The Best Courses In Every State
Golf Digest has been publishing a Best in State ranking every other year since 1977, making this the 22nd edition. Deploying our trained panel of more than 1,700 low-handicap golfers to continually assess the courses of this nation is a mission whose main obstacle is daylight. “Indeed, most courses ranked in any state are legitimate America’s 100 Greatest contenders, merely lacking a sufficient number of evaluations to merit consideration,” says Ron Whitten, our senior editor of architecture. It takes 25 evaluations accumulated over a 10-year period to qualify for a state ranking, versus 60 evaluations to be considered for our 100 Greatest.
Taking this long view guards against dramatic changes, but Whitten notes three new shake-ups at the premier spots. “In Colorado, Ballyneal (pictured below) moves ahead of Castle Pines; in Louisiana, Squire Creek squeaks by Country Club of Louisiana; and in Wyoming, Shooting Star (also pictured below) shoots ahead of Snake River Sporting Club.” Architect Tom Fazio has original designs at the top of 10 states, and Tom Doak, Pete Dye, Alister MacKenzie and Jack Nicklaus have three each.
In addition to the rankings, we’re celebrating all 50 members of our union with a research project. For each state, we’ve cited a fact about its contribution to golf history, and we’ve boldly named the “best active player.” Obviously, “best” and “active” are terms as volatile as they are subjective—especially when lumping together men, women, pros and amateurs—but that’s what makes this sort of debate fun. The lengthier the list of career achievements, so it often goes, the more limited the current playing schedule, and so where to draw that line? For instance, we gave the nod to two-time major champ Stacy Lewis over Jack Nicklaus in Ohio, although the Golden Bear is unquestionably the Buckeye State’s greatest ever. Generally, we deferred to a senior with a more impressive record provided that golfer is sincerely still chasing it, like Hale Irwin, 74, of Colorado, who made eight starts on the PGA Tour Champions last year. Our other bias was domination. A golfer whose shelves are buckling from state-amateur trophies trumps a journeyman touring pro, even if we’d rather have the latter as a four-ball partner.
Because as much as we’re riveted by the golf we see on TV, we know it’s the game at the state and local level that really connects us all. --MA
Reporting and state items by Joel Beall, Stephen Hennessey, Ryan Herrington, Hally Leadbetter, Keely Levins, Christopher Powers, Nicole Rae, Claire Rogers, Brittany Romano and Sam Weinman.
Click on each state name for our complete 2019-2020 Best in State rankings
Courtesy of the club
FACT: The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail includes 468 holes at 11 sites. This project came late in the architect’s life, long after he invented his middle name to distinguish himself from the great am, Robert Tyre Jones.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Born in Huntsville, Stewart Cink won the 2009 Open Championship over then-59-year-old Tom Watson and has bronzes in the other three majors.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Alabama.
FACT: During June’s midnight sun, several courses are open 24 hours a day.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Greg Sanders won his sixth state am last summer and serves as rules chairman for the state golf association.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Alaska.
FACT: Remember Roy McAvoy breaking all his clubs, save the 7-iron? That and other “Tin Cup” scenes were filmed at Tubac Golf Resort.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Five-time tour winner Billy Mayfair topped Tiger Woods in a playoff in the 1998 L.A. Open.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Arizona.
FACT: The Alotian Club gets its name from the America’s Lights Out Tour golf trips that have included club founder Warren Stephens, son of the former Masters chairman.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: A farmer of rice, beans, corn and catfish, as well as a Little League coach, Wes McNulty has won 11 state ams.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Arkansas.
FACT: The PGA Tour will visit the state six times in the 2018-’19 season.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: His swing formed on the Navy Golf Course in Orange County, Tiger Woods is chasing an Ohioan in career major-championship wins.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for California.
