Our expert course raters sized up the best golf courses on the planet to rank GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the World for 2020-21. There are plenty of familiar names on this year’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World. But it’s good to have some new blood too, right? Our brand-new list features 11 courses that jumped inside this year’s Top 100, reflecting changing trends and a revamped ranking.
Uniquely beautiful and brutal, the 101-year-old routing serves up multiple forced carries on holes that hopscotch from one island of turf to the next. One simple way to judge a course is by the quality of its hazards and greens. Pine Valley excels at both, with some contending it has the most formidable hazards and sophisticated green complexes in golf. Throw in a wonderful routing across the rolling, sandy landscape and you have a course that hasn’t budged from the No. 1 spot for decades. (No change from position in previous ranking)
As Alister MacKenzie himself must have felt about his 1928 design, it's almost inconceivable that land this stunning was made available for golf. For the lucky few who get to play here, they get to enjoy the best walk the sport has to offer as MacKenzie effortlessly transports the golfer around the diverse property. (No change)
St. Andrews (Old Course)
The birthplace of golf features blind bunkers, huge double greens, quirks such as the Road Hole and Hell Bunker and strategic options that vary with the day’s wind. The emphasis on variety and strategy became the foundation for strategic designs that followed, including Augusta National. The Old Course might well possess the fastest, best turf in all of golf (despite, or perhaps because of, its constant use) and no design possesses the flexibility in allowing a 10-year-old, 30-year-old, 50-year-old and 70-year-old to enjoy themselves as a group. Modern architects, take note! (No change)
Venue for five U.S. Opens since 1986, most recently in 2018, this is William Flynn’s undisputed design masterpiece. Apart from being handed a magnificent piece of land upon which to work, Flynn was given something else nearly as valuable: time. Work commenced in 1928 and the course didn’t open until 1931. William Gordon led the project for Flynn and he enjoyed the help of 150 American Indians. True, the Great Depression commenced during construction but the grace with which the holes flow across the property is a tribute to the hands on, slow build process. (Up 2 spots)
National Golf Links of America
NGLA, or “National,” as it's known, brought Seth Raynor and CB Macdonald together for the first time and what they created still stands as a marvel of strategic design. Some of its template holes, including the Alps 3rd, the Redan 4th, the Short 6th, and the Leven 17th, are arguably superior to their namesake holes in the United Kingdom that Macdonald copied. The great Bernard Darwin summed it up nicely when he opined, “The National Links is a truly great course; even as I write I feel my allegiance to Westward Ho! to Hoylake, to St. Andrews tottering to its fall.” (Up 2)
Royal County Down
This 1889 Old Tom Morris creation is one of the most handsome tests in the world. A collection of golf's most fearsome-looking bunkers populate the course. The game’s best front nine includes the 217-yard, par-3 4th and the blind par-4 9th with its views of the Irish Sea, the Mountains of Mourne and the red-brick steeple of the Slieve Donard Hotel. (Down 2)
Royal Melbourne (West)
The appeal of Alister MacKenzie's Golden Age masterpiece is best explained by former world Number 1 Sir Nick Faldo. "I love the way it plays firm and fast-running, the way the bunkering frames and almost intrudes into the putting surfaces and the brilliance of the bunkering style with the native scrubby look. I'm also a fan of the often very wide fairways that reward positioning and of the mix of long and short par-4s. Add to this the splendid contouring of the greens and the rich variety of approach shots that you play into those greens."
No course plays so much viciously harder than it looks than Oakmont. No trees, no water, few forced carries and huge greens normally add up to a sea of red numbers for the game's best, but not here. For a course famed for its difficulty, what gets lost in the shuffle is the brilliance of its short par 4s. (No change.)
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National is the vision of Bobby Jones and his chosen architect, Alister MacKenzie. Both intended for Augusta National to reflect the spirit and strategic options of the Old Course at St. Andrews, the course that they admired most. They succeeded brilliantly. Nearly every hole at St. Andrews and Augusta National provides a safe route to the green and also a riskier one. Combine staggering beauty and Masters tradition and it's easy to see why Augusta National is so revered.
Royal Dornoch (Championship)
This seaside classic is worth the journey. After Tom Watson played here before his Open defense in 1981, he remarked that the experience was “the most fun I've ever had a on a golf course.” Donald Ross grew up here, though Dornoch took its final shape as we know it today well after he left. (Up 5)