August 26, 2009

Say It Ain't So: The Top Courses Lists Are Political?

You decide if this is sour grapes or refreshing honesty:

Course architects Bob Cupp and Tom Kite know their handiwork [at Liberty National] will be under the microscope. They are aware the course is yet to land on anyone's list of top-rated golf sites, which, says Kite, is fine with him.

"If you want to play that political game, and buy your way into a list, you can probably do that ... so the ratings I think are very misleading," he said. "We certainly feel like Liberty National is qualified to be on any of those lists. Everybody that follows golf is going to know more about Liberty National than they did a week ago.

It would be hard to argue with that list, although I would probably move Cypress Point over Augusta, but that's just my personal opinion. Lists like these are fun, and good topic for discussion, but let's be honest -- most mere mortals will only see these courses from outside the ropes or in the case of Cypress Point, from the road. They aren't accepting tee times and they don't need the unwashed masses (that would be us) to succeed.

But wait, the list has 95 other members. And like college football or basketball, once you get outside of the top fifteen or twenty, you could put the names of many of the rest of the high-end courses in a bag, pull them out and write their name on the list at the first blank number and be just as "right"as any other list.

Ask yourself: does the average golfer know why Kinloch GC (Manakin-Sabot, VA) is a tad better than Cherry Hills outside of Denver?

That's the opinion of Golf Digest.

Kinloch is within the top 50 and Cherry Hills is #54. That means one course can say it is a "Top 50" and the other can "only" say "Top 100" -- despite the fact that Cherry Hills has hosted seven majors. The answer is that Golf Digest's ratings are opinions and what is one person's opinion might be completely wrong to someone else.

I'm not saying or trying to imply that Kinloch bought its way onto any list, or for that matter did anything at all untoward, but to be completely honest, I do have a hard time with a new club with no speakable tradition being rated over one that the USGA has gone to time and again to host its most important tournaments. That just doesn't make much sense to me.

Make no mistake about it either, Kinloch's web site prominently features the rating on the front of its web site. And that's important, especially for a resort, daily fee or even a new private club. That's where opinion turns to marketing item, and your imagination can take Kite's comment about buying a course's way onto a list would be an investment for some folks.

So perhaps Kite's comment the list being political and for sale does offer some food for thought.


  1. Does anyone know Golf Digest's methodology for ranking courses? What's the grading criteria? Who plays these "top" courses and how often? If I remember right it was all pretty vague. This would suggest some political nonsense would be a possibilty. On a side note, these lists are nice to look at and dream, but does it really matter to the average Joe? I mean, how many of them can we play anyway?

  2. I met one of the guys lucky enough to be on the rating board for new courses. He admitted that a lot of the good and bad in a review came from how well THEY were treated. They don't go to clubs unannounced, so the red carpet is rolled out just for them.

  3. Check the ads for the months FOLLOWING the the release of the Top 50 list and you will see some common names...


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