November 29, 2016

Best New Courses of 2016

Tiger Woods' Bluejack National and Tom Doak's The Loop have something in common: Fun & playability
The Loop is a reversible layout, the clockwise black and the counterclockwise red.
Photo by Dom FuroreThe Loop is a reversible layout, the clockwise black and the counterclockwise red.

On the face of it, Golf Digest's Best New Private Course and its Best New Public Course of 2016 could not be more dissimilar. The private winner, Bluejack National in the piney woods of Montgomery, Texas, is an opulent Tiger Woods design that bears a resemblance to Augusta National, where Woods has won four green jackets. The public winner, The Loop at Forest Dunes, in an expansive meadow near Roscommon, Mich., is a rustic trek by veteran course designer Tom Doak. It's a reversible layout, two courses in one, inspired by the Old Course at St. Andrews, where centuries ago play on the links alternated direction to spread out wear and tear.

But if you look beyond the glare of the gleaming white quartz in Bluejack's bunkers and past the massive humps in some fairways of The Loop, you begin to notice some commonalities. When you play them both—actually, all three—one conclusion is unmistakable: They are virtually the same golf course, in concept and philosophy.

They are both exceedingly wide and generous off the tee. Fairways average almost 60 yards wide at Bluejack, even wider at The Loop. Both have a spot where joint fairways merge, forming a corridor of 100 yards. Neither has any formal rough. Everything is tightly mowed. Beyond the fairway edges at Bluejack are pine forests, whose floors are covered with pine straw and mulch to allow errant shots to be quickly found and played. Off The Loop's fairways are stretches of sand dotted with tufts of native grasses, ferns and stubby pines, nothing so dense as to prohibit recovery shots.

The premium at both is placed upon approach shots into the greens. Bluejack has perched greens, sunken greens, diagonal greens. So does The Loop. There are many spots on greens where the ground game is encouraged and rewarded, feeding a shot across a ridge or down a slope toward a hole location. Fairway approaches are likewise canted and contoured to guide good shots onto greens and reject those off line.

They represent the trend that many architects are embracing: Build for the masses, not the elite players.

To that end, both operations rely on turfgrasses meant to be firm and resilient. Being in a Southern climate, the fairways at Bluejack are tightly bladed Zeon Zoysia, the same superturf used at Rio's Olympic Golf Course (which wasn't considered for 2016 Best New because it was closed for public play until after the Olympics).

Bluejack's tee boxes and green surrounds are an even newer Zoysia breed, L1F, for a shorter, tighter cut. Says Woods: "This will allow the ground to be used as a friend on approach shots and create lots of options for recovery shots around the greens." Its greens are hybrid TifEagle Bermuda, as smooth as any bentgrass green.

Tiger's Take: Bluejack National is wide open. | Photo by J.D. Cuban

The Loop is blanketed in cool-season fescue blends, an old-country turf that provides bounce and roll off the tee and lets balls scurry around and onto greens. The putting surfaces are bentgrass not mowed tight because Doak believes that a ground game works best when the putting surfaces aren't faster than the approaches leading into them.

The greens at both are subtly contoured. There are certain spots on both where a shot to a pin placement might seem successful, only to slowly creep down an imperceptible slope, leaving a longish putt. Yet there is not an exaggerated slope on any green at either locale, never the fear that a runaway putt could end up back down a fairway.

Bluejack has just 39 bunkers; The Loop has 73, many of them quite small. Bunkers were positioned for strategic purposes, not as eye candy. The Loop does have a couple of surprise hidden bunkers behind greens, but of course they become clearly visible when encountered from another direction.

These are courses created to put smiles on the faces of their patrons. Hit it, find it, hit it again toward the green, run in a putt or a pitch, cheer and move on. The Loop has no water hazards, Bluejack has four small lakes, all avoidable with smart play. They represent the trend that many 21st-century golf architects are embracing: Build for the masses, not the elite players. The selections of these two seemingly disparate courses as Best New, based upon evaluations by our panel of nearly 900 male and female golfers, reminds us that there's more than one way to decorate a playable course.

