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​US New England Division Best in State Rankings 2018

28 August, 2018

US New England Division Best in State Rankings 2018

Finally, the ninth and last divisional update of our biennial Best in State listings for the United States of America is upon us. In this article, we revise the ranking charts for the six states located in the northeast corner of the nation, namely Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

We embarked on this biennial exercise back in April on the west coast of the USA when we reappraised the courses situated within our Pacific division. Now, four months later, we’ve arrived on the opposite side of the country, having assessed and evaluated nearly two thousand courses along the way.

A total of 145 courses are featured across this division, with ten of the layouts also listed inside our US Top 100. New England might be one of the smaller geographical areas in the United States – with less than 5% of the overall population – but there are plenty of great golf courses to be found within the region.


In the Nutmeg State, The Course at Yale in New Haven retains its place at the top of the listings, a position it’s held since we introduced Best in State charts in 2012. The course was one of a dozen “Gourmet Choice” selections made by Tom Doak in volume 3 of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses when the author had this to say about it: “Upon its opening in 1926, the Ray Tompkins Memorial Course at Yale was reputedly the most expensive course ever built, at a cost of $400,000. What’s most impressive about the course is the huge scale of it all… no education in golf architecture can be complete if you haven’t played it.”

Two courses make significant leaps into the Top 10. The first of these is TPC River Highlands in Cromwell (up five to number 6), host venue for the well-attended Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, where Pete Dye redesigned the course in the 1980s and Bobby Weed subsequently remodelled it. The second big mover is A.W. Tillinghast’s late-1920s redesign of the 18-hole layout at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield (up thirteen to number 10) which held the US Women’s Open in 1979, followed by the US Senior Open eight years later.

The highest of three newcomers enters the state chart at number 9 and it’s the Geoff Cornish-designed course at Connecticut Golf Club in Easton, a track that first opened for play in the mid-1960s. Described by the club as “a golf retreat in the middle of a stunning new England landscape, far removed from the busyness of daily life,” the course was built by real estate developer and philanthropist Lawrence Arthur Wien, with Brian Silva carrying out renovation work on the layout at the start of the new millennium.


Click the link to see full details of all courses in our latest Connecticut Best in State rankings


There’s quite a bit of movement within the Top 15 chart that we maintain for the Pine Tree State. Indeed, the only non-mover is Maine’s number 1 course which Donald Ross designed for Portland Country Club in Falmouth when the club moved to its current location at the start of the 1920s. Tom Doak certainly thinks it’s positioned in a nice spot next to Waites Landing: “With the clubhouse commanding a fine view across the golf course to the Atlantic shore, Portland is a magnificent setting for golf.”

Half an hour’s drive south of Portland, the 18-hole layout at Prouts Neck Country Club in Scarborough is another coastal course that now careers into the state standings at number 2. The course was originally laid out with nine holes in 1907 then extended to an 18-hole track by Wayne Stiles in 1924. In recent years, former Renaissance Golf Design associate Bruce Hepner has been improving sight lines and course conditioning to return the property to the look and feel of nearly a century ago.

Two Donald Ross-designed courses at opposite ends of the state both climb five places to enter the Top 10: the William Wilson course at York Golf & Tennis Club (at number 7) lies close to the border with New Hampshire whilst 179 miles further north – less than a hundred miles from the International Boundary with Canada – sits Penobscot Valley Country Club (at number 10). The former has been termed “quite difficult for the lesser player” with the latter called “a classic Ross routing that puts a lot of beautiful undulation to good use”

Rank/ Course Move
1 Portland No change
2 Prouts Neck New entry
3 Belgrade Lakes Down 1
4 Kebo Valley Up 1
5 Cape Arundel New entry
6 Sunday River Down 3
7 York Golf & Tennis Club Up 5
8 Sugarloaf Down 4
9 Falmouth Country Club Up 1
10 Penobscot Valley Up 5
11 Fox Ridge Down 4
12 Boothbay Harbor Down 1
13 Woodlands Club Down 7
14 Northeast Harbor New entry
15 Ledges Golf Club Down 7

Click the link to see full details of all courses in our latest Maine Best in State rankings


Courses occupying the top eight positions in the Bay State chart are also ranked within the US Top 100 so that gives quite a good idea of the quality to be found in the top tier of our Massachusetts listings. The Clyde and Squirrel nines at The Country Club in Brookline hold onto the number 1 slot in the state’s Top 50, where the original Willie Campbell course from 1894 has been revised down the years by a number of architects, including Geoff Cornish, Rees Jones and Gil Hanse. The venue for three previous US Opens, the club will again host this prestigious event when it returns in 2022.

