Best in America (and don't forget football)
We ranked all of America's cities for golf. Alabama's Auburn-Opelika is No. 1
Who'd have thought we'd find the best golf city in America right in the middle of a big football town in a big football state? But that's why you look.
For the third time since 1998, Golf Digest has ranked America's largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas. In cooperation with The Longitudes Group, utilizing the Golf Digest Companies' Database of Golf in America, the survey found that the best places to live and golf are increasingly shifting to small towns and suburbs in the South (11 of our top 20), while the Northeast remains a golfer's wasteland. Fifteen of the bottom 20 cities lie above the Mason-Dixon line, including regular bottom-feeders Bridgeport, Conn., New York City and golf-dry Jersey City, N.J.
But in the eastern Alabama twin cities of Auburn and Opelika, a place known for the city-block-size Auburn Tiger paw print in the main square and a college football stadium that seats more than 86,000 people, golf is becoming its second passion. You see it everywhere you look.
It's there first in the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail's stunning 54 holes of 4½-star golf out at Grand National, a site that lives up to Jones' description as the best for golf he'd ever seen.
It's there in the two mayors, whose zeal for the game is no mere political affectation. Gary Fuller of Opelika and Bill Ham Jr. of Auburn not only use golf as a successful recruiting tool for economic development, they're both 12-handicappers with more than occasional flashes of their single-digit pasts.
It's there in the sturdy 3½-star daily-fee layout at Auburn Links, whose twists and turns make it a favorite of Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, who has his own reserved parking space up front.
It's there in Will Blackmon's 200-strong junior programs at Opelika's Saugahatchee Country Club, which no doubt has fueled the last two consecutive state golf championships for Auburn High School.
It's there in the sporty 3-star Indian Pines, the municipal course the two towns share that's more popular than the Brunswick Stew at Byron's Smokehouse in Auburn or the pork-barbecue sandwich at Chuck's Bar-B-Que in Opelika.
|HOW WE DID IT|
|There are 330 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the U.S. with a population of greater than 50,000. We ranked all of them on four different criteria:|