For Woods, Bluejack National is his "Hello, World" moment as a fledgling golf architect (at least to most American audiences; his first design was El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in 2014). Expertly aided by designers Beau Welling and Shane Robichaud of Beau Welling Design, Woods created Bluejack on the site of a 30-year-old failed private club called Blaketree National Golf Club, which had been based on a routing by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who had no involvement in the finished product. Blaketree was the exclusive haunt of the late oil and gas attorney Thomas Blake, but Bluejack is intended to be a family club, with on-site housing, very short junior tees on every hole—dubbed Frank's Tees after the famed headcover in Tiger's golf bag—and even a delightful 10-hole lighted pitch-and-putt, The Playgrounds.

For Doak, The Loop is a reminder that the one-time Boy Wonder, now 55, is perhaps the most thoughtful and accomplished course designer of his generation, willing not just to push the envelope but flip it over and scribble on its back side. (His influence even extends to our winner for Best New Remodel of 2016, Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y., which was restored by Bruce Hepner, a longtime former design associate.) Doak was aided by his Four Horsemen of Architecture—Eric Iverson, Don Placek, Brian Schneider and Brian Slawnik—in pulling off a magician's feat at The Loop by devising 18 holes that function as 36 without ever posing the sensation of playing the wrong way down a fairway. "The goal is to have two very different courses over the same piece of ground, so people will want to stay over to play it both ways and compare and contrast the two," Doak says. "I've been looking for the right site for many years, and the Forest Dunes site seemed right for it." (The Forest Dunes resort also has a 14-year-old Tom Weiskopf-designed layout that won a Best New award in 2003 and is ranked No. 118 on Golf Digest's ranking of America's Second 100 Greatest.)

As bold as Doak was in embracing a radical idea, he was rather cautious when submitting his project for consideration as Best New. He did not want The Loop considered as two separate courses—the clockwise Black and counterclockwise Red—because he was concerned one would be declared the winner over the other and tourists thereafter would focus solely on the winning 18. So we agreed to have panelists evaluate his design as a single 36-hole entity. We're willing to embrace radical ideas, too.


In 2016, nearly 1,000 Golf Digest panelists across the country played and evaluated new and newly remodeled courses, judging them on seven categories: Shot Values, Design Variety, Resistance to Scoring, Memorability, Aesthetics, Conditioning and Ambience. To determine Best New awards, the average scores in each category were totaled. Because these are new or newly remodeled, and still growing in, Conditioning scores were not included. Likewise, because of their immaturity, Ambience was not considered.

BEST NEW PRIVATE 2016

Courtesy of Bluejack National GC

1.) Bluejack National
Montgomery, Texas | 7,552 yards, par 72
Designer: Tiger Woods
Score: 45.06

Whitten's notes: Many have noted that Bluejack bears a resemblance to Augusta National, particularly at the par-3 12th, which plays over water to a long narrow green backed by a pair of bunkers. While most suspect this is Tiger's homage to the 12th at Augusta National, where he has won four Masters, when I first saw it, I thought it more resembled the 12th at Muirfield Village, which was Jack Nicklaus's homage to the 12th at Augusta National. But it turns out that Bluejack's 12th was one of the few holes that Tiger incorporated from the previous design that existed on the property, when it was known at Blaketree National Golf Club. Back then, it was the par-3 10th, looking much like it does today. I'm told it was indeed then-owner Thomas Blake's attempt to imitate the 12th at Augusta.

