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​US West North Central Division Best in State Rankings 2018

18 July, 2018

US West North Central Division Best in State Rankings 2018

Our Best in State biennial re-ranking process for the United States of America continues at a relentless pace as we now reach the western half of the Midwest, embracing the Farm Belt states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In this revision of the West North Central division, we’ve expanded the Missouri state chart with an additional ten tracks so we now feature a hundred and thirty-five courses across a geographical region extending to just over half a million square miles with a population of more than twenty million people.

Only four courses in this prosperous heartland region currently occupy positions within our US Top 100 but that doesn’t mean to say there’s a dearth of great golf venues here – hopefully, the following narrative shows there are lots of state-ranked courses worthy of a national profile.


The course at The Harvester Golf Club in Rhodes, our former number 1 in the Hawkeye State listings, is closed for a major renovation by Keith Foster. It's due to reopen sometime in 2019 as a private facility, so it drops out of the state rankings until we next reappraise the situation in 2020. That allows the recently upgraded C. H. Alison design at Davenport Country Club in Pleasant Valley to soar six places to the top slot. Closed for almost a year until May 2015, the course was upgraded by John Forse and Jim Nagle, with the architects rebuilding just about every aspect of the course’s infrastructure. Tom Doak was so impressed that he included Davenport in “The Gourmet's Choice” in his Confidential Guide to Golf Courses – Volume 3 .

Just last week, a reviewer posted the following: “where has this course been hiding for nearly 100 years? The valleys that are used to great effect in the routing are pleasant enough but the course is way more than pleasant – it’s brilliant. This is certainly one of the best courses I’ve ever played that I’ve not heard much about nor has it ever been ranked particularly highly by the magazines for some unknown reason… Sadly I only had time for one round but when I’m next in Chicago I’ll make the five hour round trip as I want to play this gem again to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

Another big riser (up ten to number 2) is the old Donald Ross track at Cedar Rapids Country Club, which Ron Pritchard restored in time for the club to mark the centennial year of its inauguration in 2015. All the paved cart paths were removed, a pond eliminated, bunkers added or redesigned and most of the green complexes expanded and re-contoured to original specifications. Tree management and water dispersal are ongoing projects that will complement the work already undertaken.

One of our most respected contributors, Paul Rudovsky, played Cedar Rapids last week and commented: “ Loved just about everything about it. Fabulous renovation dealing with a number of very interesting issues... Now well placed bunkers, wonderful use of land... and a fun fun course that is playable and challenging for any level of player. 18 different holes that blend in beautifully together, superb routing with wide corridors and great vistas.”

Both 18-hole layouts at Des Moines Golf and Country Club make upward moves in the new table. The South course (up one to number 3) and the North course (up seven to number 4) are early 1970s Pete Dye designs that were refurbished by Tim Liddy in preparation for the 15th edition of the Solheim Cup matches in 2017, when a composite course was used for the event.


Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest Iowa Best in State rankings


The top four positions in the Sunflower State listings remain as they were so the table is still headed by the course at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, where Perry Maxwell set out the original 9-hole course (today’s holes 1, 2, 6-10, 17 and 18) in 1937 and his son Press Maxwell added another nine twenty years later. Host to the US Women’s Open in 2002 and the US Senior Open in 2006, this fabulous 18-hole course lies more than six hundred miles from the nearest coastline but it displays all the firm and fast seaside attributes you would normally associate with a classic links layout.

The courses at Wichita Country Club and Ironhorse Golf Club in Leawood enter the chart for the first time at number 14 and 15, respectively. The former club moved to its present location in 1950, when William Diddel laid out the course for the membership, and the latter club is situated just off the state line of Missouri and Kansas, a mere 20-minute drive from downtown Kansas City, where it’s the only Troon-manged facility in the metro area.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Prairie Dunes No change
2 Flint Hills National No change
3 Kansas City No change
4 Shadow Glen No change
5 Wolf Creek Up 2
6 Hallbrook Up 2
7 Firekeeper Down 2
8 Southwind Up 4
9 Colbert Hills Down 3
10 Milburn Up 4
11 Mission Hills CC Up 4
12 Sand Creek Station Down 3
13 Buffalo Dunes Down 3
14 Wichita New entry
15 Ironhorse New entry

Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest Kansas Best in State rankings


Still the number one track in the North Star State, the course at White Bear Yacht Club is a Donald Ross design which has stood the test of time on the northern shores of White Bear Lake for more than a century now. Ross redesigned the club’s original 9-hole Willie Watson layout and added another nine in 1915 to fashion the layout that’s in play today. Our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary was really pleased with the course topography when he visited and had this to say in his review: “Fabulous undulations throughout the property makes for a terrific golfing experience… there aren’t too many courses in the whole world that offer a rippling piece of land like this… it was tremendous fun hitting blind shots around this course”.

