New Rankings

The architects with the most courses in our top 100, ranked from most to least

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2021/4/Gozzer-Ranch-Golf-and-CC-hole-17 hero.jpg

Stephen Szurlej

May 09, 2023

When you play a course ranked on the Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest Courses lists, you are not only playing one of the most architecturally refined layouts in the country, but you are playing the game through the vision of golf’s top architects. Whether it’s a new design, like Gil Hanse’s and Jim Wagner’s Ohoopee Match Club (No. 34), or a century-old gem, each designer asks unique questions of the player that reflect the architect’s taste for how the game should be played.

How well can you position your approach shots to stay below the hole on undulating greens? Donald Ross asks at Seminole, Oakland Hills’ South course and Pinehurst No. 2. At Kiawah Island’s Ocean course, Whistling Straits and TPC Sawgrass, Pete Dye tests your mental ability to withstand frightening visual intimidation and execute solid shots. Modern designers like Tom Doak, Gil Hanse and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw often ask how well you can distinguish between dramatic natural features—be it sandy bluffs or fescue-covered dunes—and the desired line of play, when the line between the two is blurred by clever visual deception.

This diversity of architecture is present in our new 2023-2024 rankings, where 10 architects have designed four or more courses inside our 100 Greatest list. Tom Fazio, who has dominated the rankings for two decades, continues to lead the way with 14 original designs on our 100 Greatest list and 30 total among our Top 200. The names who follow him—Ross, A.W. Tillinghast, Dye, Alister MacKenzie, Jack Nicklaus, Doak, Coore and Crenshaw—help chart the evolution of course architecture over the past century.

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2021/11/best-new/OaklandHills_South_OverView.jpg

The South course at Oakland Hills C.C. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

L.C. Lambrecht/Oakland Hills

Here are the 10 course architects who have the most original designs (65 combined) in our latest ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.

Tom Fazio (14)

27. Shadow Creek
Public
27. Shadow Creek
North Las Vegas, NV
The Match between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods may have fizzled as a pay-per-view spectacle, but the venue was certainly a showcase during the Black Friday, 2018 broadcast. Shadow Creek has the reputation of being one of the most expensive courses built in America, a reported $47 million at the time. Designer Tom Fazio said that budget was necessary at Shadow Creek to perform what he now calls “total site manipulation,” creating an environment where none existed, by carving rolling hills and canyons from the flat desert floor north of Las Vegas and pumping in plenty of water. Alas, this once-in-a-lifetime dream design has been too successful, triggering many equally expensive, but inferior, imitations.
View Course
32. Wade Hampton Golf Club
Private
32. Wade Hampton Golf Club
Cashiers, NC
4.8
124 Panelists
Built during the period when Tom Fazio was still working with the existing landscape rather than ignoring it, Wade Hampton is an exercise in restraint. The fairways flow through a natural valley between flanking mountain peaks. Some holes are guarded by gurgling brooks, but Fazio piped several streams underground to make the course more playable and walkable. Selected as Golf Digest’s Best New Private Course of 1987, it has never been out of the Top 40 since it joined America’s 100 Greatest.
View Course
37. Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club
4.7
131 Panelists
When it won in 2008, Gozzer Ranch was the 13th Best New Course triumph for architect Tom Fazio. Gozzer won in part because of its gorgeous views of Lake Coeur d’Alene to the north and west, and the panoramic farm valley to the east. Little details elevate the architecture of Gozzer Ranch: a slight false-right-front edge on the first green, the backboard slope behind the sixth green, the fairway contouring on the dual-fairway drivable par-4 12th that kicks even a short drive to the base of the putting surface. Its shaggy-edged bunkers are more than mere set decorations. Some define targets off the tee; other pose options and challenges.
View Course

Donald Ross (9)

