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How We Rank Golf Courses
It is hard to believe that Golf Monthly is nearing the end of two decades of course rankings.
What was initially a keen but tentative foray into defining the Top 120 courses in the UK&I has evolved into a solid, stable and well-respected process that is open, democratic and comprehensive.
Based on feedback from clubs, assessors and, of course, our readership, we have developed a method that makes a subjective process as objective and complete as possible.
By concentrating on just one set of rankings – the Top 100 and Next 100 – and by taking time to do so properly, we feel confident that this is as trustworthy a list of must-play courses as you will find anywhere.
NO CHANGE TO THE TOP 100 PROCESS
The integrity and stability of our rankings stem from longstanding reliable criteria. They took years to refine but didn’t change at all this time.
Most of the valuable feedback we receive tells us they are relatable and fair. The result is a ranking with few major changes.
We have five broad and enduring categories, weighted for importance: quality of test and design (35 marks); conditioning and presentation (30); visual appeal (15); facilities (10); and the visitor experience (10).
But we recognise that applying marks still involves some degree of opinion, so we also look very closely at the written reports and descriptions submitted by the panel.
Every two-year cycle, we ensure that each contender course is visited for a number of fresh assessments to keep our rankings as up-to-date as possible. The contenders are our existing Top 100 plus 40 or so from our Next 100 we feel have the greatest chance of promotion.
Between us, we have visited every course in the Top 200. We liaise with all the clubs, and are very grateful for their support and cooperation. In addition, many ‘secret shopper’ visits take place – games with friends, club matches, society visits, holidays and so on.
Below are the weighted criteria used by Golf Monthly assessors when visiting/rating one of the Contender Courses during each 2-year cycle.
For clarification, the Contender Courses are all of those in the current Top 100 plus 40 or so from the Next 100 that we consider stand the best chance of making the leap. Based on strong feedback from readers, many of whom use these lists to plan future trips and days out, the Golf Monthly rankings do not include the small number of UK&I clubs such as Wentworth and Loch Lomond who do not accept regular green fee visitors.
QUALITY OF TEST AND DESIGN (35 Marks)
- Is there a good balance of par 3s, 4s and 5s
- Is there a good balance of longer and shorter par 4s
- How varied are the par 3s (style/direction)
- Is risk/reward a factor
- How well placed are the hazards
- How fair is the course
- Are there any weak holes
- Is there a signature/stand-out/feature hole - if so, which
- How well is the course defended by hazards and nature
- How memorable are the individual holes - and the course as a whole
- How well do the holes flow together from 1-18
- Are a wide variety of shots tested and are you required to use most of the clubs in your bag
- How difficult is the course for your handicap category
CONDITION AND PRESENTATION (30 Marks)
- The teeing areas
- The fairways
- The green approaches and surrounds
- The greens themselves - pace, trueness and consistency
- Presentation of bunkers
- Quality and consistency of sand in bunkers
- How well-defined are the fairways from the semi-rough and the rough
- Is wear and tear from golf traffic (walkers, carts, buggies) well-managed throughout
- Quality of course furniture (tee markers, signage etc)
- If visiting outside the recognised playing season, is this course in better than expected condition?
VISUAL APPEAL (15 Marks)
- How aesthetically pleasing is the course to look at
- How interesting and inspiring are the views on offer of the area surrounding the course
- Is the course in keeping with its surroundings
- What sort of flora and fauna are present on and around the course
FACILITIES (10 Marks)
- Clubhouse - view from outside
- Clubhouse - view from inside looking out
- Clubhouse - standard of décor
- Clubhouse - facilities (locker rooms etc)
- Clubhouse - catering and bar
- Clubhouse - overall feeling
- Halfway Hut
- Quality of club’s website
- Quality of the practice facilities
EXPERIENCE (10 Marks)
- What is the welcome like for visiting golfers
- Is there a sense of occasion visiting the club
- What sort of value for money would it be
- And the almost undefinable, how great was it to visit
IMPROVING TO STAY THE SAME
Standards of conditioning and presentation are better than ever. The skill of our brilliant greenkeepers means that other than when extreme weather causes temporary hiccups, our courses have never played or looked better.
This raises an important point – to maintain its ranking, each course actually has to improve. There is substantial work going on at several contender courses that is on our radar and will require a closer look next time as it reaches fruition.
COURSES FOR EVERYONE
Based on reader feedback, in 2017 we decided to exclude exclusive golf courses where you cannot pay a regular green fee. Unlike the States, the UK&I has relatively few such clubs that would be on the contender list, so with planning, any keen golfer can play each of the fabulous courses in our rankings.
Prices shown range from lowest quoted 18-hole fee (sometimes a twilight or winter rate) up to a 36-hole high-season rate (where available). Some clubs offer local resident or hotel guest rates. Winter rates may require the use of fairway mats at some courses. For full details contact the clubs or visit their websites.
The Top 100 Panel
Our real strength is that we are able to rely on our dedicated reader panel to complement the review visits made by staff. This time, we were keen for our panel to be more representative of the full breadth of golfers who use and enjoy our rankings, so we increased the number significantly with both female and younger golfers.
We now have our strongest panel yet. They do this for the love of golf and golf courses. They receive no payment or expenses, and we are extremely grateful for all their efforts. Anyone interested in joining the panel should check out the Top 100 golf courses section on our website.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Header Cell - Column 1||Header Cell - Column 2|
|Row 4 - Cell 0||Row 4 - Cell 1||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|Staff panel||Row 5 - Cell 1||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|Row 19 - Cell 0||Row 19 - Cell 1||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|Reader panel||Row 20 - Cell 1||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|Kevin Diss||61||Plus 1|
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Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max
Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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