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​US West North Central Division Best in State Rankings 2020

12 October, 2020

US West North Central Division Best in State Rankings 2020

Last month, we updated the rankings for Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee in our East South Central Division of the United States. We now move further north, into the western portion of The Midwest, to shine the spotlight on courses in the Farm Belt States of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

During the revision process for this West North Central Division, we’ve added another thirty-five courses to the mix, which means there are now a total of a hundred and sixty-five layouts featured across a prosperous heartland region that extends to more than half a million square miles, supporting a population of around twenty million people.


One or two eyebrows may have twitched a little when the Hugh Alison-designed course at Davenport Golf Club in Pleasant Valley made an appearance at #96 in our latest US Top 100 listings published at the end of last year. Well, we make absolutely no apology for its inclusion as it now retains the No. 1 spot in our Best in State rankings for Iowa.

Comments during 2019 included: “the layout is sublime, healthy and bursting with charm… I was truly blown away by the awe-inspiring layout from start to finish… this is a course that I wish was my home club… it was a joy to play, and the membership should feel very lucky to play it with frequency.”

Davenport Country Club

And those remarks were endorsed by a reviewer this year who wrote: “the renovation work done at Davenport was a huge success. Each hole has its own unique character, yet all fit together collectively. This is a golf course that contains all the elements most players love: memorable, beautiful, fun to play, and numerous risk-reward options.”

Hurtling back into the Iowa chart in the runner-up position, the former state No. 1 at The Harvester Club in Rhodes has just reopened after another renovation by the original architect, Keith Foster. Unfortunately, you’ll now have to befriend a member if you want to see how the upgrade turned out as the club is a private facility after changing its visitor policy.

Harvester Club

Mark White, one of our regular contributors, had this to say a few months back: “elevation changes are key to the challenge at The Harvester because the routing takes full advantage of the terrain… the green complexes are very good with a good mixture of undulations and greenside bunkers (and it) has just the right mixture of defenses split between the water, the variety of the greens and the placement of bunkers.”

We’ve introduced another four new courses into our Iowa standings (to create a Top 20 chart) and these additional layouts are led at #14 by the Veenker Memorial Golf Course at Ames, a Perry Maxwell design from the late 1930s which is owned and operated by Iowa State University. There’s only around half the original holes in play theses days but Tom Doak reckons “what’s left is still classic Maxwell, with lots of doglegs and some abrupt elevation changes… a little t.l.c. would go a long way here.”


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


Another Perry Maxwell masterpiece continues to hold sway in the Sunflower State, where we’ve also added another five tracks to produce a Top 20 chart. The course at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson has been our No. 1 since we started Best in State listings in 2012 and this world ranked course (currently rated #34) isn’t going to be dislodged from the top spot any time soon – unless, of course, a localized meteorite shower falls from the sky to obliterate everything on the ground at this location.

Prairie Dunes Country Club

Marc Bender, our Florida Correspondent, said a couple of months ago: “Prairie Dunes is an exceptional course with some of the most challenging greens I have ever seen. Great routing, lots of memorable holes and a demanding test of golf. If you have the right frame of mind, the course is great fun.”

Only three courses make upward moves in the Kansas chart and the most prominent of these is Milburn Country Club in Overland Park, rising three places to No. 7. Founded in 1917, the club possesses a William Langford-designed layout that has been remodeled in recent years by Todd Clark of CE Golf Design, with all the bunkers and tees reconstructed to modern specifications.

Milburn Country Club

The highest new entry arrives at No. 15 and it’s yet another Perry Maxwell course at Topeka Country Club, where the architect redesigned the original Tom Bendelow layout in late 1937, having just completed his work at Prairie Dunes. He added a new nine holes to the existing nine, converting the old sand greens to grass putting surfaces at the same time. Tree growth is now something of an issue here but it’s still a great example of the famed designer’s work.

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 Hallbrook Up 1
6 Wolf Creek Down 1
7 Milburn Up 3
8 Firekeeper Down 1
9 Colbert Hills No change
10 Southwind Down 2
11 Mission Hills CC No change
12 Sand Creek Station No change
13 Wichita Up 1
14 Buffalo Dunes Down 1
15 Topeka CC New entry
16 Ironhorse Down 1
17 Canyon Farms Golf Club. New entry
18 Prairie Highlands New entry
19 Indian Hills CC New entry
20 Nicklaus at Lionsgate New entry

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


The course at Interlachen Country Club in Edina was replaced at the top of the Minnesota rankings by White Bear Yacht Club on White Bear Lake in 2016 and the latter now holds onto its #1 status for the third revision in a row. The clubs share a similar architectural history, having started out more than a century ago with William Watson layouts that were subsequently redesigned by Donald Ross, and they’re both highly regarded in the US national charts, listed at #58 and #80.

White Bear Yacht Club

Our US Correspondent Fergal O’Leary played at White Bear Yacht Club this summer and he remarked: “the Golf Committee at White Bear understands how special their piece of land is. In recent years, they also understood the need to remove hundreds of trees that were suffocating certain fairways and green-sites. My eyes were wide open during a June 2020 return visit as to the magnitude of tree removal… it was really important to return to see the updates over the past 12 months.”

