Top 100 Golf Course rankings are popular and we love the discussion and buzz they produce. However, not all Top 100 Golf Course rankings are created equal. Below are a few of the rankings widely available and an overview of what makes them different and offer a suggestion of who may prefer which ranking.

National Club Golfer Top 100

Criteria:

20% – Architecture & Design (Well designed individual holes? Course as a whole? Is there a mix of strategic, penal and heroic holes?)
10% – Conditioning & Presentation (Turf & green quality plus consistency.)
10% – Consistency (Does the course get better during the round? Is the design harmonious?)
10% – Scenery, Surroundings & Ambience (Is the course attractive?)
10% – Playability (Enjoyable for the shorter hitter and higher handicapper?)
10% – Challenge (Does it challenge an elite golfer?)
10% – Variety (Does it test all facets of one’s game? Is it predictable? Does it require a variety of shot types?)
10% – Routing (Long walks between holes? Does it flow? Are holes sequentially different?)
10% – Charm, Distinctiveness & Memorability (Do you want to return? Can you remember the course?)

Evaluation:

The panel is smaller than most others with 8 members. 4 are single digit golfers and the rest are better than bogey golfers. Course reviews are weighted to give more frequent and fresher visits greater worth. The panel is small and there are some bold takes – especially Skibo Castle ahead of 18 stalwarts in the Golf Top 100 in the World List! An excellent first Top 100 list, you would expect the panel to perhaps grow and rankings to be refined.

Conclusion:

However, we love the fact the golf is what is rated as opposed to bits and pieces before the 1st tee and after the 18th green. The weighting and criteria is well balanced and is a great way for the amateur to analyse their own golf experience. The explanation of the criteria isn’t obscure nor does it leave much ambiguity. Seeing Royal Worlington slot in provides instant credibility to any ranking in our books. The panel was obviously willing to take risks and not be swayed by other rankings.

Recommendation:

If you are a better golfer & only interested in the golf itself – National Club Golfer may be the ranking for you.

Observations:

NCG was the only ranking to leave off: Woburn Marquess & Broadstone.

NCG was the only ranking to include: Royal Worlington, Luffness, Elie, Panmure, Gailes Links, Dunbar & The Addington.

Golf Monthly Top 100 

Stated Criteria:

35% – Quality of Test & Design
30% – Conditioning & Presentation
15% – Visual Appeal (Internally & Externally)
10% – Club Facilities
10% – Overall Visitor Experience

Evaluation:

Beginning in 2004, the list has been compiled 8 times on a biennial review. They have tried to make the subjective selection process objective claiming they are fair as possible, adjusting for improvements and upgrades. They begin with the current Top 100 list and supplement it with 40-50 contenders. The assessors can play the courses in matches, society visits or whilst off-duty with friends. There are three categories of panel members: Senior (3), Staff (10) and Reader (21). The Senior Panel ranges in age from 48-61 with handicaps from 6-14. The Staff Panel ranges in age from 23-62 with handicaps from 4-18. The Reader Panel ranges in age from 32-72 with handicaps from 2-18. The ranking leaves off courses which are not pay for play. 

Conclusion:

Up to 35% of the rating and therefore rank is based on characteristics other than the course itself. This isn’t right nor wrong, just different. Internal Visual Appeal, Club Facilities and Overall Visitor Experience are no doubt important to a club’s ranking but does it reflect where the golf course should be? 

Recommendation:

Is the overall golf experience as important to you as the golf itself? Try Golf Monthly.

Observations:

Golf Monthly was the only ranking to leave off: Skibo Castle, Loch Lomond, Machrihanish Dunes, Wentworth West & Princes.

Golf Monthly was the only ranking to include: Mount Juliet, The Grove, The Belfry, Lough Erne, Woburn Duchess, Murcar, Close House and Tandrige.

Golf World Top 100

Criteria:

30% – Design (Overall quality. 5 factors listed – Rhythm/ Variety/ Imaginative/Astute Routing/ Good shots rewarded.)
20% – Setting (Topography, quality of land, scenery, views and atmosphere.)
15% – Playability (Fair and enjoyable for all golfers.)
15% – Presentation (Overall condition of course.)
10% – Memorability (Does it linger in your memory? As a course and as individual holes.)
10% – Consistency (Quality across all 18 holes.)

Evaluation:

The first list launched in 1989, they claim to be the golf industry’s most authoritative and respected resource for rankings of golf courses. Its’ “panel incorporates a wide range of golfers with varying abilities and golf course design preferences. It includes golf course architects, Tour professionals, golf journalists, club golfers and selected golf industry experts.” At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything that can be objected too. The panel is mixed and varied and the criteria is sound. In this ranking only the golf course itself is being evaluated. Factors like the clubhouse and practice facilities are reflected in its Top 100 Resorts Rankings. 

Conclusion:

We wonder at the notion of fairness. 30% is allocated for Design. One of the stated factors within that 30%, is that ‘good shots’ are rewarded. In the 15% allocated for Playability, “Is it fair…?” factors again. This means that 45% of the rating and rank is being influenced by the notion of fairness. Perhaps we are old school in our mentality but fairness is not always an honourable nor desirable factor in good golf (as we see it). Clarifying what is meant by fairness, Golf World noted that this does not mean easy but rather if the course can be enjoyed by the majority of golfers. 

