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Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2018

07 December, 2017

Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2018

Welcome to our latest 2018 edition of the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World.

Two years ago we reported that our world rankings had been compiled using a different procedure to previous iterations. Since then we’ve continued to develop the process by engaging many more contributions from raters from all around the globe.

A good number of these raters have played every course on the list. One intrepid golf traveller, Paul Rudovsky, has played every course that has been listed on any current or historical World Top 100 ranking list. Or has he? There may be one new entry from the Land of the Rising Sun that “Rudo” has yet to play… we like to keep everyone on his or her toes!

Masa Nishijima, our International Consultant, completed the “holy grail” some years ago and continues to visit many layouts (new or old) that might conceivably be considered World Top 100 contenders. Masa was one of the four co-authors of Tom Doak’s Confidential Guide series, along with course rater Darius Oliver, and the founder of Golf Club Atlas, Ran Morrisett. Once again, Masa agreed to share publicly his own personal World Top 100 rankings. Click the link to see Masa’s 2017 World Top 100.

Another member of our team is well on the way to completing his goal of playing the World Top 100. Prior to the release of this 2018 list, he had just one course to play and it’s undoubtedly the hardest to access.

To define this latest list, we incorporated the views of our extended team of contributors (along with input from a multitude of sources) to arrive at our latest 2018 World Top 100 table. We continue to seek feedback from experienced course raters such that we can further refine our rankings for 2020. If you would like to contribute, please contact us.

Cypress Point remains our World No.1. Cypress knocked Pine Valley off the top spot in 2016 and it has since cemented its place deep within the hearts and souls of the vast majority of our raters. Six years ago, David Davis broke off his engagement for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to play Cypress Point. To this day he reckons it was the best decision he ever made. A recent reviewer stated: “Overall, Cypress for sure held up as the best course in the world. It was in pristine shape, and every single hole was unique and fantastic in its own way.”

Shinnecock Hills – 2018 US Open venue – rises one place to #2, pushing Pine Valley (#3) a little further down the table. According to Matt Ward, “the greatness of Shinnecock can be fully appreciated by an outline I have long ago developed in assessing courses. The four key elements for me are the following: 1. How good is the land on which the course is situated? 2. How thorough is the routing? 3. How well does the course test all the clubs in one's bag? 4. How well is the course prepared on a daily basis so that inherent design elements flourish?” Read Matt’s detailed Shinnecock Hills review.

Royal County Down (Championship) (#4) and St Andrews (Old) (#5) retain their 2016 positions despite a strong challenge from Royal Melbourne (West), up one to number six. The National Golf Links of America rises four places to #7 and it’s another of Matt Ward’s personal favourites: “The word transformative speaks to those situations and outcomes that clearly provide a benchmark never seen previously. In American golf some might say Augusta National, Pinehurst No.2, Merion (East), Oakmont or Pebble Beach provided such situations respectively. But there is one specific course that sits atop them all – National Golf Links of America (NGLA)."

Royal Dornoch (Championship) retains 8th place and then there’s some minor jockeying for position between Oakmont #9, Muirfield #10, Sand Hills #11 and Merion (East) #12.

The Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry jumps five places to #14 due to its recent, extensive makeover. Whether you like it or not, there is no denying the Ailsa’s charms. It’s said that golfers visiting Scotland head east to St Andrews for history and west to Turnberry for beauty. However, a number of our raters are bitterly disappointed to learn that there’s no rise for the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush (#15) despite the preparatory renovations for the 2019 Open Championship bedding in nicely.

The real headline news is that there are twelve new entries into the World Top 100 and the accolade of the highest newcomer goes to Tom Doak’s Tara Iti (#36). This is really no surprise because Tara Iti rocketed straight into the number one slot within our 2017 New Zealand rankings, pushing Tom’s inaugural Kiwi design, Cape Kidnappers (#44), into second place nationally.

Cabot Cliffs was another new course that jumped straight into the national number one slot when we published our Canadian rankings earlier this year. So its inclusion at #46 will not surprise too many people. Some do argue that the Cliffs’ sister layout, Cabot Links, (up one to #61), is the better course at Inverness, but nobody would argue that Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is a golfing destination par excellence.

The Mike DeVries-designed Cape Wickham (#52) is set dramatically on Tasmania’s King Island and it’s our third new entrant. The first five holes wind their way around the Cape Farewell headland before the routing moves inland, with the next eight holes set amongst sand hills and occasional limestone outcrops. Holes 14 to 18 then move towards the imposing Cape Wickham Lighthouse, culminating in a closing hole which wraps itself around Victoria Cove.

Philanthropist Mary Reynolds Babcock founded Old Town Club (#76) in 1939 and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw recently and meticulously renovated this Perry Maxwell original design. Steve MacQuarrie, our New England Correspondent, recently played Old Town in Winston-Salem NC: “Along with Cypress and Merion, Old Town has the distinction of being the only US course I could find on the Top 100 website with unanimous six ball ratings. It was not a difficult decision for me to add that same rating to that group.”

The James Braid-designed Church course at St Enodoc (#87) debuts within our World Top 100 after being on the cusp for many years. Well regarded by many of our raters, this quixotic and rather hilly links course is set amidst towering sand dunes. According to our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary: “The Church course really is streets ahead of most other links courses in England and I can’t believe it took me so long to play here! I would place this course in the Top 100 in the World. Amen.”

