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Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2016

09 November, 2015

Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2016

Our latest World Top 100 ranking list is unveiled

Our 2016 Top 100 Golf Courses of the World rankings have been compiled using a different process from previous iterations. Quite a lot has happened since our 2014 world rankings were published. Not least, in August 2015, Fergal O’Leary – one of our most respected contributors – became the youngest man in history to play the World’s Top 100 Golf Courses. Click here to read the story.

Masa Nishijima, our International Consultant, completed the “holy grail” some years ago and continues to play any layouts (new or old) that might conceivably be considered World Top 100 contenders. Masa was one of the four co-authors who contributed to Tom Doak’s latest Confidential Guide series, along with respected writer and course rater Darius Oliver, and the founder of Golf Club Atlas, Ran Morrisett. Masa agreed to share his own personal rankings. Click the link to see Masa's World Top 100.

Another of our contributors is well on the way to completing his goal of playing every course that has ever appeared on a World Top 100 ranking list. Paul Rudovsky is a man on a mission and is famous for his crazy golfing itineraries. His latest adventure has taken him to South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and China to play fifteen Asian courses in just a couple of weeks. Paul is a keen blogger and you can read all about his exploits at

We incorporated the views of these knowledgeable contributors (along with input from many others) to help shape our latest 2016 World Top 100 table. Their combined feedback has shaken up our rankings and we plan to factor in the thoughts of even more course raters who have played an extensive number of the world’s greatest courses in the future.

Some of our readers will be pleased to see a change at the very top of the rankings. After ten years at No.1, Pine Valley stands aside and is replaced at the pinnacle of the table by Cypress Point. Fergal and Paul both have Cypress at the head of their personal Top 100 charts. Fergal sums CP up as follows: “So much has been written about this legendary course crafted by Mother Nature and completed by Alister MacKenzie, yet the aggregate of all that has been reported doesn’t even come close to describing its unique natural beauty and world-renowned brilliance.”

Shinnecock Hills jumps up two spots to No.3 and many who have been lucky enough to experience this Hampton masterpiece think it could perhaps even go a little higher in the charts. Our International Correspondent, David Davis, has played 75 of the world hundred and after playing the course last year said: “Make no mistake, Shinnecock is a players’ course and an extremely tough test of golf, it’s also one of the few routings that exist where it would be extremely difficult to imagine improving, my only thought is that I would love to see it playing as firm as a UK links.”

Royal Dornoch makes a bold four position upward move from 12th to 8th and following my visit to the Scottish Highlands a few months ago I completely understand why it has risen into the world top ten. A reviewer named Tom posted the following comments last month: “When you arrive there's already a feeling that a grand journey has been completed. An hour north of Inverness, you wind through the mountains with ever-growing anticipation that you are on the way to a special place. The course is simply mind blowing. We played on a sunny windless day in October and I couldn't have wished to be anywhere else.”

Two Australian courses move upwards. Royal Melbourne (West) moves up one to 7th and Kingston Heath rises three places to 17th. The National Golf Links of America is the biggest faller in the Top 20, down four to 11th position. NGLA is a monument we fondly call “Blair’s Best”. Its fall in the rankings is purely the result of levelling as we moved it up a little too strongly last time around.

On the flip side, Morfontaine leaps nineteen places to 34th due to the universal view that we had this French gem positioned way too low. 34th is the highest place Morfontaine has occupied in our rankings, although it did achieve 37th spot in our 2008 numbers.

Shanqin Bay springs upwards a massive 34 places to 60th position. This recently opened Coore & Crenshaw oddity is now beginning to find its rightful position in our world table, becoming the third highest ranked course in Asia behind Japan’s venerable Hirono and Kawana’s unsung Fuji course.

It’s a mixed bag of good and bad fortune for many of Britain’s courses. Some roughly hold their place while some drop down and others rise. This season’s big winners include the Balgownie course at Royal Aberdeen, up 23 to 56th. To the north of Aberdeen at Balmedie, Trump International Golf Links rockets 28 places to 65th, largely due to this controversial course finally playing like a true links.

