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Pebble Beach named top US course

For the first time since Golf Digest began numeric rankings of America's best golf courses in 1985, the private club in New Jersey was replaced at No. 1, with Pebble Beach Golf Links taking the top spot in the magazine's biennial survey.

``You always want to be the best at whatever you do,'' Bill Perocchi, chief executive officer of Pebble Beach Company, said Wednesday. ``One of our goals is to retain the No. 1 spot and continue to look for ways to improve the golf course.''

Pine Valley had held the top spot since 1985, but a new par-3 fifth hole designed by Jack Nicklaus and a revision in the survey's scoring system helped boost the famous seaside course on the Monterey Peninsula to the head of the ranking.

Augusta National Golf Club was third. The list is available in the magazine's May issue.

Pebble Beach is a public course, although it's not cheap - $375 including a cart, reduced to $350 for resort guests.

Pebble Beach has held four U.S. Open championships, including last year when Tiger Woods shattered scoring records with his 15-stroke victory. Nicklaus, who won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble in 1961 and the U.S. Open in 1972, has called it his favourite course in the world.

``Pine Valley did nothing wrong to drop from the top spot,'' said Ron Whitten, the architecture editor at Golf Digest. ``Pebble Beach improved its position in the conditioning category as it was groomed for last year's U.S. Open, and it impressed our panelists with its ambiance''

Whitten said the margin between Pebble Beach and Pine Valley was so small that another change in position could easily occur when the next list comes out in 2003.

``We've had a long run at No. 1, so the course has stood the test of time,'' said Charlie Rautenbush, head pro at Pine Valley. ``It's a big deal to a lot of people to say it's the No. 1 course in their neighborhood, but we're not going to change anything we do.''

Lee Westwood at Pebble Beach during the 2000 US Open. Allsport.
Golf Digest's course evaluation panel is comprised of more than 800 men and women from every state, professional or low-handicap amateurs who play the courses at their own expense and judge them on shot values, resistance to scoring, playability, memorability, aesthetics and conditions.

Bonus points can be awarded for walkability and tradition.

More than 400 courses were considered for the list.

Rounding out the top 10 were Cypress Point; Oakmont; Shinnecock Hills; Merion (East); Winged Foot (West); Pinehurst No. 2; and Oakland Hills.

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