America's Best New Courses 2017

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America's Best New Courses 2017

December 05, 2017

Best New -- 1st Place: Sand Valley Golf Resort

Rome, WisconsinResort Course. Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, designers.6,913 yards par 72.Score: 45.5448 pointsThis is the fifth course that the design firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has done for resort maven Mike Keiser, and the first not close to an ocean. No matter. It’s still on a thousand acres of rolling sand hills in Central Wisconsin, and Coore and Crenshaw were carte blanche to route their course. (Rumor has it Coore routed a hole outside the property line and Keiser reluctantly bought that additional parcel.) Given the name, many conclude Sand Valley is a combination of Nebraska’s Sand Hills Golf Club and New Jersey’s Pine Valley. But Sand Valley has its own personality, with some dual fairways, mammoth sand spits, enormous greens and even a hidden putting surface.Panelists’ comments: “A great experience!...Effectively-placed hazards, line-of-play demands, and angle of approach challenges…Each hole has its own feel, but they blend together very well…The average green size is 10,000 square feet, which allows higher handicap golfers the ability to get on in regulation and score from there…Loved this place. Mr. Kaiser is setting himself up another golf mecca.”

Best New -- 2nd Place: Silo Ridge Field Club

Amenia, New YorkPrivate Course. Tom Fazio and Logan Fazio, designers.6,763 yards par 71.Score: 43.7357 pointsSilo Ridge is one of those “blow-up” jobs. It began in 1992 as the private Segalla Country Club, named for its developer, John Segalla, and designed by Connecticut golf architect Al Zikorus, who was given a farm field for the front nine and a mountainside for the back. It soon became a public course, renamed Island Green Country Club, and then sold again and renamed Silo Ridge Country Club. Five years ago, the course closed and was purchased by Discovery Land Co., who brought in their preferred designer, Tom Fazio, to create a course worthy of their exclusive private Silo Ridge Field Club. The opening nine on those old farm fields are still back-and-forth, but the back nine was vastly improved. There are moments where holes recall Fazio’s nearby Hudson National Golf Club.Panelists’ comments: “Great new Fazio course on a terrific piece of property, maybe the best Fazio course I've played…Well done and well thought out… Not that the front nine is bad, but I do think the back nine is much better…Back nine shone, clearly highlighting the best part of the property…Beautiful views of the Taconic Mountain Range throughout the course and a significant amount of attention was dedicated to lush landscaping.”

Best New -- 3rd Place: Mossy Oak Golf Club

West Point, MississippiPublic Course. Gil Hanse, designer.7,212 yards par 72.Score: 43.4142 pointsBack in the 1980s, George Bryan, who once ran Bryan Foods, now part of Sara Lee Corp., created the Bob Cupp and Jerry Pate-designed Old Waverly Golf Club, which hosted the 1999 US. Women’s Open (and will host the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur). Five years ago, Bryan bought an old dairy farm across the street and hired Gil Hanse to give him an Old School public course. It now also serves as new home course for Mississippi State University’s golf teams. Hanse showed his knowledge of current events when he shaped a massive 30,000 square foot fairway bunker on the 17th and named it “Grant’s Tomb,” a clear acknowledgement that Mississippi State had just become the home of President U.S. Grant’s official papers. But the name didn’t stick; the club now officially calls that enormous trap “George’s Bunker.”Panelists’ comments: “Nice piece of property and nice routing…A great variety of holes that posed different options and challenges… Makes great use of the natural ground contours of an old dairy farm to create an excellent variety of very playable, old-style holes…From the sixth green you can see all 18 flags at Mossy Oak, because there are only 19 trees within the boundaries of the course…A breath of fresh air…Fun to play.”

