Best of the Best

One of my favorite projects every year is our Best New Courses feature. I’m just blown away, time after time, by the spectacular nature of the world’s top new layouts. Yes, fewer courses are being built these days than a decade ago, but the quality of the latest class is no less impressive. The economic pressures of our times boil down to this: If you’re going to build a golf course in this century, it better be a darn good one.

Because we’ve been tabulating this list for five years now, I decided to go back and crunch a few numbers. In that time we’ve recognized seventy courses, fifty-one of which are in the United States. Yes, we admit to a slight bias in favor of stateside creations, but what good would the list be if it focused on Asia?Still, even with that taken into account, you have to conclude that the home team continues to dominate the game worldwide. Canada, with five mentions, has the second-highest total.

Thirty-eight different architects (or teams of architects) can take credit for all that work. Leading the pack is Jack Nicklaus, whose name has graced eight selections in the last five years. How about that?I guess the Bear is not ready to hibernate just yet.

Less surprising is Tom Fazio’s lofty position in second place, with seven courses on our Best New lists. Neither he nor Nicklaus, however, has yet won our Course of the Year distinction, which has twice gone to Tom Doak (for Cape Kidnappers and Ballyneal). Doak has charted five other times, as well, including a shared credit with Nicklaus for their fine handiwork at Sebonack.

After that, with four mentions each, we come to Jim Engh and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who can also boast of a Course of the Year honor (for Bandon Trails). The other two COTYs have gone to Robert Trent Jones II (for Washington’s Chambers Bay) and David McLay Kidd (for this year’s Castle Course in St. Andrews).

Whew. That’s a lot of great golf being built. One thing that jumps out at me is that I haven’t played nearly enough of these courses. Maybe that’s the silver lining of construction slowing down—we’ll all finally have a chance to catch up!