Panelist comments: "Quite a place! … Incredible property with 80-foot-tall pines and hilly terrain … You can't believe you're in Texas … You could easily picture yourself in North Carolina or the foothills of Colorado's eastern front ... Has a look and feel of Augusta National with similar design features, wide fairways, no rough, brilliant white face bunkers … Some elevation change like Augusta but not as pronounced ... Tiger and associates did a great job of putting a new course on the site of another course without there being any trace of the old course ... Not particularly difficult tee to green, but challenging green complexes defend against low scoring by requiring precision on approach shots … Large green complexes provide interesting variety of back-to-front, front-to-back and table-top slopes … Almost all greens allow approach shot to be played along the ground, and greenside areas are seeded with L1F Zoysia to promote firm, fast roll … So many shot options around the greens. Creativity and feel are going to be necessary to get the short game shots close to the hole … If you miss a green on the wrong side, you'll almost always be left with a difficult bump-and-run or bunker shot over a mound to a green that slopes away from you into a run-off area ... Maybe the only time I have played a course with no rough. This is more than made up for by false fronts and raised greens … Zoysia fairways wall to wall, with mulch and pine stray for "rough" and clearings thru the trees allow the player to enjoy long beautiful views. No homes will be built in the interior … Minimalist yet very strategic fairway bunkering, some are huge and very picturesque (a la Augusta) … Nos. 9 & 18 were the only holes that were overly long or difficult … Back nine did have a little more variety … Water only comes into play on three holes (and two of those are mid/short iron par 3s), so penalty shots rarely factor into scoring … Had the privilege of playing with the course chief agronomist, Eric Bauer, who himself has quite a track record of success. He gave wonderful insights into the thinking of Tiger and helped oversee the shaping of the fairways for optimum conditioning and drainage … Some drainage problems. Drains in several greenside collection areas have a tendency to get clogged with mulch from nearby wooded areas, resulting in conditioning issues around greens. Course has plans to resolve this issue by sodding the wooded areas near greens to prevent run-off mulch … I can't say enough about this beauty. The facilities and service was First Class … There is a Discovery Land-type development feel... Spectacular gem stands out amongst the finest golf tracks in this country... If fun factor instead of Resistance to Scoring was the criteria, my score would be much higher … The sweet par-3 course also gives the player (and families and guests) a fun yet short playground that can be played with just a wedge and putter."


Courtesy of the course/Aidan Bradley

2.) The Reserve at Moonlight Basin
Big Sky, Montana | 7,982 yards, par 72
Designer: Jack Nicklaus
Score: 44.17

Whitten's notes: As happened with several course projects started before the Crash of 2008, The Reserve took nearly a decade to complete. The back 9 opened first, in the summer of 2008. Then came the crash, so the front nine was not constructed until 2014 and the full 18 officially opened in August 2015. The time lag meant that different Nicklaus associates worked with Jack on the design and construction: Jim Lipe and Chris Rule were the primary associates on the back nine, Chris Cochran and David Savic were involved on the more recent nine.

Panelist comments: "Beautiful place … Built on a ski mountain … Elevation changes are incredible … Course at 8,000 feet elevation. All par 5s more than 600 yards. Balls flies forever up there. But I liked the layout … Nicklaus did a good job, given how extreme the land is … Very impressed, especially given that it is built on ground not ideal for a golf course … A Jack Nicklaus design that is frankly awe inspiring … Spectacular vistas throughout the course … Interesting and rather unique Nicklaus design. Front nine and back nine play very differently because of different times of construction … Because of the difficult terrain and exceedingly significant differences in elevation changes, many players might be tempted to downgrade the course. If one really pays attention, what Mr. Nicklaus did was to provide the player with a very good golf course that demands good Shot Values, Playability, and especially Resistance to Scoring … Several truly great holes with excellent continuity in the routing … I have to think some of routing is meant to help maximize future house lot sales around the golf course... Local knowledge is a necessity in order to pick the right lines and know the correct placement and layups … Only one hole actually plays uphill … Greens provide lots of challenge due to excellent speed (about 10.5) and plenty of movement … Every putt a challenge … A few greens don't fit the approach … Too many greens are too shallow, only saving factor are some backstops that try to stop the ball or funnel it back … Fairway and greenside bunkering is superb. Well-positioned, beautifully designed with natural, minimalist flair … Lowest point on the course is about 6,400 feet and the highest point at 8,000. Thus walking this course would be decidedly difficult … Given the multiple tee boxes—in some cases up to seven—I believe the architect provided a course that is high in Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring no matter what yardage is played … Far more difficult course to play than neighboring Yellowstone Club."


Courtesy of Trump National G.C.

3.) Trump National G.C.
Washington, D.C. (Championship)
Potomac Falls, Va. | 7,793 yards, par 72
Designer: Tom Fazio II
Score: 44.13

Whitten's notes: This was originally the Lowes Island Club, which consisted of 36 holes, the Island Course designed by Tom Fazio in 1993 and the River Course designed by Arthur Hills in 1999. Five years ago it was purchased by the businessman who would later become the 45th President of the United States. To better utilize the land's frontage along the Potomac River in a single 18, Tommy Fazio (Tom's nephew) was retained to reroute and remodel the two 18s and create a Championship Course. The opening two holes were from the Fazio layout, three thru eight are from the Hills design, and the dramatic par-3 ninth right on the river shoreline is a Fazio II original. The back nine consists totally of Fazio's holes, all remodeled by his nephew. When the new clubhouse was built, Trump added a circular rock waterfall behind the 18th. While technically a "blow-up" remodeling job, the club wanted Championship Course to be considered as a new course for Best New consideration. Course will host the 2017 Senior PGA Championship.

