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April 6, 2005

Golf Digest's Greatest 100 American golf courses

no 17 TPC hole.jpgGolf Digest's annual survey of America's Greatest 100 Golf Courses is always an interesting and controversial article, and this year's edition is no exception.

The following is Golf Digest's Top 10 courses in the United States or, as one friend of mine from the Midwest points out, "the Top 10 courses near the East and West Coasts":

1. PINE VALLEY G.C. Pine Valley, N.J.-- George Crump & H.S. Colt (1918)

Augusta, Ga.-- Alister Mackenzie & Bobby Jones (1933)

Southampton, N.Y. -- William Flynn (1931)

Pebble Beach, Calif. -- Alister Mackenzie & Robert Hunter (1928)

Oakmont, Pa. -- Henry Fownes (1903)

Pebble Beach, Calif.-- Jack Neville & Douglas Grant (1919)

7. MERION G.C. (East)
Ardmore, Pa. -- Hugh Wilson (1912)

8. WINGED FOOT G.C. (West)
Mamaroneck, N.Y. -- A.W. Tillinghast (1923)

Southampton, N.Y.?C.B. Macdonald (1911)

Juno Beach, Fla.?Donald Ross (1929)

One cannot quibble much with most of this list, although Golf Digest's Eastern U.S. bias shows with the inclusion of both Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America. Both of those are fine courses and clearly should be included in the Top 100 somewhere, but neither are Top 10 material.

In addition to its East Coast bias, Golf Digest's annual survey has long had an anti-Texas bias, reflected by its inclusion of only a couple of Texas courses each year in the Top 100. This year, Golf Digest includes the deserving Tom Fazio-designed Dallas National Golf Club (65th) and traditional favorite Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth (73rd), which is really not one of the top ten golf courses in Texas anymore. Texas might not have the number of great golf courses of such golf meccas as Florida, California, and Arizona, but it does have its share of outstanding golf courses that compare favorably with golf courses anywhere. Golf Digest's persistent failure to include more Texas golf venues among its Top 100 U.S. courses borders on the absurd.

Golf Digest's annual survey also includes a list of the best courses in each state, and here is its list of the Top 25 Texas courses:

1. Dallas National G.C. Dallas

2. Colonial C.C. Fort Worth

3. Whispering Pines G. C. Trinity

4. Spanish Oaks G. C. Bee Cave

5. The Club at Carlton Woods, The Woodlands

6. Briggs Ranch G. C. San Antonio

7. Champions G. C. (Cypress Creek ) Houston

8. Brook Hollow C. C. Dallas

9. Shadow Hawk G. C. Richmond

10. Crown Colony C. C. Lufkin

11. Royal Oaks C. C. Houston

12 The Rawls Course, Lubbock

13. The Tribute G.C. The Colony

14. River Oaks C. C. Houston

15. Cimarron Hills C. C. Georgetown

16. The Vacquero Club, Westlake

17. Preston Trail G. C. Dallas

18. The Hills C. C. (Flintrock Falls) Austin

19. Barton Creek Resort & Spa (Fazio Foothills) Austin

20. The Club at Comanche Trace, Kerrville

21. Pine Dunes Resort & G. C. Frankston

22. Austin Country Club, Austin

23. Deerwood at the Clubs at Kingwood, Houston

24 Hyatt Hill Country G. C. San Antonio

25. Barton Creek Resort & Spa (Fazio Canyons)

Here are the Houston area golf courses included in that Top 25 list:

3. Whispering Pines G. C. Trinity

5. The Club at Carlton Woods, The Woodlands

7. Champions G. C. (Cypress Creek ) Houston

9. Shadow Hawk G. C. Richmond

11. Royal Oaks C. C. Houston

14. River Oaks C. C. Houston

23. Deerwood at the Clubs at Kingwood, Houston

Golf Digest does a reasonable job with its Texas list, but there are several errors and oversights. As noted above, Colonial is rated far too highly and realistically should come in around number 20 or so. Houston's Lochinvar Golf Club, which Golf Digest usually rates in the top 10 or so of Texas courses, is not even rated in the top 25 this year. On the other hand, Golf Digest always rates Houston's River Oaks Country Club highly because of its Donald Ross design, and it is certainly -- along with Memorial Park Golf Course -- one of Houston's finest old golf courses. However, there are at least a dozen golf courses in the Houston area alone that are superior to River Oaks, so its rating as number 14 in Texas and six in Houston is a bit too high. The inclusion of Houston's Royal Oaks at no. 11 in Texas and no. 5 in the Houston area is downright bizarre as that nice but otherwise pedestrian course probably would barely eke into the Top 20 courses in the Houston area, much less all of Texas.

Of Houston's top three courses, Golf Digest gets it right, although I would rate Champions Cypress Creek first, Whispering Pines second, and Carlton Woods third. I would put Lochinvar at four, followed by Shadow Hawk, Deerwood, and The Woodlands East Course (formerly the TPC at The Woodlands) as the top seven golf courses in the Houston area. By the way, the picture of the golf hole above is no. 17 at The Woodlands East Course -- the notorious "Devil's Bathtub" -- and one of the best holes in Houston.

One final note. Two new Houston-area golf courses that are about ready to open may edge their way into the top courses in Texas and the Houston area. First, Rees Jones' long-awaited tournament course for the Shell Houston Open golf tournament will open this summer at Redstone Golf Club. And then, Tom Fazio's new course in The Woodlands -- where many folks believe the Shell Houston Open should be played -- will open on a beautiful piece of land later this year. These two new courses will surely add to the outstanding array of courses that makes Houston one of the truly under-rated golf venues in the United States.

Posted by Tom at April 6, 2005 6:42 AM |



I wish I could make contact with the ball.

Posted by: TP at April 6, 2005 9:45 AM

I'll bet it took you longer to write this than it takes to play a round of golf. By the way, I've played Bartons Creek and the Woodlands. Really great courses.

Posted by: alex at April 6, 2005 4:13 PM

the loch doesn't even get honorable mention??? it's only bc/ they couldn't find it-- nor could they have gotten in if they could. right? jd

Posted by: jd walt at April 7, 2005 11:46 PM

Don't know the answer, J.D. In years passed, Golf Digest has rated the Loch quite highly among Texas courses, but the past couple of surveys have dropped it completely. The club membership does not promote itself for a place among the top courses, so that may have something to do with it. The failure to include the Loch as certainly undermines the integrity of at least Golf Digest's Texas course ratings.

Posted by: Tom Kirkendall at April 8, 2005 4:55 AM

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