10. Seminole Golf Club
Private
10. Seminole Golf Club
Juno Beach, FL
4.8
211 Panelists
A majestic Donald Ross design with a clever routing on a rectangular site, each hole at Seminole encounters a new wind direction. The greens are no longer Ross, replaced 50 years ago in a regrassing effort that showed little appreciation for the original rolling contours. The bunkers aren’t Ross either. Dick Wilson replaced them in 1947, his own version meant to the imitate crests of waves on the adjacent Atlantic. A few years back, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw redesigned the bunkers again, along with exposing some sandy expanses in the rough. Seminole has long been one of America’s most exclusive clubs, which is why it was thrilling to see it on TV for a first time during the TaylorMade Driving Relief match, and then again for the 2021 Walker Cup.
View Course
20. Oakland Hills Country Club: South
Private
20. Oakland Hills Country Club: South
Bloomfield Hills, MI
4.8
104 Panelists
Donald Ross felt his 1918 design was out-of-date for the 1951 U.S. Open and was prepared to remodel it. Sadly, he died in 1948, so Robert Trent Jones got the job. His rebunkering was overshadowed by ankle-deep rough, and after Ben Hogan closed with a 67, one of only two rounds under par 70 all week, to win his second consecutive Open, he complained that Jones had created a Frankenstein. Sixty-plus years later, Oakland Hills is even longer, but its bite wasn’t severe when it hosted the 2016 U.S. Amateur. In 2019, the South course closed as Gil Hanse and his team significantly renovated the course with the intention of removing the Jones influences and restoring its Ross feel. They did that by expanding greens to recapture what are some of Ross's best contours, removed trees to show off the rolling landscape and shifted bunkers back to where Ross, not RTJ, placed them. The course re-opened in Spring 2021, and though a crippling fire destroyed the club's iconic clubhouse, the USGA delivered some kind news to the club, bringing the 2034 and 2051 U.S. Opens to Oakland Hills—as well as a number of upcoming USGA championships.
View Course
22. Oak Hill Country Club: East
Private
22. Oak Hill Country Club: East
Rochester, NY
4.9
81 Panelists
Back in 1979, George Fazio and nephew Tom were roundly criticized by Donald Ross fans for removing a classic Ross par 4 on Oak Hill East and replacing it with two new holes, including the bowl-shaped par-3 sixth, which would later become the scene of four aces in two hours during the second round of the 1989 U.S. Open. They also built a pond on another par 3 and relocated the green on the par-4 18th. The club hired golf architect Andrew Green to remodel those holes to bring them more in line with Donald Ross’ original style. In addition to putting the final touches (at least for now) on a significant tree removal program, Green re-established Ross's original par-4 hole, then the fifth and now playing as the sixth (pictured here). Reconstruction occurred after the 2019 Senior PGA Championship on the East Course and was completed in May 2020. Oak Hill's East Course hosted the 2023 PGA Championship won by Brooks Koepka.
View Course

A.W. Tillinghast (8)

11. Winged Foot Golf Club: West
Private
11. Winged Foot Golf Club: West
Mamaroneck, NY
4.8
201 Panelists
Gone are all the Norway Spruce that once squeezed every fairway of Winged Foot West. It’s now gloriously open and playable, at least until one reaches the putting surfaces, perhaps the finest set of green contours the versatile architect A.W. Tillinghast ever did, now restored to original parameters by architect Gil Hanse. The greens look like giant mushrooms, curled and slumped around the edges, proving that as a course architect, Tillinghast was not a fun guy. Winged Foot West was tamed by Bryson DeChambeau in winning the 2020 U.S. Open in September, but he was only competitor to finish under-par in his six-shot victory.
View Course
33. San Francisco Golf Club
Private
33. San Francisco Golf Club
San Francisco, CA
4.7
252 Panelists
San Francisco Golf Club’s original routing was done mostly by a trio of club members, who first staked out the course in 1918. A.W. Tillinghast remodeled the course in 1923, establishing its signature greens and bunkering. He also added the par-3 seventh, called the “Duel Hole” because its location marks the spot of the last legal duel in America. Three holes were replaced in 1950 in anticipation of a street widening project that never happened. In 2006, the original holes were re-established by Tom Doak and his then-associate, Jim Urbina.
View Course
39. Bethpage State Park: Black
Public
39. Bethpage State Park: Black
Farmingdale, NY
Sprawling Bethpage Black, designed in the mid-1930s to be “the public Pine Valley,” became the darling of the USGA in the early 2000s, when it played the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. Then it became a darling of the PGA Tour as host of the 2011 and 2016 Barclays. Now the PGA of America has embraced The Black, which hosted the 2019 PGA Championship (winner: Brooks Koepka) and the upcoming 2025 Ryder Cup. Heady stuff for a layout that was once a scruffy state-park haunt where one needed to sleep in the parking lot in order to get a tee time. Now, you need fast fingers on the state park's website once tee times are available—as prime reservations at The Black are known for going in seconds.
View Course

