Zagat Survey Releases 2006/7 Guide To America’s Top Golf Courses

Whistling Straits (WI) Ousts Bandon Dunes (OR) as America’s ‘Best Course’ Pebble Beach (CA) Remains Nation’s “Most Popular” Golf Course for Fourth Year

Greens Fees Range from $20 at Buffalo Dunes (KS) to $500 at Shadow Creek (NV) 54% of Golfers Say They Would Pay $200+ to play a top ranked/famous course Surveyors Spent an Average of Nearly $750 on Golf Equipment Last Year Alone

NEW YORK, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ — Zagat Survey, the world’s leading provider of consumer survey-based leisure content, today released its 2006/7 guide to America’s Top Golf Courses. The guide contains ratings and reviews for 1,095 of the best golf courses across the country. It is based on the experiences of 6,000 avid golfers who played more than a half a million rounds of golf in the last twelve months alone. And in addition to ratings, rankings and reviews, the survey also includes golf travel tips and a variety of interesting facts about America’s golfers and golf courses.

“Baseball better watch out,” says Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey. “Our findings clearly show that golf is on the way to becoming the new national pastime.”

Lots of Green: Whether it’s golf vacations, lessons, new equipment or greens fees, survey respondents are spending more time and money on their favorite hobby than ever before. For example, 71% of surveyors expect to take one to three golf-specific vacations in the next year and 15% intend to take four or more. These vacations generally last an average of 4.3 days, but 17% of surveyors say their golf vacations are usually six to seven days long. Over two-thirds of surveyors make a special point of scheduling their business trips so they can specifically play on a top ranked/famous course.

And top courses don’t come cheap: A good many, including Boulders (AZ), Greenbriers (WV) and Pinehurst (NC) are over $200 per round, and Steve Wynn’s Shadow Creek (NV) costs a whopping $500 for 18 holes. But those prices don’t stop avid golfers — 54% say they would pay at least $200 to test the greens at a top golf course and 23% say they’d pay $300 dollars or more. [The average greens fee surveyors paid this past year was about $110 per round.] And Zagat’s golf surveyors aren’t just paying to play, the average surveyor spent nearly $750 dollars on golf equipment in the last year and 50% also paid for golf lessons.

Lots of Changes: With more beautiful and challenging courses being built daily and “old faithfuls” getting regular upgrades, it’s easy to see why golfers are so passionate. Venerable properties like Grayhawk (AZ), Kapalua (HI) and Walt Disney World (FL) tore up their Pro Tour greens and added innovative new grasses. And May River (SC), Fazio Foothills (TX) and Champ (FL) have all gone purist, requiring caddie accompaniment to help keep the “good walk unspoiled.”

When it comes to ratings and rankings, there’s a good deal of change at the top in the 2006/7 guide. For example, Whistling Straits (WI) scored a perfect 30 rating (on Zagat’s 0-30 scale), jumping six spots to unseat Bandon Dunes (OR) from the top of the leaderboard for “Best Course.” And while Pebble Beach (CA) remains the “Most Popular” course for the fourth year in a row, Kapalua (HI) and Spanish Bay (CA) both leapfrogged over Montauk Downs (NY) and Kiawah Island (SC) to make their way into the top five. As for other features, Riverdale Dunes (CO) was rated the best “Budget” ($40 and under) course, TPC Sawgrass (FL) was deemed the most “Environmentally Friendly” and the best “Instruction” was found at Westin Innisbrook (FL). Other rated categories include, best 19th Hole, best Practice Facilities, best Pro Shops, most Scenic, best Expense Account, Junior Friendly and Walking Only.

Zagat’s guide to America’s Top Golf Courses rates every course on a series of variables including course, facilities, services, value and price. In addition, it informs readers whether courses are carts only, make caddies available, have restricted tee times or are guest only facilities. And finally, the guide makes sure golfers are aware of a course’s yardage, USGA rating and slope.

“Whether you’re planning a golf trip or looking for links near home, whether you shoot in the seventies or the nineties and whether you’re playing on a budget or the company expense account, the 2006/07 guide has the everything a golfer needs to find the perfect course,” said Nina Zagat, co-founder of Zagat Survey.

About Zagat Survey, LLC

Zagat Survey is the world’s leading provider of consumer survey-based leisure content. With more than 250,000 surveyors, Zagat Survey rates and reviews restaurants, hotels, nightlife, movies, music, golf, shopping and a range of other entertainment categories. Zagat content is available in print, on the Web, on the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems, on mobile phones, and on TV. For more information, visit http://zagat.com/.

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