We were the first publication to rank Royal Porthcawl in a World Top 100 and it now features in most magazine rankings. This engaging old links moves up into 69th position and it remains the only Welsh course on our premier ranking table.

Seven Irish courses have been listed prominently since we first published a World Top 100 in 2006 and they all largely hold firm in our latest table, with the exception of Waterville which takes a grave tumble. The jaw-droppingly scenic Waterville – routed on a promontory surrounded by the sea – divides opinion among raters. I genuinely hope it can hold its own among the stiff competition because it’s a personal Irish favourite.

Cabot Links narrowly missed our 2014 rankings due to the course having only just opened. It will come as no surprise therefore to learn that it’s the highest new entry in our 2016 World Top 100. It may only be a matter of time before Cabot Links displaces St George’s from the Canadian top spot. We’ll also be keeping a watchful eye on Cabot Cliffs which sits atop a bluff overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence. It’s even possible that Cabot Cliffs could become Nova Scotia’s future No.1.

The USA’s Wade Hampton, Southern Hills and Peachtree re-enter the Top 100 after temporarily dropping out in 2014, while the exclusive “Cal Club” is a new entry at position 94 following its recent highly acclaimed Kyle Phillips restoration. Fergal reckons, “the restoration has been the catalyst for the club’s rising national and world ranking, and I can only anticipate continued future success.”

We feature seven Australian courses in the 2016 rankings. We lose National (Moonah) but gain Victoria and Ellerston (straight in at 93rd and 99th respectively). Eyebrows will be raised at the inclusion of the ultra-private Ellerston, which Greg Norman and Bob Harrison designed for the late Australian media magnate Kerry Packer. We simply couldn’t ignore its existence and the fortunate few who have played Ellerston will say we’ve still not ranked it highly enough.

South Cape Owners Club is a high profile South Korean new entry at position 91. It opened in late 2013 and is fashioned to take your breath away. According to Fergal it should be ranked higher: “What Kyle Philips created at South Cape makes a lot of old classics shiver in their boots. The golf world needs to brace itself, as this whole experience takes you to unimaginable levels of euphoria.”

Many will be surprised, even perplexed, to note that there are only two Continental European courses in the table. Agree or not, we’re pleased to welcome a new European addition that joins the classical Morfontaine. Koninklijke Haagsche, or Royal Hague, is a Harry Colt and Charles Alison creation from 1939 and it dispels, in no uncertain terms, any thinking that Holland is flat. “Right out of the starting gate it becomes abundantly clear that a round of golf at De Haagsche is truly like a wild roller coaster ride,” said David Davis who resides in Amsterdam. “Literally, this may well be the most undulated course I’ve ever experienced.”

We don’t claim that our latest World Top 100 is definitive – how could that ever be the case? What we do know is that there is a changing of the guard. We’ll always see many old classics propping up the list, but there are now numerous new kids on the block and we can see more young contenders in the pipeline.

Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to let us know what you think of our latest 2016 World Top 100. Have we omitted a course that really should be in our rankings, or have we included a course that really doesn’t deserve to be there? Maybe there’s a particular layout that’s riding too high or perhaps there’s one lying too low in the standings? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top and bottom of the page if you’d like to share your opinion.

Over the next couple of weeks we plan to publish a World second hundred for the first time. Keep an eye out for this release as it promises a few surprises.