The course making the biggest upward move is the 18-hole layout at Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown (up eleven to number 8) which Tom Mackenzie laid out during his time with Donald Steel’s design company in 2002. It’s just been completely remodelled, emerging as “a magnificent Gil Hanse masterpiece” according to our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary, who also thinks it is “one of the best courses in New England that people have never heard of.” It might not be that well known just now, but Fergal is of the opinion that “once people get exposed to the results of Gil’s work, this course will receive endless accolades”.

The best placed of six new entries at number 30 is Brian Silva’s multi-million dollar renovation of the former Al Zikorus course at Hampden Country Club, which has now become a completely reworked design for the Antonacci racehorse family at GreatHorse. A substantial amount of soil was shifted when fashioning the fairways on the new track, especially on the hillier parts of the course like the opening and closing holes on the back nine, but the overall transformation of the old layout is nothing short of sensational.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Country Club (Clyde & Squirrel) No change
2 Old Sandwich No change
3 Essex County Club Up 1
4 Myopia Hunt Down 1
5 Eastward Ho!No change
6 BostonNo change
7 Kittansett No change
8 Vineyard Up 11
9 Sankaty Head Up 1
10 Salem Down 2
11 TPC Boston Up 4
12 Winchester Down 3
13 Taconic Down 2
14 Hyannisport Club Down 2
15 Whitinsville Up 2
16 Charles River Down 2
17 Nantucket Down 1
18 Worcester Country Club Down 5
19 Vesper Up 1
20 Longmeadow Down 2
21 Oyster Harbors Up 2
22 Brae Burn No change
23 Black Rock CC Up 3
24 Cape Cod National Down 3
25 Dedham Up 4
26 Tedesco Down 2
27 Miacomet Up 5
28 Orchards Up 3
29 Weston Up 10
30 GreatHorse New entry
31 Farm Neck Down 6
32 Plymouth Down 5
33 Renaissance New entry
34 George Wright Up 3
35 Crumpin-Fox Up 5
36 TGC at Sacconnesset Down 2
37 Ranch GC Down 1
38 Red Tail Down 5
39 Indian Pond Down 1
40 Turner Hill Down 12
41 Oak Hill New entry
42 Granite Links (Quincy & Milton) Up 7
43 Kernwood Down 1
44 Pinehills (Nicklaus) Down 1
45 International (Oaks) Down 15
46 Pinehills (Jones) Down 11
47 Blue Hill (Championship) Up 3
48 Woods Hole New entry
49 Thorny Lea New entry
50 Stockbridge New entry

Click the link to see full details of all courses in our latest Massachusetts Best in State rankings

New Hampshire

The Granite State of New Hampshire has a new number 1 and it’s the Mount Washington course at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, which rises three places to the top spot. It’s a Donald Ross design from 1915 that was upgraded by Brian Silva a few years ago and our regular contributor M. James Ward posted a review for it last year, saying: “the restored layout is a fun course allowing freedom off the tee but only at the expense in having a much more demanding approach to green sites that provide a range of vexing puzzles for the player to figure out… fun golf is alive and well at Mount Washington.”

The Donald Ross-designed course at Bald Peak Colony Club in Moultonborough soars a remarkable fifteen places to number 3 in our revised state listings. Set inside a large, 850-acre wooded property next to Lake Winnipesaukee, the 18-hole layout dates back to 1922, when it was inaugurated by a 4-man International Exhibition match between USA and Great Britain. Francis Ouimet and Jessie Giuldford tied against J.H. Taylor and Sandy Herd in the morning foursomes but the visitors suffered a 3 &1 defeat to the home team in the afternoon.

The first of three new chart entries, the course at Hooper Golf Club in Walpole swoops in at number 4. A Wayne Stiles design from the late 1920s, it features in Anthony Pioppi’s book The Finest Nines , where it’s listed as one of twenty-five highly-regarded 9-hole layouts located in North America. As the author states, “Hooper presents a challenge to the highly skilled while remaining eminently enjoyable for the less adept… (with) an array of challenging holes that along the way test all facets of the golfer’s game”.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Mount Washington (Mount Washington) Up 3
2 Lake Sunapee Up 3
3 Bald Peak Colony Up 15
4 Hooper New entry
5 Golf Club of New England Down 4
6 Manchester Up 1
7 Lake Winnipesaukee Down 5
8 Concord CC Up 2
9 Baker Hill Down 6
10 Montcalm Down 2
11 Portsmouth Down 5
12 Country Club of New Hampshire Up 1
13 Breakfast Hill Up 2
14 Owl's Nest Down 2
15 Hanover New entry
16 Atkinson Resort Down 7
17 Shattuck Down 1
18 Bretwood (North) Down 1
19 Eastman No change
20 Wentworth by the Sea New entry

