1. (2) PINE VALLEY G.C.
Pine Valley, N.J. / George Crump & H.S. Colt (1918)7,057 yards, Par 70 | Points: 71.9201A genuine original, with its unique character forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest New Jersey. Founder George Crump had help with the routing from British architect H.S. Colt and during construction notable designers such as A.W. Tillinghast, George C. Thomas Jr. and Walter Travis stopped by to make suggestions. Subsequent generations have continued to marvel at Pine Valley’s design. Robert Trent Jones felt it had more classic holes than any other and regarded it as the first course that truly tested every club in the bag. What we wrote in 1999 remains true today: Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design — penal, heroic and strategic — throughout the course, often on a single hole.
2. (1) AUGUSTA NATIONAL G.C.
Augusta, Ga. / Alister Mackenzie & Bobby Jones (1933)7,435 yards, Par 72 | Points: 71.9171
No club has tinkered with its golf course as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National Golf Club, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament, an event it has conducted since 1934, with time off during WWII. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and swales and, most recently, extensive rebunkering by Tom Fazio
4. (3) SHINNECOCK HILLS G.C.
Southampton, N.Y. / William Flynn (1931)7,041 yards, Par 70 | Points: 68.9010Shinnecock Hills is generally considered to be the earliest links in America, heavily remodeled twice by C.B. Macdonald, then replaced (except for three holes) by William S. Flynn at the start of the depression. It’s been considered so sublime that its architecture hasn’t really been fiddled with in nearly 50 years, although the team of Coore and Crenshaw (who recently turned Pinehurst No. 2 back three-quarters of a century) are presently contemplating modest changes to prepare Shinnecock for the 2018 U.S. Open.
5. (4) OAKMONT C.C.
Oakmont, Pa. / Henry Fownes (1903)7,255 yards, Par 71 | Points: 68.5310Once the epitome of a green chairman gone crazy (old man William C. Fownes would stake out new bunkers whenever and where ever he saw a player hit an offline shot), Oakmont now represents the zenith of architectural restoration. It began with the deforestation of thousands of non-native trees planted by decades of green committees and continued with Tom Fazio’s reclamation of the game’s nastiest, most notorious bunkers and deep drainage ditches. Oh yes, Oakmont also has the game’s swiftest putting surfaces. They actually slow them down for professional tournament play, like the upcoming U.S. Open in 2016.