Editor's Note: We did not include Tillinghast's work at Sleepy Hollow C.C., as the majority of holes were designed by C.B. Macdonald. Tillinghast designed seven holes at Sleepy Hollow.

Pete Dye (7)

24. Kiawah Island Golf Resort: The Ocean Course
Often considered to be the first course designed for a specific event—the 1991 Ryder Cup—this manufactured linksland-meets-lagoons layout might well be Pete Dye’s most diabolical creation. Every hole is edged by sawgrass, every green has tricky slopes, every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes. Strung along nearly three miles of ocean coast, Dye took his wife’s advice and perched fairways and greens so golfers can actually view the Atlantic surf. That also exposes shots and putts to ever-present and sometimes fierce coastal winds. The Ocean Course will forever be linked with Phil Mickelson and his improbable victory at the 2021 PGA Championship.
View Course
26. Whistling Straits: Straits Course
Pete Dye transformed a dead flat abandoned army air base along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan into an imitation Ballybunion at Whistling Straits, peppering his rugged fairways and windswept greens with 1,012 (at last count) bunkers. There are no rakes at Whistling Straits, in keeping with the notion that this is a transplanted Irish links. It has too much rub-of-the-green for the comfort levels of many tour pros, which is what makes it a stern test for top events, such as three PGA Championships, the 2007 U.S. Senior Open and 2021 Ryder Cup.
View Course
31. The Honors Course
Private
31. The Honors Course
Ooltewah, TN
4.7
151 Panelists
Considered radical in the early 1980s because of its acres of tall, native-grass rough, durable Zoysiagrass fairways and terrifying greens perched atop bulkheads of rock, today The Honors Course is considered a well-preserved example of Pete Dye’s death-or-glory architecture. Other than reducing the contours in a couple of greens (particularly the 18th) in the late 1990s, and adjusting the bunkering in 2008, Dye left the course alone for most of his career. Georgia architect Bill Bergin did create a new practice facility at the club in 2015, and Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner touched everything up again in 2022.
View Course

Alister MacKenzie (5)

2. Augusta National Golf Club
Private
2. Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta, GA
4.9
94 Panelists
No club has tinkered with its golf course as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National Golf Club, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament, an event it has conducted since 1934, with time off during WWII. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and swales and, most recently, extensive rebunkering and tree planting by Tom Fazio. The tinkering continues, including the lengthening of the par-4 fifth in the summer of 2018, the lengthening of the 11th and 15th holes in 2022, and the addition of 35 yards to the famed par-5 13th in 2023.
View Course
3. Cypress Point Club
Private
3. Cypress Point Club
Pebble Beach, CA
5
231 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
 

Cypress Point, the sublime Monterey Peninsula work of sandbox sculpture, whittled Cypress and chiseled coastline, has become Exhibit A in the argument that classic architecture has been rendered ineffectual by modern technology.
 

I'm not buying that argument. Those who think teeny old Cypress Point is defenseless miss the point of Alister MacKenzie’s marvelous design.
 

MacKenzie relished the idea that Cypress Point would offer all sorts of ways to play every hole. That philosophy still thrives, particularly in the past decade, after the faithful restoration of MacKenzie’s original bunkers by veteran course superintendent Jeff Markow.

Explore our complete review here—including bonus photography and ratings from our expert panelists.