Click the link to see full details of all courses in our latest New Hampshire Best in State rankings

Rhode Island

The Top 15 for the Ocean State is now led by a new number 1 as the course at Shelter Harbor in Charlestown eases up one place to top the chart. It’s no real surprise to see this Hurdzan and Fry design head the Rhode Island standings as it also broke into the US Top 100 at the end of last year, squeezing into the national rankings at number 98. The course is a regional favourite of our New England correspondent Steve MacQuarrie who says: “among the many outstanding features at Shelter Harbor, two stand out: bunkers and rocks. The bunker locations add interesting challenges (and) stone walls also abound, most constructed from the rocks pulled from the New England soil that drove so many farmers to the more fertile Midwest.”

Another five courses make small positional gains within the new state chart, four of which are Donald Ross designs. The other (non-Ross) track moving up the table is the course at Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club in Middleton (up one to number 8), a Seth Raynor layout built in 1923 that has been under the restorative care of Ron Pritchard for some time now. Our man Fergal O’Leary likes it a lot as his comments from a his visit last year might indicate: “it’s certainly a thrill to see the square greens, iconic bunkers and a routing that takes advantage of the splendid views over Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. There are many beautiful trees mostly in all the right places, and with 16 of the original 18 Raynor greens still in play today, it’s a pleasant walk you won’t forget anytime soon.”

Rank/ Course Move
1 Shelter Harbor Up 1
2 Wannamoisett Up 1
3 Newport Country Club Down 2
4 Rhode Island No change
5 Newport National No change
6 Sakonnet No change
7 Warwick Up 1
8 Wanumetonomy Up 1
9 Misquamicut Down 2
10 Metacomet Up 1
11 Point Judith Up 1
12 Carnegie Abbey Down 2
13 Triggs Memorial Up 2
14 Meadow Brook No change
15 Agawam Hunt Down 2

Click the link to see full details of all courses in our latest Rhode Island Best in State rankings


There are four non movers in the Great Mountain State listings and the foremost of these is the 18-hole layout at Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, which retains its number 1 billing in Vermont. Set out by Walter Travis and John Duncan Dunn at the start of the last century, the course has been tweaked by a number of architects – most notably by Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones and Geoff Cornish – though it still retains most of its old school charm. More recently, Bruce Hepner upgraded the layout when he was with Renaissance Golf Design, removing trees, reworking fairway bunkers and expanding greens to their original size.

Four courses move up the table and the most eye-catching of these climbers is the semi-private 18-hole track at Rutland Country Club, progressing eight spots to the number 3 position. George Low designed the club’s original 9-hole course when it moved to its present location on the old 382-acre Baxter Farm in 1902 and this layout was doubled in size twenty-five years later by the renowned design partnership of Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek. Today, the course extends to a modest 6,134 yards from the back tees, with par set at 70.

The only new entry at number 7 is one of the least known historical courses in the country and it’s the 18-hole layout at Dorset Field Club, “the oldest continuously operating golf club in America” according to its website. The club celebrated its 130th Anniversary in 2016 as it can trace its origins back to 12 September 1886, when a 9-hole course was first established under the name of Dorset Golf Links. Unfortunately, the club wasn’t formally incorporated for another decade, by which time fully accredited clubs like Foxburg Country Club (1887), St Andrews (1888) and Shinnecock Hills (1891) had been formed, leaving the club from the backwaters of Bennington County largely in the shade.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Ekwanok No change
2 Country Club of Vermont No change
3 Rutland Up 8
4 The Quechee (Highland) Up 4
5 Vermont National No change
6 Jay Peak Down 2
7 Dorset Field New entry
8 Okemo Valley Down 5
9 Burlington Up 5
10 Stowe Mountain Down 1
11 Equinox Down 5
12 Green Mountain National Down 5
13 Stratton Mountain (Lake & Mountain) No change
14 Woodstock Inn Up 1
15 Sugarbush Down 5

Click the link to see full details of all courses in our latest Vermont Best in State rankings

We’ve never claimed to produce “definitive” rankings but we think that we publish the “most informed” listings that you’ll find in print or on the internet. Your opinion is of great value to us so if you feel we could have done a better job with any of the six reappraised US Best in State charts above then please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page to let us know your thoughts.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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