The first of five new entries in the Minnesota Top 40 arrives at number 20 and it’s the course at Olympic Hills Golf Club in Eden Prairie, situated eighteen miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis. A Charlie Maddox design which first opened for play in the late 1960s, the layout was completely renovated by Ron Pritchard over a three-year period, ending in 2015. Anybody who now takes on the course from the Olympic tees will be trying to tame a 7,400-yard beast.

Rank/ Course Move
1 White Bear Yacht Club No change
2 Interlachen No change
3 Hazeltine National No change
4 Spring Hill No change
5 Minikhada No change
6 Northland Up 1
7 Giants Ridge (Quarry) Down 1
8 Windsong Farm No change
9 Minneapolis Up 1
10 Somerset Up 3
11 Golden Valley Up 1
12 Wilderness at Fortune Bay Down 3
13 Rochester Up 4
14 Madden's (Classic) Down 3
15 Breezy Point (Deacon's Lodge) Up 3
16 Woodhill No change
17 StoneRidge Up 9
18 Oak Ridge Up 6
19 North Oaks Up 1
20 Olympic Hills New entry
21 Town & Country Club Up 15
22 Keller New entry
23 Somerby Down 9
24 Dacotah Ridge Down 9
25 Chaska Town No change
26 Edina New entry
27 Giants Ridge (Legend) Down 8
28 Meadows at Mystic Lake Up 1
29 Midland Hills New entry
30 The Jewel Down 9
31 TPC Twin Cities Down 8
32 Legends Down 5
33 Willingers Down 5
34 Minnesota Valley No change
35 Wayzata No change
36 Rush Creek Down 14
37 Stillwater CC New entry
38 The Wilds Down 8
39 Grand View Lodge (Preserve) Down 7
40 Bearpath Down 7

Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest Minnesota Best in State rankings


We added ten courses to the Show-Me State listings in 2016 and we’re doing the same again in this edition of the Missouri Best in State rankings. The top six places in the new Top 30 stay the same as last time and that means the course remaining at number 1 is C. B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor’s design at St Louis Country Club in Ladue, host venue for the Curtis Cup matches in 2014. In fairness, our US correspondent, the much-travelled Fergal O’Leary, wasn’t particularly impressed by the bunkers on the course when he played here but he thought the green complexes were world-class, the rolling landscape was fabulous and the routing superb.

The highest placed entry among our ten chart newcomers is the 18-hole layout at Hickory Hills Country Club in Springfield, which was the home course of two-time US Open Champion Payne Stewart. Sporting amenities at the club have developed somewhat since the fairways were laid out back in 1926 because, in addition to the golf course, members now have the use of a fan-shaped swimming pool with eight lanes as well as eight tennis courts.

Rank/ Course Move
1 St Louis No change
2 Bellerive No change
3 Dalhousie No change
4 Boone Valley No change
5 Old Warson No change
6 Buffalo Ridge Springs No change
7 Porto Cima Up 2
8 St Albans (Lewis & Clark) No change
9 Norwood Hills (West) Up 7
10 Hickory Hills New entry
11 Old Kinderhook No change
12 St Albans (Tavern Creek) Down 2
13 Branson Hills Down 6
14 Fox Run Down 1
15 Blue Hills CC New entry
16 National GC of Kansas City Down 2
17 Shoal Creek Down 5
18 Lake Forest CC New entry
19 Persimmon Woods No change
20 Staley Farms New entry
21 Swope Memorial Down 6
22 Tiffany Greens Down 4
23 St Joseph CC New entry
24 The Legends (RTJ) Down 7
25 Old Hawthorne New entry
26 LedgeStone Down 6
27 Sunset CC New entry
28 Stone Canyon New entry
29 Highland Springs New entry
30 Creekmoor New entry

Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest Missouri Best in State rankings


Ten of the fifteen courses in The Cornhusker State chart stay in the same position, including the number 1 course at Sand Hills Golf Club near Mullen in Hooker County. This remote mid-1990s Coore & Crenshaw creation is also the highest ranked course in the West North Central Division, occupying a place just outside the Top 10 in our World Top 100. In Volume 3 of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses , author Tom Doak indicated the debt of gratitude which is maybe owed to developer Dick Youngscap for this particular golf project when he wrote: “if it hadn’t been for Sand Hills proving the business model, it’s likely that few of the other great courses of the past twenty years would ever have been built”.

