How do we arrive at our conclusions for our ranking of England's top 100 courses? Dan Murphy explains the criteria
Finding the best golf courses in England doesn’t happen by luck. Here’s how our England 2022 rankings list was put together.
Dan Murphy, the editor of NCG Top 100s, chaired the panel, which comprised 17 experienced and knowledgeable golfers.
Our panel were out and about visiting the short-listed courses throughout the 2021 season – specifically from when courses re-opened in late March to the end of October. This has enabled us to produce an up-to-date list.
We are only interested in golf courses – the round begins when we arrive on the 1st tee and ends when we walk off the last green.
What we base our rankings on
The following criteria and categories result in a final mark out of 100.
1. Architecture and design: How well designed are the individual holes? And the course as a whole? Do the holes offer the golfer choices? Is there a mix of penal, strategic and heroic holes?
How does the course flow? Are tees generally close to the previous green?
Does the course ‘fit’ into its surroundings?
Are long and short holes interspersed evenly?
How much better is the best hole than the least best hole? Do all the holes feel like they belong on the same course?
Does the course test all facets of the game or is it asking the same questions repeatedly? Is the golfer’s ability to play a variety of shots with each club in the bag duly rewarded? (40 marks)
2. Conditioning, greens and presentation: How good is the turf to hit off? How good are the greens to putt on? Does each hole play in the same way as the others? (10 marks)
3. Scenery, surroundings and ambience: How attractive a place to play is this course? (10 marks)
4. Challenge and playability: When played off the correct set of tees, to what extent does the course challenge and test the skills of the elite golfer, while also being enjoyable and playable for the shorter hitter and higher handicapper?
On the one hand, does it give the golfer the chance to display their skills to the limit?
On the other hand, are there forced carries and excessively penal hazards that make it difficult for the recreational golfer to enjoy the course regardless of how conservatively they play? (10 marks)
5. Charm, distinctiveness, and memorability: Does the course inspire affection and live long in the memory? How reluctant are you to leave and how much do you want to return? (20 marks)
Courses who chose not be included
As well as the 160 courses that feature in this list, we also shortlisted the following courses: Beaverbrook, Effingham, Queenwood, Wentworth East, Wentworth Edinburgh, Wentworth West, Woburn Duchess, Woburn Duke’s, Woburn Marquess and The Wisley.
They politely advised us that they did not wish to be considered for this top 100, for various reasons. We are entirely respectful of their decision and list them here only because you might otherwise have wondered why they do not appear in the list.
None of these were factors – we were only interested in the golf course.
Panellists are not be eligible to rank courses at which they were a member.
Whose opinions counted?
All panellists who had played a course submitted a ranking. However, we value more the rankings of panellists who have either played a course recently, played a course several times or both. We multiplied rankings by:
x2 If the course was most recently played in the last 10 years OR the reviewer has played the course 3 times or more
x3 If the course was most recently played in the last 3 years OR the reviewer has played the course 5 times or more
x4 If the reviewer has played the course 3 times or more and most recently within the last 10 years
x5 If the reviewer has played the course 5 times or more and most recently within the last 10 years OR the reviewer has played the course 3 times or more and most recently within the last 3 years
x6 If the reviewer has played the course 5 times or more and most recently within the last 3 years
Example: Five panellists have played a certain course. Reviewers A, B, C and D have each played the course once, 15 years ago. Their scores are 48, 46, 50 and 56 respectively. Reviewer E has played the course eight times, and most recently this year. His score is 70.
Score: 48 + 46 + 50 + 56 + (6 x 70) = 620 / 10 = 62
NCG Top 100s: The best golf courses in England
- CLOSE CALLS: The courses that just missed out
Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for all this and much, much more.