6 Tracks Join GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the U.S.
Tom Doak. Coore/Crenshaw. And, yes, The Donald, too. Some big names helped create the 12 new, and newly discovered, courses that join our rankings -- with six additions to the U.S. list alone. Has your favorite made the cut?
61. Rock Creek Cattle Company
Among Tom Doak’s finest work since he crafted Pacific Dunes, Rock Creek Cattle Co. is surrounded by a 30,000-acre ranch in southwestern Montana. The beefy, 7,466-yard, par-71 layout plays shorter than its listed distance due to the 4,567-foot elevation, although the horns come out via the deep, jagged-edge bunkers and the severely contoured greens. Doak routed a beguiling blend of holes across the rugged terrain, and each one benefits from majestic mountain backdrops. Not every panelist warmed to the abundance of blind shots encountered during a round, yet wide, fescue-framed fairways and a lack of rough around the plateau greens enhance playability for all. A variety-filled round is bookended by the 435-yard, par-4 first, which showcases a split fairway, and the 598-yard, par-5 18th, played from a cliff overlooking a trout stream, with the snowcapped mountains gleaming in the distance.
67. Essex County Club
Charm, intimacy and fiendishly contoured greens characterize one of Donald Ross’s early masterworks, a 1917 creation that unfolds over rumpled terrain near the sea northeast of Boston. Its minuscule back-tee length of 6,401 yards strikes fear into no one. Instead, the course owes its stature to its superior mix of memorable holes, ranging from the 623-yard, par-5 third, which plays to a green defined by a sunken-tub hollow, to the 175-yard par-3 11th, its plateau green defended by gaping traps. The bunker variety displayed here is unparalleled for a Ross design, and the green-shaping is among his most sophisticated. Lexi Thompson is one of the few who have solved the Essex putting riddles, posting a 4-0-1 record during the 2010 Curtis Cup Match. Credit for bringing the course back to prominence goes to Bruce Hepner of Tom Doak’s Renaissance Design firm. In 2001, he restored the bouncy conditions and Old World mounds, thinned the trees, and expanded fairways and greens to reestablish a reward for strategic driving and properly placed approaches.
73. The Creek Club
A mainstay of our U.S. Top 100 through 2007, the Creek Club returns to glory in 2015. The 1923 collaboration between C.B. Macdonald and protégé Seth Raynor is another example of an old-timey course reconnecting with our panelists. This layout on Long Island’s north shore radiates enjoyment rather than frustration, stretching less than 6,500 yards from the tips. After a quiet opening quintet, the drama is amplified on the 450-yard, par-4 sixth, which starts with a panorama of Long Island Sound and then plunges to a punchbowl green guarded by low mounds and a gargantuan bunker. From there, it’s a parade of wind-whipped holes featuring trees, reed-edged marshes and Frost Creek, an inlet of the Sound that gave the club its name.
78. Old Town Club
Few knew Old Town existed until Tom Doak named it one of “10 Courses Worth Groveling to Play” in his 1996 Confidential Guide. In 2013, Coore/Crenshaw got connoisseurs talking again when they restored many of the unique original elements to this 1939 Perry Maxwell design in Winston-Salem, N.C. Maxwell was considered a genius when it came to green design—he’s best known for his work at Prairie Dunes, Southern Hills, and as Alister MacKenzie’s collaborator at Crystal Downs. There’s no better set of “Maxwell’s Rolls” on display than at Old Town, which sits adjacent to Wake Forest University and was a testing ground for young stars Arnold Palmer and Lanny Wadkins. According to Bill Coore, Maxwell’s routing is “a treatise on how to put outstanding golf holes onto a small, severely hilly property.” Coore, a Wake Forest grad himself, considers Old Town and Pinehurst No. 2 the most influential courses in his appreciation and understanding of architecture. Now back in place are the lacy-edged bunkers, the classic tees and fairway lines, and a double green shared by holes 8 and 17. Old Town, consider yourself discovered.
92. Trump National Doral Miami (Blue Monster)
This course is almost as polarizing as its owner. The freshly fanged Blue Monster earned substantial, if not universal, applause among our panelists. Supporters cited Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner’s makeover, which turned a tired, overbunkered resort course into a fire-breather that again lives up to its name, and that has become one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour. Added yardage, altered angles and steeper slopes around the greens strengthened Nos. 1, 8 and 10, a trio of once cupcake par 5s. Heightened risk/reward drama has changed the par-3 ninth and par-3 15th. Putting surfaces now have new contours, both bold and subtle. One of Hanse’s favorites, the par-4 11th, sports small plateaus back-left and back-right. Some voters gripe that Florida’s persistent breezes, paired with the current design features, make the course far too difficult. But as a muscular test of golf, the Blue Monster has few peers.
93. Mountain Lake
The quietest newcomer to the U.S. Top 100 rookie class is a veritable museum piece of early Seth Raynor design. Set in rolling terrain an hour south of Orlando, Mountain Lake is within shouting distance of Iron Mountain, one of central Florida’s highest points. Although countless U.S. courses are tougher, not many match this charmer’s timelessness. In typical Raynor fashion, template holes make up many memorable tests. Notable examples include “Double Plateau,” the 368-yard, par-4 first hole, with its three-greens-in-one configuration; “Alps,” the 398-yard, par-4 third, whose fall-away green is obscured by a ridge; and “Redan,” the 181-yard, par-3 11th, where a diagonal green slopes away on both sides toward foreboding bunkers. Like any 99-year-old, this layout has been ravaged by time. But in 2002, architect Brian Silva used old aerial and ground photos to restore bite to its bunkers and to shape the greens. Silva’s deft reworking has earned Mountain Lake a place in the pantheon.