Josh Poysden put his passion for golf courses to good use this year as a new member of our NCG Top 100s panel. This is how he has found the experience
Any golfer’s dream of getting an invite from Augusta to play in the Masters. For an eight-handicapper with a wipey fade, this is never going to be reality. So an email from NCG Top 100s chairman Dan Murphy in the middle of a lockdown winter was the next best thing. “Would you like to be on the panel for our Top 100 England list, Josh?” Absolutely I would!
One of the biggest strengths of NCG Top 100s in my eyes is the commitment to get at least one panellist to every course. This means dividing up the 159-strong list between us all, so that all courses are accounted for. Each panellist vouches for at least 10 courses that are ‘theirs’, that they will go and visit at some point during the ranking period (although panellists are encouraged to see as many other courses too as possible).
As you can imagine, everyone wants to visit Open venues, and the courses that are generally hardest to get a tee time on.
We were advised from the start that where we could add the most value was in going to see some of the other courses out there, that perhaps not many other panellists were as familiar with. I settled for a balance, with ‘my’ courses ranging from places such as St George’s Hill and Formby, to the less celebrated likes of Huddersfield and Hallamshire.
After writing to the (very accommodating) clubs to book an appropriate date, when the day of a visit comes, we sit down with club officials where we are the ‘designated’ panellist. This gives the clubs a chance to tell us what may have changed since our last visit.
As the summer went on, my work circumstances changed when I retired from professional cricket. As I don’t start my new job until January, I thought it was only right that I try and make the most of being a panellist. This resulted in me visiting 43 of the courses on the shortlist over the year.
It was great to see the amazing variety and quality of courses that are on display in England. Back in 2019, in an interview with NCG, Tom Doak described England as the ‘most underrated country for golf courses’, and as a man known for speaking his mind, he wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t mean it.
I did various short trips all over the country, combined with day visits that were within driving distance. A south-west trip was a highlight, playing 16 courses in ten days. There are some renowned, must-see courses such as St Enodoc (maybe my favourite course in England), but also places like Bude & North Cornwall, that offer great value for charming seaside golf.
This region also features a lot of James Braid work, and with his touches on places such as the brilliant Parkstone, I found it fun to contrast his different projects.
Even with a 17-strong panel, there were a few gaps forming in our collective of courses seen during the rating period. I tried to help out and visit the likes of East Devon and the JF Abercromby-designed Bovey Castle. Seeing as many courses as I could throughout the shortlist helped inform opinions on how I felt about other places and what made me rate them in a certain way.
One of the reasons that it’s crucial to get a panellist to every course is to see if any changes have occurred since the last list. It’s evident in some of the big movers that the panel strongly recognised successful renovation or restoration work. It was great to see first-hand some of the great work at places like Trevose. In some cases, like The Addington, it is still ongoing.
As you can imagine, there were some long drives, none more so than from Perranporth to Leeds (I should have known better to attempt this on a Friday afternoon!). However, these journeys can fly by, and give you time to digest the courses that you’ve seen, as well as the chance to devour some golf podcasts – especially the NCG Top 100s pod, naturally.
I marked each course as I went along, and did lots of final checks before submission, to ensure I was happy to put my name to my ratings.
However, the hours spent staring at your marking spreadsheet and long drives are undoubtedly worth it, for the privilege of seeing how much great golf England has to offer. Hopefully, I added some value to the process.
Josh’s six favourite holes of the year
The 5th at Sunningdale (New)
167 yards, par 3
I (slightly) favoured the Old, having placed it as the number one course in my list, but I can’t think of anywhere I’ve played that had as great a pair of holes as these back to back…
The 6th at Sunningdale (New)
485 yards, par 5
…The lovely one-shot 5th is followed by this strategic par 5 that doglegs right, uses the land perfectly, and has a fun, sloping green site.
The 13th at Formby
431 yards, par 4
As with a lot of holes at Formby, the bunkering off the tee means that although there are different options, precision is still key.
The 12th at Notts
474 yards, par 4
In the middle of a great stretch of holes, this one stands out for the combination of challenge and how it rewards a well thought-out running approach.
The 5th at Royal Worlington & Newmarket
155 yards, par 3
One of the craziest, but most fun, greens in the country!
The 6th at St Enodoc
428 yards, par 4
Features the iconic ‘Himalaya’ bunker. It’s easier to navigate this hole than it looks, which is often what you find with great design.
Interested in joining one of our panels?
If you have a genuine love and appreciation of great golf courses and would like to get involved in NCG Top 100s, drop editor Dan Murphy a line [email protected]
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