We've all played a course we expected to be great only to be let down. Not only is it devasting, but it often comes at the cost of a stout green fee. These courses don't sufficiently meet my requirements for greatness; Setting, Conditioning, Variety, and Fun in relation to their respective rankings.
Five Most Overrated Private Courses on Golf Digest's Top 100 list
- #12 - Winged Foot Golf Club (West) (NY) - Uninspiring, mostly flat, terrain throughout much of the course that is characterized by tree lined holes that are generally long and difficult. The green sites are brilliant but those are easily resproduced on any piece of ground as are the individual hole shapes and characteristics. Winged Foot is clearly riding its impressive championship golf history into the Top 15 of Golf Digest's rankings, but the golf course itself isn't inspiring enough to garner such lofty accolades.
- #20 - Oak Hill Country Club (East) (NY) - I think the arguement could be made that Oak Hill's East course isn't even in the Top 10 of New York, let alone 20th in the country. From a historic and facilities standpoint, Oak Hill certainly is elite but from a pure golf course standpoint this tree lined course doesn't feature special enough holes to be ranked this high.
- #21 - Oakland Hills Country Club (South) (MI) - You don't have to get very far down this list to see a theme; most major championship host courses are overrated. Raters fall in love with the history, clubhouse, facilities, and the convenience to large metro areas they often travel to which feeds into the perceived greatness of the club. Strip all of that away and look purely at the golf course and at Oakland Hills you will find a solid parkland track that is an excellent test but lacks the architectural uniqueness to be ranked this high. As a side note, I was on my 'A' game at Oakland Hills and shot a 75 from the tips which felt pretty good considering the horror stories I had heard of playing "The Monster."
- #34 - The Olympic Club (Lake) (CA) - The famous Lake course at The Olympic Club is the ultimate punishing round of golf for players who can't shape their ball at will. With towering Monterey Cypress trees and thick rough lining the bending fairways there is little room for error. Only six fairway bunkers are found on the course which is a testament to how difficult it already is to find the fairways given the shape and slope of the short grass. Olympic Club, and San Francisco Golf Club with its incredible charm, get all the hype in the Bay Area; but the best course in town is Cal Club.
- #60 - Medinah Country Club (No.3) (IL) - Being a member at Medinah would be awesome with three courses to pick from and perhaps the most impressive clubhouse in the country. That being said, #39 is much too high for a course that, like Atlanta Athletic Club, features three par 3s that look and play very similarly and includes only 1-2 other holes that are compelling from a design standpoint. Tournament history and the prestige of being located in one of America's largest cities boosts Medinah's No.3 course higher in the rankings then the track deserves.
Five Most Overrated Public Courses on Golf Digest's Top 100 Public list
- #6 - Pinehurst Resort (No.2) (NC) - An American classic to be sure, but not the 6th best public course in the country given the mostly uninspiring terrain and overemphasis on shots around the green.
- #19 - The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort (IN) - One of Indiana's most scenic settings, but too many borderline insane design features to be considered this high on the list.
- #25 - Harbour Town Golf Links (SC) - If this course wasn't a staple on the PGA Tour I can't imagine raters would rank it this high. I'll give Harbour Town credit, the final six holes are absolutely fantastic; but that can't makeup for the first 12 that are mostly forgettable and overly penal.
- #42 - Torrey Pines Golf Course (South) (CA) - Seeing the ocean all day is a treat as Torrey enjoys an ideallic setting, but unfortunately it delivers uninspiring architecture at every corner and doesn't do the setting justice. The pond on 18 has to be the most out of place water feature I've ever seen.
- #50 - SentryWorld Golf Course (WI) - While Wisconsin can make a strong case as having the best public golf of any state in the union, SentryWorld is too lofty at #50 on this list. The dead flat terrain leaves a lot to be desired though the conditioning is always fantastic.
There is nothing better than finding a gem of a golf course. The course layout, setting, and value add up to an experience where you can't seem to wipe the smile off your face. Below are those type of courses.
Five Most Underrated Private Courses on Golf Digest's Top 100 list
- #3 - Cypress Point Golf Club (CA) - #3 is a high ranking, but trust me, there aren't two courses in the country better than Cypress Point. It has the best parcel of ground for a golf course in the world.
- #53 and #80 - Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore and Dunes courses) (CA) - It is tough to stand out in Monterey where the quality of golf rivals any location in the world, but both courses at MPCC are Top 50 quality after their renovations.
