New Golf Magazine Top 100 rankings slight American southwest desert courses in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada
I travel a lot to play golf, but I’ve never teed it up in Arizona, New Mexico or California’s desert. According to Golf Magazine’s latest Top 100 Golf Courses in America rankings, I’m not missing much.
I’ve been perusing their new list a bit since they were released recently, just as I’ve done since I was about ten years old and discovered there were better courses in the world compared to my ol’ munis in Ann Arbor.
Even the folks at Golf will tell you their rankings aren’t perfect. I don’t think anyone’s asking for “perfect,” we just don’t want absurdities, and there’s one I’ve discovered that I’m a bit uncivil with today.
Maybe it’s because these designs don’t hold major championships or because there’s few “Golden Era” gems or maybe it’s because they’re considered to be a waste of water in the “green” era, but desert courses have gotten the absolute shaft.
New Mexico has no courses in the Top 100 ranking, New Jersey and New York combine for 20.
Arizona, which could make the argument as the country’s most fanatical golf state (at least when you consider how many people retire here with the idea of daily golf near the top of their list), has just one course in the Top 100, private Desert Forest (which honestly, I’d never heard of until this ranking).
So should we be led to believe that in the entire Valley of the Sun and Tucson, one of the most coveted golf vacations on the planet, not one golf course is great and open to the public? I doubt that.
I’ve played a little bit of desert golf in Las Vegas, and there were some really neat courses. I’m especially a fan of Bear’s Best and Rio Secco. By all accounts, I’ve been told that Wolf Creek Golf Club in nearby Mesquite is one of the most exciting rounds of golf there is on Earth and should be on any traveling golfer’s bucket list. Just look what our WorldGolf.com readers have to say about it.
I’ve also visited Pronghorn in Oregon’s high desert, and it’s a real hoot (the Nicklaus course now accepts public play, and you should definitely take them up on that offer). One writer I’ve met tells me the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course there is the best he’s played. I’ve also met snowbird golfers throughout my travels who will ONLY spend travel golfing money on tickets to the high altitude desert of Arizona.
There’s a great quote from Tom Doak about these rankings in a recent interview with Golf Club Atlas:
I keep those rankings in perspective. When we are working on an oceanfront site, we’re three for three on creating a top-50 course; when we’re not at the beach, we’re 0-for-27.
According to Golf’s panelists, there’s nothing great about desert sites. I’m all for classical golf course design and those that are as natural as possible, but the anti-desert bias is too large compared to how many people adore desert golf.
You can follow Brandon Tucker’s golf blog and more on Twitter: http://twitter.com/brandontucker or follow WorldGolf.com at Twitter.com/worldgolf . Have a golf travel question for Brandon? Email him by clicking here
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