Now in its 8th incarnation, the Top 100 criteria has evolved over the years with the list now being compiled using a precise range of assessment methods.

Top 100 Courses Ranking Criteria

The inaugural Golf Monthly Top 100 rankings were published in 2004, and we have worked extremely hard since then to take what is ostensibly a subjective process and make it as objective as possible. The result is a Top 100 and Next 100 that we will not claim are definitive or scientifically proven. They are, however, as fair and representative as possible.

Watch: Top 100 Courses Ranking Criteria

What is New?

The simple answer… not a lot! Over the last decade or so, we have worked hard to correct some anomalies in a system that at its inception admittedly involved a little more luck than judgement. Accordingly, we have worked on tightening the criteria and also adjusted the positionings to the point where they are far more accurate and stable. This means that unless something radical happens the course is already in roughly the right position.

Having said that, a handful of courses have moved down a few places this time, but this is generally not because they have declined. It is a combination of two factors: one is that those around them have upgraded and improved; the other is that, as wonderful as they all are, long-term reflection has suggested they were simply positioned a little too high in the first place.

There are four new names in the Top 100 – two of them re-entries resulting from extreme remodelling – and the updated list reflects some excellent upgrading elsewhere. As golfers, we are incredibly lucky that standards still continue to rise.

Evaluation Process

Before the latest biennial review period began, we looked very carefully at all of the feedback from the previous two years in order to prepare the list of contender courses. As usual, this comprised the current Top 100 and the next forty or so courses that we felt would have the greatest chance of breaking through. We then contacted all of the clubs involved to explain the process and criteria as we are reliant on their cooperation throughout.

We are extremely grateful to the clubs and their members for welcoming our visits, and indeed one of our key strengths is that we make sure we visit all of the contenders in each two-year cycle. This is not always an official Golf Monthly visit, as many of our assessors play contender courses in matches, in society visits or simply off-duty with friends.

The Criteria

This is the eighth set of Golf Monthly rankings, and there has again been no need for any changes to the criteria. The general consensus from clubs, assessors and readers is that they are just right.

They fall into five broad categories, each weighted for importance, the greatest being the quality of test and design (35%). Conditioning and presentation (30%), are the second most important, and this is an area where we have had to be flexible after the summer’s drought. Next is visual appeal, internally and externally (15%), and finally both the club’s facilities and the overall visitor experience (each 10%). As well as the marks that are assigned, we look just as closely at the narrative to ensure that any variations in approach between assessors are evened out.

200 Wonderful Courses You Can Play

One of the great joys of the rankings is that they promote debate and act as a real incentive to get golfers travelling. Last time round, in response to strong feedback from our readers, we introduced a policy of excluding the exclusives. This means that clubs which operate on a member-and guest-only policy, and who do not welcome green-fee payers, are themselves excluded from the rankings.

This created six spaces in the Top 100 and three in the Next 100 and met with very positive feedback. It is therefore something we have continued to do and it means every one of us can play any of the courses on either list. With regard to green fees, we contacted all of the clubs in late 2018 to ask for a representative rate for a round in the high season. It is worth noting a little research can sometimes reveal a bargain.

There will be more related information on our website, and we very much hope that you enjoy our extensive 2019/20 coverage and will keep this supplement as a guide for your future golfing plans. As always, we want to hear your views – which courses are your favourites, where do you want to put on your bucket list, do you think we’ve missed any from our Top and Next 100s and so on. You can get in touch via social media or email us at golfmonthly@ti-media.com.

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

Top 100 Course Rankings Panel

Senior Panel

Michael Harris Aged 48, Handicap 9
Rob Smith 61, 14
Jeremy Ellwood 55, 6

Staff Panel

Fergus Bisset 38, 4
Nick Bonfield 29, 12
Tom Clarke 37, 18
Elliott Heath 23, 5
James Mason 57, 5
Kevin Murray 62, 11
Joel Tadman 32, 5
Neil Tappin 37, 5
David Taylor 40, 18
Michael Weston 38, 12

Reader Panel

Mike Berners Price 66, 12
Paul Brown 67, 10
Tim Browne 65, 4
Gavyn Cairns 40, 11
Kevin Diss 57, 2
Derek Dobbs 74, 16
John Drake 47, 11
Gary Etherson 34, 8
Peter Evans 72, 16
David Fleet 70, 18
Tim Gallant 32, 10
Michael Graham 34, 8
Steve Hollis 47, 8
Peter Hurst 48, 6
Christian Morris 51, 6
Benj Nelson 50, 14
Gordon Ross 58, 6
Shane Santry 49, 8
John Slater 68, 12
Chris Walker 40, 7
Alun Willis 42, 4

Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest golf news.