The Shipnuck 100: The Best Golf Courses I Have Played Worldwide

May 11, 2016

A couple of weeks ago my laptop computer was stolen. I’ve never been very good about backing up stuff, so gone with my Mac was a good chunk of my iTunes library, many treasured photos of my kids and, saddest of all, a Word file on my desktop entitled Top 100. Don’t let the simple name fool you—this was a monumental document, a distillation of my life’s work. Yes, it was the ever-changing, always-evolving, highly idiosyncratic list of my 100 favorite golf courses on the planet. After a deep period of mourning it’s now time to recreate the list, not least because last week I played two courses that demand a rethinking: the recently redone Dunes at Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Chambers Bay. (This was actually my second time pegging it at Chambers but on the first go-around last year, for a video, I was forced to play from the U.S. Open tees, in the rain, while being followed by a camera crew, and thus unable to fully appreciate the course before me.)

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Since this is as personal as letting someone read my diary—or, at the very least, my Netflix queue—I feel compelled to explain my crude methodology. There are no fancy statistical categories or complicated metrics. No, I simply ask myself, would I rather play this course or that one? Each track moves up or down the list accordingly. Note that these are only courses I’ve played, not merely strolled in my guise as a reporter. (Ergo, missing is Oakmont—the only course in the first 17 of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 in the World I haven’t played.) Ranking anything is highly personal. When it comes to golf courses, I value above all else fun, memorability, beauty, quirkiness and heroic shot values. Courses at which the primary virtue is difficulty don’t do much for me. Since I grew up in Monterey County and have returned to live there, I’m deeply biased toward playing by the sea, and all the better if it’s ancient linksland. History is a bonus but not mandatory. I love public courses and loathe American golf’s obsession with exclusivity, but I try not to let this unduly affect my rankings. Still, when you go to a place and everyone is uptight and you feel like you’re supposed to whisper and every dude in the grill room is a cigar-smoking Master of the Universe, that does have some effect on the experience. So, here’s my top 100…