FACT: Jack Nicklaus, Juli Inkster and Annika Sorenstam each won a USGA championship at The Broadmoor early in their careers.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: The oldest U.S. Open champ at age 45, Hale Irwin, now 74, still competes on the PGA Tour Champions, where he holds the record for most wins with 45.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Colorado.
FACT: Players from the Constitution State, including Hall of Famers Gene Sarazen, Julius Boros, Glenna Collett Vare and Doug Ford, have won 21 national championships.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: In 2018, Ben Conroy made a clean sweep, winning the state am, mid-am, four-ball and father/son events.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Connecticut.
FACT: From Wilmington, Ed (Porky) Oliver was a popular player who won eight times on the PGA Tour in the 1940s and ’50s.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Phoebe Brinker bested all the boys in the 2016 state high school championship, won the 2017 women’s state am and is committed to Duke in 2020.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Delaware.
FACT: The Florida State Golf Association is the largest in the U.S. with almost 300,000 members.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Three-time major winner Brooks Koepka is from West Palm Beach and was a three-time All-American at Florida State.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Florida.
FACT: Bobby Jones won the inaugural Georgia Amateur Championship at 14.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Two-time state mid-am champ and Augusta National member Jeff Knox is famous for playing as a marker in the Masters when the field is cut to an uneven number.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Georgia.
Photo by Jon Cavalier
FACT: The game found the islands early—Moanalua Golf Club was founded in 1898.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champ Michelle Wie was five shots away from qualifying for the men’s edition in 2006.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Hawaii.
FACT: The floating 14th green at Coeur d’Alene requires an electric boat ride.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER:The long and short of it: Robert Garrigus led the PGA Tour in driving in 2009 and 2010 but used a 28.5-inch putter in 2012.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Idaho.
Scott Vincent/Courtesy of Shoreacres
FACT: The Evans Scholars Foundation, in the village of Golf, has provided college scholarships to more than 10,000 caddies.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Winfield’s Kevin Streelman set a PGA Tour record in 2014 when he closed with seven straight birdies to win.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Illinois.
FACT: Life-insurance salesman Pete Dye won the 1958 state am before changing careers.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Raised in Avon, Patrick Rodgers won 11 times at Stanford University to equal the career record set there by Tiger Woods.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Indiana.
FACT: Has the most nine-hole courses of any state (254).
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Zach Johnson, of tiny Drake University, is a two-time major champion at two of the stoutest, most classic venues: Augusta National and the Old Course.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Iowa.
FACT: The first female president of the USGA, Judy Bell, was born in Wichita.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland attended Washburn University on a basketball scholarship before transferring to the University of Kansas to play golf.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Kansas.
FACT: Louisville Golf’s peak production was once over 800 persimmon heads per day.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas also shot the only nine-under-par round in U.S. Open history.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Kentucky.
FACT: Cajun brothers born in St. Martinville, Lionel and Jay Hebert, each won the PGA Championship (1957 and 1960, respectively).
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: David Toms won 13 PGA Tour events, including a major, and spent 175 weeks ranked in the top 10 in the world.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Louisiana.
FACT: Built during prohibition, the Aroostook Valley Country Club golf shop is on American soil, but the course, and most important, the 19th hole, are on the Canadian side of the border.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Thirteen-time state am champ Mark Plummer (and his stunning mustache) took Tiger Woods to the last hole in their semifinal match at the 1995 U.S. Am.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Maine.
Courtesy of Laurence Lambrecht
FACT: Born in Washington, D.C., and a two-time All-American at the University of Maryland, Deane Beman served as PGA Tour commissioner from 1974-’94.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: The oldest winner in Players Championship history, Fred Funk (48), also has nine wins on the PGA Tour Champions.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Maryland.
FACT: 1935 state-am champ Edward Stimpson invented the device to measure green speeds, now known as a Stimpmeter.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Two-time state Player of the Decade Frank Vana Jr. has 10 state mid-am victories and earned his first state senior am title last year at 56.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Massachusetts.
