HOW I RATE golf COURSES
Ranking courses is a judgement call. You can't use an algorithm and one man's nirvana is another man's hell. But hey, you've got to start somewhere.
A few years ago I was playing golf in France and somehow won our 2 day adventure in Terre Blanche. My prize was 40 Euro to spend in the pro shop but rather than buy the ubiquitous polo shirt I went for the Peugeot Golf Guide - a book which rates Europe's Top 1000 Golf Courses.
The syntax was stilted, some scores were bizarre but the basic system was one I liked and has stood the test of time well. Over the years, whenever leaving course with my golfing partners we have found it pretty easy to find consensus on a score and we're rarely more than a point apart.
It is a 20 point system (actually that is complete nonsense as you will see - nothing was higher than a 19 nor lower than a 13) and they never explained what the scores meant. I have made an effort therefore to try to put some words behind the numbers. You can find my current rankings here.
The creme de la creme. One of the very best courses in the world and one which isn't just architecturally brilliant but great to play for the 'average' golfer. Well, me, anyway. It's St Andrews and Dornoch, but it's not Pebble Beach or Carnoustie.
This is a wonderful course - it's very close to being one of the true greats in the world but it is a smidgeon behind. If you get the chance to play then jump at it and an 18 would be a fitting centrepoint of any golf tour. I think I have been a bit more discriminating than Peugeot in what makes an 18. It needs to be one of the best courses you can play to make this list.
If you can build a golf trip around a couple of 17s then you know you will have a great time. Most people would think these courses are something very special - it's just when you put them against the 18s and 19s they get marked down a bit. They are normally very well maintained, strong courses and will quite likely be one of the best courses in an area and in many cases amongst the best that a country has to offer.
16s are fine. They are strong and good courses with good challenges and reputations. They are better than mere tour fillers and you'll enjoy playing them I'm sure but will probably be missing a truly wow factor.
If you think these are going to be heroes of a trip then you will probably be wrong but they should be good courses which you will enjoy playing. Read the reviews carefully though, some are courses with big reputations which fall a bit short and some are hidden gems which delight. Stick two of these in with two higher ranked courses and you will have a great trip.
We're getting into slightly dodgy territory now but they are still passable. Four of these in your tour schedule and you won't be asked back to organise the tour next year but hey, they exist. They are playable. Move on.
OK, these are the courses which you should only play if there aren't any other options in the area. If there is a better course within an hour's drive, seriously consider going there.