Panelist comments: "Set on Potomac bottomlands in Northern Virginia, the routing changes direction frequently but never overwhelms the player … Tough, demanding course in terms of length and preciseness … Through careful permitting, the architect was able to get five holes directly on the edge of the Potomac … Holes along the Potomac are very intimidating due to the close proximity of the water … Flow is not great as they decided to take some holes designed by Tom Fazio and mix them with Arthur Hills-designed holes and all they did was use similar bunkers on all holes … Design variety limited by the shape of the land along the river, which limits the holes out and back without much change in direction for different wind directions … Newly shaped 007 bent grass greens are superb … Greens receptive and quick. Many opportunities to use ground-game approach to portions of greens … Virtually treeless and relatively flat with wide fairways and huge greens with multiple pin positions, many two-tiered and some with false backs … Tries to give a links-type feel but doesn't quite get there … The look and feel of a true links course, but needs to work on fast and firm fairways … Some memorable holes but much of it just runs together … Too many holes that looked similar in appearance and design … Lack of elevation changes probably hurts the quality of this course … Deducted one whole point from Aesthetics based on waterfall monstrosity behind the 18th green … American flags and iconic Trump waterfall but adds to the memorability of the course … The course was the site of a Civil War battle in the river, which gave it the name "River of Blood" … A very good course but not an outstanding one … Enjoyable to play with good putting surfaces … I liked this course a bunch … Trump should be proud of this one."


BEST NEW PUBLIC 2016

Photo by Ron Whitten

1.) The Loop at Forest Dunes
Roscommon, Mich.
6,704 yards, par 70 (Black) | 6,805 yards, par 70 (Red)
Designer: Tom Doak
Score: 43.30

Whitten's notes: The idea of a reversible golf course is as old at the Old Course at St. Andrews, and golf architect Joel Goldstrand built a series of nine-hole reversible courses for small clubs in Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota back in the 1980s. But give Tom Doak credit for convincing a client to take a chance on an 18-hole reversible layout. We've not heard the last of this trend. Architect Dan Hixson (who used to be a Golf Digest panelist) has been building an 18-hole reversible at Silvies Valley Ranch Golf Club in Seneca, Ore. It may finally be completed in 2017.

Panelist comments: "The Loop concept was brilliant and a joy to play both directions … A masterful design. I could not imagine how Doak would do this, but can see he had to have exactly the right piece of property—a gently sloping parcel which could easily allow walking … One of the most interesting two days of golf playing the same course but reversed the second day … Very well-executed idea … Tom Doak did a fantastic design … You do not recognize some of these greens even though you'd played them the previous day. Such is the different view when approaching from a different side … Almost all the greens you must play short because the greens are so fast if you hit on you will most likely roll over. Quality chipping is mandatory! … All the greens have deep drop-offs around them … A truly great golf course, deserving of 100 Greatest, even if just for the imagination and ingenuity that went into it … Both the Red and Black Courses stand on their own merit, but to have both of them on the same greens and fairways is simply a coup de grace … There were not a lot of bunkers and ones you could see on the Black Course you did not see playing the Red and vice versa. Nicely done … It was a surreal feeling playing the Red the day after the Black. I found myself picturing how I played a hole the day before. After a couple holes, I concentrated on playing the Red and not thinking about the Black … What amazed me the most was that the same piece of land could have two entirely different looks for each routing... A true links golf course … Fairways are generous in width which allows you to play to the best angles into the greens. The green contours and shapes have a tremendous amount of variety … Teeing grounds are quite interesting. Nothing is sculpted and tees are set on flat areas of the course. People may wonder why, but then you realize that those same tees will be fairway tomorrow, so a sculpted tee box makes no sense … Many courses seek to hold the title "Bandon of the Midwest" but this (these?) qualify. Shots are very reminiscent of Bandon and Pacific Dunes, with sand base, thin fescue lies and some very interesting greens, some of which may be polarizing, given their extreme undulations... One must watch their step when walking this course: you'll see what appears to be a mound and you can walk over it, but it is probably a fairway bunker from the other side. So beware!... Fairways were a bit sparse, but next season should be good... Condition of the course is still two years away but I discounted that factor... The year-old greens are perfect but the fairways have a long way to go... The elephant in the room is the conditioning. I am sure some will downgrade it based on appearance. Brian Moore, the superintendent, says he wants the course to have brown, firm fairways and firm greens... Plays firm and fast and most greens are designed to allow the player to run the ball onto the greens... With no water hazards, very wide fairways, little rough or long grass and not that many fairway or greenside bunkers, the defense of the course lies within the green complexes. Intricate and sloping, they require every shot you have or can manufacture to get it close. . . The Tom Doak greens make this course extremely hard to play and do not provide a great deal of enjoyment... Usually Tom Doak's design are spectacular but this one fell short. I prefer the original Weiskopf course at Forest Dunes... Difficult course to access, 36 holes, so lots of variety but at the same time compromise. There were likely 18 better holes... Fabulous course(s) and really awesome experience... This unique design may be the coolest course I have ever played."


