two Donald Ross designs make significant strides up the chart. The first of these is Hyannisport Club, a short Alex Findlay track re-designed by Ross in 1936 (rising six places to number 12) which was described last year by one reviewer as having “old New England charm, outstanding design variety, moving terrain [and] the best conditioned greens in the region.” The other high flying Ross course is Whitinsville in Blackstone Valley (up twelve spots to number 17), a track that many seasoned commentators regard as one of the finest 9-holers in the country.

The three highest newcomers in our revised listings are all classic Golden Age designs from the 1920s: Tedesco Country Club (new at number 24) was laid out by Skip Wogan (former assistant pro under Donald Ross at Essex CC) with two contrasting nines, Plymouth Country Club (new at number 27) was built in two 9-hole stages by Donald Ross during the 1920s, and Dedham Country & Polo Club (new at number 29), where Seth Raynor redesigned the layout for a grateful membership during the same era.


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


We’ve doubled the number of courses in the Constitution State from fifteen to thirty. The top four places remain as they were when we last re-ranked, so Yale is still the state number 1, a position it has held since we first established our US state lists in 2012. A recent reviewer wrote in glowing terms about his visit to this classic Seth Raynor/C.B. Macdonald design: “you’re at a historic and special layout which has lasted almost 100 years… [where] the architects created a fabulous routing with outstanding template holes known all over the world.”

Another two Golden Age courses rise two places up the Top 10. The first of these is Round Hill Club in Greenwich (at number 5), where long-term greenkeeper Emilio Strazzo assisted Walter Travis with the course construction in 1922. The other climber is Tamarack Country Club (at number 6), which Charles Banks built in 1929, fashioning his usual requisite quota of replica par three holes, including an Eden at the 3rd, a Redan at the 7th and a Short at the 15th.

The highest new entry arrives at number 7 and it’s Woodway Country Club, a near 100 year-old Willie Park track that had a new par three 9th hole added (and the other holes re-sequenced) when the clubhouse was replaced in the late 1990s. Architect Mark Mungeam has consulted at the club in recent years, carrying out major restorations of both the bunkers and tee boxes.

1YaleNo change
2Country Club of FairfieldNo change
3StanwichNo change
4Wee BurnNo change
5Round HillUp 2
6TamarackUp 2
7WoodwayNew entry
8Lake of Isles (South)Down 3
9Country Club of WaterburyNew entry
10Hartford (Red & Blue)No change
11TPC River HighlandsUp 1
12Lake of Isles (North)Down 6
13Bull's BridgeNew entry
14Wintonbury HillsDown 5
15Shuttle MeadowNew entry
16RockrimmonDown 3
17Mohegan SunNew entry
18ShennecossettNew entry
19Fox HopyardDown 8
20Great RiverDown 6
21Black HallNew entry
22Oxford GreensDown 7
23BrooklawnNew entry
24GreenwichNew entry
25Richter ParkNew entry
26New HavenNew entry
27ShorehavenNew entry
28Longshore New entry
29Burning TreeNew entry
30HotchkissNew entry

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

New Hampshire

Having just added another ten New Hampshire courses, we now have a Top 20 for the Granite State, where a new number 1 heads the chart. The Golf Club of New England in Stratham is a new millennium Arnold Palmer course that’s generally regarded as one of The King’s stronger designs. Measuring more than 7,500 yards from the back tees and with a rating/slope of 77.0/149, there’s no denying this par 72 layout is a championship test for serious golfers.

Also climbing one place to the runner-up position, the course at Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club is a rare American design from Englishman Clive Clark, where the former Walker Cup and Ryder Cup player set out the fairways of this White Mountain track across a beautiful canvas of wetlands and woodlands two miles to the east of Lake Winnipesaukee in 1990.

The highest new entry in the updated New Hampshire table is Atkinson Resort & Country Club at number 9, a mid-1990s public access course from Phil Wogan that’s complemented by a fantastic practice facility and a super little 9-hole par three layout. One place behind at number 10, Concord Country Club is another newcomer on our chart which has been faithfully serving its members since 1930.

1Golf Club of New EnglandUp 1
2Lake WinnipesaukeeUp 1
3Baker HillDown 2
4Mount Washington (Mount Washington)Up 1
5Lake SunapeeDown 1
6PortsmouthNo change
7ManchesterUp 1
8MontcalmUp 1
9Atkinson ResortNew entry
10Concord CCNew entry
11Balsams (Panorama)Down 4
12Owl's NestDown 2
13Country Club of New HampshireNew entry
14Oaks Golf LinksNew entry
15Breakfast HillNew entry
16ShattuckNew entry
17Bretwood (North)New entry
18Bald Peak ColonyNew entry
19EastmanNew entry
20AbenaquiNew entry

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


The chart for the Pine Tree State has been expanded to a Top 15, with Portland Country Club fending off all comers to retain the number 1 position. The club was formed in 1895 but moved to its present coastal location twenty-five years later, engaging Donald Ross to lay out a relatively short, though thoroughly engaging, course overlooking the harbour and city of Portland.

