Editor Dan Murphy reflects on the final list of England's Top 100 Courses and his year hurtling around the country's golfing outposts
If you get 14 knowledgeable and opinionated panellists to submit their own list, and then combine the results into one master ranking then the result is, broadly, 14 people who think their own version is better.
So when I revealed the final Top 100 to my panel I knew they wouldn’t be happy.
As a group, though, we must take collective responsibility for what you see in this supplement.
When we read rankings lists, we don’t tend to applaud a course in what we consider to be its true position. Instead we wait for a course that, in our opinion, is either way too high or low.
Sure enough, there was much slapping of foreheads, dropping of jaws and gentle shaking of heads. That’s democracy for you.
Typically, conversations went along the lines of:
Panellist A: ‘How on earth is that course up there?’
Panellist B: ‘What do you mean, it should be even higher!’
When I look at the list as a whole, there are two key takeaways.
First, the sheer depth of English golf – we could have gone all the way down to 200 and every course would have been a contender for the top 100. That’s just not true in Scotland or Ireland.
Second, the relative scarcity of modern courses in this list, certainly in the higher echelons.
Scotland has the likes of Kingsbarns, Skibo Castle, Loch Lomond and Trump International. Ireland can boast Waterville, The European and Tralee.
In England, however, while there are plenty of excellent courses built in the last century, I would argue that not one is a shoo-in for the GB&I Top 100.
Old courses have undoubtedly done better in this list than new ones. One of the main reasons for that is that we have concentrated exclusively on the courses themselves rather than what surrounds them.
Many recently built venues have better off-course facilities – whether a spike bar, locker room, halfway hut, full-length driving range, short-game area or on-site accommodation. Often they are just more impressive to arrive at – they have grandeur from the moment you enter the property.
One thing I was keen to achieve in our list was to separate the golf course from the golf club – because I think they are two different things. You can have a great golf course without a great golf club. You can also have a great golf club without a great golf course. We only profess to have a worthwhile opinion on the course element.
I also wanted to remove laziness from our list – I craved current opinions and I wanted to treat the courses on face value.
I wanted to make sure that every course in the list had earned its place. We truly considered the merits of hundreds of contenders, especially those often overlooked from these lists.
If we thought they were good enough, they were in. Regardless of profile.
Finally, we didn’t set out to be controversial.
Having played every course in the top 100, and 38 of them last year alone, I can confidently say that every last one deserves to be in there.
I also know there are dozens more that are unfortunate to miss out: I’m genuinely sorry that we couldn’t find a place for them.
NCG Top 100s: England