Courtesy of Tatanka GC

2.) Tatanka G.C.
Niobrara, Neb. | 7,450 yards, par 72
Designer: Paul Albanese
Score: 41.35

Whitten's notes: As a native Nebraskan, I paid special attention to this project by Michigan-based architect Paul Albanese, who immersed himself in the Sioux culture for this design, an amenity of the Ohiya Casino on the Santee Sioux Reservation in northeast Nebraska. Albanese not only did a terrific lay-of-the-land routing on rugged hills and valleys, he incorporated a Sioux legend as a theme for each hole. They're outlined in the course's yardage book and make for interesting reading. The course itself is another good reason to add Nebraska as a golf destination.

Panelist comments: "New course in northeastern Nebraska. The name translates into "Buffalo", which can actually be seen roaming in the fields next to the course... Wide open spaces with rolling hills and elevation changes near the Niobrara River... Reminiscent of some Irish courses I have played... A "heathland" golf course, with some spectacular landforms, views, and plant material... Great routing and hole variety. I loved the shared fairways and ample landing areas... Some memorable off-course views... Beautiful tract of land with numerous hills, rolling fairways and views up to 40 miles over the Nebraska plains... Huge tiered greens make putting a challenge and local knowledge very helpful... Many holes have uphill shots to the pin, making distance judgment and the shot very hard. Difficult for the first timer but should get easier as you play it more... Incorporates numerous water hazards which adds to some already difficult shotmaking... The par 3s were very difficult from any tee... There are several double greens which not only add to the beauty of the course but also could result in 100-foot putts if the inattentive golfer hits to the wrong flagstick... New course that is very dry and still making some changes, like not fertilizing the "gunch"... We experienced lost balls in unmowed fescue around greenside bunkers that just flat out weren't bad shots... I thought the conditioning was on point considering the youth of the course... I found the elevation changes on many holes more severe than expected. The upward elevation on several holes are too extreme. No. 4 is especially poor, requiring an uphill, blind tee shot to a fairway sloping severely from right to left. The tee should be moved to higher ground. The long uphill par-3 12th hole is also awkward. On the other hand, the par-4 3rd, 11th, and 16th holes are very good, requiring strategic placement of tee shots for the best approach angle to the green... I didn't find any value in the alternate, supposedly shorter route on the par-5 9th, unless the cottonwood is taken down and the left side tee shot rollout is expanded... This course could be a bear in a big wind... I really enjoyed the golf course but not the round. I saw everything from singles to eight-somes. It made for a distracting day that affected the overall ambience of the experience... Aesthetics were great, but the 9th and 18th holes had the casino and large propane tank in the background, impairing the final vision... Given a chance to play it multiple times, I think it could evolve into an importantly fun and playable course... As far as a comparison to other casino courses, I liked it... When this course matures it will undoubtedly be one of the premier places to play in Nebraska."


