A brand new Ultimate Top 100 Golf Course list!

The world of Golf Course rankings had flurry of excitement with the publication on GOLF’s biannual World Top 100 list. This is a list of which I thoroughly approve (unlike the hideous Golf Digest version). It is hard to argue with any of the inclusions and has rewarded really great golf courses.

 The fantastic Yas Links has deservedly entered the Ultimate top 100 for the first time.

The fantastic Yas Links has deservedly entered the Ultimate top 100 for the first time.

If you are a real golf dweeb then I would recommend the Golf.com podcast which this week hosts Joe Passov, the gentleman who puts the rankings together. He explains that rather than break every course down to component parts which other lists often do, he just asks the panel of raters for one overall rating for each course. The analogy he uses is reviewing films - you don’t break a film into its constituent parts (say acting, cinematography, special effects) and penalise a film because it doesn’t rank highly in every section, whether relevant or not. You rate the thing as a whole.

Anyway, it comes up with a strong list. I also noticed that the planetgolf.com list has had a few tweaks, so I have loaded both of these top 100s into my spreadsheet to come up with a new Ultimate Top 100. To get to my Top 100, I take the 5 most reputable 'top 100' lists and average the positions for all courses nominated at least twice. If a course is too new to have been rated by all five I will reduce the denominator. Simple? Well, kind of. You can see the full list here.

So what has changed this time? Well, nothing at the top. Cypress Point still beats
Pine Valley by a whisker but the two are very close. Their average position is 2 and 2.2 respectively with the next contender, Royal County Down, 1.4 points behind them. These two really are out on their own when it comes to the challenge to be the best course in the world.

The highest new entrant, by a long way, is New Zealand’s Tara Iti which has now been open long
enough to be reviewed by two of the publications. As a result of it being 29th in the Golf ranking and 38th in Planet Golf, it actually comes in at 27 in the Ultimate list. That’s quite an entrance. The course itself is located some 45 minutes outside of Auckland and Tom Doak was said to have been inspired by holes at Cypress Point, Royal Dornoch and Royal St Georges when he designed it, all of which are perfectly acceptable!  It’s a private members club so this one may be quite hard to play but, if you can, it gives just another reason for those of us in the northern hemisphere to head south. This write-up from Planet Golf certainly makes for enticing reading.

One new course from the Antipodes still settling down is Cape Wickham. In the last update the
course off the southern Australian coast had come in at 16 but it has now received another rating, 72 from GOLF, which means it has settled a little lower at 32. The top100golfcourses.com new world rankings are to come out soon and so far they have given this course only 8th in Australia, so it may have a little lower to go yet.

 Castle Stuart continues to rise in the world rankings, that's totally deserved!

Castle Stuart continues to rise in the world rankings, that's totally deserved!

I am particularly happy to see the two highest risers this time round - Castle Stuart is up 7 places at 58 and Yas Links in Abu Dhabi is a new entrant, up 7 places to 94. When I played Yas the first time it struck me that there were real similarities between the two. Neither course was designed to trick you and both are playable for golfers of all handicaps. But they both will reward the player taking the braver line off the tee over the more conservative approach. They make phenomenal use of their terrain, have a very natural feel to them (which in the case of Yas Links is just incredible given the surroundings!) and are definitely sculpted in the ‘natural’ style which is finding such favour with modern architects. I really hope Yas Links is here to stay now in the Top 100 and I wouldn’t be amazed if Castle Stuart makes it past Kingsbarns on the list yet.

One of the challenges of compiling a top 100 list is getting around courses which have been
remodelled or ‘enhanced’. The reports coming out of Turnberry since the recent extensive
renovations are quite something and it is interesting to see that GOLF have bumped it up to position 16 from 23. The UK’s Golf Monthly recently had it at number 1 in the UK so expect to see it rise up the list as more people are exposed to it. I have purposely held off from publishing my review on this site as I haven’t been back since the changes, but my expectations are pretty high for when that visit comes.

It’s fascinating to see how different courses wax and wane over time. Pebble Beach seems to be on a fairly consistent downward path. GOLF had it in third place at the turn of the millennium but it is down to 9 this year and it only makes number 11 now in my Ultimate list. It just makes it into the top 15 of the courses I have played so I suspect it has further to fall. Conversely NGLA was 20th with GOLF magazine in 2003 and is now all the way up at number 7 for them, number 9 in the Ultimate list.

Without a doubt the GOLF rankings have helped the courses with a more traditional look and feel rise up the list. They haven't gone for the big brutes but have rewarded an old-school look and those courses which have been constructed (or reconstructed) with more of the traditions of the game at their heart. Long may that continue!

The next big event likely to change things is the top100golfcourses.com new world ranking which I am expecting in November. That website is growing in authority all the time and they could play a crucial role in seeing who ends up with the top spot in the world as we head into 2018.