- #66 - Kinloch Golf Club (VA) - One of the best courses a lot of people have never heard of, Kinloch is the best course in Virginia and the surrounding area.
- #84 - Boston Golf Club (MA) - Old Sandwich gets more of the hype for modern courses designed in Massachusetts, but give me Gil Hanse's fantastic creativity with the engaging terrain at Boston GC.
- #81 - Rock Creek Cattle Company (MT) - Located in the heart of Big Sky country, Tom Doak's minimalist design is one of the ten best courses built in America this century.
Five Most Underrated Public Courses on Golf Digest's Top 100 Public list
- #45 - The Prairie Club (Dunes) (NE) - A course that rivals Sand Hills and Ballyneal as the best track among the modern design in the sand hills of the Midwest, the Dunes course at The Prairie Club is criminally underrated at #45.
- #49 - Tobacco Road Golf Club (NC) - Arguably the most fun course in the country and certainly a Top 20 public offering, Tobacco Road is the course that Mike Strantz' legacy will always be tied to.
- #68 - The Courses at Lawsonia (Links) (WI) - You could make an arguement that the Links course at Lawsonia is the 68th best course in the country, but among public courses, it is a Top 20 and gives Joe Q. Public an opportunity to experience top shelf golden age architecture that is often reserved for private clubs.
- #84 - The Virtues Golf Club (OH) - In an area known for having some of the best private clubs in America, Columbus is also blessed with one of the most fun and engaging public layouts you'll come across. My favorite Arthur Hills course to date.
- #81 - Makai Golf Club (Kauai, HI) - While is was regarded as the little brother to the famed Prince course at the Princeville Resort, Makai has emeraged as the top offering in the Hawaiian island and is helping people forget about the now defunct Prince course.
5 Private Courses that should be on Golf Digest's Top 100 list
- Eastward Ho! (MA) - A course that easily makes my Top 100 in the World, let alone America, Eastward Ho! is nothing short of a treasure. It enjoys one of the most ideallic parcels of ground for a golf course and incredible ocean views. Being a member here would be an absolute treat to enjoy all summer long; despite the notorious winds.
- California Golf Club of San Francisco (CA) - Comfortably the best golf course in the Bay Area and a Top 15 course in America, I can't even wrap my mind around how this course remains outside the Top 100 on Golf Digest's list.
- The Course at Yale (CT) - While Yale has certainly fallen on tough times in regards to the condition of the course, it still has some of the best architecture that any course in America has ever enjoyed. Currently not even found within the Top 200 on Golf Digest's list, look for this course to be Top 50 within a few years after the renovation is completed.
- Kingsley Club (MI) - I thought enough time has passed for raters to get to Kingsley and see just how good it is, but somehow it sits at 121st on Golf Digest's list. I find it to be a Top 30 design and Golfweek holds it in a similar esteem among its modern designs.
- Omaha Country Club (NE) - Not even among Golf Digest's Top 200, Omaha has some of the most engaging terrain of any course you'll encounter and the Keith Foster renovation highlighted Langford & Moreau, and Perry Maxwell's, genius here.
5 Public Courses that should be on Golf Diget's Top 100 Public Courses list
- Sand Hollow Resort (Championship) (UT) - One of the back nines at a public golf course anywhere and enjoying a dramatic Southern Utah setting, Sand Hollow somehow continues to not find itself on this list when it should be on the Top 40 of it.
- Tot Hill Farm (NC) - It doesn't get the hype of Tobacco Road, but this Mike Strantz' design is every bit as fun and creative. If you will be anywhere near Pinehurst on a golf trip, make a quick visit over to Tot Hill Farm for one of the most unique courses you'll ever encounter.
- Robert Trent Jones Trail - Capitol Hill (Judge) - The best course on the RTJ Trail, the Judge is a bold course that features plenty of challenge and never ending interest.
- Tidewater Golf Course (SC) - Myrtle Beach has other courses that take the headlines along the famous Strand, but Tidewater is truly a hidden gem that deserves more credit than it gets; and is plenty scenic.
- TPC Deere Run - I don't give a lot of love to courses on the PGA Tour, but TPC Deere Run has much more architectural interest than most you'd find. It isn't a popular spot on Tour, but for public access, it is much better than you'd expect for a course on the Illinois/Iowa border.