Course Rater Confidential: Top 100 Asia-Pacific courses we can’t wait to check out (and snubs)
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 GOLF.com 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., 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 is out and we are here to break it all down. What’s a course on the list that you have yet to see but are especially keen to check out?
Masa Nishijima (panelist since 1991): Victoria Resort in Sri Lanka is on my bucket list. Tom Doak visited there in 2018 and rated it very highly.
John Cornish (panelist since 2017): I missed the opportunity to visit Naruo Golf Club, in Japan, a course that is spoken of so highly by many of my fellow panelists. Our rankings also have a strong representation from South Korea and Vietnam, so they’re high on my list of places to return to.
Thomas Brown (panelist since 2015): Royal Adelaide is on my short list. I watched LPGA players at the 2020 Australian Women’s Open from afar on television and thought the bounce in the course looked ideal. Any property Alister Mackenzie helped design in the Southern hemisphere is worth a visit.
Gary Lisbon (panelist since 2011): Getting to a course is half the fun, and the more remote, the more excited I get. No. 23 on the list in the Himalayan has me wanting to visit Nepal to play and photograph the course. I imagine it would be dramatic in many respects.
Michael Goldstein (panelist since 2019): I’m all about an adventure, so get me to Nepal. But first: the Golden Age work in Japan, which sits atop my worldwide bucket list!
Any course that didn’t make the list that you’d like to see get recognition the next time around? What, in your opinion, makes it deserving?
Nishijima: I expected Royal Selangor, in Malaysia, to make the list. With a 130-year history, it has long been a leading club in Southeast Asia. I have great expectations for the future of golf in Malaysia, as the talent pool of GMs and superintendents runs deep. In the near future, I could see Malaysia having a top-10 course in Asia. I was also surprised that the BRG DaNang Dunes course was not selected. Eighteen years ago, when I first visited PhanThiet, Vietnam, I was amazed to see the huge sand dunes that stretched along the coastline — hundreds of miles of prime golf land.
Lisbon: A surprising omission for me was Royal Auckland Grange, in New Zealand, the amalgamation of two clubs, each with 18-hole layouts to create a 27-hole course with three sets of nine. I found the course visually appealing, playable by all golfing standards yet challenging and meticulously conditioned.
Brown: To echo Masa’s point regarding golf on the beach in Vietnam, KN Golf Links, in Cam Ranh, sits on exceptional land and is deserving of recognition. Another course would be Santiburi, in northern Thailand, outside of Chiang Rai. The course is an early design of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and a favorite of mine for its variety in topography.
Goldstein: As a Kiwi, I think a few more local courses could be part of the discussion, particularly those in the deep south, which has a climate made for fine, bouncy grasses.