For every great course that made GOLF’s 2020-21 ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., dozens of more must-plays were left on the outside looking in — including at least a handful in your home state. Some of these designs just missed out on a Top 100 nomination, others finished deeper down the ranking, but all are worthy of your time. To shed light on the best courses in every state, we broke out the full results of our Top 100 Courses polling into state-by-state lists. Here’s a closer look at Washington.
Washington golf by the numbers:
Number of courses and U.S. rank: 277 (22)*
Number of golfers per capita rank: 28*
Average public-course greens fees: $$ out of $$$*
Average daily temp and rank: 48.3 (34)
Annual precipitation and rank: 38.4 in. (29)
*Source: National Golf Foundation
Best Washington golf courses (2020/2021)
1. Gamble Sands (Bewster) [1, P]
After stamping his name on some penal, polarizing courses, Bandon Dunes designer David McLay Kidd had what he described as a come-to-the-mountain moment. It was time to revert to what had worked so well at Bandon and place a renewed emphasis on fun. In apple-orchard country in Eastern Washington, Kidd shaped fairways as wide as airstrips, but he gave them ample movement while adding contours that steer borderline shots away from trouble. Greens are sizable and rumpled, too, with tightly mown runoffs where putter is often the wiser choice than wedge. “Fun,” it turns out, isn’t losing your ball. It’s finding it with ease, and then sorting through the many options for how to play it next.
2. Chambers Bay (University Place) [P]
3. Wine Valley GC (Walla Walla) [P]
4. Fircrest (Fircrest)
5. Tumble Creek (Cle Elum)
6. Aldarra (Sammamish)
7. Sahalee CC (Sammamish)
8. Seattle GC (Seattle)
9. The Olympic Course at Gold Mountain (Bremerton) [P]
10. Indian Canyon (Spokane) [P]
Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.
Course spotlight: Wine Valley Golf Club (Walla Walla, Wash.), ranked 3rd in Washington. Southeast Washington town Walla Walla is a nice part of the U.S. to visit. Architect Dan Hixson had a big canvas to find holes. GOLF Magazine Top 100 panelist Kye Goalby was one of the shapers in the build and was reported to have a free hand in some of the natural bunker design. I never snap photos on the course, but after my ball found the front bunker on the par-3 180-yard 11th hole, this was the exception — I texted a design friend with the image noting my admiration for its artistry, strategy and most importantly the maintenance simplicity built in. — GOLF Top 100 Course Rater
How we rank America’s best golf courses
For the newly released 2020-21 U.S. list, each panelist was provided a list of 489 courses. Beside that list of courses were 11 “buckets,” or groupings. If our panelists considered a course to be among the top three in the country, they ticked that box. If they believed the course to be among Nos. 4-10 in the U.S., they checked that box, followed by 11-25, 26-50, and so on.
Panelists were also free to write in courses that they felt should have been included on the ballot (we had fewer than a handful of such additions in the U.S. vote).
Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly. It is an intentionally simple and straightforward process. Why? Because it invariably produces results that are widely lauded. Like the game itself, there’s no need to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.
For much more on how we rate courses, click or tap here.
Meet our course raters
We empower and hold accountable a group of 97 well-traveled — and well-connected — golfers/aficionados, each capable of expressing their own sense of design excellence at the highest level. The group is seasoned and experienced — we look for raters who know what’s out there, what’s changing and what’s coming down the pike. And from judging posts across four continents, our panelists are positioned to place courses from different regions around the globe into proper context, one of the main reasons GOLF’s Top 100 Courses rankings are the most esteemed in the game.
Other ranking outlets employ thousands of raters. Our less-is-more approach creates a more meaningful and thoughtful list. Think about it: When you plan a golf trip, do you call every golfer you know for their take? No. You contact a handful of people whose opinions you value most.