Top 100 golf courses by golf course architects

Muirfield Golf Club clubhouse
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Muirfield, hosting the Open Championship this week, ranked just outside the top 10 by the globe's golf course architects.
By John Holmes

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 | 2:48 p.m.

With the Open Championship being played at Muirfield this week, Golf Course Architecture Magazine picked a perfect time to release its first-ever list of the world's top 100 courses. The difference between this list and all the others is that this one was selected exclusively by the men and women who make their living creating golf courses.

''It's a common criticism that many, perhaps even most golfers, judge courses on factors such as the turf condition or the quality of service in the clubhouse; well, if anyone is best placed to look beyond that at the design of the course itself, it ought to be the architects,'' Adam Lawrence, the magazine's editor, wrote in introducing the list.

Almost 250 course architects from around the globe submitted ballots. The criteria they used to make their selections? Well, there weren't any. Each voter was charged with devising his own critera – factoring in merits such as strategic value, beauty, fun and history. 

''Even if one can agree set criteria against which voters should make their judgements, one doesn't have objectivity, partly because those criteria are themselves subjective, and partly because the individual voters have to be trusted to apply them in the same way, which is impossible,'' Lawrence wrote. ''We chose the opposite route: to define no criteria and to say to our voters, in true Potter Stewart fashion, 'We believe you know what good is when you see it'.''

All right, enough preamble. Let's get to the list.

Who's No. 1? The Old Course at St. Andrews, which was picked as the top course by 23 percent of the voters, and ranked in the top 10 on 69 percent of the ballots.

No. 2 is Cypress Point, while No. 3 is Pine Valley. Augusta National comes in fourth, and then the list really gets interesting with links like Royal County Down and Sandbelt layouts like Royal Melbourne jockeying with American classics like Pebble Beach and Oakmont for spots high up the ranking. 

One thing about this list as opposed to many others is that it feels more global. I certainly haven't played the majority of these courses, but I'm glad to see some of my unheralded personal overseas favorites like Lahinch and Nairn and Cruden Bay claim their places, along with some of golf's newest masterpieces, on a list that is probably 2/3rd populated by courses older than half a century.

You can download the entire list in a special .pdf file and I encourage you to do so. It is beautifully assembled, and there's a lot of interesting commentary on the individual courses as well as golf course architecture in general. Whether you agree with the choices or not, it's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.