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.
I wasn’t initially enthralled with the idea of this courses ranking. Selecting the world’s Top 100 courses seemed unavoidably random simply because of its scale – and we do not want our rankings to be random. In fact, quite the opposite; we want them to be considered, diligent and accurate representations of the finest courses in every region, country, continent or, in this case, planet.
Midway through the process though, I started to love it. Of course I accept it’s more random than our other lists – we are ranking the whole world after all, and the margins between the elite courses in the list and those just outside it are tiny.
However, it is considered, it is diligent and I sincerely believe it is an accurate representation of the very, very best courses in the world. There are many wonderful courses outside the 100, but every single course in it is exceptional.
There is a good mix of traditional and modern, and a decent geographical split – although it is absolutely the case that certain countries do dominate. It won’t shock you that America is one, but is it surprising that the UK and Ireland more than match the US for entries? Could we be biased towards UK&I courses? It’s possible, but we definitely weren’t.
In fact, our overseas panellists thought we should have more UK&I entries. Even without those (and there are two Irish links and a Berkshire heathland I would love to have in), this list shows how lucky we are to have so many world-class courses within relatively easy reach.
There is one proviso, though: we only considered courses 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 (click here for the full list). We felt a Top 100 with so many ‘inaccessible’ courses in it lost relevance and value to our readers.
And, once you’ve enjoyed this ranking, please do take a look at some of our others – from the best courses in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Europe and the USA, to GB&I’s best links, the most fun courses to play and the finest resorts in Europe and the World has to offer, we’ve got it covered.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
What is the Golf World Top 100?
How we ranked the best golf courses in the world
For this inaugural World Top 100 we enlisted the expertise of a panel with vast specialist as well as worldwide experience. As we detail below, each member has comprehensive knowledge of specific areas as well as experience of courses across the world – and it is that ability to offer a global overview that enabled us to piece together what we think is a list that accurately reflects reality.
So, for example, our Canadian experts didn’t only moot the Canadian courses they felt were worthy of inclusion, they were also able to suggest which courses in other countries they were of a similar quality to. Elite courses of UK&I and the USA were often used as a reference point.
The criteria for assessment was the same as in all of our Top 100s – design, setting, playability, memorable holes, consistency and presentation. We did not, however, mark the courses this time as we felt they were so close in quality that the margins in terms of marks would mean so many courses were on the same totals. Off-course facilities, customer service or tournament pedigree played no part in deciding any of our Golf World Top 100 Courses rankings. We care about the best golf courses, not about who has the best clubhouse, has hosted the most tournaments or provides the best lunches.
Finally, if a panellist had direct or even tenuous links to a course, they were not able to comment on it.
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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 (Australia): Respected course writer & architect, has played 2,000 courses worldwide.
David McLay-Kidd (Scotland): Feted architect who knows the best of the UK & America, where he now lives.
Jimmie James (USA): Following Golf.com’s ‘World Top 100’, he’s played more than 70 on this list.
David Jones (Scotland): Blogger who’s played widely in the UK plus Europe, America and Australia.
Malcolm Baker (England): Has completed a previous ‘World’ list and played an amazing 89 on this one.
Tony Dear (England): Courses writer lives in America – was invaluable in comparing US & UK.
Scott Champion, Australia: Architect who has played all of Australia’s best, and widely in the UK.
Oliver Tubb (Scotland): Lobb & Partners architect based in Canada – and with UK expertise, too.
Kirk Baert (Canada): Canadian lawyer who’s just played 125+ rounds on the best UK courses.
Craig Haldane (South Africa): Gleneagles greenkeeper from South Africa. Has Asia/Middle East expertise.
Gareth Williams (England): Faldo Design architect has excellent knowledge of the best of Asia.
* In addition, we referred to but weren’t bound by, our existing UK&I & Continental Europe rankings.
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.