Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2020: Iowa

Zach Johnson became famous for winning the 2007 Masters and 2015 British Open. His humility after his major victories added to his charm.

“I’m Zach Johnson and I’m from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” Johnson said after earning a green jacket in 2007. “That’s about it. I’m a normal guy.”

Clearly, on the golf course, the Drake University grad – the school is in Des Moines, Iowa – is clearly anything but “normal.” But that Midwestern modesty produces a sensible appeal that has attracted many fans.

The same applies to many of the golf courses in the Hawkeye State. They’re not always the marquee billing on lists of best courses in the United States, but they’re good, solid fun that packs a lot of punch for a state with just over 400 courses. The Golfweek’s Best rankings for the state are full of examples of courses more than worthy of a day on the links, including several with national bona fides.

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.

Spirit Hollow in Burlington embodies that sense of fun and hospitality of Iowa golf while still managing to top the Best Courses You Can Play list for Iowa. Built by Rick Jacobsen and opened in 2000, Spirit Hollow employs bold terrain and elevation changes but promises a casual experience – the course’s TopTracer Range-equipped learning center is named Shankopotamus Golf Academy, for example.

Blue Top Ridge, designed by Rees Jones, in Riverside, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Blue Top Ridge

The top five Best Courses You Can Play in Iowa are rounded out by Blue Top Ridge in Riverside, the Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City, Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort in Larchwood and Amana Colonies.

On the private-golf side of things, Iowa gets even more interesting with several classic layouts and a handful of modern challenges. Golfweek’s Best rating program breaks out the best private courses state by state, much like the Best Courses You Can Play list does for public-access courses.

Cedar Rapids Country Club is No. 1 on that private list in Iowa. Built by famed designer Donald Ross in 1915, Cedar Rapids also ranks No. 80 in the U.S. for all Classic Courses built before 1960. Davenport Country Club in Pleasant Valley is No. 2 on that private list for Iowa, offering a 1924 layout by designers Harry S. Colt and Charles H. Alison that is ranked No. 89 on Golfweek’s Best list for Classic Courses in the U.S.

No. 3 on the private list is Harvester Club in Rhodes, once a public facility that was renovated by original designer Keith Foster in 2018 and that has become the top-ranked modern private club in the state. As ratings continue to come in evaluating the layout since its renovation, don’t be surprised to see Harvester Club break into Golfweek’s Best top 100 or 200 Modern Courses in the years to come.

And in keeping with that theme of Midwestern sensibilities, the Harvester Club is a relatively wide-open course that doesn’t use tee times – members can just relax and play when they want. Simplicity at its finest, just like much of Iowa’s golf scene.

Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2020 in Iowa

1. Spirit Hollow

Burlington (m)

2. Blue Top Ridge

Riverside (m)

3. *Tournament Club of Iowa

Polk City (m)

4. Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort

Larchwood (m)

5. Amana Colonies

Amana (m)

(m): modern; (c): classic
* New or returning to the list

Golfweek’s Best Private Courses 2020 in Iowa

1. Cedar Rapids CC

Cedar Rapids (No. 80 c)

2. Davenport

Pleasant Valley (No. 89 c)

3. Harvester

Rhodes (m)

4. Wakonda Club

Des Moines (c)

5. *Des Moines G&CC (North)

West Des Moines (m)

(m): modern; (c): classic
* New or returning to the list

Golfweek’s Best Top 30 Casino Courses

The rankings below reflect where these courses fall among the top 50 Casino Courses in the United States.

11. Spirit Hollow, 6.30

Burlington, Iowa; Rick Jacobson; 2000

T-27. Blue Top Ridge, 5.81

Riverside, Iowa; Rees Jones; 2007

Golfweek’s Best 2020

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.

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