View Course
14. Crystal Downs Country Club
Private
14. Crystal Downs Country Club
Frankfort, MI
4.7
138 Panelists
Perry Maxwell, the Midwest associate of architect Alister MacKenzie, lived on site while constructing the course to MacKenzie’s plans, but there’s evidence Maxwell exercised considerable artistic license on some holes. Whomever did it, Crystal Downs has fairways that zigzag and rumble over the glacial landscape and greens that have doglegs in them. One drawback is that the putting surfaces are so old-fashioned that they’re too steep for today’s green speeds. But that’s part of Crystal Downs appeal. It’s short but has considerable bite.
View Course

Seth Raynor (5)

9. Fishers Island Club
Private
9. Fishers Island Club
Fishers Island, NY
4.9
263 Panelists
Probably the consummate design of architect Seth Raynor, who died in early 1926, before the course had officially opened. His steeply-banked bunkers and geometric greens harmonize perfectly with the linear panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. The quality of the holes is also superb, with all Raynor’s usual suspects, including not one but two Redan greens, one on a par 4.
View Course
13. Chicago Golf Club
Private
13. Chicago Golf Club
Wheaton, IL
4.8
163 Panelists
Chicago Golf Club opened the country’s first 18-hole course in 1893, built by C.B. Macdonald, the preeminent golf expert in the U.S. at the time. Two years later Macdonald built the club a different course after the membership moved to a new location in Wheaton, Ill.: “a really first-class 18-hole course of 6,200 yards,” he wrote. Members played that course until 1923 when Seth Raynor, who began his architectural career as Macdonald’s surveyor and engineer, redesigned it using the “ideal hole” concepts his old boss had developed 15 years earlier (he kept Macdonald’s routing, which placed all the O.B. on the left—C.B. sliced the ball). For reasons of history and practicality, no major remodels have occurred since then, allowing the club to merely burnish the architecture by occasionally upgrading worn parts, adjusting grassing lines and, recently, reestablishing a number of lost bunkers that had been filled in over time.
View Course
47. Camargo Club
Private
47. Camargo Club
Cincinnati, OH
4.7
116 Panelists
One of Seth Raynor’s last designs, it wasn’t completed until nearly a year after his 1926 death. William Jackson, who later became the club’s pro and superintendent, handled the construction and was faithful to Raynor’s diagrams with two exceptions: he turned the 16th into a par 4 and the 17th into a par 5. Robert von Hagge added flashy but incongruous bunkering in the early 1960s. They lasted over 20 years, until Tom Doak undertook a restoration in the Raynor style of geometric-shaped bunkers and greens. Curiously, the Biarritz green at the par-3 eighth has never been mowed as the 60-yard-long putting surface found on other Biarritz holes built by Raynor or his mentor C.B. Macdonald. Club officials insisted early aerial photos confirm the front half of the green was always mown at fairway height, so they continue that tradition today. Don Placek of Renaissance Golf has recently completed further renovation enhancements, including adding six acres of restored fairway to better help define the scale of the property and extending the back left section of the Road green at 17 (as well as reintroducing a second "Road" bunker beyond the first) to reclaim its original prodigious 15,000 square feet.
View Course

Tom Doak (5)

