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Inside the Numbers: Golf Digest's 2015-16 America's Greatest 100 Courses

1/06/2015


Today, Golf Digest published its updated Top 200 greatest courses in the U.S. list. You can find the Top 100 list here and the second 100 here. The ratings methodology and detailed category numbers for the top 100 can be found here.

Similar to in the past, I like to dive into these category numbers and try to understand what makes these courses tick. If you believe the category scores represent what their meant to represent, then the scores should provide some indication what areas a given course is great in relative to others. For instance, while the Aesthetics category is 12.5% of the total score in the Golf Digest formula, it comprises 13.39% of Cypress Point's total score, the highest relative score for that category. Cypress Point's "DNA" for greatness is driven by the Aesthetics, Memorability, Design Variety and Ambience category and relatively less by Shot Values, Resistance to Scoring and Conditioning. Bethpage Black, on the other hand, has the highest relative score in Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring and the lowest relative score in Ambience.

For reference, here are the highest and lowest scoring courses for each category, not based on the absolute number (you can get that from the Golf Digest site), but based on the category score relative to the course's total score:

Shot Values: Highest - Bethpage Black; Lowest - The Quarry at La Quinta
Resistance to Scoring: Highest - Bethpage Black; Lowest - Cypress Point
Design Variety: Highest - Somerset Hills; Lowest - Baltusrol (Lower)
Memorability: Highest - Pebble Beach; Lowest - Aronomink
Aesthetics: Highest - Cypress Point; Lowest - Oakmont
Conditioning: Highest - The Quarry at La Quinta; Lowest - Pebble Beach
Ambiance: Highest - The Country Club; Lowest - Bethpage Black

I also like to juxtapose the various categories with each other and see which courses are relatively strong in one versus another. Many of the categories are highly correlated with each other (Memorability and Design Variety scores for the top 100 are .9397 correlated for instance). Below I just focus on the pairs that are least correlated, as it is bound to cause to most jarring differences between the two sets of courses. Resistance to Scoring and Conditioning are the two categories that are least correlated with other categories. They are also the least correlated with the overall score for the top 100 courses (perhaps they shouldn't be weighted as high as the others). In any case, most of lowest correlated pairs involved one of these categories.

The Golf Digest U.S. list does tend to create the most buzz and probably the most controversy of all the major publications. It is the only one that asks its panelists to follow a strict set of criteria to differentiate between good and great. When looking at the category pairs below, you may tend to think more courses on one side are over/underrated relative to the courses on the other side. That likely just means your personal, inherent weight for that category is more or less than the fixed weights that Golf Digest uses.


Design Variety vs. Conditioning (Correlation: .4433)
Fishers Island [10] 1 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]
Pebble Beach [7] 2 Diamond Creek Golf Club [94]
TPC Sawgrass (Players) [47] 3 Double Eagle [76]
Pacific Dunes [18] 4 Baltusrol (Lower) [41]
Cypress Point [3] 5 The Alotian Club [27]
Pete Dye Golf Club [53] 6 Aronimink [90]
Bethpage Black [43] 7 Eagle Point [89]
Maidstone Club [98] 8 Canyata [60]
Somerset Hills [73] 9 Baltusrol (Upper) [58]
Pine Valley [2] 10 Butler National [46]

Resistance to Scoring vs. Aesthetics (Correlation: .2781)
Bethpage Black [43] 1 Cypress Point [3]
Oak Tree National [51] 2 Fishers Island [10]
Hazeltine National [86] 3 Maidstone Club [98]
Butler National [46] 4 Monterey Peninsula (Shore) [67]
Oakmont C.C. [6] 5 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]
Winged Foot (West) [9] 6 Pebble Beach [7]
Inverness [69] 7 National Golf Links of America [8]
Oakland Hills (South) [17] 8 Valley Club of Montecito [83]
TPC Sawgrass (Players) [47] 9 Bandon Dunes [37]
Crooked Stick [93] 10 The Alotian Club [27]




Resistance to Scoring vs. Design Variety (Correlation: .5393)
Butler National [46] 1 Cypress Point [3]
French Lick (Dye) [96] 2 National Golf Links of America [8]
Hazeltine National [86] 3 Shoreacres [99]
Baltusrol (Lower) [41] 4 Fishers Island [10]
Aronimink [90] 5 Somerset Hills [73]
Pikewood National [44] 6 Valley Club of Montecito [83]
Winged Foot (West) [9] 7 Maidstone Club [98]
Bethpage Black [43] 8 Camargo Club [52]
The Ocean Course [20] 9 San Francisco [35]
Oak Tree National [51] 10 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]

Aesthetics vs. Conditioning (Correlation: .3908)
Pebble Beach [7] 1 Double Eagle [76]
Fishers Island [10] 2 Butler National [46]
Maidstone Club [98] 3 Baltusrol (Upper) [58]
Cypress Point [3] 4 Eagle Point [89]
Pacific Dunes [18] 5 Baltusrol (Lower) [41]
Bandon Dunes [37] 6 Oakmont C.C. [6]
Whistling Straits (Straits) [22] 7 Inverness [69]
The Ocean Course [20] 8 Aronimink [90]
Spyglass Hill [48] 9 Crooked Stick [93]
Arcadia Bluffs [65] 10 Hazeltine National [86]




Resistance to Scoring vs. Memorability (Correlation: .5062)
Hazeltine National [86] 1 Cypress Point [3]
Butler National [46] 2 Fishers Island [10]
Aronimink [90] 3 Maidstone Club [98]
Winged Foot (West) [9] 4 National Golf Links of America [8]
Oak Tree National [51] 5 Pebble Beach [7]
French Lick (Dye) [96] 6 Shoreacres [99]
Olympia Fields (North) [66] 7 Valley Club of Montecito [83]
Baltusrol (Lower) [41] 8 Monterey Peninsula (Shore) [67]
Bethpage Black [43] 9 Augusta National [1]
Inverness [69] 10 Camargo Club [52]

