Is this the best Top 100 rankings list yet?

 Shinnecock Hills hits the heights of second in the latest ranking for top100golfcourses.com

Shinnecock Hills hits the heights of second in the latest ranking for top100golfcourses.com

The latest top 100 world golf ranking list has hit the doorsteps. Well, the screens actually. This one comes from the top100golfcourse.com website. This site has built significantly over recent years and is now the number 1 authority on worldwide golf courses. I have used it when planning golf trips to everywhere from Ethiopia to Ireland and it rarely disappoints. What sets it apart from others is both the breadth of countries covered and the depth and number of courses reviewed and ranked in each geography.

Every two years they come up with a new global ranking, with national and regional varieties sprinkled in between. Some of the lists out there are somewhat suspect because of commercial ties or have inclusions designed to drive controversy. Not so this one. They appear to have no agenda beyond trying to identify the very best courses in the world.

You can read the site’s view on some of the changes and the thinking behind them, as well as seeing the full list, here. Here are 3 takeaways from me from the new list –

The highest new entries are in the remotest places
It’s not going to be easy to get to all the best new golf courses being built. Tara Iti (New Zealand, 36), Cabot Cliffs (Canada, 46) and Cape Wickham (an Island off mainland Australia, 52) have made spectacular entries but none of these are easy to get to if you are based in Europe, and not much easier from the US. They have a few other things in common too. Firstly, they are all in spectacular settings with the ocean making for some great photos. Second, they have sandy bases and play firm and fast. And thirdly they have employed architects who embrace the idea of giving golfers options off the tee and making them playable (see ‘fun’ below).

The good news though is that Cabot Cliffs and Cape Wickham are both open to all for a reasonable green fee. The air far may be the problem though........

Renovate to accelerate
You can’t stand still as a golf course these days or you will go back down the list. However, even some of the classic courses which have been worked on have been rewarded. The work from Bill Coore at Shinnecock Hills means it has overtaken Pine Valley to position 2, LA Country Club has been similarly rewarded with a rise of 8 to 31. But those courses which are seen as lagging behind, such as Pebble Beach (down 3 to 17) and Augusta National (down 7  to 13) are being clipped. The West course at Winged Foot has similarly suffered (down 7 to 32) but they will be hoping that the work going on from Gil Hanse will have a similar effect to that on the East which has entered the list at 95.

 Will the renovation work at Winged Foot pay off?

Will the renovation work at Winged Foot pay off?

The vogue for ‘fun’ keeps on going
Courses aren’t rewarded on this list for being the toughest in the world, but rather for the joy they bring to players of varying skills. The ascension of NGLA (up 4 to 7), Friar’s Head (up 8 to 22) and Swinley Forest (up 9 to 62) are all evidence of that. All of these courses leave you with a smile on your face and wanting to go around again rather than beaten up and in awe of the challenge

 The spectacular Friar's Head is up to position 22 in the new list

The spectacular Friar's Head is up to position 22 in the new list

So there you have it. A really strong list which has none of the randoms so often seen (wherefore art thou Adoyha Links) and rewards courses that golfers of all abilities will enjoy. There are some notable courses dropping out however. It’s farewell to Royal Troon (a little harshly I think given some of those left above it) as well as Bandon Dunes and Oak Hill.

That also means that there has been a shake-up in my Ultimate Top 100 Golf Courses list. In fact, I have taken this update as an opportunity to give it a bit of a refresh. I have trimmed my ‘poll of polls’ to include just four lists now – the top100golfcourses.com, Planet Golf.com, Golf.com and Golfdigest.com. I have reluctantly taken out the Golf Course Architecture list as it isn’t being updated and therefore skewing things a little too much.

Cypress Point is the undisputed number one course in the world now, and has extended its lead over Pine Valley. We lose Royal Troon from the list – it is only now listed in the top 100 in the Planet Golf list so no longer qualifies for entry. Elsewhere, Valderrama is clinging on in position 100 but I fear that it will be soon time to say adios to the Andalucian course. The competition is just too fierce and those pesky cork trees too numerous……

 Royal Troon drops out of the top 100 in the world for the first time

Royal Troon drops out of the top 100 in the world for the first time

The top 100 gravy train keeps going, and we should have the new Golf Digest list in January. This has traditionally been the weakest of the top 100 lists with too many nods to international courses where some fear that the advertising $ may be leading to their inclusion. Let's see if they do a better job this time and add something meaningful to the debate which never ends!