We had the NGF's research arm analyze the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. We then graded each on:
1. Weather: How much sun, rain, snow, etc.
2. Affordability: Median green fees of public courses, in relation to the median household income
3. Quality of courses: The best courses in the best overall condition
4. Accessibility: The number of golfers in relation to quality public courses
5. Number of courses designed by esteemed architects
6. Availability: Public facilities as a percent of total facilities (the higher the better)
7. Crowdedness: The number of rounds in relation to the number of public courses and weather
We then weighted the scores for the seven variables, adding bonus points to cities with tracks on one of our Top 100 Courses lists. Sure, we considered other variables (such as access to private clubs), but we decided that America's Best Golf Cities should be first and foremost about quality courses you can play, and afford to play, in good weather.
Calculation: We summed up the scores for the seven variables, placing greater weight on weather and affordability, which we determined to be the most important criteria. Then we added bonus points to cities that possessed one or more GOLF Magazine Top 100 Courses and/or Top 100 Courses You Can Play. The more Top 100s a city had, the more bonus points it received.
To calculate which cities were best for golf, we enlisted the research skills and resources of the National Golf Foundation (NGF), the industry leader since 1936 in providing relevant data and analysis on the business of golf. The NGF's annual report on Golf Participation in the United States formed the basis for many of our conclusions, while the remainder of the results were arrived at with assistance from the organization's Custom Research arm.
We decided first to define "city." We settled on a population benchmark of 1 million people to qualify as a city, or as they're known to professional research wonks, "MSAs," which means "Metropolitan Statistical Areas." As it happened, in 2007, the United States had exactly 50 MSAs with populations of 1 million or more, so our top 10 is culled from those 50. A number of factors were considered for criteria, including driving distance, number, quality, and availability of private clubs, number of avid/low-handicap golfers and tradition of hosting significant tournaments, but at day's end, we decided that America's best golf cities should be first and foremost about quality courses you can play, and afford to play, in reasonable weather.