Top 100 Courses Ranking Criteria - How The List Is Compiled

Delayed by events that have changed the world, the new 2021/22 Golf Monthly Top 100 course rankings are the culmination of two years of teamwork…

Top 100 Courses Ranking Criteria
The fourth is a terrific par 3

Delayed by events that have changed the world, the new 2021/22 Golf Monthly Top 100 course rankings are the culmination of two years of teamwork…

Top 100 Courses Ranking Criteria - How The List Is Compiled

Since the 2004 publication of what was originally a Top 120, we have refined the process to a point where we have a Top 100 ranking that we genuinely believe is as fair, democratic, comprehensive and contemporary as possible.

One thing it is not is definitive!

Beauty is still very much in the eye of the beholder.

New for 2021

With regard to the criteria and the process, little has changed this time round.

Everyone had to adapt to restrictions, and we are enormously grateful to the overwhelming majority of clubs who welcomed our assessors at a time when demand for tee times from their members had never been higher.

With regard to the Top 100, there are two newcomers and a re-entry this time round.

This reflects that there are few top-end creations or sea-change rebuilds at courses outside the Top 100, such as at Adare Manor last time.

It is hopefully also an indication that, over the years, we have populated the list with the right courses!

The Panel

This time round we were joined by a number of new panellists, several of whom went above and beyond the call of duty.

Two or three managed to play more than 30 contender courses in the review window.

They do this for the joy of the process and being involved.

They receive no payment or expenses and so we are more grateful than ever for all their fantastic efforts.

With regard to the senior panel, despite lockdowns and restrictions in travel, I have now played more than 1,100 courses, while my colleague Jezz Ellwood is approaching 900.

We would never claim this makes us experts, but we would argue that we have plenty of experience in evaluating, comparing and contrasting.

The Evaluation Process

At the heart of the Top 100 review process is the principle that all of the contender courses are visited for assessment during each two-year cycle.

This allows us to prepare a ranking that is both comprehensive and contemporary.

The courses assessed are the existing Top 100 and the next 40 or so that we feel have the greatest chance of breaking in.

We keep in close contact about the process with all of these clubs, and are extremely grateful to them and their members for their co-operation and support.

Plenty of secret shopper visits also take place as staff and panellists often play courses in matches, society visits or with friends.

Top 100 Criteria

Based on the general feedback from panellists and clubs, the criteria remained unchanged again this time round.

There are five broad categories, weighted for importance.

Quality of test and design (35%), conditioning and presentation (30%), visual appeal both internally and externally (15%), the club’s facilities (10%) and the visitor experience (10%).

Because this is still a subjective process, we also look closely at the written reports.

With regard to visitor experience, there is no doubt that for many, the Trump factor and his association with the three courses that bear his name has significantly diminished the appeal of playing them.

Never Better

Over recent years, we lucky golfers have been treated to ever-improving conditioning and design.

The skills of our greenkeepers, combined with more effective tools and better materials, mean that courses have never been in such good condition.

Now, more than ever, it is impossible for clubs to rest on their laurels.

To keep up with the competition demands constant improvement.

This has become so much the case that this time round you will see a few courses that have improved, albeit slightly, have actually dropped in the rankings!

This might sound anomalous, and it will feel tough for those involved, but it’s excellent news for golfers.

Subjectivity vs Objectivity

The Golf Monthly Top 100 rankings have always been designed to be representative to reflect the views of our readers, of club golfers, of all of us who love playing the game.

Nobody will agree with all the entries, and everyone will raise an eyebrow because a course they love is ranked below one that leaves them cold.

But this is entirely the point.

No two golfers would ever agree on every placing.

It is a subjective process that involves the heart as much as the head.

We have tried to make the process as objective as possible, but realise, and indeed celebrate, the limitations.

Courses For Everyone

A few years ago, based on strong reader feedback, we took the decision to exclude all courses where you cannot pay a regular green fee.

Happily, there are relatively few clubs here where you can only play with a member or have a one-off ‘trial membership experience’.

This means that with planning, you can play each and every one of the Golf Monthly Top 100 courses.

Talking of green fees, we contacted all of the clubs to get projections for this year.

Some advised twilight rates, and we have therefore listed 'from and to' rates for a round, or in some cases a day, in the summer.

The full 2020/21 Golf Monthly UK and Ireland Top 100 rankings can be viewed in the brand new May issue of Golf Monthly magazine, on sale 1st April 2021

Rob Smith
Rob Smith

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012 specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played 1,150 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions last year, he still managed to play 80 different courses during 2021, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. Rob is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at