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Keith Baxter – an appreciation as an era comes to an end…

20 December, 2021
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Keith Baxter – an appreciation as an era comes to an end…

A few months ago, Top 100 Golf Courses was bought by a group of investors who now plan to modernise the platform, at the same time retaining all the wonderful content which has allowed the website to become the reputable and reliable resource that it is today.

Two weeks ago, founder and editor-in-chief Keith Baxter informed members of the Top 100 Team by email that he was stepping down after nineteen years in the hot seat to allow Sam and Harriet Cooper, the new Operations Manager and Editorial Director, to run the business.

Sam and Harriet have since assured the website’s core group of correspondents that their services will be retained – indeed, the intention is to expand the number of panellists who contribute towards the re-ranking of charts all over the world and more will be revealed soon.

Keith set up the website in 2003, when it initially focused on golf courses located exclusively in Britain and Ireland. It wasn’t until April 2006 that the decision was made to go global, with a news item at the time stating: “our new website will now bring you, at the click of a button, the finest golf courses in the world.”

Two and a half years later, the infrastructure was upgraded and the site moved to a new server in order to cope with increased traffic. Not long after, another news item in November 2009 reported the earth-shattering news: “Top 100 Golf Courses breaks the 100-country barrier” – coverage now extends to 159 nations and territories, featuring more than six thousand courses.

In May 2011, it was announced the website was extending its rankings to “Best in County” courses in England, with Scotland, Ireland, N. Ireland and Wales following soon after. This exercise was subsequently rolled out for sixteen other major golfing nations around the world so that we now maintain a staggering total of 219 county/state/province charts across 22 countries.

Social media plays an increasing part in the lives of many – especially among the younger demographic – and the website has adapted over time to incorporate the main channels into the infrastructure. Personalizing the browsing experience is another objective that’s been addressed by introducing a Leaderboard of the courses played by registered users for every ranking list displayed.

One of the more popular charts we created was the Top 100 Links Courses of Britain and Ireland in January 2017, which was a Keith Baxter production from start to finish and he backed up the launch with an array of articles relating to the geography and geology of the links landforms – if ever there was a subject to get him going at full tilt as a self-confessed links lover, then this was it!

In April 2019, we produced what some might deem a more controversial chart, listing the Top 100 Golf Course Architects. Again, this was a months-long project of Keith’s where his love of golf course architecture was the driving force behind a complex number-crunching exercise to identify the designers who’ve had the greatest influence in laying out the best courses around the world.

More recently, we spent a large part of last year during covid lockdown working on a hundred of the greatest golf championships on earth, researching the many hundreds of courses (and players) involved when hosting the most famous elite amateur and professional tournaments for both men and women as far back as The Open Championship at Prestwick in 1860.

Keith also introduced a change to the review rating scale in 2019, allowing reviewers to post a more nuanced score within a 10-point rating scale which now allows “half-ball” marks to be awarded. He backed this up with background information on our ranking process and a link to his long, carefully- considered article entitled “the ranking and rating conundrum”.

Another of Keith’s articles in November 2019 – “Golf course rankings – the good, the bad and the ugly” – illustrates why he was without doubt the deep-thinking heartbeat of Top 100 Golf Courses. In a modern world where style too often triumphs over substance, Keith had his way of getting right to the heart of any rankings-related issue and expressing his thoughts and opinions in a clear, cogent manner.

It’s astonishing to think that from very humble beginnings as a .co.uk domain the .com website now attracts approximately half its traffic from North America, with average monthly page views across the site in excess of 1.5 million, according to official google analytics. Top 100 Golf Courses may have changed hands but a very large part of it going forward bears the Keith Baxter stamp of quality.

Keith set high standards and they will hopefully be continued in his absence. For all of us entrusted to take the site forward in 2022 and beyond, maintaining those standards would be the most fitting way to mark his passing on the editorial baton. He’s planning to play some of the courses which have eluded him for too long – perhaps even completing his old GB&I pegboard that still has a few holes to be filled in.

From a personal perspective, I’ve worked with Keith since 2004, becoming the part-time editor of Top 100 Golf Courses ten years ago. I only know a small fraction of what has gone on technically to keep the platform functioning down the years but I’m aware it's not always been an easy task for him dealing with the various outside agencies which were contracted to host the site.

I think I can vouch for both his daughter Rachelle and myself when stating his drive and energy has never faltered over the years, keeping us both fully occupied behind the scenes on the various admin and editorial tasks that have come our way. Funnily enough, we’ve gone long spells without conversing but our respective email accounts have always been busy with two-way correspondence.

Keith has allowed me to embark on a fantastic journalistic journey and it’s one that I’ve never once regretted getting involved in. I’m really sorry he’s decided to call it quits on 31st December but I’d like to think he’ll always be there in the background for advice (and perhaps the odd bit of guidance) if requested. I’d hate to think his vast experience and knowledge of the rankings game would be lost forever.

For now, thanks for everything, Keith.

Make sure you keep your end up with the vets at Great Torrington Golf Club...

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses

Photos courtesy of Brian Ward

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