What are the best golf courses in the world? The Golf World Top 100 panel ranks the best layouts on planet earth… that you can actually play.
Ranking the World’s Top 100 courses is a tough task when few people can agree on the 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4-5 of the courses in only one resort.
That is the case at two US resorts here, so when there is barely agreement on just one property, widening the debate to the whole world seems preposterous.
A bit of me thinks it’s crazy to attempt this task, but I’m really glad we started a World list two years ago (and also that we made it public access-only). The one requirement to being eligible for this list is being open to the public – no matter how much the green fee is and how limited the tee times are – and, as a result of that policy, a raft of epic US courses – as well as Morfontaine, Loch Lomond et al – were ineligible. We felt a Top 100 with so many ‘inaccessible’ courses in it lost relevance and value to our readers.
I’m glad the cream of the best golf courses in the UK & Ireland appear in this company in such numbers, and that somewhere such as unassuming Silloth gets its due credit.
I’m glad to shine a light on some emerging areas, including the best golf courses in the Middle East, and highlight the really good layouts you’ll find there.
I’m glad that we are highlighting the best golf course you are able to play in America. And I’m glad Lofoten is enhancing its reputation further.
I stressed long and hard about the order (unlike almost every other Top 100 I do, in this one I hadn’t played 90+ of the entries, so assimilating the views of others was a key), going back and forward over the panel’s thoughts.
However, I wouldn’t stress about the order if I was you. After the top 25 especially, there is so little to choose between them that in my opinion it’s all about being in, not where a course is.
And one final thing. This list will look GB&I heavy in both numbers and positions. I cannot stress hard enough that it was the overseas panellists who pushed for this; I was very wary of it seeming GB&I-biased, but time after time they said “No, Woking is better than this course and there’s no way that course is better than Ballybunion”.
We’re just very, very fortunate that the finest public access courses are in the four countries of the UK and Ireland.
My panel was similar to that used in the Best Golf Resorts in Europe ranking. I know other rankings have many more people giving input, but any more than 20 starts to get silly in my opinion. Quality over quantity is far preferable, and I’d take the views of this lot over anyone. I thank them sincerely for their input and they are:
Who is on the Golf World Top 100 panel?
Chris Bertram (Scotland): Our Top 100 Courses editor, has played all of the UK&I and Continent’s finest.
Darius Oliver: Respected course writer & architect, has played 2,000 courses worldwide.
David McLay-Kidd: Feted architect who knows the best of the UK & America, where he now lives.
Jimmie James: Following Golf.com’s ‘World Top 100’, he’s played more than 70 on this list.
David Jones: Blogger who’s played widely in the UK plus Europe, America and Australia.
Malcolm Baker: Has completed a previous ‘World’ list and played an amazing 89 on this one.
Tony Dear: Courses writer lives in America – was invaluable in comparing US & UK.
Scott Champion: Architect who has played all of Australia’s best, and widely in the UK.
Oliver Tubb: Lobb & Partners architect based in Canada – and with UK expertise, too.
Kirk Baert: Canadian lawyer who’s just played 125+ rounds on the best UK courses.
Craig Haldane: Gleneagles greenkeeper from South Africa. Has Asia/Middle East expertise.
Gareth Williams: Faldo Design architect has excellent knowledge of the best of Asia.
Stuart McLean: Former editor of Golf Digest South Africa and author of three books on SA courses.
They have played in every corner of the world, and merging the best of all the continents with authority would have been impossible without them.
Right, enough of that, let the ranking begin…
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
Can I join the Golf World Top 100 panel?
Yes! If you have knowledge of lots of resorts and courses, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re male, female, young, old, low handicap, high handicap, if you’re well-travelled then get in touch with us, here.
Which courses couldn’t be included?
Having agreed the criteria that every course in this Top 100 had to be open to the public, it meant we couldn’t include a large number of very well-known courses. They’re fantastic venues but they won’t let you play them, so we had to rule out:
USA: Pine Valley, Shinnecock, Augusta National, Cypress Point, NGLA, Oakmont, Merion, Fishers Island, Chicago, LA North, Sand Hills, Friar’s Head, Winged Foot (West), Crystal Downs, Riviera CC, San Francisco, Prairie Dunes, Seminole, Brookline CC, Somerset Hills, Shoreacres, Garden City, Southern Hills, California Golf Club, Ballyneal, Camargo Club, Winged Foot (East), Maidstone, Oakland Hills (South), Quaker Ridge, Sleepy Hollow, Olympic Club, Inverness Club, Yale GC, The Golf Club New Albany, Muirfield Village, Peachtree GC, Myopia Hunt Club, Ohoopee Match Club.
Rest of the World: Loch Lomond, Scotland; Morfontaine, France; Les Bordes, France; St George’s, Canada; Hirono, Japan; Ellerston, Australia
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.