As regular readers of this blog will know, I take quite a keen interest in golf course ranking lists. Not because I am necessarily trying to tick them all off, but the discussion about what makes a good golf course and how views differ is something that interests me. OK, and I'm trying to tick a few off too...
The Golf Digest World Top 100 list was last published in January 2016 and attracted widespread derision. Ballybunion was nowhere to be seen (a top 20 course in all other rankings) and random Asian courses popped up left, right and centre. I happened to be in the Middle East a couple of weeks after the list was published and saw that local editions of Golf Digest magazine already had adverts in them for new entries to the list from the region.
As such, most hardcore enthusiasts derided and ultimately discounted the Golf Digest ranking.
Well, the 2018 edition is out and despite the title 'World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses' they have stopped bothering to rank golf courses from all over the world. Instead they have made this a list of their top 100 golf courses outside of the USA. And thoroughly disingenuously, they have shown the previous positions of the golf courses in the rankings - despite the comparator including courses from the USA.
This allows many courses to claim they have moved up places in the world rankings. The tweet below from Bluffs Ho Tram in Vietnam is a prime example.
THIS JUST IN: We've climbed to No. 35 on @GolfDigest's #World100GreatestGolfCourses list -- up a whopping 39 spots from 2016. #whatanhonor #hardwork #teamwork #worldgolf #asiagolf #vietnamgolf @SharkGregNorman @AliMacFadyen pic.twitter.com/i3mVedo3aj— The Bluffs Ho Tram (@BluffsHoTram) January 4, 2018
The methodology for selecting the list is fairly awful. The Golf Digest team ask 'international panelists organized by our affiliate magazines around the world'. Oh dear, that would be the affiliate magazines who rely on the course's advertising to pay their bills, the associate magazines whose staff get wined and dined by the latest new courses wanting to make a splash.
There are some courses inexplicably not included. The excellent Golf World Continental Europe Top 100 Courses ranking recently had Utrecht in position 2 and Les Bordes in position 3. Surely they would appear somewhere on this list? How about any of the phenomenal courses in Holland? No such luck. Olgiata in Italy makes it in as the 68th best golf course in the world though.
There are numerous courses from across the world in this list that you will never have heard of before, and I suspect never will again. Still, Golf Digest will make a few dollars out of them by selling their logo and a few golfers will be disappointed.
I think the oddest thing is that they are calling this list 'World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses' and the logo promoting says the same. But it's not, its the 'World outside of USA's 100 Greatest Golf Courses'.
This means that I have retired Golf Digest from my poll of polls which determines the Ultimate World Top 100 List. This is no bad thing at all, there were too many random things going on in that list. Instead I am now using three very strong and credible rankings - Planet Golf, top100golfcourses and Golf.com. These guys do it properly and the combined list produced is a great one. Royal Hague has entered the Ultimate Top 100 for the first time and there are big rises for Ballybunion and Lahinch amongst others.
So farewell Golf Digest Top 100, and may the advertising dollars serve you well.