The 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills had a lot of folks debating Wisconsin as a potential candidate for the best golf state in America.
With two public men's major championship venues (plus former U.S. Women's Open host Blackwolf Run), along with the brand new Sand Valley project by Mike Keiser, it's as high-profile of a public golf state as there is. Coupled with established and popular destinations like Lake Geneva and Wisconsin Dells, few states can make such a strong argument as the Badger State.
We thought we'd dive a bit deeper and see what the data has to say. In doing so, we uncovered the ten best states for top-rated golf courses, based on your reviews of each's total roster of golf courses.
Golf Advisor began tracking course ratings and reviews in the fall of 2012. We combed through our 600,000-plus reviews to see which states are collectively earning the best reviews. We're not considering each state's top courses in this ranking, but rather course reviews from the entire scene, from Top 100s to pitch 'n putts. Ratings come from a fluctuating mix of locals and visitors.
California, Arizona and Florida have received the most reviews over the years, and often times score the most individual selections in our Top 50 lists. Collectively however, there are enough laggards to suck each state back to the middle of the pack.
We determined this list based on a total sum of the state's overall and six subcategory (conditions, value, layout, pace, staff and off-course amenities) averages all-time.
We also uncovered the five worst states for golf based on their course ratings, which you can view below the top ten.
Top 10 states for golf according to their course ratings
No state seems to have benefitted more from reviews on Golf Advisor than Indiana, whose deep roster of affordable and friendly public courses earn exceptional reviews. There are a smattering of good courses around Indianapolis, plus plenty of designs to sample from native son, Pete Dye. The state earned five courses in our 2016 U.S. Top 50.
Virginia doesn't place many courses in our yearly Top 50 (with the big exception of Spring Creek factoring in at No. 1 in 2014). But the sum of its parts, from around Richmond to the coast and metro Washington D.C., give the state strong enough ratings (particularly with staff and layout) across the board to crack the top ten.
Michigan is legendary for its sheer amount of golf courses per capita that include both great value and nationally-ranked resort courses. Courses in central and southwest Michigan between Grand Rapids and Lansing tend to fare especially well on Golf Advisor. Lesser-known value courses in northern Michigan, perhaps overlooked due to bigger resort names, also bring in scores of five-star reviews.
Bandon Dunes has no doubt become the poster child for Top 100 golf in Oregon, but there is such great ecological diversity, from ocean to forest to mountains to high desert, that you're never far from a change in the climate or style of golf course. Locals are spoiled with great munis around Portland, plus great member-for-a-day and resort experiences in Bend and greater Central Oregon.
It may be a surprise to northeastern golfers that Connecticut courses trump other northeastern states for strong reviews. Seven golf courses made our Top 25 courses in New England ranking in 2016, more than any of the six states considered. It's "staff friendliness" is the state's leading category, but its in this top ten because each of its category ratings is simply very solid with no weak links.
Ginella's five best states for golf trips
The Land of Buffett has benefited from some well-regarded new courses opened in the 21st century, perhaps coming off the heals of the mythical Sand Hills. It's also well known for value and the fairways are certainly less-trafficked than the nearby mountains.
The Twin Cities pack a one-two punch for great metropolitan golf, while northern Minnesota's "Iron Range" is famous for its fishing and backwoods golf getaways like Madden's on Gull Lake, Giant's Ridge and The Wilderness. Minnesota'a value, conditions and pace of play ratings all crack the Top 5.
The home of the 2017 U.S. Open, Wisconsin has certainly made a name for itself as a national golf hotspot in the last decade and now rivals states like Oregon and California for most Top 100 public courses. But aside from the major venues like Erin Hills and Whistling Straits, destinations like Lake Geneva and Wisconsin Dells have been delivering excellent value, layouts and conditions to golfers for decades now. Milwaukee is also considered a sneaky-good hotbed for bargain public golf.
No matter which side of the Rockies you're on, great golf is within range in Colorado. Dazzling resort courses set a very high bar, while Colorado Springs and Denver metros offer more variety and value.
Golf in Nevada is the safest bet of any state, based on golfer reviews. It's not just the many high-end destination courses around Las Vegas that make the state a top destination for golf. There are also find affordable courses in neighboring Mesquite or up around Reno-Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley. It's highest-rated category average is "staff friendliness," proof that a welcome done right can go a long way.
Bottom five states according to collective ratings
This is a surprising result when you consider two Alabama courses (Kiva Dunes, FarmLinks) made our Top 10 in 2016. Low conditions and off-course amenity ratings drag the state down.
Texas places a handful of courses into our Top 50 each year, but is prone to extreme drought and floods that can impact course conditions collectively throughout the state.
Blue collar Kentucky's poor condition and facilities marks are primary reasons it can't hang with rival Indiana. (Hoops domination will have to do.)
Solid staff and value scores aren't enough to overcome the state's rough conditions averages, likely a result of its wet climate and courses that offer value moreso than top-shelf experiences.
The state's Haleakala-high expectations and resort prices leaves reviewers asking around about how they can get that coveted ka'amaina island discount.