The Top 100 Golf Course Designs

Too often golf courses are considered great because of exterior trappings—a prime location, a stately clubhouse or an esteemed history. Our design rankings, however, exclude all these factors, in order to examine the most important factor for a golf course: the actual layout of the course. To compile these ratings, we have separated overall playability from mere beauty, daring to divorce ancillaries like location and historic notability to focus solely on what makes one course superior over another. By doing so, we arrive at a list of the Top 100 courses that is in stark contrast to all others. By valuing property over location, playability over prominence, we have arrived at a truly definitive list.

Shocking perhaps, but some of the more touted courses do not make our list. Designs like that of Shadow Creek, once revered as feats of engineering, are now only novelties. Others like Baltusrol’s Lower Course have had their finest features muted over the years, with upgrades and/or restoration efforts actually undermining what once made the course great.

We have included a few new courses like Kingsbarns because they are modern masterpieces of shaping, yet ignored the vast majority of Rees and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. courses because they are not—mounds and contours courtesy of bulldozers will never surpass natural splendor. The old courses of Europe are better represented than those of America—The Go
lden Age of Design has in fact been reincarnated—while more holistic designs found in Australia, Asia, even Africa may be appearing for the first time on any list.

By focusing only on design, our Top 100 List acknowledges something more fundamental and truly tangible: the game and those who play it. Most golfers don’t choose how they are going to play, only where. They make a shot and deal with the result. The truly great designs make us think. As natural as a good swing, a course should be both challenging and welcoming. Each hole should be unique, and each time we play it should feel like visiting an old friend.

From the Great Plains:
Sand Hills
Mullen, NE
Prairie Dunes
Hutchinson, KS
Wild Horse
Gothenburg, NE
Des Moines, IA

Alistair Mackenzie:
Leeds, England
Augusta National
Augusta, GA
Crystal Downs
Frankfort, MI
Santa Cruz, CA

Irish Links Gems:
County Kerry, Ireland
County Louth
County Louth, Ireland
Royal County Down
County Down, Ireland
County Dublin, Ireland
Royal Portrush
County Antrim, Ireland
County Clare, Ireland

Tillie’s Half Dozen:
Baltimore (Five Farms)
Baltimore, MD
Baltusrol (Upper)
Springfield, NJ
Bethpage Black
Farmingdale, NY
San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
Somerset Hills
Bernardsville, NJ
Quaker Ridge
Scarsdale, NY

Scottish Roots:
North Berwick West
East Lothian, Scotland
St. Andrews Old Course
Fife, Scotland
Ayrshire, Scotland

American Links:
Bandon Dunes
Bandon, OR
Pacific Dunes
Bandon, OR
Newport, RI

Westchester Parklanders:
Scarsdale, NY
Rye, NY
Winged Foot (West and East)
Mamaroneck, NY
Sleepy Hollow
Rome, NY
Desert Foxes
Desert Highlands
Scottsdale, AZ
Desert Forest
Carefree, AZ
Marriott’s Shadow Ridge
Palm Desert, CA

English Heathlands:
Yorkshire, England
Woodhall Spa
Lincolnshire, England
West Sussex
West Sussex , England
Sunningdale Old
Surrey, England
Swinley Forest
Berkshire, England
St. George’s Hill
Surrey, England
Royal Ashdown Forest
East Sussex, England
Walton Heath Old
Surrey, England

Scottish Links:
Royal Aberdeen
Aberdeen, Scotland
East Lothian, Scotland
Angus, Scotland
Cruden Bay
Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Ayrshire, Scotland
Royal Troon
Ayrshire, Scotland
L.A. Story
Pacific Palisades, CA
Los Angeles (North)
Los Angeles, CA
Valley Club of Montecito
Santa Barbara, CA


Holston Hills
Knoxville, TN
The Honors Club
Ooltewah, TN

Strong Island:
Shinnecock Hills
Southampton, NY
Manhasset, NY

Links of the Rising Sun:

Shijimi, Japan
Tokyo, Japan
Ito, Japan
Tobacco Road
Sanford, NC
Wolf Run
Indianapolis, IN
Yale University
New Haven, CT
Pine Valley
Clementon, NJ

Island Girls:
Casa de Campo
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Mid Ocean
Tuckers Town, Bermuda

Raynor’s Prizes:

Wheaton, IL
Cincinnati, OH
Fisher’s Island
Fisher’s Island, NY
Lake Bluff, IL

Scottish Highlanders:
Sutherland, Scotland
Gleneagles (Kings)
Perthshire, Scotland
Sutherland, Scotland

Fife, Scotland
Roslyn, NY
Royal Worlington & Newmarket
Cambridgeshire, England
Nefyn & District
Morpha Nefyn, Wales
Gloucestershire, England

Southern Hemisphere:

Barnbougle Dunes
Tasmania, Australia
Cape Kidnappers
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
New South Wales
New South Wales, Australia
Kingston Heath
Victoria, Australia
Royal Melbourne
Victoria, Australia
Victoria, Australia

Our Man Flynn:
Merion (East)
Ardmore, PA
Marion, MA
Oreland, PA
Rolling Green
Springfield, PA

Quite Continental:
Zealand, Denmark
El Saler
Valencia, Spain
Chantilly, France
The Hague
Wassenar, The Netherlands
Welsh Links:
Royal Porthcawl
Rest Bay, Wales
Swansea, South Wales

Pioneers of American Design:

Myopia Hunt
South Hamilton, MA
National Golf Links of America
Southampton, NY
Oakmont, PA
Maidstone Club
Easthampton, NY
Garden City
Garden City, NY
Manchester, VT

Ross The Boss:
Pinehurst No. 2
Pinehurst, NC
Peabody, MA
Juno Beach, FL
Plainfield, NJ
Rumford, RI

English Links:
East Sussex, England
Royal West Norfolk
Norfolk, England
Westward Ho!
Bideford, N. Devon, England
Royal Lytham & St. Annes
Lancashire, England
Royal St. Georges
Sandwich, England

Monterey Drive:

Spyglass Hill
Pebble Beach, CA
Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach, CA
Cypress Point
Monterey, CA

North of the Border:
St. George's
Ontario, Canada
Cape Breton Highlands
Prince Edward Island, Canada

Pete Dye:
The Golf Club
New Albany, OH
Whistling Straits
Kohler, WI
Harbour Town
Hilton Head, SC
Pete Dye
Bridgeport, WV

Modern Links Interpretations:
Fife, Scotland
Friar’s Head
Baitings Hollow, NY


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