Back in 2019, we published our first-ever ranking of the top 100 golf courses in Scotland. Four years and one pandemic later, it is high time to update the list.
After all, there were potential new entries – the likes of Dumbarnie and Ardfin – to consider. There were redesigns and significant modifications – such as Royal Dornoch, The Machrie, Loch Lomond and Nairn, to name just a few.
And just about every one of the courses on the list – and those outside it – have been working hard to improve what they already had.
It’s up to you, the discerning reader and golfer, to decide whether our updated list is a more accurate reflection of a great golfing nation than others you may have seen. But I promise you this: we have again attacked our task with equal measures of vigour and enthusiasm.
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 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 tried to visit as many courses on our shortlist in the 2022 season. We want our lists to be contemporaneous. We don’t want to offer you sepia-tinged lists that reflect past glories and fading memories of glorious trips in the past.
Secondly, when we visit courses, we make ourselves available to talk to the people there. We’re not secret shoppers. We are accountable.
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.
All of 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. There is often a good reason.
I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to club officials up and down Scotland 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 more than 20 courses on the shortlist in 2022 alone and I have been made welcome wherever I have gone – from Ayrshire to Aberdeen, and all points in between. I’m very grateful for that.
Now, though, I fear I am going to lose some of my new friends. Many courses will doubtless be lower than they would like. For every new entry, or riser, another course has to drop out or sink down the list.
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.
I promise this: we don’t set out to be controversial – just to create the best lists. We rank without fear or favour.
NCG Top 100s Scotland 2023
More from the NCG Top 100s Scotland 2023 ranking
- Gil Hanse: ‘What I believe in golf architecture is first and foremost that courses were found instead of created’
Could the golf ball be rolled back for everyone?