Ranking & Rating

Our ranking process:

There is nothing new about ranking golf courses. Numerous publications around the world produce their own lists using their panels. What is different about our approach is our process. Our extended network of correspondents, contributors and aficionados supply the data we weight most heavily. These trusted expert opinions, from golfers who have played an extensive number of golf courses in their country or territory, provide the data we weight most heavily, but we also consider our online data posted by many of our reviewers, some of whom go on to become our panelists/raters.

We keep a watchful eye on the rankings published by magazines, of course, but we don’t use their data or any other third party data in our ranking calculations. We take pride in our independence, which enables freedom from bias and commercial influence.

It’s impossible to remove subjectivity from the process of ranking golf courses. The definition of each element that should combine to make the perfect golf course has not been written or generally accepted. Dr Alister MacKenzie’s “13 General Principles of Architecture” and Charles Blair Macdonald’s seven “Essential Characteristics” for the ideal golf course go some way towards defining the key characteristics. In the absence of universally accepted criteria, we do our utmost to arrive at genuine, honest and informed golf course rankings. We’ll admit we get it wrong from time to time, so we’ll never claim that our rankings are definitive. No golf course ranking is perfect.

The criteria we ask our expert raters to follow focuses on the following headline areas: a) quality of design and test (40%), b) visual appeal and enjoyment (30%), c) presentation (30%). Our New Zealand rankings, for example, involved polling dozens of Kiwi club pros. We also surveyed every golf club in Britain & Ireland and obtained the opinions of Club Champions and Club Professionals and other golfers who have extensive knowledge of local courses to help shape our regional rankings. We’ve tested many different methods using continuous improvement processes, but we always remind golfers that the most realistic golf course rankings are in our own mind’s eye.

The ranking and rating conundrum

Our rating process:
We have created our own unique rating system, which is built into the "write a review" process within each individual golf course web page. This rating system allows you to rate each course on a ten-point scale that will translate into golf balls ranging from 6 (high) to 1 (low) as follows:

6, 5½, 5, 4½, 4, 3½, 3, 2½, 2, 1

We have set no hard and fast rules for you to follow when you rate a course except, naturally, that you (the reviewer) must have played the course first. Important factors, such as course location, condition (or presentation), difficulty and historical importance are left for you, the reviewer, to judge. We ask reviewers to concentrate on the golf course and not the off-course facilities. The following rating scale is a guide to assist reviewers when rating a course.

Our Rating Scale

Prior to listing and featuring any layout on the Top 100 website, we perform a thorough check to ensure the course is worthy of our recommendation at the time of listing. Top 100 Golf Courses is NOT a golf course directory. We only list layouts in the upper quartile of worldwide facilities. The courses we feature span from world ranked courses to area ranked courses and hidden gems, therefore the quality of design and condition (plus many other factors) varies dramatically.

The reviews posted should naturally be based on your own limited (and not so limited) experience of the golf courses you’ve played – nobody can claim to have played every golf course in the world. However, some reviewers have played all the golf courses in the World Top 100, so their experience and their rating scale is vastly different to a reviewer who has only played a handful of golf courses.

Before posting a review, please consider our ten-point rating scale.

6 – Condor (Perfection) – Courses don't get any better than this, drop everything to play
5½ Albatross (Outstanding) – A brilliant World Top 100 course, deserving a week away to play
5 – Eagle (Excellent) – A course that is the best in the region, worth flying in to play
4½ Eagle Lip Out (Very Good) – One of the best courses in the region, warranting an overnight stop
4 – Birdie (Good) – A good course to seek out if in the area, meriting a full day out
3½ Birdie Lip Out (Above Average) – A satisfactory course that's worth playing if you're in town
3 – Par (Average) – A standard course with a couple of noteworthy holes and well maintained
2½ Par Lip Out (Fair) – A course that's just below par and/or with questionable maintenance
2 – Bogey (Poor) – A course that is poorly designed and/or lacks ideal maintenance
1 – Double Bogey (Very Poor) – A very basic course and/or abandoned, reverting to Nature

Occasionally we may publish a Top 100 list (where sufficient data is available) based purely on reviews posted by you, the passionate golfer. Sometimes we use the golf ball rating data as a separate stream to help define our main golf course rankings. In the first of our Top 100 books, your No.1 in the British Isles was Royal Dornoch. Dornoch has never before been voted as the No.1 course, but who would possibly argue with you?

Get involved:
There is no doubt that whenever any list is produced, it provides a lively talking point across the whole of the golfing world, especially at those golf clubs fortunate enough to make it onto the latest list. When a conventional ranking table is produced, there are winners and losers, high climbers, big fallers and new entries. Naturally, it also means that golf courses may drop off the latest list, sometimes never to be seen again. This does not mean that these golf courses are no longer “top courses”; it simply means that other courses (old or new) have improved or come into favour.

We recognise that it is important to constantly reassess all our best golf courses. Biennially we re-sequence our ranking database to take all the latest information into account. Courses will go up and down, but they will rarely be taken offline. We also play as many golf courses as we can and we've written our own independent golf course articles for thousands of courses.

Regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur golfer, we would like to know what you think of the Top 100 golf courses that you have played. Please take the time to write your own review and give the course a rating. Hopefully you will find our unique golf ball rating system fun and relevant. Visit our current World Top 100 or use our comprehensive search facility to find the course(s) that you'd like to review. But please, only write a review if you have played the course yourself. If you're reviewing your home course make sure you clearly state that you are a member.

If you have photographs of any of the listed golf courses, we would love to display them on this website. There is an online facility to "submit an image". If you have extensive knowledge of golf courses in any specific region and feel you can help improve our rankings, please click here to get in touch by email.

www.top100golfcourses.com is a totally independent website. We are not associated with any of the golf publications that rank golf courses (other than our own), but we are all passionate about golf courses.

Ranking example

In 2011 we changed the look of our web pages and for some courses we may now show up to four ranking positions for any one course. In the example shown, 2nd represents the state/county/area ranking position, 10th is the course position in country (Scotland in this example), 20th is the course position in Britain & Ireland and 65th is where the course is placed on our world ranking table.