Best Remodel -- 1st Place: Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes Course)

Pebble Beach, CaliforniaPrivate Course. Tom Fazio, redesigner with Tim Jackson of Jackson Kahn Design.7,090 yards par 72.Score: 46.0440 pointsThe Dunes, long been in the shadow of its big brother Shore Course (ranked No. 65 on Golf Digest’s 2017 list of America’s 100 Greatest) had a faux pedigree: originally routed by Seth Raynor, who died before construction began, it was completed by Robert Hunter, a partner to Alister MacKenzie (who did not participate in the work). In the 1990s, Rees Jones remodeled the course and reshaped holes to mimic the Raynor look, with geometric-like features, and a modified Biarritz green on the par-3 fourth. When Fazio was brought in to make the Dunes as appealing to members as the gorgeous Shore Course (a redesign by the late Mike Strantz), Fazio and his former associate Tim Jackson opted to give the Dunes a MacKenzie look. With more dunes, fewer trees, splashy bunkers and tumbling greens, The Dunes is now definitively the equal of The Shore.Panelist Comments: “Fantastic remodel destined to be considered among the great seaside courses…Routing has remained the same, but each hole has been changed significantly, bringing in many new sand dunes, waste areas and bunkers…Very memorable holes with tons of options…The views rival that of its sister Shore Course. I see no reason why the Peninsula shouldn't have another Top 100 course with the Dunes; it's that good…A 100 Greatest course that will probably never make it because of the neighborhood it's in.”

Best Remodel -- 2nd Place: Quail Hollow Club

Charlotte, North CarolinaPrivate Course. Tom Fazio, redesigner with associates Blake Bickford and Tom Marzolf.7,635 yards par 71.Score: 45.4266 pointsNo golf course project had more national attention in 2016 than Quail Hollow, mainly because of the audacity of the notion of redesigning its front nine just a year before the course was slated to host the 2017 PGA Championship. But Tom Fazio had no qualms. Just hire three construction companies to handle each of the three new holes, he told owner Johnny Harris, and we’ll get it done with time to spare. He was right, but everyone held their breath nonetheless.Panelists Comments: “I enjoyed the renovation at Quail Hollow. They were able to blend in the new holes well…A big layout set up to test most aspects of one's golf game…The best holes are the short par 4s, one on each side…Greens roll true and have challenging contours. Interesting collection areas require creativity in the short game…Green on fourth hole may need some additional tweaking. Very severe!..The finishing hole is a killer.”

Best Remodel -- 3rd Place: Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course (North Course)

La Jolla, CaliforniaPublic Course. Tom Weiskopf, redesigner.7,258 yards par 72.Score: 42.9480 pointsPhil Mickelson originally thought he had this redesign job. His design company prepared a detailed remodeling plan, which was used to help generate funds for the reconstruction. But under state law, that participation in the fundraising prohibited his firm from being hired for the redesign. So Tom Weiskopf won the bid, and moved to San Diego to oversee the transformation, which turned a Plain-Jane municipal into something akin to its sister South Course, host of the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Open. Torrey Pines North shares duties each year in the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Classic. It will no longer be the pushover 18.Panelists Comments: “Really nice remodel. Many trees taken out to open up beautiful views of the ocean…A very good sister course to the South. Weiskopf did a nice job of matching the two courses together…I love that Weiskopf remembered that he was designing a course for the average golfer. The fairways are wide when they need to be. His fairway bunkering is designed to help you pick your line of play instead of being terrible penal…Tremendously better course than before.”

Best Renovation -- 1st Place: TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium Course)

Ponte Vedra Beach, FloridaResort Course. Steve Wenzloff, redesigner.7,245 yards par 72.Score: 47.1824 pointsUnsatisfied with the hybrid Bermuda turf used on the greens, the PGA Tour, which owns TPC Sawgrass, decided to replace it, and figured if they’re going to close the course anyway, they might as well make improvements. Wenzloff, in-house designer for the PGA Tour, consulted with original architect Pete Dye on suggested changes, but Dye was not involved in the rebuilt. Biggest improvements were a new lake between the sixth and seventh holes, and converting the par-4 12th into a tempting drivable par 4. More details can be found in the May 2017 issue of Golf Digest.Panelist Comments: “A great and unique design that is very difficult but has options for lesser players…Great test of golf, nice redo with most of it underground. Added length, added bunkers helps some holes…Bunkers in the correct places…The more aggressive the line, the shorter the approach, but the more punishment - via water or strip bunkers with an awkward lie or high lip - for wayward shots…The redesigned 12th hole is driveable and presents a great risk-and-reward opportunity.”

