When you think about golf destinations, Florida and California immediately come to mind—but you may be surprised to see which states have the largest percentage of high caliber courses. Although Florida and California have the most public courses by far, they are not at the top of the list when you consider the number of quality courses a state can offer, rather than just the total number of courses. So where do you look for the best chance of finding a great golf experience? Here’s what we found.
The GolfDay Rating
The GolfDay Rating is based on a variety of criteria, including the stature of the architect who did the original design, updates that have been done since the course was built, USGA Course and Slope Ratings, current local and national rankings by Golf Digest, Golfweek, and Links Magazine (as well as other authoritative sources), the quality and diversity of practice facilities, general course conditioning, and current course reviews.
Consideration is also given for facilities that offer junior golf programs, a golf academy or golf leagues. Resort ratings also include a factor for the variety of courses located at the property, as well as the quality of accommodations. The GolfDay Rating is structured on the same basis as a test score—from 0 to 100. An “A” is 90 and up, “B” is 80–89, “C” is 70–79, “D” is 65–69 and below 64 is an “F.”
We looked at the total number of public courses in each state to see how many received a GolfDay Rating of greater than 90 (“A”), and the number that were rated 80 or higher (“B”). South Carolina, Hawaii, Nevada, Delaware and Alabama came in at the top of the list.
South Carolina (#1)
Of the 194 public courses in South Carolina, almost 20 percent received a GolfDay Rating above 90 (A)) and 5 were rated at 100 (A++). With premier golf destinations like Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Kiawah Island, I guess that should not be a shocker—but there are a great many high-quality courses to be found throughout the state as well. More than half of the courses in South Carolina (55.7%) received a GolfDay Rating of 80 or more.
South Carolina is also home to the Waccamaw Golf Trail, featuring 11 great courses along the coast south of Myrtle Beach. All of the courses on the Trail received a GolfDay Rating above 80, with 6 coming in above 90—and one of them, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, received a rating of 100.
I’m sure the residents of S.C. are keenly aware of how lucky they are to have so many terrific courses in their midst, while the rest of us mark our calendar and count the days.
It takes a bit of getting there, and can be a little pricey, but with unparalleled scenery and a host of top-notch golf courses, Hawaii should be at the top of your bucket list. Sprinkled among the islands are 60 public courses, 11 of which received a GolfDay Rating of 90 or higher. Almost half of the courses in Hawaii received a rating above 80, so you won’t have to look far to find quality golf (if you can tear yourself away from the beach).
On Oahu, Ko Olina Golf Club received the highest rating at 91.6. On Maui, Wailea Golf Club received a rating of 100, followed by Kapalua Resort-97.4 and Manele Golf Course at the Four Seasons Resort—90.2
On Kauai, Princeville Makai Golf Club heads the list, receiving a GolfDay Rating of 100, while on the Big Island, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel course received a rating of 95.2, followed closely by Hualalai at the Four Seasons Resort (94.9).
Most everyone knows that there are some nice courses in the Las Vegas area, but may not realize just how good so many of them actually are. Reno and Lake Tahoe, in western Nevada, offer quite a few fantastic courses as well. Of the 71 public courses in Nevada, 13 received a GolfDay Rating above 90, and 34 were rated at 80 or higher. Cascata, a Rees Jones masterpiece, received a GolfDay Rating of 99.1 and is located just 25 minutes from the airport.
For a small state, Delaware packs a big punch when it comes to quality golf. There are only 22 public courses in the state, but 4 of them received a GolfDay Rating over 90, and 13 were rated 80 or higher.
Plantation Lakes Golf & Country Club, designed by Arthur Hills and Steve Forest in Millsboro, received the highest rating at 92.4. Other courses in Delaware receiving a 90+ rating include White Clay Creek Country Club (91.9), Odessa National Golf Club (90.7), and Bayside Resort Golf Club (90.6).
If you want to make your golf fantasy come true, look no further than Alabama. In addition to the 11 fabulous courses along the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, 3 courses in Alabama also received a rating above 90 (FarmLinks Golf Club at Pussell Farms—92.7, Timberline Golf Course—91.0, and GlenLakes Golf Club—90.2).
Of the 81 public golf facilities in Alabama, 42 received a GolfDay Rating of 80 or higher.
From the rugged terrain in the northern part of the state where the Appalachian Mountain chain begins, to the beauty of a gulf coast sunrise down south, Alabama offers not only perfect weather just about year-round, but also some of the finest golf courses you will find anywhere in the world.