Course Rater Confidential: The surprises on GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the World ranking

The 15th hole at St. Patrick's Links in Ireland.

St. Patrick's Links in Ireland is one of the seven newcomers to the Top 100. That, however, is a surprise to no one.

Clyde Johnson

GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. Check out GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the U.S., Top 100 Courses in the World, Top 100 Courses You Can Play, Best Municipal Courses in the U.S., and 100 Best Short Courses. Meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

What surprised you the most about GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking?

Steve Lapper (has played 84 of the World Top 100): I understand the surprise at seeing the domination of U.S. courses. Given the demographic makeup of our otherwise small panel, the last two pandemic years kept people mostly close to home. For example, many of us had to cancel trips to the U.K., Europe, Canada and Asia, often several times. The future 2023/2024 list will probably reverse the U.S. skew. I was surprised about certain placements and some omissions. There were some courses that survived relying solely on some misplaced reputation or commitment to PGA Tour events. Others that made it to lofty heights remain head-scratchers. Of course, having one vote out of 107 explains a lot!

John Cornish (has played 92 of the World Top 100): I was amazed how much traveling other panelists were able to manage in the last two years during the Covid pandemic. I’m envious. There are some new courses added to the current list that I haven’t visited and look forward to more travel over the coming years. There seems to be a trend toward the traditional style of golf course, particularly in the United States. We’re now losing some of the wonderful old courses in the U.K. and Asia and Africa, which is a great shame and something that requires some balancing. There was a downward trend in 75 percent percent of European courses. Naturally, with more than 100 panelists, there will be some courses that match my own views and some that don’t. That’s what makes this diverse group gel together the way it does.

Gordon Dalgleish (has played 73 of the World Top 100): Historically there is a stability about the list which was slightly upended this year. The movement, up and down, for some courses was significant. Arguably some of this was caused by travel restrictions and a more inward U.S. focus, although the exceptions to this theory are St. Patricks and Ardfin — both in the British Isles. Ultimately ranking position is about splitting hairs and it will be wonderful when we can all travel to experience golf on a global scale and not in your own backyard.

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