Three courses make upward moves in the new state listings: Belgrade Lakes Golf Club (up two to number 2) was Clive Clark’s first US design in the late 1990s, Woodlands Club (up two to number 6) is a late 1980s layout from George and Jim Fazio, and Ledges Golf Club (up one to number 8), which was architect Brad Booth’s first solo design in 1999.

1PortlandNo change
2Belgrade LakesUp 2
3Sunday RiverDown 1
4SugarloafDown 1
5Kebo ValleyNo change
6Woodlands ClubUp 2
7Fox RidgeNew entry
8Ledges Golf ClubUp 1
9Samoset ResortDown 3
10Falmouth Country ClubNo change
11Boothbay HarborNew entry
12York Golf & Tennis ClubDown 5
13Old MarshNew entry
14DunegrassNew entry
15Penobscot ValleyNew entry

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

Rhode Island

The course at Newport Country Club remains the top track in the Ocean State. It’s an important historical layout as it hosted both the first US Open and US Amateur in 1895, though it was subsequently redesigned by A. W. Tillinghast in 1924. A reviewer said this about it last year: “Yes, there are ocean views. Yes, there’s a links feel… augmented by the fact there’s no fairway irrigation. Yes, there are some fine holes… and yes, the clubhouse is one of the world’s finest.”

Donald Ross’s 1914 design at Wannamoisett Country Club drops down one spot, swapping places with Shelter Harbor, which rises one place to the runner-up position. A modern layout designed by Dr Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, Shelter Harbor’s most widely acclaimed feature is the bunker work carried out by Jeff Bradley, who constructed similar sand traps for Coore and Crenshaw at places like Friar’s Head and Bandon Trails.

Two of the five new entries on the state chart make their mark within the Top 10 and they’re both located on the shores of Narragansett Bay, having been constructed within two years of each other in the 1920s. At number 8, the course at Warwick Country Club is a delightful Donald Ross layout with a commendable caddie program firmly in place for the members and at number 9, Seth Raynor’s 18-hole design at Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club – where most of the original greens are still in play – is still basking in the glory of a new millennium makeover from Ron Pritchard, when he added new tees and fairway bunkers.

1Newport Country ClubNo change
2Shelter HarborUp 1
3WannamoisettDown 1
4Rhode IslandUp 1
5Newport National (Orchard)Down 1
6SakonnetUp 1
7Misquamicut Up 1
8WarwickNew entry
9WanumetonomyNew entry
10Carnegie AbbeyDown 4
11MetacometDown 2
12Point JudithDown 2
13Agawam HuntNew entry
14Meadow BrookNew entry
15Triggs MemorialNew entry

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


The charming old layout at Ekwanok Country Club sits at the top of the Green Mountain State listings. A Walter Travis layout which was constructed in collaboration with Scottish professional John Dunn at the start of the last century, it’s a course that has benefited from a 1960s upgrade by Geoff Cornish and from work carried out in more recent times by Bruce Hepner when he was working with Renaissance Design.

Making a sizable leap up the new chart (soaring four places to number 5), the course at Vermont National Country Club is a Jack Nicklaus/Jack Jnr co-design that first opened for play in 1998. Almost twenty years after it made its debut, it’s still Nicklaus Design’s only project within the state. A little further down the listings, the Robert Trent Jones Snr design at Sugarbush Resort Golf Club is the highest new entry at number 10. Something of a trendsetting layout in its day, it provoked other ski resort operators in the state into building courses that would bring in visitors during the skiing off season.

1EkwanokNo change
2Country Club of VermontNo change
3Okemo ValleyNo change
4Jay PeakNo change
5Vermont NationalUp 4
6EquinoxDown 1
7Green Mountain NationalUp 1
8The Quechee (Highland)Down 2
9Stowe MountainDown 2
10SugarbushNew entry
11RutlandDown 1
12HermitageNew entry
13Stratton Mountain (Lake & Mountain)New entry
14BurlingtonNew entry
15Woodstock InnNew entry

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

As ever, we welcome your comments – both good and bad – when we conduct these re-ranking exercises so let us know what you think about our six revised US Best in State charts. Whether you feel we’ve got things just about right or maybe you’ve noticed a glaring error or two, please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page to let us know your views.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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