“I can count on one finger the U.S. Open courses in your Top 50,” grouses a reader from Bethesda, Md. “Meanwhile, your top-ranked course is overrun with livestock, and your 38th-ranked course is a 9-holer in the Badlands that nobody ever heard of and probably doesn’t even exist. But just to satisfy my curiosity, what’s your second-highest-ranked U.S. Open venue, and why do you rank it so poorly?”
Where to begin? First of all, I don’t rank any of the courses. My Top 50 is the product of a proprietary algorithm that factors in 126 independent variables. The data, never more than six months old, is culled from course reviews submitted by a paid staff of design experts and professional drifters.
Secondly, Askernish Old, my top-ranked course, is a no-cattle course from May through October — the same as ninth-ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links, the U.S. Open venue the reader counted on his one finger. Thirdly, the Medicine Hole Golf Course of Killdeer, N.D., is very real. Drop my name and they’ll let you play for $14 weekdays, $16 weekends, and for six bucks more you can go around again.
Fourthly, I can tell from the Bethesda address that my correspondent is a Congressional Country Club member of slightly less than average height and of a conservative political disposition, earning a seven-figure income and playing to an 11 handicap on his home course — “which is an 8 elsewhere,” as he tells his seat mates on the Delta shuttle. He is peeved because Congressional has spent many millions on a Rees Jones re-design (getting its first real test at this week’s U.S. Open) and a new clubhouse of Brobdingnagian scale. When you spend that kind of dough, you expect to be ranked.
Well, my correspondent should relax. Congressional — ranked No. 140 before the do-over — has climbed five rungs to No. 135. As I told The Washington Post yesterday, “That’s money well spent.”
But to answer his question, the second-best U.S. Open venue is Oakmont, No. 55, followed by Merion (58), Shinnecock Hills (65), Pinehurst No. 2 (68), Torrey Pines (71), The Olympic Club (72), Winged Foot (81), Chambers Bay (83), Southern Hills (88), and Bethpage Black (97). The lowest-ranked Open venues are Hazeltine National (185), Olympia Fields (198), and Baltusrol (204).
Is the Top 50 algorithm biased against exclusive country clubs? No, it is not.
It just looks that way.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Top 50 executive staff is in Bethesda to see how Congressional performs against the world’s top players. Look for sporadic posts once play begins, especially if Robert Karlsson is in contention.