Off the backs of more than 121,000 reviews from more than 75,000 golfers over the course of the year, we're excited to announce the top 50 golf courses on Golf Advisor in 2015.
Below, you can view the full list, as well as our methodology in selecting these courses. The Golf Advisor top 50, based on your reviews, is meant to bring a new perspective compared to the top-100 rankings you're used to seeing from well known golf publications. Their annual rankings are comprised of bucket-list experiences, geared towards golf course architecture and history and are rated by expert industry panelists assessing courses with a strict criteria.
Consumer reviews provided on Golf Advisor present an entirely different assessment. Raters' age, handicaps and budgets run the gamut. Over the years, as over 450,000 reviews have been filed, we've learned that most reviewers for Golf Advisor tend to rate the course based on their expectation.
You'll find our top 50 list features a handful of courses you're used to seeing on a top 100 public ranking, while many others you may have never heard of. That's precisely what we hope makes our list useful. In fact, the no. 1 course in 2015, located in northern California, most certainly qualifies as a hidden gem compared to the many bucket-list courses in the area. An affordable, over-achieving municipal in rural Texas like Delaware Springs G.C. has as much of a chance of receiving a strong review as a $300 resort course in Arizona like the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. In our top 50, those two courses are neck-and-neck.
Both perspectives -- consumers and experts -- are valuable, which is why at Golf Advisor we celebrate both, with articles and rankings from staff, like Matt Ginella's top 50 courses, but also provide plenty of room to promote the best ratings from paying golfers like you.
The Golf Advisor top 50 U.S. courses methodology
Our 2015 methodology is a bit more complex than the inaugural top 50 U.S. rankings in 2014. Courses still need a minimum of 20 reviews on Golf Advisor between Jan. 1 and Dec. 27 of 2015. But instead of simply taking the overall score, we've created a four-pronged formula aimed at identifying what were truly the best courses year round. A course's score is comprised of the following:
• 50 percent of the overall rating in 2015
• 50 percent of its subcategory ratings in 2015
• We rewarded courses that had many reviews throughout the year by dropping their lowest review for every 10 reviews after 20 in 2015. We determined this was more fair to Southern courses open year round compared to Northern courses only open in the summer that don't deal with as many shoulder seasons and maintenance periods.
• Lastly, we are evaluating the Reviewer Strength of each course, so it benefits a course to have not only 5-star reviews, but input from reviewers who are active on our platform. The course's total score is adjusted, either up or down, based on their Reviewer Strength score.
Course reviews often come through reviews from our booking partners such as GolfNow.com and others, but all U.S. courses with at least limited public or stay-and-play access were eligible. Nearly 2,000 courses received 20 or more reviews in 2015, making them eligible for this year's top 50.
Golf Advisor's top 50 courses in the U.S.: Nos. 50-26
Lost Pines, Texas
Architects: Arthur Hills, Steve Forrest & Associates
What they're saying: "These are literally the best greens in central Texas." -- clay120
Twin Lake, Mich.
Architect: Pat Grelak
What they're saying: "Love the elevation ... love the wide open fairways." -- jycbc
Architect: Doug Carrick
What they're saying: "Rolling hills and blind shots make for some fun but challenging golf." -- BStange
Architect: Denis Griffiths
What they're saying: "Beautiful scenery, wonderful layout, sooo much fun." -- dalekinzler
Architect: Gene Bates
What they're saying: "The greens are spectacular in design and condition." -- welchagnew
Architect: Robert Walker
What they're saying: "The course continues to challenge and remarkably remains in excellent shape." -- u000003739165
42. Aviara Golf Club
Architects: Arnold Palmer, Ed Seay
What they're saying: "You can't miss this place if you are in San Diego." -- ndesantiago
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Architects: Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley
What they're saying: "It's off the beaten path but worth the extra drive.." -- ro3erto
Architect: Arthur Hills
What they're saying: "I dont know how you could layout a more fun 18 holes.." -- bucklewbob
Architects: Tom Lehman, John Fought
What they're saying: "Verrado is in fabulous condition and is extremely playable.." -- matt3285104
Saint Simons Island, Ga.
Architect: Joe Lee
What they're saying: "It has beautiful views and the staff is excellent!!." -- bev8125
Architects: Tom Weiskopf, Jay Morrish
What they're saying: "If you love golf then this is an absolute must experience.." -- Qmikequinn
Architects: Dave Axland, Dan Proctor
What they're saying: "This course was a great course for play any time of the year.." -- sidesr
Architects: George C. Thomas, Jr., William P. Bell
What they're saying: "Had a great experience from start to end. Only wish we had stayed longer.." -- coffeegirl
31. TPC Las Vegas
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Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "A total golf experience. No houses anywhere around. Great value." -- SScottyoung
29. The Trophy Club
Architect: Tim Liddy
What they're saying: "The conditions are excellent and it is a fun and unique layout." -- jgfyffe
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "The New Course was in great condition, tons of room for tee shots." -- eyeadventures
Fort Myers, Fla.
Architect: Ron Garl
What they're saying: "I can see why it's the number one course in SW Fla." -- captconc
Architect: Bob Lohmann
What they're saying: "Excellent course layout with plenty of water, marsh, sand and trees." -- DavePipitone
Green fees are based on latest peak-season rates and are subject to change. In the case of resort courses, stay-and-play packages and specials often greatly reduce the price of the green fee. Many of these courses also offer dynamic online tee times, off-season and twilight rates that lower the green fee.