21. Pacific Dunes
Public
21. Pacific Dunes
Bandon, OR
This was the second course constructed at Bandon Dunes Resort and the highest ranked among the resort’s five 18s. To best utilize ocean frontage, Tom Doak came up an unorthodox routing that includes four par 3s on the back nine. Holes seem to emerge from the landscape rather than being superimposed onto it with rolling greens and rumpled fairways framed by rugged sand dunes and marvelously grotesque bunkers. The secret is Doak moved a lot of earth in some places to make it look like he moved very little, but the result is a course with sensual movements, like a tango that steps toward the coast and back again, dipping in and out of different playing arenas from the secluded sand blowouts to the exposed bluffs and all variations in between.
View Course
36. Ballyneal Golf Club
Private
36. Ballyneal Golf Club
Holyoke, CO
4.7
202 Panelists
If No. 8 Sand Hills Golf Club stands for the notion that there’s nothing more glorious than a round of golf beyond the range of cell phone reception, then Ballyneal (Tom Doak’s northeast Colorado answer to Nebraska’s Sand Hills) proves that isolated golf is even better when Spartan in nature. With no carts and with dry, tan fescue turf on fairways and greens, Ballyneal is even more austere than Sand Hills. It provides absolutely firm and fast conditions, and with many greens perched on hilltops, the effect of wind on putts must be considered. The rolling landforms, topsy-turvy greens and half-par holes make playing here feel like a joyride, and that sense of exuberance has catapulted Ballyneal from an original ranking of no. 95 in 2011 to its highest ranking to date at no. 36.
View Course
43. Sebonack Golf Club
Private
43. Sebonack Golf Club
Southampton, NY
4.4
103 Panelists
Not since Augusta National had the nation’s greatest golfer teamed with one of the most highly regarded course architects on a design project. But the joint venture by Jack Nicklaus with Tom Doak at Sebonack was complicated by the fact that golfer Nicklaus was also an esteemed course architect in his own right, and the project sat right beside two American icons, Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links. Some pundits have reduced Sebonack to “Tom’s bunkers, Jack’s greens,” but in truth it’s just the opposite. Doak convinced Nicklaus to go with small greens of sweeping contours and little imperfections the likes of which Jack would never have considered on his own. Meanwhile, Jack insisted that Tom tone down his usual ragged, jagged bunker faces to make them palatable to high-handicap club members. Sebonack hosted the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open to great success.
View Course

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (4)

8. Sand Hills Golf Club
Private
8. Sand Hills Golf Club
Mullen, NE
4.9
174 Panelists
The golf course wasn’t so much designed as discovered. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw trudged back and forth over a thousand acres of rolling sand hills in central Nebraska, flagging out naturally-occurring fairways and greens. By moving just 4,000 cubic yards of earth, and letting the winds shape the bunkers, the duo created what is undoubtedly the most natural golf course in America, a timeless course design. For decades, winter winds had always reshaped the bunkers, but course officials have recently discovered a method to prevent that. At the close of the season, they spray the surface of the sand in bunkers with a product that creates a crust to resist the howling winds.
View Course
15. Friar's Head Golf Club
Private
15. Friar's Head Golf Club
Riverhead, NY
4.8
173 Panelists
The challenge for architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Friar’s Head was to design some holes in breathtaking sand dunes perched 200 feet above Long Island Sound, and other holes on an ordinary potato field to the south. Said Crenshaw, “Our job was to marry the two distinct elements. We didn’t want one nine up in the dunes and the other down on the flat.” The solution was to move the routing back and forth and to artfully reshape the farm fields into gentle linkslike land. They pulled it off so impressively that Friar’s Head has moved steadily up the rankings each survey period until this year, from No. 34 in its 2011 debut to No. 15 in 2023-2024.
View Course
63. Old Sandwich Golf Club
Private
63. Old Sandwich Golf Club
Plymouth, MA
4.6
144 Panelists
Old Sandwich Golf Club may be the craftiest Coore-Crenshaw design yet built. Amidst its pines, scrub oaks, gnarly bunkers, chocolate drop mounds, wavy fescue and briar bushes are hints of Baltusrol, National Golf Links, Pine Valley, Pinehurst No 2 and Chicago Golf Club in its cross-bunkering, hazard placement and sandy waste areas. The greens are some of the most rolling of any Coore & Crenshaw design, seeded with a half-dozen bent varieties to give them an old-fashioned mottled appearance. Nobody does old-fashioned better than Coore & Crenshaw.
View Course

Jack Nicklaus (4)

