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. We’ve put together a panel of experts and asked them to score courses on five separate aspects. These criteria create a total final mark out of 100.

The criteria

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. 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)

3. 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)

4. Scenery, surroundings and ambience: How attractive a place to play is this course? (10 marks)

5. 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)

The panel

Dan Murphy, NCG Top 100s editor and an experienced golf writer, chairs our panel of 18 passionate and knowledgeable golfers.

The shortlist

We compiled a shortlist of 170 courses before the season began, from which the top 100 would be selected. As a panel, we sought to include all courses that we felt had a realistic chance of making the final top 100. As we have pledged to visit each course in the shortlist during the 2021 season, we tried to weed out courses we considered unlikely to make the grade.

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.

Panellist visits

We guaranteed that at least one member of our panel would visit each short-listed course during the 2021 season – specifically between the clocks going forward in March and back again in October. This enabled us to produce an up-to-date list.

Our panellists are available for discussion before and after the round with club officials.  Our panellists filled in feedback forms there and then after making a visit.

Off-course facilities

We are only interested in golf courses – the round began when we arrived on the 1st tee and ended when we walked off the last green.

Price/accessibility/membership policies

None of these were factors – we were only interested in the golf course.

Home courses

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 valued more the rankings of panellists who had either a) played a course recently, b) played a course several times, or c) both.

Upweighting rankings

When a panellist ranked a course, the opinion was given the following weighting:

x1: Played the course one or two times but not in the last 20 years

x2: Played the course three or four times but not in the last 20 years OR played the course one or two times most recently between 11 and 20 years ago

x3: Played the course five or more times but not in the last 20 years OR played the course three or four times most recently between 11 and 20 years ago OR played the course one or two times most recently between four and 10 years ago

x4: Played the course five or more times most recently between 11 and 20 years ago; OR played the course three or four times most recently between four and 10 years ago; OR played the course one or two times most recently within the last three years

x5: Played the course five or more times most recently between four and 10 years ago; OR played the course three or four times most recently within the last three years

x6: Played the course five or more times and most recently within the last three years

NCG Top 100s: The best golf courses in England

Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for all this and much, much more.

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