Resistance to Scoring vs. Conditioning (Correlation: .3862)
Bethpage Black [43] 1 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]
TPC Sawgrass (Players) [47] 2 Double Eagle [76]
Spyglass Hill [48] 3 Shoreacres [99]
The Ocean Course [20] 4 Camargo Club [52]
Winged Foot (West) [9] 5 Canyata [60]
Oak Tree National [51] 6 Kinloch [56]
Medinah No. 3 [39] 7 Diamond Creek Golf Club [94]
Whistling Straits (Straits) [22] 8 The Alotian Club [27]
Victoria National [45] 9 The Estancia Club [70]
The Olympic Club (Lake) [33] 10 Interlachen [57]

Resistance to Scoring vs. Ambience (Correlation: .3923)
Bethpage Black [43] 1 Valley Club of Montecito [83]
Oak Tree National [51] 2 Cypress Point [3]
French Lick (Dye) [96] 3 Maidstone Club [98]
Victoria National [45] 4 Shoreacres [99]
Pikewood National [44] 5 Fishers Island [10]
Spyglass Hill [48] 6 National Golf Links of America [8]
Hazeltine National [86] 7 Garden City [49]
Pete Dye Golf Club [53] 8 San Francisco [35]
Butler National [46] 9 Interlachen [57]
The Ocean Course [20] 10 The Country Club [19]

Conditioning vs. Ambience (Correlation: .5653)
The Quarry at La Quinta [77] 1 Fishers Island [10]
Double Eagle [76] 2 Maidstone Club [98]
Canyata [60] 3 The Country Club [19]
Pikewood National [44] 4 Pebble Beach [7]
French Lick (Dye) [96] 5 Pacific Dunes [18]
Diamond Creek Golf Club [94] 6 Bandon Dunes [37]
Eagle Point [89] 7 Cypress Point [3]
Mountaintop [78] 8 Valley Club of Montecito [83]
Butler National [46] 9 Yeamans Hall [64]
Dallas National [61] 10 Merion (East) [5]


Shot Values vs. Conditioning (Correlation: .5090)
Bethpage Black [43] 1 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]
Pebble Beach [7] 2 Double Eagle [76]
Medinah No. 3 [39] 3 Diamond Creek Golf Club [94]
TPC Sawgrass (Players) [47] 4 Canyata [60]
Fishers Island [10] 5 The Alotian Club [27]
Pacific Dunes [18] 6 Eagle Point [89]
Whistling Straits (Straits) [22] 7 Kinloch [56]
Merion (East) [5] 8 The Preserve [87]
Spyglass Hill [48] 9 Flint Hills [85]
Ballyneal [54] 10 Baltusrol (Upper) [58]

Memorability vs. Conditioning (Correlation: .4146)
Pebble Beach [7] 1 Double Eagle [76]
Fishers Island [10] 2 Eagle Point [89]
Cypress Point [3] 3 Diamond Creek Golf Club [94]
Maidstone Club [98] 4 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]
TPC Sawgrass (Players) [47] 5 Aronimink [90]
Pacific Dunes [18] 6 Baltusrol (Upper) [58]
Bandon Dunes [37] 7 Baltusrol (Lower) [41]
Whistling Straits (Straits) [22] 8 Butler National [46]
Bethpage Black [43] 9 Canyata [60]
Pine Valley [2] 10 Kinloch [56]

Resistance to Scoring + Conditioning

vs.All Other Categories (Correlation: .66)
Butler National [46]1Fishers Island [10]
French Lick (Dye) [96]2Cypress Point [3]
Hazeltine National [86]3Maidstone Club [98]
Baltusrol (Lower) [41]4Pebble Beach [7]
Double Eagle [76]5National Golf Links of America [8]
Pikewood National [44]6Pacific Dunes [18]
Aronimink [90]7Bandon Dunes [37]
Eagle Point [89]8Valley Club of Montecito [83]
Oak Tree National [51]9Somerset Hills [73]
Diamond Creek Golf Club [94]10Ballyneal [54]


There are 24 courses on the Golf Digest list that are not on Golf Magazine's Top 100 list:

27 The Alotian Club
40 Castle Pines
44 Pikewood National
45 Victoria National
46 Butler National
51 Oak Tree National
53 Pete Dye Golf Club
56 Kinloch
60 Canyata
61 Dallas National
63 The Club at Black Rock
65 Arcadia Bluffs
70 The Estancia Club
77 The Quarry at La Quinta
78 Mountaintop
81 Rich Harvest Links
85 Flint Hills
87 The Preserve
89 Eagle Point
92 Laurel Valley
94 Diamond Creek Golf Club
95 Hudson National
96 French Lick (Dye)
97 Valhalla

And, of course, 24 courses on the Golf Magazine list but not on the Golf Digest list:
42 Harbour Town
53 Pasatiempo
55 Nanea
57 Newport
58 Cal Club
62 Streamsong Blue
63 East Lake
64 Chambers Bay
70 Yale
72 Forest Dunes
73 Piping Rock
78 Eastward Ho!
79 Trump Bedminster (Old)
83 Bel-Air
84 Ridgewood
86 Colonial
87 Desert Forest
88 Fox Chapel
90 Myopia Hunt
94 Baltimore (Five Farms)
95 CC of Fairfield
97 Bellerive
98 Torrey Pines (South)
99 Caves Valley

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