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College football rankings easy to apply to golf destinations

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Fuzzy math and the little black boxes reign supreme. Logic and head-to-head playoffs need not apply. The Bowl Championship Series ranking system has become the bane of college football's existence since its implementation in 1998.

Purists argue that teams should settle the question of who's number one on the field, preferably as part of some abbreviated playoff system pitting one major bowl winner against another. Traditionalists lament the passing of the good ole bowl system that relied on a whole lot of voter subjectivity but was devoid of computer chicanery.

Now we have some mortifying combination of these two mindsets and we are stuck with it until the 2005-06 season.

So given lemons, let's make some lemonade. It is nothing, if not American, to apply a system that doesn't work to another aspect of life (or something like it). So why not apply the BCS system to the realm of golf destinations?

After all, it's not like Myrtle Beach is ever going to meet Palm Springs in the Fiesta Bowl. Nor is it likely that Pinehurst will play Hilton Head in the championship game if one destination has one loss (since they both play in the same conference, silly).

The top five BCS golf destinations

1. Myrtle Beach, S.C. - The Grand Strand unabashedly proclaims that it is the "Golfing Capital" of the world, and self aggrandizement has to count for something with the voters. Otherwise, Steve Spurrier's old Florida Gator teams would not have been able to maintain such lofty status in the BCS standings despite reoccurring losses to Florida State and a general avoidance of Miami of Florida.

As far as strength of schedule, the Grand Strand has to play Hilton Head and Pinehurst every year, in conference, and has to tussle with non-conference foes like the Mid Atlantic and Florida. Pinehurst and Hilton Head also face Florida and the Mid Atlantic each season, so the Grand Strand earns points for opponents' strength of schedule as well.

2. Scottsdale, Phoenix (Arizona) - The Texas/Miami of golf destinations. This golf-rich region has the facilities and the tradition to be the best program in the nation year in and year out. The recruiting base is second to none, what with hordes of PGA Tour players and up-and-coming golf course architects calling the Valley of the Sun home.

The strength of schedule is solid, as Scottsdale/Phoenix gets it on with Las Vegas and Palm Springs/Palm Desert in conference play. The birthplace of modern desert golf drops a spot, however, due to its questionable non-conference schedule. Mexico, Hawaii and Texas are typically on the docket. But because of sheer distance, it's hard to say these teams - er, destinations - compete on a yearly basis.

3. The Entire State of Michigan - Look out for this darkhorse - this season's version of Washington State. No state in the union has added more golf courses over the past decade than Michigan, and the Wolverine state's conference schedule has always been pretty solid: Chicagoland, Kohler, Wisconsin, and the sublime tracks of Canada. The fact that the entire state's golf course industry shuts down for six months of the year will probably keep Michigan from ever claiming the title. But still, a state can dare to dream, can't it?

4. Las Vegas, Nev. - Las Vegas is Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, Virginia Tech under Frank Behmer, and Georgia under Mark Richt. That is to say, Glitter Gulch's golf scene is up and coming, to say the least. The blue chip players it has added over the past five to seven years reads like a who 's who of studs: Tom Fazio at Primm Valley, Pete Dye at Las Vegas Paiute Resort, and Jack Nicklaus at Reflection Bay.

Vegas plays in a top heavy conference along with perennial powerhouses Palm Springs/Palm Desert and Scottsdale/Phoenix, which works against its strength of schedule. And snobby East Coast voters who don't stay up late enough to catch all the west coast games don't get to see Vegas take on gritty underdogs like Northern New Mexico, Tucson and the ski towns of Colorado. Look for Las Vegas to challenge for the throne in the near future (barring any NCAA investigations) as it appears to have an unlimited budget for attracting new talent and the desire to bring home the trophy.

5. Daytona Beach/Orlando, Fla. - These two sunshine state golf destinations could easily crack the top three if they realized that they play for the same team. For now, they choose to take on the heavyweights like Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama separately.

Daytona and Orlando are a smooth (albeit sometimes congested) 60-minute Interstate drive apart - about the same time it takes you to get from one end of the Grand Strand to the other. In the final analysis, they might need to bring in a coach who will make them play together. Their strength of schedule ranks near the top. Not only do they have to compete against major Southeastern golf destinations each season, the in-state competition is as intense as it gets. As they often say, the road to the national championship goes through Florida.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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