Back in 2018, we published our first-ever ranking of England’s best golf courses. Four years on, it was time to update the list. After all, there were potential new entries – the likes of the JCB Club and Royal Norwich. There are huge redesign projects – like Chart Hills, The Addington and Liphook. And just about every course on the list have 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 again 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, I think you have at least got to demonstrate a robust methodology.
Our list has a few USPs that I’d like to share with you.
The first is that we pledged to visit each and every course on our 160-strong shortlist in the 2021 season. Secondly, when we visit, we make ourselves available to talk to the people there. This means we are able to offer an up-to-date opinion.
I think that matters, because golf courses are living, breathing things. They change, they evolve, they develop. We ask what they’ve done recently, what they are in the process of doing and what they are planning to do. If the 8th green is patchy, or the style of bunkering inconsistent, the club has 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 think they aren’t important, it’s just that we don’t believe our expertise extends beyond 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 30 courses on the shortlist in 2021 alone and I have been made welcome wherever I have gone – from Northumberland to Devon, and Cheshire to Kent. 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 don’t set out to be controversial – just to create the best lists.
It’s time to let our Top 100 speak for itself. I hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, go and play some of these incredible courses for yourself.
More from NCG Top 100 golf courses in England
- RANKING ROW: The courses that should have been higher
Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for all this and much, much more.