What makes Pine Valley so great anyway?

Pine valley in new jersey

GOLF released its latest ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the World, with Pine Valley yet again coming in as No. 1. Here's why.

LC Lambrecht

GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this GOLF.com series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. Check out GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the U.S.Top 100 Courses in the WorldTop 100 Courses You Can PlayBest Municipal Courses in the U.S., 100 Best Short Courses and 100 Best Courses in U.K. and Ireland. Meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

GOLF recently released its latest ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the World, with Pine Valley yet again coming in as No. 1. Most golfers will never set foot on the exclusive private track, and it’s not like an Augusta National that we can see through our TV screens. So help them understand: What makes Pine Valley so great anyway?

Will Davenport (panelist since 2020): Every single shot at Pine Valley is equal parts beautiful and exacting, like the whole course was built to perfectly frame the shot at hand. It’s a course composed of 18 very different but perfectly complementary holes. The hazardous bunkers, pine tree-lined corridors, diabolical green complexes and artful doglegs are perfectly shaped while also unfailingly natural in their embrace of the land. Pine Valley is truly in a league of its own.

Bill Hogan (panelist since 1998): Pine Valley was the first course I ever played that on each tee box, I said to myself: “Wow. What a great hole.” Eighteen times in a row!

Jeff Lewis (panelist since 2003): One of the most unusual circumstances in golf course architecture is a course without a bad hole. Pine Valley is on that very short list. It also has this really interesting pedigree in that almost every significant architect of the time was present at some point and had their hands on it. The last piece I think is that Pine Valley has a ton of central hazards, which are the keystone of interesting golf courses. Boring courses tend to put the stuff you need to think about off to the side and creative ones put it in front of you and force you to make decisions.

Josh Sens (panelist since 2015): Since this is a safe space, here’s where I’ll confess that I’ve never played Pine Valley. But the fact that so many well-traveled design buffs think it’s better than the likes of Cypress Point, Shinnecock and Royal Melbourne is enough to persuade me that there must be something to its unicorn status. (Though I do have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of a better design than Royal Melbourne or a more beautiful walk than Cypress Point.) The only quibble I’ve ever heard about Pine Valley comes from a ground-game fanatic, who feels that the course doesn’t offer enough opportunities to bound shots onto greens. But at that point, you’re really getting into some serious nitpicking, which is partly what makes discussions/debates about course rankings interesting and borderline absurdist at the same time.

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