BEST NEW INTERNATIONAL COURSE HONORABLE MENTION: CABOT LINKS
Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
6,803 yards, par 70
While one could pigeonhole Cabot Links as "Bandon Dunes East" — a modern seaside links with Old World shot values — I say it stands on its own merits. Canada's first genuine links features fast-running fairways, windswept holes that stress strategy, and spectacular views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The oceanic panorama at the 102-yard 14th is unforgettable, as is the 465-yard par-4 11th, a "Cape"-style hole that horseshoes around a fishing harbor.
A proposed Coore/Crenshaw course on the cliffs means Cabot Links should only improve with age.
RENOVATION OF THE YEAR: MOUNTAIN RIDGE COUNTRY CLUB
West Caldwell, N.J.
Not since George Burns has 100 looked this good. Low-key Mountain Ridge celebrated its centenary this year with a brilliant restoration of its Donald Ross course.
This was no mere touch-up job. Ron Prichard and superintendent Cliff Moore yanked out hundreds of trees to open up views, expanded fairway width, and remade bunkers.
Most significantly, they reestablished sections and contours on some of the greatest green complexes Ross ever concocted; the putting surfaces at the 441-yard par-4 1st and the 229-yard par-3 4th are among the most beguiling anywhere.
Granted, membership is divided over both the creek placement on the par-4 13th and the scorecard-wrecking false front at the 18th green, but this Mountain is once again worth climbing.
ARCHITECT OF THE YEAR: MARTIN HAWTREE
Soft-spoken Englishman Dr. Martin Hawtree not only survived his polar-opposite client, brash American Donald Trump, he succeeded in spectacular fashion in delivering a world-class links amid probably the greatest hype, controversy, expectations and pressure that any golf architect has ever experienced.
Based in rural Oxfordshire on the edge of the Cotswolds in England, the professorial Hawtree is a third-generation architect in the firm of Hawtree Limited, which his grandfather founded in 1912.
While Hawtree is less well known in the U.S., with only three designs here, he carries considerable clout elsewhere, having crafted courses on every continent where the game is played.
Prior to his work at Trump Scotland, he was best known as the U.K.'s "Open Doctor," having tweaked Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale and Royal Liverpool. His acclaimed restoration of Alister MacKenzie's version of Lahinch in Ireland — adding several new holes in the process — has precipitated that course's hea climb in our Top 100 rankings (currently No. 42).
Still, after 100 years, the Hawtree legacy will be firmly embedded in his collaboration with The Donald. Together with then associate Caspar Grauballe, they not only endured the hoopla that surrounded Trump Scotland, they conquered it.