For someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes golf, a Top 100 course ranking is always greeted with anticipation. Who is up, who’s down, who is in and who’s out?
Some rankings lack credibility while others continue to evolve in an effort to set themselves apart from the pack. It makes no difference because no golfer will ever agree with a ranking produced by a magazine panel.
As I find myself repeating, the only ranking a golfer will agree with is the one he produces himself. Rankings serve a purpose. Golfers may discuss the order and inclusion of clubs over a quiet pint or in a heated debate in an online golf forum, but rankings should be used as a guide and nothing more.
Their purpose is to steer eager golfers to the best courses and encourage people to play somewhere new. Yes, you can disagree that course C is better than course A, but just maybe it will encourage you to go and play course B.
The latest issue of the UK magazine, Golf Monthly, is on the shelves and it contains the Top 100 Courses UK and Ireland Rankings for 2017/18. There are a number of tweaks to the rating system but, other than the removal of the six private clubs (e.g. Loch Lomond), there’s nothing substantial.
Each course is rated across the following criteria: Quality of Test and Design (35 points); Course Condition and Presentation (30); Visual Appeal (15); Facilities (10); and Overall Visitor Experience (10).
Golfers might look at these criteria and want to re-balance how points are attributed or they may want to add another criterion… value, for instance.
Trump Turnberry may have risen a massive three places to claim the number one spot in the ranking but if you want to play it next summer, it will cost you £350 (€412).
The magazine contains a wealth of information on how the rankings work, how to avoid paying the full green fee, what makes a course difficult, what makes a clubhouse great, who the designer masterminds were, and where the best views can be found.
All of these can influence your expectations and your enjoyment so it’s a tip-of-the-hat by Golf Monthly to the full golfing experience.
Ireland (north and south) has 22 courses in the ranking, which is one more than last year. The new addition, at No. 94, is Enniscrone in Sligo.
Twelve of those courses have moved up the ranking, seven have fallen and two remain the same. The most prominent rises are for Carne, County Sligo and Portmarnock Links, which all improve by six places.
The most significant (and surprising) fall is Waterville, which drops three to 18th. Regardless of the ups and downs, the Republic of Ireland boasts almost a fifth of the top 100 courses, which is an impressive return when you consider the UK has over seven times as many courses as we do. Golf Monthly has removed the exclusive clubs from the ranking.
This is an excellent move and undoubtedly one of the biggest criticisms of many American rankings. What’s the point in telling us Cypress Point, Pine Valley and Augusta are the top three courses in the world when the average golfer can never play there?
Ireland has no such exclusivity and I still believe this is one reason our island remains such an appealing golfing destination. And, as much as Irish golfers gripe about our green fees, Ireland’s rates remain highly competitive against their UK counterparts.
Turnberry costs £350 at peak times, Royal County Down costs £220 (€259), while Ballybunion costs £160 (€190)… that is less than half of Turnberry’s fee. And let’s not forget that the decline of sterling following Brexit has made UK courses that bit more affordable for us.
3. Royal County Down (Down 1)
13. Royal Portrush (Down 2)
15. Ballybunion - Old - (Up 1)
18. Waterville (Down 1)
19. The European (Up 1)
27. Portmarnock (Down 2)
28. Lahinch (Down 2)
32. Doonbeg (No Change)
35. Old Head of Kinsale (Up 4)
45. Rosapenna - Sandy Hills - (No Change)
49. Tralee (Up 4)
55. Co Louth (Up 4)
72. The Island (Up 3)
73. Druid's Glen (Up 3)
77. Mount Juliet (Up 5)
80. Lough Erne (Down 2)
87. Co Sligo (Up 6)
88. K Club - Palmer - (Down 4)
92. Portmarnook Links (Up 6)
93. Carne (Up 6)
94. Enniscrone (New Entry)
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