17. Muirfield Village Golf Club
Private
17. Muirfield Village Golf Club
Dublin, OH
4.9
172 Panelists
This is the course that Jack built, and rebuilt, and rebuilt again and again. Since its opening in 1974, Jack Nicklaus has remodeled every hole at Muirfield Village, some more than once, using play at the PGA Tour’s annual Memorial Tournament for some guidance. The most recent renovation in 2020 was one of the most extensive and included the rebuilding of every hole, the shifting of greens and tees, strategic changes to the iconic par 5s and a new, more player-friendly par3 16th. That’s how a championship course remains competitive. But with every change, Nicklaus always made sure the general membership could still play and enjoy the course as well. The latest word is that Nicklaus is still not happy with the 16th hole and has plans for yet another version.
View Course
43. Sebonack Golf Club
Private
43. Sebonack Golf Club
Southampton, NY
4.4
103 Panelists
Not since Augusta National had the nation’s greatest golfer teamed with one of the most highly regarded course architects on a design project. But the joint venture by Jack Nicklaus with Tom Doak at Sebonack was complicated by the fact that golfer Nicklaus was also an esteemed course architect in his own right, and the project sat right beside two American icons, Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links. Some pundits have reduced Sebonack to “Tom’s bunkers, Jack’s greens,” but in truth it’s just the opposite. Doak convinced Nicklaus to go with small greens of sweeping contours and little imperfections the likes of which Jack would never have considered on his own. Meanwhile, Jack insisted that Tom tone down his usual ragged, jagged bunker faces to make them palatable to high-handicap club members. Sebonack hosted the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open to great success.
View Course
46. Castle Pines Golf Club
Private
46. Castle Pines Golf Club
Castle Rock, CO
4.6
145 Panelists
When Golf Digest began its annual Best New Course awards in 1983, the review panel selected Castle Pines as the Private Course winner, but Bill Davis, co-founder of Golf Digest and founding father of all its course rankings, didn’t care for the course and vetoed its inclusion. So no private course was honored that year. Davis soon recognized his error, and in 1987—its first year of eligibility—Castle Pines joined America’s 100 Greatest and has remained there ever since. Club founder Jack Vickers, a Midwest oilman, had urged architect Jack Nicklaus to produce a mountain-venue design worthy of a major championship. Jack did, but when a championship never resulted, Vickers established his own, The International, which for many years was the only PGA Tour event played under a unique Stableford format. It’s a pity that The International is no longer on the Tour’s schedule. Like Muirfield Village, the only other solo Nicklaus design in the top 50, Castle Pines has undergone a steady procession of hole alterations to keep pace with changing technology, and changing tastes.
View Course

Perry Maxwell (4)

14. Crystal Downs Country Club
Private
14. Crystal Downs Country Club
Frankfort, MI
4.7
138 Panelists
Perry Maxwell, the Midwest associate of architect Alister MacKenzie, lived on site while constructing the course to MacKenzie’s plans, but there’s evidence Maxwell exercised considerable artistic license on some holes. Whomever did it, Crystal Downs has fairways that zigzag and rumble over the glacial landscape and greens that have doglegs in them. One drawback is that the putting surfaces are so old-fashioned that they’re too steep for today’s green speeds. But that’s part of Crystal Downs appeal. It’s short but has considerable bite.
View Course
23. Prairie Dunes Country Club
Private
23. Prairie Dunes Country Club
Hutchinson, KS
4.8
222 Panelists
Prairie Dunes was the top nine-hole course in America for 20 years. By the time the club found funds to expand it to 18, original architect Perry Maxwell had passed away, but his son Press was able to add nine more holes seamlessly in the 1950s, putting three on the front nine and six on the back. He also replicated his father’s great greens, which seem to break in three different directions. Prairie Dunes reflects all that is common in rural Kansas: sand dunes, prairie grasses, yucca plants, cottonwoods and constant wind.
View Course
28. Southern Hills Country Club
4.8
182 Panelists
A product of the Great Depression and constructed by hundreds of workers who stood at the gate each morning hoping for a 25-cents-per-hour job that day, Southern Hills is architect Perry Maxwell’s great achievement. Nearly every hole bends left or right, posing critical tee shots that must risk something. The putting surfaces have the classic “Maxwell Rolls,” and most are guarded by simple yet effective bunkers. During the summer of 2018, architect Gil Hanse and crew rebuilt much of the course, in the process re-establishing Maxwell’s distinctive, gnarly edged bunkering and reconstructing the green shoulders that had been built up over the years.
View Course

• • •

Explore Golf Digest's recently relaunched Places to Play community, where you can add star ratings and reviews for all the courses you play. We've collected tens of thousands of reviews from our course-ranking panelists to deliver a premium experience, which includes experts' opinions, bonus course photography and videos, plus much more. Check it out here!