NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Go ahead and tell Dave Genevro which of the four courses at Barefoot Resort and Golf is your favorite. Like the proud father of a big family, the Grand Strand resort’s longtime general manager is happy to hear all those good reasons and isn’t too caught up in the batting order of personal choice.
He’s heard it all before. His common refrain when a player says, “The Dye (or Love, or Fazio, or Norman) Course was my favorite,” is to nod, smile and say, “We hear that a lot.”
He used that line several times upon meeting 16 Golfweek’s Best course raters who recently visited the property to play each of the courses over four days. And each of the four was mentioned at some point by at least several raters as their personal favorite to play again, regardless of variations in design.
And that gets to the heart of the Golfweek’s Best rater program.
Golfweek compiles several industry-leading lists of course rankings, ranging from the ever-popular Best Courses You Can Play list for top public-access tracks in each state, all the way to the Best Private Courses list. The Best Modern and Classic lists are the apex of the rankings. There are the Residential Courses rankings for layouts in real estate developments, Best Casino Courses list, Best Campus Courses, Best in the Caribbean and Mexico. The rankings go on and on.
And they all are derived from a massive database of course ratings done by nearly 800 Golfweek’s Best raters.
Each course is rated in 10 categories – examples include memorability of par 4s to the Walk in the Park Test, which measures how much the player enjoyed the atmosphere and setting of the course itself. Each rater then submits a total score for each course on a points basis of 1 to 10. Those final ratings are averaged to compare any given course to another, forming the basis of the Golfweek’s Best Rankings.
There is just a handful of courses in the database that break into the 9-point plane – think Pine Valley or Augusta National. A few dozen others average above an 8, and these are dream destinations that plenty of golfers would gladly catch a cross-country flight to experience. For example, famed Pebble Beach in California is an 8.78 and is the highest-rated public-access track in the database.
Back at Barefoot in North Myrtle Beach, the Dye Course was the top-rated 18 at the resort on the 2020 Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list, coming in at No. 12 in a crowded field of great courses in the Palmetto State. The Ocean Course – host to next year’s PGA Championship – at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is No. 1 on that state list.
The other three Barefoot courses didn’t crack the top 15 for the state, but that easily could change because, after four days of rater play, the players weren’t sure the Dye was even the best at the resort. And that’s not a knock on the Dye. It’s simply praise for the other three.
The Dye Course, laid out by famed designer Pete Dye who passed away early in 2020, sits on a relatively open piece of land and is typical of many Dye designs. Penal bunkers, mounding, architectural sleights of hand and obscured green complexes await. Putting surfaces sometimes are framed by bunkers that are not in any normal way in play. Some people love it. Others, not as much.
Several raters raved about the Dye Course. One higher-handicap player said, “It’s all too hard, and it’s all too much.” And at Barefoot, that’s perfect. Don’t love Pete Dye’s style, which is famed for challenging golfers of every level all the way to tour stars? There are other options.
Barefoot’s Davis Love III layout was lauded by some raters as much more playable – generally defined as losing fewer golf balls, allowing a player to more easily discern the best route to the hole with fewer approach shots repelling off the greens. The Love Course is plenty challenging, but without as many of the in-your-face obstacles of the Dye Course. A brick wall that recreates the feel of a plantation was incorporated into the design of several holes, and the course offers plenty of eye-grabbing holes with Lowcountry flare.
The resort’s Tom Fazio layout presents yet another flavor, playing through rolling, secluded terrain that calls to mind many of the classic courses of the Carolina Sandhills. This layout might have the best greens complexes on the property.
The Greg Norman-designed course on property is yet another option. With large waste areas and several holes along the Intracoastal Waterway, this track might have the best par 3 on the property, the 203-yard, downhill 10th with the Intracoastal as a backdrop and in play to the right. With houses and condos alongside fairways at times, this is less secluded than the other layouts at the resort.
At the end of the rater event, each of these four layouts was chosen by at least one player as their favorite, based on strength in one of the 10 rating categories. That’s why Genevro’s response that he has heard players mention each of the four courses as a favorite is perfect.
And it gets to the strength of the Golfweek’s Best rater program. Instead of relying on the opinions of a few panelists with likeminded intent in developing a systemic rating program, Golfweek’s Best incorporates data points from a vast array of players. Golfweek also employs a team of well-traveled panelists to help educate raters so they might better understand what they are seeing on the ground.
At the retreat were scratch players, mid-handicap golfers over the age of 70 who seem to have seen it all, and female players of various ranges of golfing ability who frequently offer a different point of view than male golfers.
The strength of the program comes from that mix of opinions. If Golfweek’s Best used only the opinions of low-handicap men, then the courses selected might appeal only to men of like handicaps. Such a setup would narrow the breadth of coverage. By averaging various opinions from a broader field of raters, the Golfweek’s Best rankings are well positioned to appeal to more players.
One other thing is certain: Don’t be surprised to see Barefoot add a course or two to next year’s Best Courses You Can Play list for South Carolina – Love Course, we’re looking at you in particular as a possibility for inclusion. Again and again at Barefoot, the raters generally liked what they saw, even if they didn’t agree about what they liked most.
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