Courtesy of Lebovic/Clive Barker

3.) Lebovic G.C.
Aurora, Ontario | 6,462 yards, par 70
Designer: Doug Carrick
Score: 38.11

Whitten's notes: Veteran Canadian architect Doug Carrick is the architect of record, but when he nominated the course, he asked that we mention the role his associate, Steve Vanderploeg, played in the project. He's a master of computer graphics who has worked for Carrick for nearly 20 years.

Panelist comments: "Lebovic is a very good track surrounded by work-in-progress development...Very good design variety with five par 3s, numerous doglegs and water on ten holes... Terrain is undulating, which provides for some excellent vistas and inspired drives... Course was in excellent shape, better than most first year courses that I have played... Outstanding greens of the newest generation of bent grass, which were true, fast, firm and receptive... Greens were quite fast but they would accept a fairway shot. Bunkering was strategic... Nice white Ohio sand in the bunkers... Bunkers are somewhat disappointing in that they lack drama and challenge one expects from Carrick... The holes are squeezed into the property. (No room for a driving range.) Therefore, not a lot of distance from the holes to the next tee. Should make the course fairly fast to play... A number of forced carries lengthen the course. When the wind blows, those holes will be a bear... Built on a good if not dramatic piece of property which, not surprisingly, resulted in a good but not overly exciting golf experience... This will mature into an excellent members course once the clubhouse and surrounding homes are complete and the landscaping is completely finished."

For expanded information, photos and more on the results for the Best New Courses of 2016 please email editors@golfdigest.com.


BEST NEW REMODELED 2016

Photo by Ron Whitten

1.) Piping Rock Club
Locust Valley, N.Y. | 6,877 yards, par 71
Redesigner: Bruce Hepner
Score: 45.87

Whitten's notes: If you compare this course's score against Best New winner Bluejack National, you'll notice it outscored Bluejack. (As did our No. 2 Remodel, Baltimore CC.) Therein lies one of the big challenges in trying to conduct a Best New Remodeled category. We intended it to be a "Most Improved" Award, but many of these candidate courses were terrific designs to begin with, simply in need of some TLC. Since we can't get most panelists to most courses both before and after a remodeling, we must rely on post-remodeling impressions. Hence, Best Remodel is simply another survey category. Hepner didn't change the C.B. Macdonald architecture of Piping Rock, he enhanced it by removing tree, reinstating old bunkers, including cross-bunkers, recapturing green sizes, prescribing tightly mown areas in green surrounds and adding a few yards to some holes. Was it the "Most Improved" course of 2016? No. Piping Rock had great bones to begin with.

Panelist comments: "A very solid C.B. Macdonald course... Classic design... Bruce Hepner did some wonderful restoration work here... They have restored Piping Rock at least to its former grandeur, maybe better... The renovation has improved Conditioning while increasing Ambience, Aesthetics, Memorability and Resistance to Scoring... What an enjoyable Macdonald course. Not up to National Golf Links, but not far behind. I would not get bored playing here... The second best Road Hole I have played, the best Biarritz, a great Redan and a terrific 14th hole... Some great par 3s... Four great par 3 templates (Eden, Biarritz, Short, and Redan)... Wow! Brilliant renovation. Wide wide fairways bring all sorts of angles into play for approach shots. Wonderful strategic course. In incredible condition... Dan Powell, former assistant at Shinnecock Hills and Pine Valley, was hired as superintendent in 2012... Widened fairways by eliminating the first cut; also created a situation where errant tee shots will roll into fairway bunkers, increasing the importance of positioning off the tee... Overall look of course is breathtaking... Superb false fronts and slopes to greens with subtle breaks that are difficult to see... Front nine is fairly flat. Change in elevation on back nine makes for a different look and design... Honestly, some of the holes are ordinary, but several are world class... Some holes on the back are just long, with elevation... A fun course that could be played everyday by everyone. Terrific!... Hopefully the restoration will help the course crack the Top 100... For me, about as good as it gets, as beautiful and sweet as Mr. Doubleday's Rose Garden behind the 4th green."


