Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2012

29 January 2012 Respond to this article
Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2012

Our latest and much-coveted World Top 100 ranking list is unveiled

28th January 2012

Two hundred and fifty-five golf courses were on our ever-growing shortlist for a position on our latest and much-coveted World Top 100 ranking list.

Defining the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World in the “here and now” is almost an impossible task, because no single person has recently played every golf course on the shortlist. Despite the fact that Masa Nishijima, our International Consultant, has played the World Top 100, we have to take into account every little piece of current data and then let the process unravel.

It’s worth mentioning that data sources tip the bias towards courses from America and Britain & Ireland and this ensures more courses from these areas appear in our World rankings. Magazines generally claim to be “definitive” when it comes to ranking golf courses but we know that they are in the business of selling magazines not ranking golf courses. Therefore we perennially wonder how definitive they really are?

The two most authoritative magazines, which operate on opposing sides of the Atlantic, published World Top 100 ranking lists in 2011. The magazine from the USA placed 50 US courses in its hundred and 29 courses from Britain & Ireland. The UK magazine placed 37 US courses in their hundred and 35 from Britain & Ireland. Collectively, both magazines could muster only 15 courses from Australasia and a mere 6 Asian courses from their 200 ranking slots.

What do we deduce from this? Well, it could be that the quality of courses in Australasia and Asia is simply not good enough. However, the likelihood is that these destinations do nothing for the American and British magazines. What I’d like to see is the equivalent World Top rankings from both an Australasian and Asian golfing magazine to help straighten the picture.

Ballyneal - photo by YujiAnyway, I’ll get off my soap box and concentrate on our new 2012 World Top 100, which at first glance will again look very familiar. Careful study will reveal many changes. There are no fewer than sixteen new entries, but some of these have previously appeared in our earlier World Top 100s.

The highest new entry (in at 49) is Ballyneal, which also makes a massive upward leap in our USA Top 100 rankings. Ballyneal sadly dropped out of our last World Top 100 because a certain indigestible US golf magazine failed to rate it at all in their national rankings, but Ballyneal appeared at a rather unbelievable position 95 in their latest US Top 100.

By now, I think you will be getting a sense of the unpredictable world of golf course rankings and I do hope that you may appreciate that it is not an exact science.

Tokyo Golf Club - photo by MasaAs per usual, the USA has more world ranked courses featured in our latest chart than any other country. 47 American courses (up four from last year) make our list, and there is absolutely no doubt that the quality of US golf facilities is second to none. Regrettably, the number of Asian courses featured is rather too few for my liking, but the good news is that more Asian courses than ever before made it onto our shortlist. Quite a number of these Asian layouts are Chinese and more than most are from the Schmidt-Curley drawing board. However, they didn’t make the cut this year, but I am glad to see Tokyo return to the World Top 100 after Gil Hanse’s renovation.

European courses continue to struggle to make the World rankings but we have five Continental European tracks listed and the top two Gallic courses make upward movements. It’s also a struggle for Canadian courses to stay on the list and we have only two layouts from the land of the maple leaf, but both Highlands Links and St George’s made positive upward moves.

Golf in the Antipodes continues to prosper and we now have 10 courses listed from Australia and New Zealand. Bill Coore’s Barnbougle Lost Farm debuts at position 90 and its neighbour, Barnbougle Dunes, leapfrogs New South Wales in our chart for the first time ever. After lengthening, there’s a return to our World Top 100 for an old New Zealand favourite, Paraparaumu Beach, which many believe to be the best links course outside Britain and Ireland.

Mexico, specifically the Baja California Sur Peninsula is a veritable golfing hotspot that has had a shot in the arm recently following the 2010 opening of Davis Love III’s Diamante Dunes, which is straight in at position 69. Diamante jumps in above Nicklaus’s Ocean course at Cabo del Sol.

Swinley Forest - photo by Andy TaylorThere are mixed fortunes for British and Irish courses in the World rankings. The Highlands of Scotland have been elevated to a new level after the opening of Castle Stuart in 2009 (straight in at 96th). There’s a significant upward movement for Royal Dornoch, while Royal Birkdale, Kingsbarns, Turnberry and Loch Lomond tumble in the opposite direction. There’s upward movement for Ballybunion and Lahinch and there’s a return to the world rankings for Cruden Bay. Swinley Forest makes its world-ranking debut for the first time, after being on the cusp for many years, and its near neighbour Sunningdale (New) moves positively upwards.

We always welcome feedback, so please feel free to let us know what you think of our latest World Top 100. We don’t claim to be “definitive” but we do like to think that we’re the most “informed” and considered golf course rankings in the business. If you’ve played any of our featured courses in the World Top 100, we’d love to know what you think, so why not post a course review?

