Top 100 Courses newbies: 5 amazing designs that didn’t make our ranking last time around
There’s a reason so many courses are entrenched in our Top 100 U.S. ranking: They’re iconic designs, many of which are destined to make our list in perpetuity. But that’s not to say there isn’t room for newcomers, and our newly released 2022-23 U.S. ranking has welcomed in five of them: Congressional (Blue), CapRock Ranch, Scioto, Davenport and Brookside.
Here’s a closer look at how each course charmed its way into one of the most exclusive clubs in golf.
Devereux Emmet, 1924/Andrew Green, 2020
Great things were always intended for this course, given its location just outside our nation’s capital. But after 100 years of existence, too many architects had a hand in its evolution, and this Devereux Emmet design lost its Golden Age ethos. What to do? The club pivoted to Andrew Green and gave him carte blanche to wholly reimagine the course and unify it under one hand. Green delivered with the revamped design that now looks like it has been there for more than a century. The alternating asks are excellent and every aspect of your game is tested. Take the stretch of 7 thru 9: the uphill par-3 7th requires a carry over the course’s deepest greenside bunker; the 8th is a teaser of a short par-4 with par amply defended at the angled green; and the 9th is a 600-plus yard rollercoaster that follows the heaving land back to the majestic clubhouse. Pete Wendt is one of the country’s finest greenkeepers and his layering of native grasses across the rollicking landscape lends the course a sumptuous texture that had long been absent. With trees removed and the wind blowing through, the days of a soft course — like the one Rory McIlroy encountered when he won the 2011 U.S. Open here — are a distant memory at the “new old” Congressional.
Gil Hanse/Jim Wagner, 2021
This Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner design is the only course built in the modern age to break into the 2022-23 U.S. Top 100. The raw property enjoys copious natural advantages that few other properties can compete with, and the design takes advantage of both the Snake River valley and the bordering dunescape. Eight greens are set along or border the Snake River valley. Standing on the 6th green, you look down and see the winding river some 190 feet below. (Always neat to see a 10-million-year-old feature included in a two-year-old design!) The holes away from the valley play into dunes with some greens, like the 8th, enjoying punchbowl qualities. Other greens, like the 14th, are perched high, poised to wreak havoc. The routing effortlessly runs to the spectacular caprock cliffs back to the dunes and back again. Though the finishing four-hole stretch, including the dramatic 230-yard 18th, is tough to beat, the front nine is equally as good.
Donald Ross, 1916/Andrew Green, 2021
This Donald Ross gem returns to the U.S. Top 100 after a multi-year absence thanks to an Andrew Green restoration. By returning the 8th and 17th greens to their original locations, Green removed vestiges of a 1950s Dick Wilson redesign. Ross’s intimate routing across 110 acres of rolling parkland is a star feature and can be appreciated anew, thanks to much-needed tree removal. Green’s touch with rebuilding the greens and bunkers in classic Ross style completes a Golden Age picture. Scioto — it should be noted — was Jack Nicklaus’s boyhood course, and ball-strikers will appreciate the deft shot-making required to reach certain hole locations on these challenging greens.
Pleasant Valley, Iowa
C.H. Alison, 1924/Forse Golf Design, 2014
Colt & Alison is a legendary name in golf-course design, but most golfers don’t realize that Harry Colt never returned to North America after 1914. This means many Colt & Alison courses in the U.S. are actually solo Alison designs, like this one, which opened in 1924. Similar to Milwaukee Country Club and Kirtland, outside of Cleveland, this river valley property was blessed with a stream (an off-shoot of the Mississippi River) that runs through it. Alison took maximum advantage of the water feature at such holes as the par-5 9th, where the stream runs the length of the hole; the dramatic one-shot 10th, which that plays diagonally across the river valley; and the famous downhill 16th, which crosses the stream from the elevated tee. Though set on higher ground, the course’s best hole might be the 440-yard 7th, a showpiece in how to drape a hole over interesting landforms.
Donald Ross, 1922
This Donald Ross design, which is making its Top 100 debut, epitomizes the virtues of parkland golf with rolling topography, sweeping views and a stream that bisects the property. The design lacks for nothing and has reached peak form after years of consulting with Brian Silva. Ross’s use of the stream at holes 4, 5 and 11 is especially noteworthy, but the real attention-grabber is Brookside’s set of greens, led by those at the 8th and 12th. Pinpoint accuracy is required into all of the targets — a few observers have groused that the steeply pitched back-to-front surfaces at 14 and 16 lack a sufficient number of hole locations for today’s green speeds — but if you stay in position (i.e., below the hole!), you are guaranteed to be enchanted by this Ross gem.