After four years our rundown of England's best golf courses is getting a revamp. Dan Murphy explains the reasoning
Welcome to NCG Top 100s: England 2022 – our rundown of the best golf courses in England.
Back in 2017, we created our first-ever ranking of England’s best golf courses for you to enjoy and evaluate.
Four years on, and we thought it was time to update the list. After all, there are potential new entries – the likes of the JCB Club and Royal Norwich. There are huge re-design projects – like Chart Hills, The Addington and Liphook. And just about every course on the list has been working hard to improve what they already had.
It’s up to you, as the discerning reader, to decide whether this list is a more accurate reflection of a great golfing nation than others you may have seen. But I do believe that we have attacked the task with greater vigour than has ever been the case previously.
Course rankings matter. I am reminded of this every day. I work in the golf industry, I am a golfer, and I have long been a greedy consumer – and critic – of golf course ranking features. If you are going to do a list like this, you have to get it right.
Or at least demonstrate a robust methodology.
Our list has a few USPs that I’d like to share with you.
The first is that we have pledged to visit each and every course on our 160-strong shortlist in the 2021 season, which we define as the day the clocks went forward in March to the day they go back at the end of October. Pandemic-permitting, of course.
Secondly, when we visit, we make ourselves available to talk to the people there. That means we are able to offer an up-to-date opinion – because at least one of our 18 panellists has been to see the course and made themselves known to the management.
I think that matters, because golf courses are living, breathing things. They change, they evolve, they develop. We asked what they’d done recently, what they were in the process of doing and what they are planning to do.
If the 8th green was a bit patchy, or the style of bunkering seemed inconsistent, the club had a chance to explain why.
Thirdly, we only consider the golf courses – not the clubhouses nor practice facilities nor any of the other things that make up a great golf club. Not because we don’t think such things aren’t important, it’s just that our expertise only extends to the playing experience.
I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to club officials up and down the land for accommodating us and giving up their time to tell us about their courses. These courses get plenty of requests for courtesy – I know that.
Equally, it is impossible for us to produce a piece of work like this without getting out there and playing. I personally tackled over 60 courses on the shortlist in 2017 alone and I have been made welcome wherever I have gone – from Northumberland to Cornwall, and Herefordshire to Norfolk. I’m very grateful for that.
Now, though, I fear I am going to lose some of my new friends.
Only five-eighths of the courses on the list could make the top 100 – and many of those will doubtless be lower than they would like.
It was the former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who remarked that everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home. I understand, and respect, how much people care about their own clubs.
In return, I hope they respect our integrity and professionalism in compiling the list. We certainly didn’t set out to be controversial – just to create a better list.
It’s time to let the list speak for itself. I hope you enjoy it.
NCG Top 100s: The best golf courses in England
- THE RANKING: View our current England Top 100 list
- METHODOLOGY: How the NCG Top 100s lists are decided
- CLOSE CALLS: The courses that just missed out in 2018
Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for all this and much, much more.