Monday, August 09, 2010

State by State - New Jersey today

Americans are by and large fascinated if not obsessed with lists and of course "The Best". I've rated courses for years, contributed to lists and defined groups of my own, finding it hard to say that course A is better than B if they are of similar merit. Top 100 lists for the world and the US more or less come out reasonably correct in the wash if many people contribute to them and biases go mostly by the wayside. Individual lists are to be taken with a grain of salt, they always reflect positive and negative preferences of the compiler.

The lists that are the most suspect are state by state lists as they are compiled for the major US magazines. The biggest fault is that they are far too heavily weighted by where the voters are A) Told to go and B) Choose to go. Choice A because someone has pre-selected the choices and B because of three separate but not so distinct reasons. One is that newer courses get disproportionate visits by first or casual visitors to an area and then those with established histories of being great and/or preferred architects get disproportionate endorsement.

I would venture to say that regional magazines are not immune to this malady. The traveler wants fair and balanced information on which to make decisions, the private club golfer can get reciprocity from his home club and the public golfer plays in his price range. If one likes Jack Nicklaus designs, Tom Fazio, Jim Engh or some other designer whose teams work across the country, seeking out a known entity often fulfills one's needs. I hope that golfers try to branch out and try new architects work and expand their horizons. Every region has a home architect or two that might very well be worth seeking out.

caveat: be careful who compiles a "Best of" list - ones created by players themselves are notoriously stacked. One really has to be careful with a list such as Golf Digest's Places to Play - perhaps the least reliable guide one can choose for just this reason. The truly best places in any given area are hidden as low as ** ½ and on the other hand **** ½ courses can be just little more than extremely well-conditioned pasture pool palaces.

I'm going to ask my readers to help out on this one. E-mail me with your state's best courses. Reader comments have been turned off due to Asian spam latching onto my blogs comments section. Look for yours.

Here’s a state I really know well (reserved right to edit as I did this fast)

Golf Digest panelists
Pine Valley
Baltusrol Lower
Galloway National
Sommersett Hills
Ridge at Back Brook
Ridgewood (E&W)
Baltusrol Upper
Hidden Creek
Liberty National
Trump (Old)
Hamilton Farms
Atlantic City
Mountain Ridge
Pine Hill
Neshantic Valley
Shore Gate

This Humble Observer's View:
Pine Valley – arguable world #1

Plainfield – most unappreciated great course in America

Sommersett Hills – Tillie’s quirkiest
Ridgewood (Championship)- below R@BB??? In what universe?
Baltusrol Upper – far more interesting than more famous bottom half
Hollywood – among very best “flat” courses
Galloway National – uneven but solid, worst greenhead flies in USA
Atlantic City – nice interpretive restoration
Hidden Creek – really nice “member’s club” by MFA’s

(Now by alpha)
Alpine – deserves more respect
Baltusrol Lower - famous
Bayonne – engineering feat. So what?
Trump (Old) –Trump’s best, very good Fazio

Canoe Brook (N) – fits in about here
Metedeconk – 27 holes of “Hard”
Montclair – four (4!) “nines”
Mountain Ridge – has its fans, wild greens, overall uneven

Better than below +/- equal to some of last 5 above:
Canoe Brook (S)
Echo Lake
Manasquan River

Better than below:
Fiddler’s Elbow (Forest)
Royce Brook (both)
Sand Barrens – 27 solid holes at shore
Scotland Run - somewhat modest public, far better than Shore Gate

- All probably not in top 50 NJ (ALL top 25 GD)
Hamilton Farms – incredible mish-mash of design - very posh
Liberty National – nearly universally panned despite very posh
Neshantic Valley – nice neighborhood public Doak 3
Pine Hill – every Fazio cliché in the book Doak 4 at best
Ridge at Back Brook – very posh, Doak 4, but posh
Shore Gate – definition of hideous - not posh, don't get this one at all