Courtesy of Baltimore CC (East)/LC Lambrecht

2.) Baltimore C.C. (East)
Lutherville, Md. | 7,037 yards, par 70
Redesigner: Keith Foster
Score: 45.41

Whitten's notes: The East Course at Baltimore C.C., also known as the Five Farms Course, was one of many outstanding A.W. Tillinghast designs, ranked for decades on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest. Still, even jewels need polishing now and then. The club brought in Keith Foster, perhaps the most modest modern-day course architect around. He chooses to work solely on restorations, no more than two at one time, and declines to self-promote. He won't even nominate any of his courses for any of Golf Digest's course awards, preferring to let others handle that. At Five Farms, Foster removed trees (which nearly everyone is doing these days), rebuilt greens to make them manageable with today's green speeds, regrassed everything and reestablished Tillinghast's bunkering.

Panelist comments: "Five Farms is a wonderful Tillinghast design that has been totally restored over the past few years... The recent renovation is outstanding... This was a great course prior to the recent upgrades done by Keith Foster... Terrific restoration. Long irons are back in play, bunkers are back in play and condition of the bunkers are 100% better... A refreshing surprise. I was not expecting the course to be so great... The land is simply breathtaking, and the rectangular greens are cool and unique. I loved the fescue that frames the fairways. Aesthetics and Ambience of the course is one of the best I've seen... New grasses on fairways and greens allow the course to play firmer and faster. Greens were brought back to their original shapes. Variety has improved with the new pin placements available. . . Perhaps Tilly's most undulating course with virtually every hole being uphill or downhill and level lies impossible to find... Many elevated greens with steep front, rear and side slopes with thick rough, making for very difficult approach shots... Only a handful of greens will accept shots bounced onto the greens, which makes the course very difficult for high handicappers... Memorability scored quite high, based on the stunning Tillinghast bunkering and the large, beautifully restored undulating greens. The green contours are magnificent. Aside from Oakmont, Pine Valley and Winged Foot, I would put this set of 18 greens up against any... What sticks out for me is the Design Variety. The reachable, hard-dogleg left par-5 6th over a barn contrasted by the brutally difficult three-shot 14th. Each of these have tremendous Shot Values... The opening few holes are downright outstanding and very difficult. The par 3s are just okay by Tilly standards, although the 9th is an outstanding uphill par 3... Only negatives would be really long and straight opening holes and relatively easy finishing hole... I love how wide open the course is, making it very playable and fun... The Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring are not the best I have experienced, but it is one of the most fun courses I have played... Plays firm and fast in spring and summer. An awesome place to play every day... Old barns throughout the course add charm... A joy to play... A true Top 100 golf course."


Courtesy of Westchester C.C. (West)

3.) Westchester C.C. (West)
Rye, N.Y. | 7,005 yards, par 71
Redesigner: Tom Fazio
Score: 44.93

Whitten's notes: This well-known venue hosted a PGA Tour event for decades. The original design was by Walter Travis, who also did the shorter companion South Course at the same time, 1922. The roster of architects who have tweaked the design include Perry Maxwell in 1939, Rees Jones in 1982 and Ken Dye (no relation to Pete) in 2000. The present improvements were done in accordance with Fazio's long-range masterplan over a three-year period, supervised by Fazio's longtime associate, and restoration specialist, Tom Marzolf, a former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.

Panelist comments: "The club has taken a classic course and made it even better. Uphill shots, downhill shots, long par 4s, short par 4s, interesting par 5s, terrific variety of par 3s... An excellent masterplan which will bring the course back to what Walter Travis designed... Fantastic improvements! The property is beautiful because of elevation changes, rock outcroppings and rolling terrain. By removing thousands of trees (Amen!) and adding fescue, the views are exhilarating... Fun to play with a very classic feel... Classic design that will stand the test of time. Very challenging from tee to green. I've always been a fan of Walter Travis greens and this is no exception... A little bit too much of the same in terms of greenside look and feel, seems like half the greens are exactly the same shape and size with similar bunkering patterns... Something feels off about the routing here, on an admittedly difficult piece of ground. A few holes just feel like afterthoughts, others seem unnecessarily squeezed in. An interesting mix of standout holes (nice closing stretch) with some real losers (5, 6 and 11)... Originally designed with extremely elevated tees formed by pillars of rock. Some of these tees have been reconstructed and are in use. Some sadly are not... Very possibly a Top 100 candidate in the near future... The biggest drawback for me was the hotel/apartments on the grounds which are extremely dated and carry a bland appearance."

For expanded information, photos and more on the results for the Best New Courses of 2016 please email editors@golfdigest.com.