Course Rater Confidential: Takeaways from GOLF’s inaugural Top 100 Asia-Pacific ranking

Hoiana Shores in Quang Nam, Vietnam.

Hoiana Shores in Quang Nam, Vietnam.

Gary Lisbon

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 WorldTop 100 Courses You Can PlayBest Municipal Courses in the U.S., 100 Best Short Courses and 100 Best Courses in U.K. and Ireland. Meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

GOLF’s inaugural ranking of the Top 100 Courses in Asia-Pacific has put a spotlight on exciting destinations many U.S. golfers rarely get a chance to visit. What were your main takeaways from the Asia-Pacific ranking? Anything that surprised you?

Masa Nishijima (panelist since 1991): When I first heard about this endeavor, I thought we could introduce 88 golf courses to readers around the world. As it stands, there are only 12 golf courses from the Asia-Pacific region on our World Top 100, leaving lots of territory to explore. Breaking into the World Top 100 is a tall order for Asian golf courses. In that sense, I believe that this ranking was extremely important, as it brings attention to worthy courses while providing inspiration for your next golf trip.

John Cornish (panelist since 2017): This list, which introduced me to so many courses I was previously unaware of, highlights the untapped opportunities for golf travel in Southeast Asia. With the experiences I have had throughout the region, I am always blown away by the friendliness of the people and their enthusiasm for welcoming visitors. And who knew there would be such a well-regarded course in Nepal?

Thomas Brown (panelist since 2015): Masa and John are spot-on here. The depth of quality golf courses across the 13 countries represented is high. It’s clear that seaside golf courses still grab the attention of our traveling golfers. Something else that stands out is the variety on this roster, ranging from new resorts to traditional private clubs designed by Golden Age architects such as Alister Mackenzie and Charles Hugh Alison.

Te Arai (South) in Tomarata, New Zealand.
GOLF’s first-ever Top 100 Courses in Asia-Pacific ranking will expand your bucket list
By: Ran Morrissett

Gary Lisbon (panelist since 2011): Like my fellow Australian, John, new courses and new countries (Nepal? Go figure) have gotten me excited to travel and play more in my “own backyard.” The depth of quality golf is evident and most courses are accessible to the masses (unlike many of the courses on our World Top 100, particularly in the U.S.). I was surprised at the positioning of current World Top 100 Asia-Pacific courses in this local listing. A number of non-World Top 100 courses sat higher than their world-ranked counterparts. Our 2023 World Top 100 ranking will hopefully identify new Asia-Pacific courses worthy of inclusion. The challenge continues to be that there are only 100 places on the list, and plenty of new courses and restorations are in the works. Inevitably, some worthy courses are going to miss out.

Michael Goldstein (panelist since 2019): What I find amazing about this diverse list is how a course like Waverley or Arrowtown, with a miniscule budget, sits alongside some of the most opulent golf experiences in the world. That’s the beauty of this game. The other thing is just how much change is underway in this part of the world. With so many new courses and so much renovation work, it’s a challenge to stay on top of it all. There are also some sneaky architects here who don’t always get the credit they’re due. Alex Russell, Sloane Morpeth and Eric Apperley are three unheralded designers from Down Under who were a big part of nine of the courses on this list.

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