A Ten Year Retrospective of SCOREGolf’s Top 100
It has been a notable week for the cinephiles among us, with Sight and Sound releasing their “100 greatest films of all time”, something they do once a decade (on years ending in 2, oddly). This is widely viewed as the most prestigious list in the industry. This year the panel nearly doubled in size, with nearly 1600 voters contributing. And, with that, a new #1 emerged: Chantal Akerman’s brilliant, though slow-moving and even-keeled Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce,1080 Bruxelles. Akerman, a Belgian, is the first woman to take the top honor; previously the list had been topped by The Bicycle Thieves (in 1952), Citizen Kane (in 1962, 72, 82, 92, 2002), and Vertigo (in 2012). Also notable, only 4 films from the 2010s made the top 100: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (30th), Moonlight (60th), Parasite (90th), and Get Out (95th). All these films are excellent, and worthy of such high praise.
Lists are, after all, a snapshot of a certain point in time, manifesting the tastes, inclinations, and social movements shaping the zeitgeist (which is why, to me, having a list with a continuously evolving ranking-scale makes little sense). As Richard Brody of The New Yorker wrote, for example, in his post-mortem of this latest Sight and Sound list, “the transformation of the list has gone together with far-reaching social changes, the acknowledgement of age-old and unquestioned exclusions—of Black, female, Asian, and generally nonwhite and non-straight filmmaker and critics from prominent places in filmmaking and, for that matter, in criticism.”
And golf rankings are no different. Inspired by Sight and Sound, I figured it would be interesting to look back on ScoreGolf’s Top 100 in ten year increments and study the differences, see the evolution of taste, and the new perspectives towards architecture that have, in turn, shaped it.
Ultimately, Score’s list is still the most influential and prominent one in this country, and, despite what some claim, being ranked does matter a great deal—just ask any facility that gets elevated into the top 100 for the first time.
The list in 1992 ranked only 25 courses.
The Top 10: 1. National Golf Club of Canada 2. Glen Abbey 3. St George’s 4. Devil’s Pulpit 5. Banff Springs 6. Beacon Hall 7. Toronto 8. Capilano 9. Westmount 10. Royal Montreal (blue).
Other notable rankings: Mississaugua 11th. King Valley 12th (rose to 4th in 1994 and is now unranked). Jasper Park 14th. Gallagher’s Canyon 15th (now unranked). Glencoe, Forest 18th. Highlands Links 23rd. Deerhurst Highlands 25th (now unranked). Hamilton, not ranked.
Here, we can see the early 1990s prediction towards manicured, sculpted “championship” layouts. I had never realized that King Valley had risen that high; it’s certainly a decent, aesthetically pleasing layout, but pretty vanilla. Glen Abbey would remain near the top until the early 2000s, then begin falling steadily—it’s essentially the barometer marking the shift in taste.
The top 10: 1. St George’s. 2. Highlands Links 3. Capilano 4. National Golf Club of Canada 5. Redtail Golf Club 6. Links at Crowbush Cove 7. Royal Montreal—Blue 8. Lake Joseph Club 9. Hamilton 10. Beacon Hall.
Other notable rankings: Le Geant 12th (now unranked). Glen Abbey 13th. Predator Ridge—Predator 16th (now 90th after a big drop in 2022). Angus Glen—South 18th (now unranked). Radium Springs 20th (now unranked). Nicklaus North 23rd (once as high as 8th but now unranked). King Valley 27th. Devil’s Pulpit 28th. Heron Point 32nd (now unranked). Westwood Plateau 35th (now unranked). Crown Isle 43rd (now unranked). Bell Bay 44th (now unranked). Le Mirage 55th (now unranked). Lionhead 57th (now unranked). Weston 75th. Summit 88th.
By 2002, the “minimalist” movement was still only in its infancy, so the 2002 list still reveals tastes rather similar to that of the early 1990s. If there’s one issue that has plagued Score, it is consistently over-ranking new layouts (particularly those in the Muskokas or in other “tourist” destinations). The most glaring examples here would be Lake Joseph—which would, somehow, end up unranked on the next list and then only occasionally return to the bottom end of the list throughout the next decade—and Le Geant, a ghastly Thomas McBroom design in Mont-Tremblant. Redtail in the top 5 isn’t really much of a surprise, considering it was the first of Canada’s ultra-private haunts and is, after-all, a very strong golf course, one that went steadfastly against the trend of the period.
Further down, there are some real head-scratchers. Once again, the preference for manicured, green tests is evident.
The top 10: 1. National 2. St George’s 3. Hamilton 4. Jasper Park 5. Capilano 6. Highland Links 7. Beacon Hall 8. Banff Springs 9. Muskoka Bay 10. Tobiano
Apart from Tobiano, which still remains high-enough in the rankings, this list is essentially one that could be released in 2022. By 2012, minimalism, and its proponents, were influential forces throughout the golf world.
The list we see today is the continued evolution of the 2012 list, further highlighting the push towards minimalism and appreciation of the classics.
Top 10: 1. Cabot Cliffs, 2. St. George’s, 3. Jasper Park, 4. Hamilton (West/South), 5. Cabot Links, 6. Capilano, 7. Banff Springs, 8. Cape Breton Highlands Links, 9. Devil’s Paintbrush, and 10. Toronto Golf Club.
Notably, Toronto Golf Club enters the top 10 for the first time ever, and National Golf Club of Canada, a usual suspect of SCOREGolf‘s Top 5, falls off the list entirely due to their men-only membership policy. Additionally, in 2022, Glen Abbey is holding on, although just on the cusp of meeting the fate as King Valley, Lake Joseph, and others at 91st.