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How much has GOLF’s U.S. Top 100 Courses ranking changed since 1995? A lot

Sand Hills' 1st hole.

In a moment of reflection as GOLF’s course panelists cast ballots for this year’s Top 100 Courses in the U.S. list, I dug into the ranking published in 1995, the last one that didn’t feature Sand Hills, and compared it to this year’s. Have things changed? Yes! Shockingly, nine courses in the top 50 in 1995, headlined by Medinah No. 3 at No. 27, no longer appear at all. Forty of the bottom 50 courses are gone too. In fact, nearly half of the courses ranked in the Top 100 in 1995 are absent from our 2022 effort. Who would have thought?

Of the 49 courses to make this year’s list not to be found on the one from 27 years ago, 24 opened in 1994 or after, many adhering to the minimalist school of architecture. Others, like California GC of San Francisco (No. 27), Sleepy Hollow (No. 35), Old Town (No. 38) and Moraine (No. 72), missed the list in 1995 but can thank enlightened restorations for them holding proud spots in GOLF’s latest ranking.

Top 100 Courses in the U.S.: GOLF’s all-new 2022-23 ranking is here!
By: GOLF’s Course Ratings Panel & Ran Morrissett, Architecture Editor

A deeper dive into the 1995 and 2022 lists shows other trends, many of which are intertwined. First, the 2022 ranking has more than double the number of courses that play across sandy foundations compared to 1995. Second, courses that embrace nature (as compared to simply having been built on it) have soared. Las Vegas’ Shadow Creek hangs in there as best of the latter breed, but is down 46 spots from 1995. Third, “long” views have replaced cramped, tree-lined corridors. We’ve been preaching this for a while: Faster, firmer playing surfaces that are more exposed to the wind create a richer playing experience, to say nothing of offering more interesting playing angles. Fact: The 2022 list features 50 percent fewer parkland courses (with trees down both sides of the fairways) than the 1995 version. (Oakmont became a top-five course only when it was deforested.) Fourth, greatness is no longer defined by the number of professional events that a course hosts. Firestone, a Tour-stop staple for 60 years and three-time PGA Championship host, finished No. 56 in 1995 — and No. 243 in 2022. In our raters’ eyes, the chance to connect with nature and designs that encourage creativity are more essential than Tour history. Fifth, and lastly, 2022 proves that greatness doesn’t require living beside a vast population center. The “boonies,” seemingly, are where it’s at. As you scour the 2022 ranking, you’ll note how the list favors golfers’ abilities to roam free and solve enjoyable puzzles posed by the architect in some of the most enchanting spots imaginable. 

You don’t need a large body of water to boost your aesthetic, either. You can be in rural Wisconsin or northeast Georgia or Nebraska, which is now one of the country’s hottest golf states. The unifying theme is that if you’re playing a course deemed “Top 100,” you’re increasingly playing on top of a pocket of sand.

Top 100 Courses by Era 

Was there a Golden Age? You bet! More than 60 percent of courses on the 2022 Top 100 list were built in the first half of the last century. The stats also clearly show we are in the midst of a second Golden Age.

Era built: 1892-1942
1995 list: 58
2022 list: 66
Change: +8

1943-1993:
1995 list: 42
2022 list: 10
Change: -32

1994-today:
1995 list: 0
2022 list: 24
Change: +24

State Your Case 

Restorations fuel the Empire State’s lead in courses listed in our ranking, with Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin and Nebraska showing great momentum.

