The NCG Top 100s panel have compiled a list of GB&I's most fun golf courses – and it might have been the toughest yet
Creating any ranking list is littered with challenges and, some – probably most – would say, flaws. Deciding what is ‘better’ between course X and course Y is patently a difficult task even with a knowledgeable panel using astute categories and a complex maths formula.
Even deciding on the categories – and how to weight them – is subjective. In most of our Top 100s, we are clear about what we believe to be the factors that make a ‘good’ course by using these aspects to ‘mark’ all the contenders. These categories are led by ‘design’ – it has by far the most marks – but also include other factors such as playability and conditioning.
Even with this assiduous process it is still clearly a challenge to define what is a ‘good’ course and indeed what makes one course ‘better’ overall than another.
Defining what is ‘fun’ and what makes one course more ‘fun’ than another is, in my opinion, even harder.
If what each of us thinks makes a course ‘good’ differs greatly, what we think is fun is at least as fluid. In an attempt to define it – not least to illustrate to you the kind of courses our panel has included in the 100 – I asked our contributors and some architects to tell me ‘fun’ meant to them. You’ll see that while there were common themes, there was also a wide spectrum of essential factors mentioned.
That, I think, helps to explain the presence of so many different types and styles of courses in the list, which I firmly believe is a good thing.
As a general rule, courses that are relatively short in length and relatively forgiving in nature prosper – which is entirely predictable. Frankly, we could have populated the list with nothing but that kind of course.
However, ‘bigger’ courses are also included. There are much fewer than in our 2018 Fun ranking and they generally occupy slots further down the list, but there are still a dozen or so that can also be regarded as ‘championship’.
There are Open venues, Open qualifiers, Senior Open hosts and modern courses that nudge or even surpass 7,000 yards. The panel, though, felt they were still sufficiently fun to make the list – and indeed do well in it.
It might be, as the list develops, there are increasingly fewer ‘bigger’ courses and those that are in slip further down the ranking, but I am personally pleased they still have a presence in this one.
Of course, played off the back tees in a gale, some of the dozen are too exacting to be tonnes of fun. But off tees appropriate to your ability and in relatively calm conditions, I am convinced the aspects – whether it’s wide playing areas, funky terrain, breathtaking scenery, cool green complexes, unforgettable holes, a clever routing, endless variety, flattering length and so on – that makes these ‘bigger’ courses ‘fun’ will be savoured.
Essentially, it comes down to whether a course puts a smile on your face, and I feel certain all 100 succeed in that task.
I was helped in this Top 100 by a truly exceptional panel that boasts a wealth of knowledge unsurpassed in Europe. A quick look at the geographical spread of the courses shows how well travelled we are as a collective and the fact there are names in here that you very rarely hear about shows just how far, in every sense, our panel will go to seek out memorable courses to enjoy.
I’ve played 73 of this 100 (my lowest tally in a Top 100 for many years) and I can’t wait to see what makes the ones I’m missing so much fun. I am pretty sure a lot of our Top 100 Fun Golf Courses will pique your interest too. So without further ado…
How we created the Top 100 Fun Golf Courses list
We use an extensive grading process for our major Top 100s, with panellists marking each course using several criteria and the results collated into an overall ranking.
But this is a Fun list and I wanted to make compiled it fun. So out went the numbers, the Excel spreadsheets and agonising over marks and in came emotion, overt subjectivity and happy memories.
Using the 2018 list as a reference, the panel fed back on courses that should be X places higher or lower, or indeed out of the list altogether – while also mooting new entries.
There was sufficient synergy from their feedback to make rearranging the list much more straightforward than I had initially expected – and as a result I feel certain this is an even better attempt at identifying the 100 most fun courses in Britain and Ireland.
- What do tour pros consider ‘fun’? We asked them
- Dougherty: ‘Fun doesn’t necessarily mean easy’
- ‘Quirkiness and unfairness’ – architect Frank Pont’s fun essentials
- What makes our fun course? Our Top 100 panel explain
The Top 100 Fun Golf Courses panel
Sean Arble, Michael Bailey, Jim Banting, Chris Bertram, Peter Bosworth, Olle Dahgren, Nick Dungay, Alan Ferguson, Simon Haines, Clyde Johnson, Ian MacDonald, John McLaughlin, Dan Murphy, George Oldham, and Peter Rudd.