Best Renovation -- 2nd Place: Makena Golf & Beach Club

Makena-Wailua, Maui, HawaiiPrivate Course. Dennis Wise, redesigner.7,038 yards par 72.Score: 45.8687 pointsAt one time, Makena was a destination resort with two beautiful Robert Trent Jones Jr. designs. But when the economy soured a decade ago, the South Course was closed, and in 2014 the remaining North Course was sold to Discovery Land Co., which brought in Dennis Wise, formerly a Tom Fazio associate who worked on many Discovery Land projects, to retrofit the course. It’s still a beauty, but now with Discovery’s trademark “confort stations” offering food and drink throughout the round. Course reopened in fall of 2015 but we failed to have enough panelists evaluate it last year, so we consented to hold it over to 2017.Panelist Comments: “Discover Land has hit the mark, setting the bar among other courses on the island…Really nice Fazio-esque remodel on what I thought was a good layout to begin with…Dennis Wise made good use of the existing corridors while adding touches here and there, such as lakes, lava outcroppings, etc…Except for changing the dogleg par-4 third into a short, drivable par 4, routing is unchanged…Difficult to find better views on any course in the country.. .All-in-all, a really good golf course.”

Best Renovation -- 3rd Place: Shoal Creek

Shoal Creek, AlabamaPrivate Course. Jack Nicklaus and Jim Lipe, redesigners.7,264 yards par 72.Score: 45.4514 pointsOne of the early, great Nicklaus-designed courses, Shoal Creek has twice hosted the PGA Championship and will host the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open. But at nearly 40 years old, it needed some updating, and Nicklaus and his former senior design Jim Lipe (now operating his own firm in Louisiana) literally ripped up every hole and rethought strategies and options. The result is not a restoration but an updating. Gone are huge fairway bunkers, replaced by smaller clusters of traps. Greens have been recontoured, with one, the 12th, actually flowing front to back, unheard of back in the late 1970s when Shoal Creek was first built. Shoal Creek presently ranks No. 106 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s Second 100 Greatest. So why was it considered for Best New Renovation? Because it would be foolish not to recognize that even great courses can be improved.Panelists Comments: “This timeless Nicklaus design is the essence of Southern golf…Wonderful recent facelift with new bunkering, tree removal for sight lines, updating of the green complexes…Significantly enhanced Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring…New green shapes to create more pin positions. Traps repositioned and in excellent shape…New Auburn Victory bent greens are very true and receptive…Nice work done in preparation for the 2018 Women's U.S. Open….Suitable for another U.S. Amateur or PGA Championship.”

Best Restoration -- 1st Place: The Greenbrier (Old White TPC Course)

White Sulphur Springs, West VirginiaResort Course. Keith Foster, redesigner.7,292 yards par 70.Score: 45.0885 pointsWait a minute! This course won Golf Digest’s Best New Remodel back in 2007, after architect Lester George revitalized its C.B. Macdonald architecture. How can it win again? Because tragic flooding destroyed portions of the course in the summer of 2016, cancelling that year’s PGA Tour event at The Greenbrier. Weeks later, architect Keith Foster and contractor Mcdonald & Sons rushed in to reclaim and restore the classic 1914 design, and did it so quickly, and so expertly, that the Old White TPC hosted the 2017 PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic last July.Panelist comments: “Foster's restoration has been miraculous! Excellent changes…All the green complexes were re-done with some subtle changes in contours, but the layout itself remains mostly unchanged…Many cross bunkers removed making for a more playable track…Strong set of par 3s, notably the Biarritz No. 3 and long Redan No. 8…Like having a brand new Macdonald gem in perfect shape with all the quark/fun…One of America's great courses.”

Best Restoration -- 2nd Place: Sankaty Head Golf Club

Nantucket, MassachusettsPrivate Course. Jim Urbina, redesigner.6,625 yards par 71.Score: 44.9432 pointsLong considered a jewel among authentic American links courses, Sankaty Head simply needed a little refreshing by Urbina, who re-established original green sizes, rebuilt eroded bunkers and removed some obtrusive trees.Panelists comments: “A little-known, remarkable treasure located 30 miles out to sea on Nantucket Island…Restoration by Jim Urbina and greenkeeper C.J. Penrose is terrific…No holes have been moved. The bunkers have been completely redone with new, very playable sand and greens have been enlarged…Some tees have been lowered to reduce walking up stairs to tee tops…Great course. One of the best in the state. A little quirky but a great use of land.”

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