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​Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2020

08 December, 2019

Top 100 Golf Courses of the World 2020

Thanks to the combined efforts of our worldwide panel of correspondents and raters, we bring you the latest edition of our Top 100 Golf Courses of the World. Now that our biennial consultation period has concluded, we’ve filtered the contender list down to what we think comprises the best one hundred golfing layouts around the globe.

For the more statistically minded reader, the chart includes courses from the following countries: USA (42), England (12), Scotland (12), Australia (9), Ireland (4), Canada (3), Japan (3), New Zealand (3), Netherlands (2) and Northern Ireland (2), with the remaining eight located in Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, France, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and Wales.

We'll never claim this is a definitive listing – such an assertion is completely meaningless, of course. Even within our extended team, there are many shades of opinion, so we weigh these differing points of view as best we can to arrive at a balanced ranking order.

And so to our new Top 100 for Planet Earth, where Cypress Point in California retains the No. 1 position for the third successive edition. Alister MacKenzie’s tour de force on the Monterey Peninsula has been in operation for more than ninety years and today’s course is as relevant in the modern era as it was when it first opened in the late 1920s.

Cypress Point Club

The latest review for the course from regular contributor M. James Ward concludes with the following: “Cypress Point is akin to what Orson Wells created with the cinema giant Citizen Kane. Like the movie – every frame of Cypress Point is accounted for by MacKenzie. Those who have the opportunity to play this masterpiece will never forget one’s time there. Truly magnificent.”

Two courses on the current Open rota make very impressive upward moves near the top of the table and it’s no coincidence that they’ve reaped the benefits of far-reaching renovations from architect Martin Ebert. The Ailsa at Trump Turnberry in Scotland (up six to #8) and the Dunluce at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland (up four to #11) were always highly regarded links layouts in our world chart (the former was #5 in 2010 and the latter #12 in the edition before that) and recent upgrade work has helped propel them back into the upper echelons.

Trump Turnberry Ailsa course

Weeks ago, a reviewer wrote this about the Ailsa: “I played Turnberry Ailsa several times before it became Trump Turnberry. It was terrific before and now it is fabulous” while another posted this for the Dunluce: “I have been lucky enough to have played 12 of the Top 25 [world listing]… to have Royal Portrush outside your Top 10 is farcical!” Neither of these people will probably be fully satisfied with the new positions for these courses, but they’ve certainly moved in the right direction.

The most notable climber in the top half of the table is A.W. Tillinghast’s design at Somerset Hills in New Jersey (up nineteen to #50), which has benefited recently from architectural input by Tom Doak and his associate Brian Slawnik at Renaissance Golf Design. Our International Correspondent David Davis revisited here during the last two years, saying: “what a joy it was to return to this wonderful old world course… what a lovely walk with no two holes even similar to each other with what feels like butterfly wings routing that constantly changes direction and challenges your entire bag.”

Somerset Hills Country Club

In the bottom half of the standings, a handful of top tracks make double-digit progress up the new chart, four from the USA and one from England.

On the east side of the US, Devereux Emmet’s Garden City in New York (at #56) and Perry Maxwell’s Old Town Club in North Carolina (at #65) both climb eleven rungs on the ladder, while the Seth Raynor-designed track at Shoreacres in Illinois rises twelve spots to No. 72. On the west coast, the well-received Kyle Phillips upgrade of the old 1920s course at The California Golf Club of San Francisco (up fourteen to #60) has completely turned around the fortunes of a layout that was ranked #94 only four years ago.

Old Town Club

Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design consults at Garden City and Shoreacres and his company has also played a large part in a renovation project of the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, England (up sixteen to #62), which involved a major bunker remodelling program, along with the extensive clearance of undergrowth and the removal of a large number of trees.

Woodhall Spa Golf Club - Hotchkin course

Seven courses have been added to our World Top 100.

The highest new entry at No. 81 is Ardfin, located on the Isle of Jura in Scotland, which was designed by Bob Harrison for a fellow Australian owner. Occupying a mainly cliff top location on either side of Jura House, the course is routed across a rather difficult, rugged landscape of peat and rocks, with many of the holes constructed from soil mined from other areas within the massive 7,000-acre estate.

Ardfin Golf Course

We suspected three years ago that Ardfin might at some point make a global impact on the rankings ( click here to read the story) and now it has come to pass.

Entering at No. 92, the Yangtze Dunes course at Lanhai International is a links-style course set out on Chongming Island, in the estuary of China’s mighty Yangtze River. Our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary was there this year and came away suitably enamoured by what he saw; “it’s completely different from anything you’ll find in Asia; especially given how firm the course is kept… the course has a magnificent sandy base that provided the catalyst for the designers to take the linksy route with their plans, and the results are sensational.”

Yangtze Dunes

Royal Cinque Ports at Deal in England rose one place last month to #12 in the English standings, also jumping five spots to #31 in our GB&I Top 100 – it now enters our World chart at No. 95. Laid out in 1892, this venerable old links has twice hosted the Open, in 1909 and 1920, with James Braid called in to prepare the course for the second of those events. Guy Campbell subsequently carried out remedial work after World War II, but it’s the recent course modifications by architect Martin Ebert and the knowledgeable club staff who've really elevated the links to its new-found status.

Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club

The course at Essex County Club (new at #96) in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, is a Donald Ross layout that was expanded from its original 9-hole configuration then redesigned during the architect’s seven-year tenure as professional at the club. It came to prominence in more modern times when it hosted the Curtis Cup in 2010 and it has since attracted positive reviewer comments such as “one of the very best in the Commonwealth” and “the renovations to the course have now elevated this layout among the best in the world”.

Essex County Club

The entry of Santapazienza in Brazil at No. 98 may surprise quite a few people who may have never heard of it. The golf-crazy owner and his son hired Tom and Logan Fazio to redesign a course they had originally set out for their own entertainment. Over the course of several years, the architects and their design team fastidiously fashioned a large-scale layout across an enormous private property, incorporating some of the most outrageous cart path innovations ever seen on a golf course.

Santapazienza Golf Course

Our Argentina correspondent, Javier Pintos, was there earlier this year and had this to say about his visit: “it was a great experience, not just playing golf but also learning the story from the owners about Santapazienza… this place is unique, a well-deserved Top 100 course which every year hosts the Faldo Series in Brazil… hosted by two guys who are as devoted as you can imagine to golf and its heritage”.

The last two newcomers are actually chart re-entries. Coore & Crenshaw’s Bandon Trails course at Bandon Dunes in Oregon (new at #99) last made an appearance in our World 100 at No. 94 in 2012 and the Robert Trent Jones Senior-designed Real Valderrama in Spain (new at #100) featured in six previous chart editions before dropping out in 2014 at a point when the club embarked on an ambitious renovation programme, which completed in 2018.

Real Valderrama Golf Club

It’s a very competitive ranking environment at global level and there are many other courses that just lost out on making the cut by the narrowest of margins imaginable.


To view the entire detailed list of our latest Top 100 Golf Courses of the World click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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