Fergal was also very impressed by the West course at Yokohama, straight in at #92: “Coore and Crenshaw have reached the shores of Japan. The club owner made many trips to the US to research the architect he wished to lure to Japan to renovate the West course. After seeing the likes of Sand Hills, Old Sandwich and Friar’s Head, his mind was made up. He convinced Coore and Crenshaw to engage and the contract was signed. The results are simply world class. Only Hirono [#35] and Kawana (Fuji) [#48] might be ranked ahead of it in Japan. It’s the Asian version of Old Town Club, and it absolutely knocked the socks off me.”

Winged Foot (East) (#95) is actually a re-entry after being previously ranked in our 2006, 2008 and 2010 World rankings. According to John Sabino: “The defining characteristics of Winged Foot are its greens, which almost all slope back-to-front and have narrow entry areas. In the 1920s the press dubbed them ‘bottle-necks’… A strong case can be made that the best stretch of holes on the property are the East course's eleventh through fifteenth. I am a big fan of the East course and personally prefer playing it to the West.” Fergal agrees: “One of golf’s most enjoyable walks – certainly a more attractive and fun layout than the West course. Arguably has the best set of par threes in the region and without doubt has the most challenging set of approach shots into the severely raised green-sites.”

Naruo (#96) is also a re-entry, appearing in exactly the same Top 100 editions as Winged Foot East. Naruo was the first course David Davis played on his inaugural trip to Japan: “ When you travel to Japan to see the best courses one thing is readily apparent. Charles H. Alison’s spirit lives in this country – his best work arguably as well – and he’s had significant influence on the history of Japanese golf not to mention having a hand in routing four of the country’s best courses.” John Sabino commented: “The property at Naruo reminded me of Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles because it is a relatively small piece of landlocked hilly property. The course is not only narrow, but also has a lot of uneven lies. I personally rank it as one of the hardest courses in the world along with Bethpage [#51], Oakmont [#9] and Carnoustie [#26].”

Returning to our world rankings for the third time (previously listed in 2006 and 2012), Paraparaumu Beach (#97) is unsung. David Davis commented: “I can’t help feeling that Paraparaumu Beach remains one of the world’s most underrated golf courses. At one point it broke its way miraculously into the World Top 100. I’m amazed it had received enough visits from panelists to give it its due credit. I strongly believe that is indeed where it belongs, in the World Top 100.” Fergal O’Leary concurs: “Everything about the club is humble and unpretentious and fits every element of a golfing gem. If you’re looking for a course which will examine how accurate you are from the tee, then you’ve met your match. With just 34 carefully crafted bunkers on the entire course, the challenge from this raw looking links property is magnified by tight tee shots, brutally wiry rough, rock hard bouncy fairways and spectacular mounding around the greens.”

West Sussex (#98) is set in England’s genteel village of Pulborough and this undervalued heathland course has never before appeared within any mainstream World Top 100 ranking list. It’s one of our personal favourites and according to the doyen of golf writing, Bernard Darwin: “The day on which to see Pulborough, if not to play our best on it, is one when the wind is blowing hard, for the sand is wafted in great puffs, like white clouds across the course, so that we can scarcely believe that the sea is not round the corner… it is a little sandy jewel set in the Sussex clay… what more can anyone desire?”

Royal Adelaide (#99) narrowly missed out on a ranking place in the last two editions of our World Top 100. This is the sixth occasion we’ve listed this Dr Alister MacKenzie-designed layout, which James Spence, author of The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia, described as follows: “Although the sea hasn’t bordered the course at The Royal Adelaide for some 10,000 years, it remains, like Royal Lytham & St Annes, more of a links course than an inland course. Royal Adelaide is a favourite golf course of many Australian golfers and it’s easy to see why.”

Our final new entry is a rare Continental European. The Netherlands is perhaps the premier mainland European golfing destination and this small lowland country now has two courses in our World Top 100 for the first time. Utrecht de Pan (#100), or simply “de Pan” to those in the know, is a Harry Colt design from 1929 and it’s one of the prettiest heathland courses imaginable. Brian Ward and Jim McCann joined David Davis for an extensive Dutch golf tour earlier this year and both Brian and Jim immediately fell in love with de Pan. Bill (one of our regular reviewers) lives in Holland: “The Dutch use their superlative "Gezellig" for describing many of the finer and intimate experiences in life. It doesn't translate that well (cosy?), but nevertheless applies perfectly to De Pan. It's lovely here.”

Each time we publish a re-ranking list there are obviously winners and losers. We don’t claim our latest 2018 World Top 100 is definitive – how could that ever be the case? Even with the most detailed ranking criteria imaginable, the results always distil down to personal viewpoints. We believe everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions and ultimately the best and most accurate ranking lists are embedded in our own mind. Incidentally, we rarely enjoy consensus across our team of raters, but we do factor in everyone’s point of view.


Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to let us know what you think of our latest 2018 World Top 100. Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top and bottom of the page if you’d like to share your opinion.

Click the link to discover our latest Top 100 Golf Courses of the World in detail.

Keith Baxter
Top 100 Golf Courses


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