The biggest climber in the Minnesota standings is the Preserve course at Grand View Lodge Spa & Golf Resort in Niswa (up nine to #30), where this Mike Morley and Dan Helbling co-design is just part of the 45-hole public golf facility that has evolved since the early 1990s at an historic hostelry on the northern shores of Gull Lake.

Preserve course at Grand View Lodge

Ten Minnesota newcomers in the new Top 50 are led at #39 by Dutch Legacy, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course that debuted back in the late 1990s at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd. It’s one of two 18-hole layouts operating at a 45-hole complex which also boasts a reversible par three 9-hole course – and with all the recent publicity about such innovative layouts, who’d have thought one had been lurking here, unheralded among the trees in Crow Wing County, for the last twenty years?

Rank/ Course Move
1 White Bear Yacht Club No change
2 Interlachen No change
3 Northland Up 3
4 Minikahada Up 1
5 Hazeltine National Down 2
6 Minneapolis Up 3
7 Windsong Farm Up 1
8 Spring Hill Down 4
9 Giants Ridge (Quarry) Down 2
10 Somerset No change
11 Wilderness at Fortune Bay Up 1
12 Madden's (Classic) Up 2
14 Golden Valley Down 3
15 Rochester Down 2
13 StoneRidge Up 4
16 Woodhill No change
17 Breezy Point (Deacon's Lodge) Down 2
18 Town & Country Club Up 3
19 Dacotah Ridge Up 5
20 Oak Ridge Down 2
21 Keller Up 1
22 North Oaks Down 3
23 Olympic Hills Down 3
24 Somerby Down 1
25 Giants Ridge (Legend) Up 2
26 Chaska Town Down 1
27 Edina Down 1
28 Legends Up 4
29 Midland Hills No change
30 Grand View Lodge (Preserve) Up 9
31 TPC Twin Cities No change
32 Minnesota Valley Up 2
33 Meadows at Mystic Lake Down 5
34 Wayzata Up 1
35 Stillwater CC Up 2
36 The Jewel Down 6
37 Bearpath Up 3
38 The Wilds No change
39 Cragun's (Dutch Legacy) New entry
40 Grand View Lodge (Pines - Lakes & Woods). New entry
41 Edinburgh USA New entry
42 Willingers Down 9
43 Red Wing New entry
44 Rush Creek Down 8
45 Dellwood New entry
46 Minnesota National (Championship) New entry
47 Owatonna New entry
48 The Royal Club New entry
49 Le Sueur New entry
50 The Bridges New entry

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


C. B. Macdonald’s design at St. Louis Country Club remains the #1 course in a Missouri chart which has also been augmented with ten new tracks to form a Top 40. St Louis has attracted a couple of posts since we last updated this state listing, with reviewers making the following observations: “the course is a reminder of how golf was played in the past. Think yourself around, don’t just pull out driver and swing, think if you want to score well… a classic layout that showcases C. B. Macdonald’s full arsenal of template holes… the course isn’t a pushover but is too short for championship golf.”

St Louis Country Club

The big news for Missouri is the emergence of the Ozarks National course at Big Cedar Lodge in Hollister, which comes straight in at No.2. Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the eighteen holes on this course that were unveiled last year are just part of a seventy-six hole golf offering that owner Johnny Morris has been developing in recent years at one of the top public-access golf facilities in the entire country.

Ozarks National

Regular contributor Matt Ward visited not long after the course opened: “Ozarks National is located on an eye-catching ridge line, providing a panoramic view of the immediate Ozarks region. There’s no competing clutter – just an unfiltered connection – golf and countryside. The property is also relatively devoid of trees so varying wind patterns are a daily matter for golfers to negotiate.”

Payne’s Valley was the third 18-hole layout to open for play at Big Cedar Lodge just a few short weeks ago and we’re sure this brand new Tiger Woods track will make a significant impact when we next reappraise our US state listings two years from now. Before then, reviewers are more than welcome to let us know what they think of it by posting a few comments.

Payne's Valley 19th hole

Just eight courses make a chart advance and the best of these positive moves is made by the 18-hole layout at Branson Hills Golf Club (up five to #8) which was built with the stated intention of honouring legendary Missouri golfers like Tom Watson and Payne Stewart. Natural rocky outcrops, waterfalls, winding creeks and wooded areas are all incorporated into this out-and-back design from Chuck Smith and Bobby Clampett.