Keith Baxter
Top 100 Golf Courses

Rank Course Move
1 Cypress Point Up 1
2 Pine Valley Down 1
3 Shinnecock Hills Up 2
4 Royal County Down (Championship) Down 1
5 St Andrews (Old) Down 1
6 Augusta National No change
7 Royal Melbourne (West) Up 1
8 Royal Dornoch (Championship) Up 4
9 Muirfield No change
10 Oakmont Up 1
11 National Golf Links of America Down 4
12 Sand Hills Down 2
13 Merion (East) No change
14 Pebble Beach No change
15 Royal Portrush (Dunluce) No change
16 Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes) No change
17 Kingston Heath Up 3
18 Crystal Downs Down 1
19 Turnberry (Ailsa) Down 1
20 Ballybunion (Old) Up 1
21 Fishers Island Up 4
22 Chicago No change
23 Pinehurst (No.2) Up 3
24 Royal St George's Down 5
25 Winged Foot (West) Down 2
26 Carnoustie (Championship) Up 4
27 Seminole Up 4
28 Sunningdale (Old) Down 4
29 Prairie Dunes Down 2
30 Friar's Head Up 3
31 Lahinch (Old) Up 4
32 Royal Birkdale Down 3
33 San Francisco Down 1
34 Morfontaine Up 19
35 Barnbougle Dunes Down 7
36 Riviera Up 2
37 Hirono Down 3
38 New South Wales Up 5
39 Los Angeles (North) No change
40 Cape Kidnappers Down 4
41 Country Club (Clyde & Squirrel) No change
42 Kingsbarns Down 2
43 Oakland Hills (South) Down 1
44 Portmarnock (Old) No change
45 Sunningdale (New) Up 3
46 Muirfield Village Up 8
47 Barnbougle Lost Farm Down 10
48 Whistling Straits (Straits) Down 2
49 North Berwick (West) Up 2
50 Kiawah Island (Ocean) Down 5
51 Bethpage (Black) Down 1
52 Diamante Dunes Up 15
53 Kawana (Fuji) Up 9
54 Castle Stuart Up 11
55 Ballyneal Down 8
56 Royal Aberdeen Up 23
57 Royal Lytham & St Annes Down 8
58 St George's Down 3
59 Camargo Up 16
60 Shanqin Bay Up 34
61 Garden City Up 8
62 Cabot Links New entry
63 TPC at Sawgrass (Stadium) Up 3
64 Olympic Club (Lake) Down 8
65 Trump International Golf Links Up 28
66 Golf Club Down 6
67 Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog) Down 15
68 Bandon Dunes (Old Macdonald) Up 4
69 Royal Porthcawl Up 17
70 Bandon Dunes (Bandon Dunes) Down 11
71 Swinley Forest Up 16
72 Oak Hill (East) Up 5
73 St George's Hill Up 23
74 Somerset Hills Up 7
75 Cruden Bay Up 16
76 Shoreacres Down 3
77 Royal Troon (Old) Down 14
78 Quaker Ridge Up 2
79 Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Down 21
80 Old Sandwich Down 12
81 Ganton Down 7
82 Walton Heath (Old) Down 11
83 Wade Hampton New entry
84 Waterville Down 23
85 Southern Hills New entry
86 European Club Down 3
87 Maidstone Up 1
88 Royal Liverpool Down 3
89 Baltusrol (Lower) Down 7
90 Pasatiempo Down 6
91 South Cape Owners Club New entry
92 Sebonack Down 28
93 Victoria New entry
94 California New entry
95 Cabo del Sol (Ocean) Down 19
96 Highlands Links Down 39
97 Tokyo Down 2
98 Koninklijke Haagsche New entry
99 Ellerston New entry
100 Peachtree New entry

Click to see the new World Top 100 Golf Courses in detail.

Breakdown of courses by country (previous number in parenthesis):

USA 48 (46), Scotland 12 (13), England 11 (11), Australia 7 (6), Ireland 5 (5), Japan 3 (3), Canada 3 (2), Northern Ireland 2 (2), Mexico 2 (2), New Zealand 1 (2), China 1 (1), France 1 (1), Dominican Republic 1 (1), Netherlands 1 (1), Wales 1 (1), South Korea 1 (0)

The nine courses that made way for the new entries are: Kauri Cliffs, Loch Lomond, Noordwijkse, Shadow Creek (North), PGA Catalunya (Stadium), Valderrama, Valley Club of Montecito, National (Moonah), Leopard Creek.


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