The only new entry in the state chart is the course at Tatanka Golf Club near Niobrara, where the Santee Sioux Nation operate the Ohiya Casino Resort. Architect Paul Albanese fashioned the layout, taking the history and the culture of the area as a design inspiration, with each hole derived and named from a different story from the Sioux culture. The course has been added to the resort as an additional attraction for visitors to stay longer, anticipating a positive economic impact on the local area in terms of jobs and increased tourism. One commentator described Tatanka (a Dakota word for buffalo) as Nebraska's Sandhills with trees.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Sand Hills No change
2 Dismal River (Red) No change
3 Prairie Club (Dunes) No change
4 Wild Horse No change
5 Omaha No change
6 Firethorn (North & South) No change
7 Dismal River (White) No change
8 Prairie Club (Pines) No change
9 ArborLinks Up 1
10 Tatanka New entry
11 BaysideDown 2
12 Champions Run No change
13 Quarry OaksDown 2
14 Iron Horse No change
15 Awarii Dunes No change

Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest Nebraska Best in State rankings

North Dakota

The Rough Rider State has a new number 1, The Links of North Dakota near Williston in Williams County, which sits in the middle of the Bakken Oil Formation. Featuring bent grass playing surfaces throughout, it’s a very linksy layout that stretches out across the northern shores of Lake Sakakawea. In the mid-1990s, New Jersey-based architect Stephen Kay routed the fairways around a property where it’s said cattle rustler Red Mike was set alight by vigilantes in the 1880s so now, more than a hundred years further on, it’s a very placid place in comparison to previous times.

Rising five spots to number 5 in the state listings, the course at Minot Country Club is a new design that came about following the club’s relocation to higher ground after the epic Souris River floods of 2011. Now situated within a 200-acre site ten miles further east, the course is laid out on extreme terrain that’s not exactly conducive for traditional golf, which translates as the perfect golfing environment for architect Jim Engh, who’s renowned for his unorthodox design approach. Compact contour lines generate blind shots, uneven lies and difficult stances but they also produce elevated tee platforms, speed chutes and quirky putting surfaces, all of which Minot now has in abundance.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Links of North Dakota Up 1
2 Hawktree Down 1
3 Bully Pulpit No change
4 Fargo Up 1
5 Minot Up 5
6 Oxbow Up 1
7 Medicine Hole Up 1
8 Riverwood Down 2
9 King's Walk Down 5
10 Edgewood Down 1

Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest North Dakota Best in State rankings

South Dakota

Courses in the top half of the South Dakota Top 10 haven’t moved from their previous chart position so the 18-hole layout at Sutton Bay is still the number 1 track in The Mount Rushmore State. Designed by Graham Marsh and opened for play in 2003, the course enjoys a fabulous cliff top setting overlooking Lake Oahe, with golfers treated to magnificent views of this dammed section of the Missouri River from every part of the property. Styled as an inland links, the course is set out with a classic out and back routing, resulting in the 9th green being located two and a half miles from the first tee. Wide fairways, big putting surfaces and well positioned bunkers complement the firm and fast playing conditions at this private hunting, fishing and golfing retreat.

The only new entry appears at number 10 and it’s the course at Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club, which is laid out within Frawley Ranch, a National Historic Landmark near the small town of Spearfish in Lawrence County. Conveniently positioned just off the I-90, the nation’s longest interstate highway, this 18-hole layout offers golfers spectacular views of Centennial Valley and Polo Creek Canyon as fairways rise and fall through almost three hundred feet of elevation change. The course can play as long as 7,200 yards from the Elk tees, though the forward Antelope tees measure a more manageable 4,658 yards for those who don’t play long off the tee.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Sutton Bay No change
2 Red Rock No change
3 Dakota Dunes No change
4 Minnehaha No change
5 Hart Ranch No change
6 Meadowbrook Up 2
7 Prairie Green Down 1
8 Southern Hills Down 1
9 The Bluffs No change
10 Elkhorn Ridge New entry

Click this link to see full details of all courses in our latest South Dakota Best in State rankings

We appreciate there may be a wide variety of opinion regarding the revision of our US Best in State standings so don’t hesitate to let us know what you make of these seven new ranking charts. Maybe there’s a course that you feel should have made the cut or there’s another which isn’t worth a place in one of the state tables? Whatever you’re thinking, please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page to share your thoughts with us.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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