FACT: The Loop Course at Forest Dunes is reversible. The clockwise Black course is ranked 45th on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses, and the counterclockwise Red is 47th.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Winner of the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur and Public Links, native Jennifer Song also has South Korean citizenship.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Michigan.
Peter Wong/Courtesy of Interlachen CC
FACT: In 1921, F. Scott Fitzgerald rented a room at White Bear Yacht Club to relax, play golf and write. But he and wife, Zelda, were said to fight and drink, and they were tossed.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Former World No. 1 Tom Lehman won Player of the Year on three tours (Web.com, PGA and Champions).
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Minnesota.
FACT: Born in Port Gibson, Pete Brown was the first African American to win a PGA Tour event, in 1964. He won $2,700.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Cissye Gallagher won 12 state ams across four decades, the last coming in 2015, when she beat her daughter in the second round.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Mississippi.
FACT: The first TV golf broadcast was the 1947 U.S. Open at St. Louis Country Club. Lew Worsham beat Sam Snead, and it aired locally.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Born in Kansas City, eight-time major champion Tom Watson, now 69, continues to break his age on the PGA Tour Champions.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Missouri.
Courtesy of Jon Cavalier
FACT: Has hosted only two USGA events, and they were on the same weekend in 1994: the Girls’ Junior and the Men’s Public Links.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Arizona State commit Ryggs Johnston won four high school state titles and is the reigning men’s am champion.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Montana.
FACT: A muny in Omaha is named after native Johnny Goodman, who was the last amateur to win the U.S. Open (1933).
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: 1989 Open Championship winner, 13-time PGA Tour winner and owner of bacon-print pants Mark Calcavecchia was born in Laurel.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Nebraska.
FACT: Tiger Woods’ first PGA Tour victory was the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Years before Las Vegas native Scott Piercy earned status on the PGA Tour, he won $2 million in The Ultimate Game organized by casino owner Steve Wynn.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Nevada.
FACT: 1969 LPGA Rookie of the Year Jane Blalock was born in Portsmouth. She sued the tour after being suspended for allegedly mismarking her ball.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: A member of Abenaqui Country Club, Dana Harrity has won 16 of the state’s Women’s Golf Association events.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for New Hampshire.
Courtesy of Somerset Hills CC
FACT: The modern wood tee, patented in 1925 under the name Reddy Tee, was invented by dentist William Lowell from Maplewood.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Born in Wayne, LPGA Tour winner Marina Alex also won the 2010 SEC Championship for Vanderbilt.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for New Jersey.
FACT: LPGA legends Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez each won the state women’s am, Lopez when she was just 12.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Born in Roswell, the LPGA Tour’s Gerina Piller has five top 10s in majors and is married to pro Martin Piller.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for New Mexico.
FACT: The USGA (1894) and PGA of America (1916) were both founded in New York City.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Chris DiMarco is the all-time leader in career earnings (over $22 million) among golfers born in the Empire State.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for New York.
FACT: The first golf school for women was founded at Pine Needles Golf Academy by LPGA Tour charter member Peggy Kirk Bell.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Raised in Raleigh and a Wake Forest grad, Webb Simpson named his daughter Wyndham for his first PGA Tour win (Wyndham Championship), in Greensboro.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for North Carolina.
FACT: The state has the most courses per capita despite a short season and brutal weather.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Amy Olson is chasing her first LPGA Tour win since capturing 20 collegiate events to break Juli Inkster’s record of 17.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for North Dakota.
FACT: Many advances in club and ball design can be attributed to work done in Akron, known as a polymer capital.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Two-time major champ Stacy Lewis, born in Toledo, made every cut in 2017 and donated her sole winner’s check that year to relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Ohio.
FACT: The first design by architect Perry Maxwell was four holes on his dairy farm that would become Dornick Hills Golf & Country Club.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Following his eight-time tour winner dad, Kevin Tway was an All-American at Oklahoma State and won on tour last fall.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Oklahoma.
