Vermont isn’t exactly stacked with golf courses, with fewer than 100 courses in the whole state. Florida has more than 1,200, by way of comparison.
But that doesn’t mean the golf scene in the Green Mountain State – better known for snow skiing – isn’t worth a closer look.
Golfweek ranks courses by compiling the average ratings – on a points basis of 1 to 10 – of its more than 750 raters to create several industry-leading lists of courses, including the popular Best Courses You Can Play list for courses that allow non-member tee times. These generally are defined as courses accessible to resort guests or regular daily-fee players.
Jay Peak is No. 1 on that public-access list for Vermont. Designed by Graham Cooke and opened in 2006, the course is based at a resort that is a popular four-season destination not far from the Canadian border – skiing takes center stage in the winter.
Formerly known as Stowe Mountain Club, Spruce Peak offers incredible views. (Photo courtesy Spruce Peak)
Farther south in the state is the Mountain Course at Spruce Peak, formerly known as Stowe Mountain Club. Designed by Bob Cupp, it is No. 2 on the Best Courses You Can Play list. Rutland Country Club, Okemo Valley and the Golf Club at Equinox round out the top 5 for public access in Vermont.
This year Golfweek compared the elite public-access golf in each state. We averaged the ratings of the top five courses in each state to determine which states were the strongest. Oregon was No. 1 on that list based on the strength of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s four courses, and Vermont comes in at No. 37 on that list – not bad for a state with one of the lowest populations in the country.
Golfweek also creates a list of the top private clubs in each state. Ekwanok Country Club – designed by Designed by Walter J. Travis and John Duncan Dunn and opened in 1900 in Manchester – is tops on that list.
Each spring, we publish the three lists that are the foundation of our course-ratings program: Golfweek’s Best 2020: Top 200 Classic Courses, Golfweek’s Best 2020: Top 200 Modern Courses and Golfweek’s Best 2020: Best Courses You Can Play.
Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2020 in Vermont
East Creek rolls through Rutland CC, which ranks No. 3 on our Best Courses You Can Play in Vermont list. (Photo courtesy Rutland CC)
Jay Peak, Jay (m)
Mountain Course at Spruce Peak, Stowe (m)
Rutland CC, Rutland (c)
Okemo Valley, Ludlow (m)
The Golf Club at Equinox, Manchester (c)
The 17th hole at Okemo Valley, which ranks No. 4 on our Best Courses You Can Play in Vermont list. (Photo courtesy Okemo Valley)
Golfweek’s Best Private Courses 2020 in Vermont
Ekwanok Country Club, Manchester (c)
CC of Vermont, Waterbury Center (m)
Burlington CC, Burlington (c)
Quechee Club (Highland), Quechee (m)
Vermont National, Burlington (m)
* New or returning to the list; c: Classic, built before 1960. m: Modern, built in 1960 or after
Golfweek’s Best 2020
Top 100 Best Courses You Can Play
Best Courses You Can Play, state by state
Top 200 Modern Courses
Top 200 Classic Courses
Best Private Courses, state by state
How we rate them
The members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on our 10 criteria. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings on each course are averaged together to produce a final rating for each course. Then each course is ranked against other courses in its state, or nationally, to produce the final rankings.
Annika Sorenstam plays nine holes with her family of four at least once a week. The number of holes 11-year-old Ava actually plays (...)
Annika Sorenstam plays nine holes with her family of four at least once a week. The number of holes 11-year-old Ava actually plays varies. Sorenstam, Ava’s partner in these outings, doesn’t push. She might instead ask Ava how many cartwheels she can do down the fairway or how many bunnies and lizards she can spot.
Son Will, on the other hand, takes the game seriously, practicing every day and using part of his lunch break during virtual school to play the 16th hole at Lake Nona.
“I can watch him from my office window,” said Annika, as she turned to look in that direction during a recent Zoom call.
Will, 9, knows his mom ranks among the greatest female athletes in any sport because he’s read about her in books and peppers her with questions. Like his mother, he is obsessed with stats.
“Mom, what’s the longest drive you ever hit?”
“What’s the toughest bunker shot you ever hit?”
“Have you missed short putts?”
Sorenstam turns 50 on Oct. 9, and these precious, everyday moments are a big reason she walked away from full-time competitive golf nearly a dozen years ago. Listening to Sorenstam talk about the life she has built with husband Mike McGee, there’s a sense of gratitude and fullness and not one hint of regret.
“I don’t take things for granted anymore,” said Sorenstam. “Mike and I, we live in the moment.”
An unparalleled career
Sorenstam retired from the LPGA after the 2008 season with 72 LPGA titles and 10 major championships. The eight-time LPGA Player of the Year remains the only woman in history to shoot 59, and she took her fame to another level at Colonial when she became the first woman to compete on the PGA Tour since 1945.