Rank/ Course Move
1 St Louis No change
2 Ozarks National New entry
3 Dalhousie No change
4 Old Warson Up 1
5 Bellerive Down 3
6 Boone Valley Down 2
7 Norwood Hills (West) Up 2
8 Branson Hills Up 5
9 Buffalo Ridge Springs Down 3
10 Porto Cima Down 3
11 St Albans (Lewis & Clark) Down 3
12 Old Kinderhook Down 1
13 St Albans (Tavern Creek) Down 1
14 Hickory Hills CC Down 4
15 Lake Forest Up 3
16 Persimmon Woods Up 3
17 Fox Run Down 3
18 Blue Hills Down 3
19 Swope Memorial Up 2
20 National GC of Kansas City (The National). Down 4
21 St Joseph CC Up 2
22 Staley Farms Down 2
23 Tiffany Greens Down 1
24 The Legends (RTJ) No change
25 Ledgestone Up 1
26 Jefferson City New entry
27 Shoal Creek Down 10
28 Old Hawthorne Down 3
29 Meadowbrook New entry
30 Sunset Down 3
31 Westwood New entry
32 Creekmoor Down 2
33 Algonquin New entry
34 Highland Springs Down 5
35 Loch Lloyd New entry
36 Stone Canyon Down 8
37 Glen Echo New entry
38 Forest Park (Dogwood & Redbud) New entry
39 Missouri Bluffs New entry
40 Oakwood CC New entry

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


The top six courses in the Cornhusker State remain in the exact same position so the celebrated Coore & Crenshaw layout at Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen is still our Nebraskan No.1 – not that the status quo should come as any surprise when you consider it occupies the #10 spot in our World Top 100 rankings. Everybody who ever gets the chance to play here comes away talking about how special the entire set up is.

Sand Hills Golf Club

Our man in Florida, Marc Bender, played the course recently and he was no different to all the others who have teed it up here: “We all define fun differently, but Sand Hills is the ultimate for me. This golf course flows so well as if it was always meant to be this way and no doubt that is exactly what Coore and Crenshaw set out to achieve when they spent two years working on the routing and studying the land… Sand Hills is a place you feel euphoric, no matter what you shoot on the course, you will have a blast.”

Three 18-hole layouts make a moderate one-place improvement in their position and the highest ranked of this trio is the Pines course at the Prairie Club in Valentine. There are currently 46 holes in play here: eighteen on the Tom Lehman/Chris Brands co-designed Dunes course, eighteen on the Graham Marsh-designed Pines course, and ten on a little par three circuit called Horse. The Dunes course is presently the better regarded of the two main tracks at Prairie Club but the Pines is fast catching up.

Prairie Club Pines course

Another course currently under development not too far from Sand Hills is CapRock Ranch, which is laid out along the rim of the Snake River Canyon and in the sandy chops hills. With Hanse Golf Course Design, Caveman Construction and Landscapes Unlimited all working on this project, you can be absolutely certain it will play a large part in the next reappraisal of our Nebraska Top 15 chart.

CapRock Ranch - image courtesy of Ben Hillard

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 Prairie Club (Pines) Up 1
8 Dismal River (White) Down 1
9 ArborLinks No change
10 Bayside Up 1
11 Tatanka Down 1
12 Quarry Oaks Up 1
13 Champions Run Down 1
14 Awarii Dunes Up 1
15 Iron Horse Down 1

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

North Dakota

It probably came as a shock to some observers when the course at Hawktree Golf Club in Bismarck was knocked off the top position in 2018. Well, it’s bounced back immediately to regain the spot it had previously held for four years. Another of our regular reviewers, Colin Braithwaite, was there last year and he thought: “Hawktree is a pretty cool course… One of the first things you notice is the black sand bunkers... Fun course. I would play it again.”

Hawktree Golf Club

Medicine Hole Golf Course in Killdeer (#6) and King’s Walk Golf Course in Grand Forks (#8) each rise a notch in the new table. Both courses opened for daily fee access early in the new millennium but any further similarity between the two layouts ends there – the former is a modest 3290-yard 9-holer designed by Jim Engh while the latter is a bit more substantial, requiring Arnold Palmer’s design company to shift more than half a million cubic yards of earth during construction of the 18-hole layout.

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

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

South Dakota

The course at Sutton Bay in Agar heads our South Dakota chart for the 5th consecutive edition of our Best in State ranking reassessments. It’s a Graham Marsh design that’s laid out on a fantastic cliff top property overlooking Lake Oahe, with players afforded wonderful views across this reservoir section of the mighty Missouri River. Styled as an inland links, with wide fairways and large greens, Sutton Bay is a must play for anybody who delights in underfoot conditions that are firm and fast.

Sutton Bay

Steve MacQuarrie, yet another of our stalwart correspondents, played here last year and he was very impressed by what he found: “Sutton Bay is a Top 100 course. The only shortcoming I could find is the routing. The course is over a mile from the clubhouse and there are a number of long, unintuitive walks from green to tee. Everything else, however, is splendid… The line of charm is present on the majority of tee shots and once you’re on the green a whole new set of challenges arise dealing with the contouring.”

Three courses make small, one-position gains in the new chart and the best placed of these is the 18-hole layout at Dakota Dunes Country Club, which recaptures the #2 slot it last held from 2012 to 2016. Just last week, a reviewer felt it was a “very nice Palmer design just north of Sioux Falls in residential development”. Furthermore he felt it had “a nice mix of strategic play and bomb it opportunities” and it was ”worth the time if you like Palmer designs and good playing conditions.”

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

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

Next up, the East North Central Division states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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