Recommendation:

Do you value a golf experience that will reward the majority of golfers? The Golf World Top 100 may be the list for you.

Observations:

Golf World was the only ranking to leave off: Sherwood Forest.

Golf World was the only ranking to include: Port Salon, Southerness, Little Aston & New Zealand. 

Top 100 Golf Courses Website

Criteria:

40% – Quality of Test & Design
30% – Visual Appeal and Enjoyment
30% – Presentation

Evaluation:

A staple of the digital golf landscape, the raters appear to be decorated amateurs and professionals.  One is also intrigued by the rules and algorithms used. The website uses trusted expert opinions from golfers who have played extensively in their country or territory. Rankings are usually done biennially using rules and algorithms. They consider the rankings to be honest, informed and genuine. Club professionals & club champions are relied on heavily for their insight and opinions.

Conclusion:

As golf club professionals & club champions are relied on heavily for their insight and opinions, we wonder if a club champion and professional could be biased in their appraisal? Does the criteria lend itself to being more subjective? Does proficiency in playing the game and scoring well make you an authority on good golf?

Recommendation:

Are you a better golfer? Do you feel professionals and top amateurs know what good golf is? Top 100 Golf Courses may be your best bet.

Observations:

Top 100 Golf Courses was the only ranking to leave off: None fit this criteria.

Top 100 Golf Courses was the only ranking to include: Ardfin, Queenwood, Brora, Dundonald, Delamere Forest, JCB & Castletown.

Consensus Top 100 (Actually 78, in A-Z Order)

Aberdovey Golf Club
Adare Manor
Alwoodley Golf Club (The)
Ballybunion – Old Course
Ballyliffin Glashedy
Ballyliffin Old
Berkshire Golf Club (The) – The Blue Course
Berkshire Golf Club (The) – The Red Course
Burnham & Berrow – Championship
Carnoustie – Championship
Castle Stuart Golf Links
County Louth Golf Club (Baltray)
County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point – Colt Championship Links
Cruden Bay Golf Club
European Club (The)
Enniscrone Golf Club – The Dunes
Formby Golf Club
Ganton Golf Club
Gleneagles – The King’s Course
Gleneagles – The Queen’s Course
Gullane Golf Club Course No. 1
Hankley Common Golf Club
Hillside Golf Club
Hunstanton Golf Club
Island Golf Club (The) – Championship Links (Malahide)
Kingsbarns Golf Links
Lahinch Golf Club – Old Course Championship
Liphook Golf Club
Machrie (The) – The Machrie Links
Machrihanish Golf Club (The) – Championship Course (Kintyre)
Muirfield (Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers)
Nairn Golf Club (The) – The Championship Course
North Berwick Golf Club (The) – The West Links
Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell)
Old Head Golf Links
Parkstone Golf Club
Pennard Golf Club
Portmarnock Golf Club
Portstewart Golf Club – The Strand
Prestwick Golf Club (Old Prestwick)
Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort – Sandy Hills Links
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club – Balgownie Course
Royal Birkdale Golf Club
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club (Deal)
Royal County Down Golf Club (The) – Championship Links (Newcastle)
Royal Dornoch Golf Club – Championship
Royal Liverpool Golf Club (Hoylake)
Royal Lytham & St Anne’s Golf Club
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club
Royal Portrush Golf Club – Dunluce Links
Royal St David’s Golf Club (Harlech)
Royal St George’s Golf Club (Sandwich)
Royal Troon Golf Club – Old Course
Royal West Norfolk Golf Club (Brancaster)
Rye Golf Club – Old
Saunton Golf Club East
Silloth-on-Solway Golf Club
Southport & Ainsdale (S&A) Golf Club
St Andrews Links – The Castle Course
St Andrews Links – The New Course
St Andrews Links – Old Course
St Enodoc Golf Club – Church Course
St George’s Hill Golf Club – The Red 9 The Blue 9
Sunningdale Golf Club – New Course
Sunningdale Golf Club – Old Course
Swinley Forest Golf Club
Tralee Golf Club
Trump International Scotland
Trump International Golf Links – Doonbeg
Trump Turnberry – Ailsa Championship Course
Walton Heath – Old Course
Waterville Golf Links
West Lancashire Golf Club (The) (West Lancs)
West Sussex Golf Club (Pulborough)
Western Gailes Golf Club
Woking Golf Club
Woodhall Spa – Hotchkin Course
Worplesdon Golf Club

Conclusion

Top 100 Golf Course rankings are subjective and we applaud the above for publishing their criteria for evaluating a Top 100 Golf Course. While the list here is not exhaustive, it does give you a basis for ranking the rankings… We also are keen to watch what happens for Prince’s Golf Club – Shore, Dunes and Himalayas , JCB Golf & Country Club , Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort – St Patricks Links , Ardfin Golf Course and Addington Golf Club (The). We also see some uber exclusive clubs on the list and wonder why Beaverbrook Golf Course has escaped notice?

Do you publish a Top 100 Golf Course ranking? Wish to be discussed here? Contact us at: fore@evalu18.com

The JCB Golf & Country Club is an up and coming entry to the Top 100 Golf Course rankings.