Course Rater Confidential: What trends did you notice in GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the World ranking?

southern hills golf club

Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla.

Gary W Kellner

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.

GOLF’s new ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the World is out, and while Pine Valley remains at No. 1, there was lots of movement on the roster, with some courses dropping, others rising and seven newbies making the list. Looking at the entirety of the list, what trends or other takeaways stand out to you?

Steve Lapper (has played 84 of the World Top 100): The list is a continuation of the recognition of architectural brilliance. Whether we are taking about restorations of once great designs or unique modern works, excellence matters. The elevation of a Oakland Hills or Southern Hills and the recognition of a Myopia Hunt Club or Ohoopee Match Club exemplifies this. I believe our list does the very best job of discerning what trends are worth spotlighting and which seem to deserve expiration. Artificial mandates (i.e. resistance to scoring) remain absent and instead the emphasis (rightfully) belongs on features that combine to create interest for every level of play. Manufactured hazards and extreme conditioning accomplishes just the opposite. Narrow, difficult golf is for a fractional minority of golfers — wider, fun, more interesting, yet strategic golf is for the rest of us.

John Cornish (has played 92 of the World Top 100): This is the third such list that I’ve been involved in and they’ve improved every time. As we’ve seen over the past five years, clubs have to keep on their toes and commit to continual improvement to maintain their place among the world’s best, and it takes great commitment from the clubs and their members to buy into the vision. Great championship courses like Southern Hills, Oak Hill and Oakland Hills are being reinvigorated while established clubs like the Cal Club (10-plus years ago) and Old Town Club are investing in their property and presenting brilliant examples of old-style architecture with a modern twist.

Gordon Dalgleish (has played 73 of the World Top 100): With the exception of a handful of “forever” courses, the need to remain relevant has never been greater if a course is to hold its “position” in the rankings. There have been a global succession of outstanding new courses with Top 100 credentials putting pressure on the existing list. Renovations can range from removal of trees to complete makeovers, but the underlying theme for ranking success is the “shiny new toy.” As a trend, I only see that accelerating in the coming years as the newer entrants (1980 and later) reinvent themselves for their respective memberships.

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