Keith Baxter
Editor-in-Chief
www.top100golfcourses.com

2012

Course

Move

1

Pine Valley

No change

2

Cypress Point

No change

3

Royal County Down (Championship)

Up 1

4

Shinnecock Hills

Up 2

5

Augusta National

Down 2

6

Sand Hills

Up 9

7

Oakmont

Up 1

8

Merion (East)

Up 5

9

St Andrews (Old)

Up 1

10

Muirfield

Down 1

12

Royal Melbourne (West)

No change

12

Pebble Beach

Down 1

13

Royal Dornoch (Championship)

Up 8

14

Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

No change

15

National Golf Links of America

Up 3

16

Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes)

Up 1

17

Turnberry (Ailsa)

Down 12

18

Kingston Heath

Down 2

19

Ballybunion (Old)

Up 6

20

Crystal Downs

Up 10

21

Winged Foot (West)

Down 1

22

Royal St George's

Up 4

23

Chicago

Up 6

24

Fishers Island

Down 1

25

Seminole

Down 1

26

Royal Birkdale

Down 19

27

Pinehurst (No.2)

Up 6

28

Sunningdale (Old)

Down 1

29

Carnoustie (Championship)

Down 7

30

Barnbougle Dunes

Up 15

31

Prairie Dunes

Up 8

32

Friar's Head

Up 16

33

New South Wales

Down 5

34

Whistling Straits (Straits)

Down 2

35

Cape Kidnappers

No change

36

Country Club (Clyde & Squirrel)

Up 4

37

Kingsbarns

Down 18

38

Oakland Hills (South)

Up 4

39

Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)

Up 2

40

San Francisco

Up 23

41

Riviera

Up 38

42

Hirono

Down 5

43

Lahinch (Old)

Up 10

44

Royal Lytham & St Annes

Down 8

45

Kiawah Island (Ocean)

Up 1

46

Portmarnock (Old)

Down 3

47

Olympic Club (Lake)

Up 2

48

Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)

Up 25

49

Ballyneal

NEW

50

Bethpage (Black)

Down 6

51

Highlands Links

Up 32

52

Oak Hill (East)

Down 5

53

Kauri Cliffs

Down 19

54

Muirfield Village

Down 16

55

St George's

Up 15

56

Ganton

Up 6

57

Sunningdale (New)

Up 32

58

Waterville

Down 4

59

Morfontaine

Up 15

60

Royal Troon (Old)

Down 3

61

Golf Club

Down 3

62

Bandon Dunes (Bandon Dunes)

Down 2

63

Los Angeles (North)

NEW

64

Kawana (Fuji)

Down 3

65

Les Bordes

Up 4

66

Loch Lomond

Down 35

67

Baltusrol (Lower)

Down 8

68

European Club

Down 18

69

Diamante Dunes

NEW

70

North Berwick (West)

Up 2

71

Sebonack

Up 17

72

Cabo del Sol (Ocean)

Down 6

73

Garden City

Up 20

74

Wade Hampton

Down 22

75

Royal Porthcawl

Up 15

76

Old Sandwich

NEW

77

Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie)

No change

78

TPC at Sawgrass (Stadium)

Down 3

79

Shadow Creek (North)

Down 14

80

Walton Heath (Old)

Up 5

81

Swinley Forest

NEW

82

Somerset Hills

NEW

83

Bandon Dunes (Old Macdonald)

NEW

84

Royal Liverpool

Down 28

85

Barnbougle Lost Farm

NEW

86

PGA de Catalunya (Stadium)

No change

87

Southern Hills

Down 9

88

Maidstone

Up 6

89

Valderrama

Down 38

90

National (Moonah)

Down 3

91

Quaker Ridge

NEW

92

Cruden Bay

NEW

93

Tokyo

NEW

94

Bandon Dunes (Bandon Trails)

NEW

95

Shoreacres

NEW

96

Castle Stuart

NEW

97

Royal Adelaide

Down 42

98

Paraparaumu Beach

NEW

99

Camargo

NEW

100

Noordwijkse

No change

Click here to see the 2012 World Top 100 in detail.

Breakdown of courses by country (previous number in parenthesis):
USA 47 (43), Scotland 12 (11), England 10 (10), Australia 7 (8), Ireland 5 (5), New Zealand 3 (3), Japan 3 (2), Canada 2 (4), France 2 (3), Northern Ireland 2 (2), Spain 2 (2), Mexico 2 (1), Dominican Republic 1 (1), Netherlands 1 (1), Wales 1 (1), Belgium 0 (1), South Africa 0 (1), Sweden 0 (1),

For those interested, the sixteen courses that made way for the new are: Medinah (No.3), Royal Melbourne (East), National Golf Club of Canada, Spyglass Hill, Hamilton, Leopard Creek, Inverness, Castle Pines, Machrihanish, Metropolitan, Wentworth (West), Royal Zoute, Arcadia Bluffs, Chantilly (Vineuil), Kinloch Club and Bro Hof Slott (Stadium).