State: NY
1995: 10
2022: 15
Change: +5

MA
1995: 3
2022: 6
Change: +3

NE
1995: 0
2022: 3
Change: +3

OR
1995: 2
2022: 5
Change: +3

WI
1995: 1
2022: 4
Change: +3 

NC
1995: 2
2022: 4
Change: +2

CA
1995: 11
2022: 12
Change: +1

CO
1995: 1
2022: 2
Change: +1 

GA
1995: 2
2022: 3
Change: +1 

IA
1995: 0
2022: 1
Change: +1

ID
1995: 0
2022: 1
Change: +1 

MO
1995: 0
2022: 1
Change: +1 

MT
1995: 0
2022: 1
Change: +1 

NJ
1995: 5
2022: 6
Change: +1 

WA
1995: 0
2022: 1
Change: +1

WV
1995: 0
2022: 1
Change: +1

HI
1995: 1
2022: 1
Change: 0

KS
1995: 1
2022: 1
Change: 0

NV
1995: 1
2022: 1
Change: 0

RI
1995: 1
2022: 1
Change: 0

TN
1995: 1
2022: 1
Change: 0

AL
1995: 1
2022: 0
Change: -1

CT
1995: 1
2022: 0
Change: -1 

IN
1995: 1
2022: 0
Change: -1 

MD
1995: 3
2022: 2
Change: -1 

MN
1995: 2
2022: 1
Change: -1

OK
1995: 2
2022: 1
Change: -1 

SC
1995: 6
2022: 5
Change: -1

VA
1995: 1
2022: 0
Change: -1

TX
1995: 2
2022: 0
Change: -2

MI
1995: 6
2022: 3
Change: -3 

AZ
1995: 3
2022: 0
Change: -3

IL
1995: 5
2022: 2
Change: -3

OH
1995: 10
2022: 7
Change: -3

PA
1995: 6
2022: 3
Change: -3 

FL
1995: 9
2022: 5
Change: -4

A Tale of Two Rankings 

The first list shows the 49 courses that appeared on our ’95 ranking that are off the current list. Their replacements — the 49 courses on the second list — are an intoxicating mix that showcases the rich and varied splendor of our nation’s topography. 

1995 Rank
Medinah (No. 3): 27
Colonial: 34
World Woods (Pine Barrens): 39
Shoal Creek: 40
Double Eagle: 41
Cascades (Upper): 43
Black Diamond (Quarry): 45
Long Cove: 46
Canterbury: 49
Yale: 52
Oak Tree National: 53
Spyglass Hill: 54
Lake Nona: 55
Firestone (South): 56
Interlachen: 57
Troon North (Monument): 58
Wild Dunes (Links): 60
Troon: 61
Forest Highlands (Canyon): 62
Butler National: 64
Crooked Stick: 65
Point O’Woods: 66
Wannamoisett: 67
Jupiter Hills (Hills): 68
Saucon Valley-Grace: 69
PGA West (TPC Stadium): 71
Pumpkin Ridge (Witch Hollow): 72
Pumpkin Ridge (Ghost Creek): 74
Indianwood (Old): 76
Hazeltine National: 78
High Pointe: 79
The Medalist: 80
Ohio State University (Scarlet): 81
Salem: 82
The Quarry at La Quinta: 83
Lancaster: 84
Laurel Valley: 85
Champions (Cypress Creek): 87
Mauna Kea: 88
The Country Club, Ohio: 89
Saucon Valley (Old): 90
CC of Detroit: 92
Trump Doral (Blue): 93
Blackwolf Run (River): 94
The Dunes: 95
Olympia Fields (North): 96
Pine Tree: 98
Colleton River (Nicklaus): 99
Caves Valley: 100

2022 Rank
Sand Hills: 6
Friar’s Head: 15
Pacific Dunes: 17
California GC of San Francisco: 27
Ballyneal: 31
Sleepy Hollow: 35
Old Town: 38
Ohoopee Match Club: 39
Bandon Trails: 40
Myopia Hunt: 42
Yeamans Hall: 44
Rock Creek Cattle Company: 45
Bandon Dunes: 46
Old Sandwich: 53
Whistling Straits (Straits): 54
Eastward Ho!: 57
Caprock Ranch: 59        
The Creek: 61
Essex County: 62
Pikewood National: 64
Monterey Peninsula (Shore): 66
Bel-Air: 67
Piping Rock: 68
Gozzer Ranch: 70
White Bear Yacht Club: 71
Moraine: 72
Milwaukee: 75
Old Macdonald: 77
Monterey Peninsula (Dunes): 78
Lawsonia Links: 79
Saint Louis: 80
Aronimink: 81
Gamble Sands: 82
Glens Falls: 83
Newport: 84
Congaree: 85
Streamsong (Red): 86
Hollywood: 89
Kingsley: 90
Nanea: 91
Streamsong (Blue): 92
Calusa Pines: 93
Prairie Club (Dunes): 94
Davenport: 95
Brookside (Canton): 96
Sheep Ranch: 97
Sand Valley (Sand Valley): 98
Palmetto: 99
Pinehurst (No. 4): 100

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