Now in its 7th incarnation, the Top 100 criteria has evolved over the years with the list now being compiled using a precise range of assessment methods.

When the latest biennial review period began in earnest in the summer of 2015, we compiled a new shortlist of just over 140 courses that we believed would have the best chance of making the cut. This featured all of the existing Top 100, as well as the courses from the Next 100 that had been most recommended by our panellists and our many other contacts in golf.

The criteria

This is now the seventh publication of the Top 100, and for the first time we have made no changes to the criteria. The refining of the process has resulted in criteria that are understood and widely trusted. The five categories are: the quality of test and design (35 points), the condition and presentation of the course (30 marks), its visual appeal (15 marks), the club’s facilities (10 marks), and the overall visitor experience (10 marks).

The process

During each review period, the Golf Monthly staff and our panel of very knowledgeable readers travel throughout the UK and Ireland. We visit all the courses on our contender list and provide detailed assessments and a set of marks, which are then moderated for consistency. This is the heart of the process, but we are not blinkered enough to ignore other information that we receive via our professional and social golfing networks. This means that we get to hear about the courses as they are now, not how they were when last visited, sometimes years before.

Exclusive change

Although there has been no change to the process, we have listened closely to our readers and taken on board a message that is increasingly frequent. While you are keen to learn about the finest courses, it is frustrating to see a list that contains layouts you cannot play. For that reason, those courses that are reserved for members and their guests only, or offer just a one-off visit with a view to joining, will no longer feature.

Review panel

Since last time, there have been changes to both the Staff and Reader Panels, all of whom are committed and regular golfers. Of the new Top 100, Jeremy Ellwood has played them all and I plan to visit the one new entry eluding me as soon as I can. As for experience, Jeremy has now played well over 700 courses, while I passed the 900 mark last summer. Everyone on both panels visits countless courses of every type, and we feel that this means we can make sound and trustworthy assessments. As for the reader panel, they travel extensively but receive no payment or expenses, and we are extremely grateful to them all for their dedication to the cause.

Courses for all

We hope you enjoy reading through the 2017/18 coverage and look forward to hearing your views via our website, the reader forum or on email. For the first time, every entry in the Top 100 and Next 100 is a course that any devoted golfer will be able to play. Where we list fees, we have asked each club to provide their lowest and highest 18-hole rates for playing throughout the year, regardless of any special discounts.

Most of all, we hope that these lists will inspire you on your golfing travels this year and next.

GM Editor Mike Harris and Senior Panellists Jeremy Ellwood and Rob Smith answer readers’ questions in a Facebook Live video:

Top 100 Course Rankings Panel

Senior Panel

Michael Harris Aged 46, Handicap 8
Rob Smith 59, 15
Jeremy Ellwood 53, 6

Senior Advisory Panel

Colin Callander 58, 7
Malcolm Campbell 72, 8Michael Coffey 70, 12
Derek Dobbs 72, 12

Staff Panel

Fergus Bisset 36, 4
Nick Bonfield 27, 14
Tom Clarke 35, 16
Jake O’Reilly 26, 10
James Mason 55, 5
Kevin Murray 60, 11
Joel Tadman 30, 5
Neil Tappin 35, 5
David Taylor 38, 18

Reader Panel

Mike Berners Price 63, 11
Paul Brown 65, 10
Tim Browne 63, 5
Gavyn Cairns 38, 12
Kevin Diss 55, 1
John Drake 45, 9
Michael Estcourt 73, 22
Peter Evans 70, 15
David Fleet 68, 15Tim Gallant 30, 11
Roy Gillman 52, 3
John Hanna 78, 15
Steve Hollis 45, 6
Colin Lavendar 66, 7
Christian Morris 49, 5
Allan Probetts 73, 17
Gordon Ross 56, 4
John Slater 66, 12
Chris Walker 38, 6
Alun Willis 40, 4