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Top 100 Ranking Criteria

Our Ranking Process

The objective of Top100GolfCourses is to curate the most respected ranking lists for global, national, regional and local areas. Our panellists are to be well educated, considered, and exceptionally well-travelled

We don't believe you can simply distill golf courses into numbers and scores, so whilst we have a 'guidance' section for our panellists — it is not a prescriptive set of 'criteria' for you to set scores alongside.

We believe we have one of the strongest and well informed panels, and we trust you to draw your own conclusions.

Once the lists are submitted and relative positions collated — a core group will check for anomalies, biases or anything that simply looks out of place.

Ranking Guidance

We believe it's important to stand for something. It is simply not possible to be all things to all people, and it's a fools errand to try. For us, that's strategic golf. Varied, interesting and engaging golf that asks questions answered by different golfers in different ways.

We do not believe it is possible to take all emotion and personal preference out of the ranking equation, nor should we try to do so. That's why this is not a 'criteria' but a 'guidance'. These are examples of things we believe should be rewarded, but ultimately it is your decision.

As long as lists are well considered, devoid of bias and reward the courses you'd like to visit time and time again — that's all we ask for.

Our Five main points of guidance are:

  1. Architecture
  2. Strategic Challenge
  3. Variety
  4. Consistency
  5. Condition and Management


Good architecture is not easily distilled into a few words — especially when
applied to courses around an entire planet. Courses are built to suit different
objectives, budgets, landscapes and climates. It is the remit of our expert
panellists to distil the great courses and truly consider their architectural merits The three fundamental principles, however, are routing, green complexes and use of landscape.


Aspects of routing that should be considered include Walkability. The distance between tees and greens. Are you are generally walking forward and
traversing the full extent of the site? Long walks, steep climbs and unimaginative routing are to be avoided if it is possible to do so. If a course is well routed in exceptionally difficult terrain, this must be factored in.

Some examples of classic routings include:

The Old Course —

The classic out and back layout. Links land is typically long and narrow, and this routing can be as well utilised now as it was centuries ago.

Muirfield —

The concentric loops of Muirfield ensure the East Lothian wind is navigated from each and every direction over each nine.

Green Complexes

The green complex includes the immediate approach, greenside hazards (bunkers, run offs, swales etc) as well as the putting surface itself. They should be of consistent style—indeed it should be difficult to notice where new greens have been built or changed over time.

Greens and their surroundings can be wonderful drivers of strategic play (which we will come to in section 2). Is there any benefit in approaching a green from a certain distance or angle? Or is it as easily approached from
almost anywhere? Is it symmetrically guarded (penal) or is there asymmetry of hazard (strategic).

Is the green uniformly surrounded by long grass? Or is there opportunity for creative recovery by all classes of players?

Excessive green speed is not necessarily advocated, if it comes at the expense of interesting and challenging green contours. The greens should provide interest and challenge without being contrived.

Use of Landscape

Not all golfing land is created equal. The landscape of golf takes many different forms. Whilst there are great examples of ‘ideal’ natural links, there are equally great instances of brilliant parkland. Minimalistic routings through natural land can sit alongside feats of engineering — creating natural golfing
playgrounds from seemingly insipid and illsuited landscapes. Intelligent use of the land is rewarded here. Identifying the great features and incorporating
them into the course. This doesn’t need to be an assault on the senses. Often restraint and subtlety win out. Natural land contours incorporated in the
fairways and greens, larger land movement utilised in the routing.
Rye and Seminole are two very different examples of courses that both make
exceptional use of a dune system. Playing towards, from, along, off and over to extract maximum value from the land. If a course is located by the sea/ocean — does it maximise the interest that backdrop provides? Or does it squander it on a dramatic hole or two?

Strategic Challenge

To be clear, this section does not reward courses that are simply difficult. Any
course can be made nearly unplayable by lengthening the holes, narrowing the fairways and juicing up the rough. Whilst the difficulty is increased slightly for the very best players, it is made near impossible for the average player — and this goes against the fundamental principle of Strategic Challenge.
Penal golf, where restrictive and attritional golf is not favoured here. Instead, those courses that are not only playable but enjoyable for the weaker player, whilst still providing a thorough test for the elite player, are championed.

On tour pros, Pete Dye said: “When you get those dudes thinking, they’re in trouble.” To that end, courses where the player has choices and options available. A course that dictates the required shot and only tests
the execution will not fare as well as one where there are multiple routes to the hole, and it is the player who must plot their own route.

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