Now that she’s 50, Sorenstam is eligible for next summer’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut. Laura Davies and Helen Alfredsson won the first two editions. While Sorenstam didn’t commit to competing in 2021, she did say that she has looked at next year’s schedule.
The woman who took fitness on the LPGA to a new level still keeps in good shape (run, bike, swim), but she’s not in competitive golf shape. Not six days in a row kind of ready. She’d need to play in some warm-up events, perhaps on the Legends Tour.
“You know how I am,” she said, “once I make a decision, I will put all the pieces together.”
When asked if she’d consider teeing it up in an LPGA event to get ready, Sorenstam noted that many of the players are half her age now – or even younger.
Photo courtesy Mike McGee.
Anne van Dam, a rising talent in her second year on the LPGA, spent quite a bit of time around Sorenstam and her family during the LPGA’s break from competition. She’d gone over to the house to play volleyball on one occasion when it was driving rain.
“We waited for like five minutes as it poured and she goes, should we go out and play?” said van Dam. “Everyone looked at each other like (is she) serious? Of course, we all went out and it was really fun. That’s just her, very competitive.”
Team builds a brand
McGee has been with Sorenstam every step of the way as she has developed the ANNIKA brand. Not every endeavor has worked, but Sorenstam has learned not to second-guess herself. She’s always had a genuine brand, McGee says, but it’s moved beyond the functional side of world-class stats and resume to the emotional side – how she makes people feel.
As a wife, mom and businesswoman, Sorenstam has never been more relatable. As her husband says, she’s gone from the stoic Swede with glasses on who would step on throats to a loving mom and encouraging mentor.
Annika Sorenstam sits with her husband, Mike McGee, daughter Ava and son Will.
Her efforts to grow the game through worldwide junior events that create opportunities for the next generation of players had her traveling more than 70,000 miles last year for the ANNIKA Foundation. If coaches, parents or players want to ask questions, Sorenstam is there with answers.
In 2019, more than 600 girls from 60-plus countries competed in seven events across five continents. There are 146 players competing on the Symetra Tour who have played in Sorenstam’s events and more than 60 players have status on the LPGA. In 2021, the eight-time Solheim Cup player and 2017 captain will lead Team Europe at the Junior Solheim Cup in Toledo, Ohio. Renee Powell will captain the Americans.
“I enjoy being able to give back a little piece,” said Sorenstam, “whether it’s the knowledge, the stories, the memories or just listening.”
Former No. 1 Stacy Lewis never played against Sorenstam but appreciates the way she has stayed in the game, annually handing out awards that bear her name to the best female in college golf as well as the ANNIKA Major Award on the LPGA. Maria Fassi, Danielle Kang, Virginia Elena Carta and Andrea Lee are among the players who call on Sorenstam for advice.
“It’s important that our legends, our great players, stay involved in what we’re doing,” said Lewis.
It was at the ANA Inspiration some years back, when Sorenstam was doing some TV work, that 2-year-old Ava got a really serious look on her face while having lunch in player dining. She leaned forward and asked, “Why is everybody staring at Mommy?”
“That’s when she realized it’s a little bit different,” said McGee, laughing.
Ava has expressed a desire to try out for cheerleading, much to everyone’s surprise. The family will support that, of course, but McGee hopes that their nine-hole outings will bring her back to golf someday. If not, that’s OK too.
Meanwhile, Will is busy memorizing the stats of Rory McIlroy and Maverick McNealy. He wants to meet Justin Thomas when fans are allowed back at PGA Tour events.
The trophy case of Annika Sorenstam, who is turning 50 on Oct. 9, is something to behold. (Photo courtesy Mike McGee)
Time to enjoy
Sorenstam views autographs and a warm smile from professional athletes from a different perspective these days. As a player, she’d sign an autograph and move on, not giving it much thought.
“They put the signed hat next to their beds,” she said, thinking about her own son. “Wow, it’s real! Do you know what I mean? … You see it.”
So much has changed for Sorenstam since she left the LPGA with a list of accomplishments that might not ever be topped. Sorenstam keeps her trophies and memorabilia in a massive floor-to-ceiling glass case near her office in the family’s newly renovated home. With another USGA title now on the table, fans can’t help but hope that there’s room for more.
“I’m proud of stepping away and being able to have another chapter in my life,” said Sorenstam. “This is extremely rewarding and loving and satisfying, as a mother and wife.
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The big question with one round to go in the Zozo Championship, this week’s PGA Tour stop at Accordia Golf Narashino located just east of Tokyo, is whether anyone can catch Hideki Matsuyama, easily the local favorite among the cordial Japanese crowds.
Matsuyama has maintained a slim lead through the past two rounds but doesn’t seem to be all that pleased with his game, which earlier this week he called a 1 out of 10.
There’s no cut in the limited-field Zozo, so it’s a crowded weekend tee sheet. For those who didn’t catch the overnight action from the third round, we’re here to catch you up on where things stand heading into Sunday.
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