FACT: The men’s and women’s state ams have been played concurrently at the same venue every year since their inception in 1904.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: In addition to his commentary on NBC, seven-time tour winner Peter Jacobsen also has two senior majors.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Oregon.
FACT: Members of the Philadelphia School of Golf Architecture included George Crump, William Flynn, George Thomas and A.W. Tillinghast, among others.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Jim Furyk, captain of the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team, has a U.S. Open victory, 17 PGA Tour wins and rounds of 58 and 59 on the tour.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Pennsylvania.
FACT: The inaugural U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open were played at Newport Country Club in 1895.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Silky putter and eight-time winner Brad Faxon has co-hosted the CVS Charity Classic with fellow statesman Billy Andrade since 1999, raising millions.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Rhode Island.
FACT: Charleston has a claim as American golf’s birthplace. A merchant received clubs and balls from Scotland in 1743.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Raised on the courses of Myrtle Beach and educated at Coastal Carolina University, Dustin Johnson has won in each of his 12 PGA Tour seasons.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for South Carolina.
Photo by Gary W. Kellner
FACT: Two founding members of the LPGA Tour, Alice Bauer and Marlene Bauer Hagge, were daughters of a course operator in Eureka.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: A sales rep for Ping, Shannon Johnson is the 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Am champion after making runs to the finals and semifinals in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for South Dakota.
FACT: Al Geiberger shot the first 59 on the PGA Tour, at the Memphis Classic in 1977.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: A Nashville native and Vanderbilt grad, Brandt Snedeker has nine PGA Tour titles and a FedEx Cup.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Tennessee.
FACT: Byron Nelson outlasted Ben Hogan in a nine-hole playoff to win a caddie tournament at Glen Garden Country Club in 1927.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Jordan Spieth has three majors and 11 PGA Tour wins at age 25.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Texas.
FACT: Utah native George Von Elm defeated Bobby Jones in the final of the 1926 U.S. Amateur after Jones had won the U.S. Open and Open Championship earlier that year.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Ryder Cupper Tony Finau was born in Salt Lake City, lives in Lehi, and is coached by Utahan Boyd Summerhays.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Utah.
FACT: Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert was president of Ekwanok Country Club from 1904-’26.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Keegan Bradley grew up a ski racer in Woodstock, then won in his major debut, at the 2011 PGA Championship.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Vermont.
FACT: The Old Course at the Homestead opened as six holes in 1892, and its first tee is the oldest continuously used in the country.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Walker Cupper and two-time state am champ Billy Hurley III served as a Navy officer before winning on the PGA Tour.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Virginia.
FACT: John Bodenhamer, who replaced Mike Davis as the U.S. Open course setup man, is a former state am and junior champ.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Hall of Famer and Masters champ Fred Couples was born to a groundskeeper for the Seattle Parks Department and learned to play on Jefferson Park golf course.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Washington.
FACT: The Greenbrier Resort served as a hospital during the Civil War and World War II and housed a secret 112,000-square-foot bunker commissioned by Dwight Eisenhower.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: Born in Welch, club pro Darrell Kestner has competed in majors across five decades, most recently the 2012 PGA.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for West Virginia.
FACT: The state has hosted four men’s majors since 2001, eclipsed only by New York, which has hosted eight in that time.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: A 12-time PGA Tour winner, Steve Stricker has amassed nearly $44 million in career earnings. He cried in the press conference announcing his upcoming captaincy of Team USA in the Ryder Cup in his home state, at Whistling Straits in 2020.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Wisconsin.
Photo by Evan Schiller
FACT: From Sheridan, Wally Goodwin won the state am twice before going on to coach Tiger Woods at Stanford University.
BEST ACTIVE PLAYER: A retired coal miner who guides hunting trips, John Hornbeck competed in the 2016 U.S. Senior Open and has made match play in several U.S. Senior Ams.
Click here to view our Best in State course rankings for Wyoming.