Teeing off

Forty-eight avid golfers pick their favorite courses

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The Cascades Course at The Omni Homestead Resort
in Hot Springs topped the ratings panel’s initial list.

In the mid-1990s, the golf industry was booming, and new courses seemed to pop up each spring just as the dogwoods bloomed. As the game’s popularity grew, so did the prevalence of golf course rankings.

Bill Hensley, a veteran public relations executive in North Carolina, grew weary of seeing national publications find a handful of folks to rank the state’s best courses — he didn’t think so few voters brought credibility to the process. So he started his own ratings group.

The North Carolina Golf Panel, founded in 1995, included about 35 “friends of Bill” who knew golf and had played extensively statewide. Four years later, when I moved back to my native North Carolina from Newport News, where I’d worked in the sports department at the Daily Press for nearly five years, I was asked to join.

Today, I’m in my 17th year of serving as the panel’s executive director, and while the golf industry may no longer be booming, our organization is. I’m proud that our annual North Carolina rankings are highly anticipated and valued, and that they help promote a game that our more than 180 members love dearly.

Last spring I was having lunch with a friend who’s played golf all over the world. We were talking about Virginia — we share a fondness for the commonwealth — and he said, “Virginia’s got some great, great courses. Why don’t you start a ratings group there?”

From that conversation grew what you see on these pages: the top 50 courses in Virginia as voted on by the 48 initial members of the Virginia Golf Ratings Panel. These are men and women — business executives, top amateurs, college coaches, media members, etc. — who, while their handicaps vary, share a passion for golf and an appreciation for course design. Each member also maintains his or her primary residence in Virginia.

Panelists were asked to consider a number of factors — variety in design, routing, strategy, fairness, shot values, memorability and aesthetics — in determining their individual rankings. Of course, they could vote only for courses they’ve played (and there are more than 300 courses in the commonwealth).

From their ballots, the top 50 were determined by a blended scoring system that, first, averaged a course’s ranking per number of panelists who had played it and, second, rewarded total points received (the higher the ranking the greater the number of total points).

Our ratings are far from an exact science, in process and results. The Virginia Golf Ratings Panel’s mission is to provide rankings that a broad spectrum of golfers can appreciate and to promote what we believe is a great game. If our findings stimulate conversation and stir debate, then we will have succeeded. Enjoy!  

Kevin Brafford is executive director of the Virginia Golf Ratings Panel,


The Virginia Golf Ratings Panel’s Top 50 Courses

1 The Omni Homestead (Cascades) Hot Springs 70 6,667
2 Kinloch Golf Club Manakin-Sabot 72 7,203
3 The Virginian Golf Club Bristol 72 7,025
4 Spring Creek Golf Club Gordonsville 72 7,389
5 The Olde Farm Bristol 70 7,119
6 Robert Trent Jones Golf Club Gainesville 72 7,445
7 Farmington Country Club (North-South) Charlottesville 70 6,766
8 The Highland Course at Primland Meadows of Dan 72 7,053
9 The Country Club of Virginia (James River) Richmond 72 7,025
10 Keswick Hall & Golf Club Keswick 72 7,134
11 The Federal Club Glen Allen 72 7,073
12 Ballyhack Golf Club Roanoke 72 7,294
13 Trump National Golf Club (Championship) Potomac Falls 72 7,693
14 Bay Creek Resort and Club (Palmer) Cape Charles 72 7,250
15 Kingsmill Resort (River) Williamsburg 71 6,831
16 The Club at Creighton Farms Aldie 72 7,410
17 Golden Horseshoe Golf Club (Gold) Williamsburg 71 6,817
18 Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech Radford 72 7,685
19 Hermitage Country Club (Sabot) Manakin-Sabot 72 7,048
20 Army Navy Country Club (Arlington) Arlington 71 6,640
21 River Bend Golf & Country Club Great Falls 71 6,917
22 Wintergreen Resort (Stoney Creek) Nellysford 72 7,158
23 Two Rivers Country Club Williamsburg 72 6,911
24 Independence Golf Club Midlothian 72 7,135
25 Bay Creek Resort and Club (Nicklaus) Cape Charles 72 7,417
26 The Foundry Golf Club Powhatan 72 6,901
27 Bayville Golf Club Virginia Beach 72 7,138
28 Hermitage Country Club (Manakin) Manakin-Sabot 72 6,955
29 Birdwood Golf Course Charlottesville 72 6,920
30 Boonsboro Country Club Lynchburg 72 6,428
31 Army Navy Country Club (Fairfax) Fairfax 72 6,644
32 Glenmore Country Club Keswick 72 6,951
33 The Country Club of Virginia (Westhampton) Richmond 70 6,214
34 Trump National Golf Club (Riverview) Potomac Falls 72 7,234
35 Jefferson Lakeside Country Club Richmond 71 6,272
36 The Dominion Club Glen Allen 72 7,229
37 Golden Eagle Golf Club at the Tides Inn Irvington 72 7,025
38 The Tradition Golf Club at Royal New Kent Providence Forge 72 7,480
39 Mattaponi Springs Golf Club Ruther Glen 72 6,937
40 Princess Anne Country Club Virginia Beach 70 6,042
41 James River Country Club Newport News 70 6,598
42 Roanoke Country Club Roanoke 71 6,504
43 Belle Haven Country Club Alexandria 72 6,965
44 Williamsburg National Golf Club (Jamestown) Williamsburg 72 6,953
45 Poplar Grove Golf Club Amherst 72 7,059
46 Wintergreen Resort (Devil's Knob) Nellysford 70 6,712
47 Golden Horseshoe Golf Club (Green) Williamsburg 72 7,120
48 Winchester Country Club Winchester 70 6,367
49 The Omni Homestead (Old Course) Hot Springs 72 6,099
50 Laurel Hill Golf Club Lorton 71 7,010


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