Ranking golf courses is tough, but part of the fun in playing golf courses is seeing how they compare to other ones you’ve played.
My ranking is solely based on the golf courses architecture merits. There’s no clubhouse or service component determining this ranking. While those types of things do make for a good day, when I go to a golf course I’m looking for how good the golf course actually is. Here’s how I put together my personal ranking:
The ranking is put together on an easy 0-10 scale, with 7 categories weighted up to 2. There is no half points, so everything ends on a solid number for ease.
Memorability & Originality (/2): The best golf courses in the world stand out in a good way, both in how original they are in their design principals and how memorable the holes are. For classic golf courses, originality means how close the golf course plays to the original design principals.
Integrity to the Original Principals of Architecture (/2): I believe that the best golf courses portray principals that have been written and talked about for hundreds of years. With everything going back to The Old Course, you can determine how good a golf course is based on the original principals of golf course architecture from Scotland. This also includes pacing, which finds a good golf course methodically walking its way around.
Interest & Variety in Green Complexes (/2): With most of the strokes being made up on the green, having interesting greens with good variety throughout is a key category. They may provide difficult putts, or slope different ways, but as long as they keep you on your toes, this is a good thing.
Fun (/1): This is a pretty easy category. Is it a fun golf course? Would you return to play?
Use of Topography & Landscape (/1): How well does the routing utilize interesting topography or landforms throughout the golf course? Do you find yourself being challenged by difficult stances or interesting approach shots?
Shot Values (/1): As opposed to a traditional sense of “shot values” where it refers to difficulty, my definition of shot values lies more in strategy. How much does each shot matter? If there’s “lost shots” where it’s not setting up the next shot, the golf course might struggle here.
Playability (/1): Can a 15 handicap and a scratch player both get around? How about someone who hits driver 150 yards and 300 yards? This is a big sign in a good golf course to me.
Feel like I got courses in the wrong order? Head to my contact info and let me know your thoughts. Notable golf courses missing from my top 50:
- The National Golf Club of Canada
- Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club
- Desert Highlands Golf Club
- Devil’s Pulpit
- Marine Drive Golf Club
- Kananaskis Country Golf Course (Mt Kidd)
- Magna Golf Club
- TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)
Each golf course with a purple title will have a review for you to read if you’re interested in learning more. Total number of courses ranked: 238.
-Thomas McBroom (2008)
Featuring the typical McBroom stereotypes, Magog is an interesting golf course that features some excellent holes, and some sleepers. It remains entirely playable, yet quite difficult. In a rare surprise from McBroom, he gets creative at times, even building his version of the Redan template.
49. The Park Country Club
Williamsville, New York
7002 yards, 73.6/131
-C.H. Alison (1928)
As opposed to Country Club of Buffalo down the street, Alison’s work saves the exciting land for the back nine, gradually working its way down into the bottom of the property. The front predominantly relies on the green complexes, while the back gets into some exciting holes.
48 (NEW). Tobacco Road Golf Club
Sanford, North Carolina
6557 yards, 72.5/145
-Mike Strantz (1998)
A polarizing course, Mike Strantz’s architecture is daring and wild, albeit over the line for my tastes one or two times. Holes like the 18th, 5th and 11th make this golf course a must see no matter where you stand.
47. Lookout Point Country Club
6702 yards, 72.3/133
-Walter J. Travis (1922)
Walter Travis’ green complexes are on full display at Lookout Point, with humps, bumps, hollows and internal contouring that would make the best putters heads spin. The non-Travis holes stick out, but the authentic ones are among some of the best in the province.
46 (NEW). The Rosedale Golf Club
6525 yards, 71.1/132
-Donald Ross (1919)
A wonderful routing working down & then back up a valley in the middle of the city, there’s a lot to like and not a lot to be disappointed in. Standout holes include the 8th, and the finishing 6 holes, which are all strong.
Caledon East, Ontario
6772 yards, 71.9/139
-Dr. Michael Hurdzan & Dana Fry (1991)
A groundbreaking design that wonderfully captures the links-land spirit inland, Devil’s Paintbrush potentially crosses a couple lines with its green contouring and routing. However, there’s a lot of really good golf holes, like the 2nd and 11th (both very good par 5’s).
44. Country Club of Buffalo
Williamsville, New York
6852 yards, 72.7/131
-Donald Ross (1926)
Interestingly like Greywolf a slot below, most assume it’s just the par 3, 6th, which is an epic volcano hole. Thankfully, there’s more than the “showtime” par 3, and Ross’ green complexes are a lot of fun.
Panorama, British Columbia
7140 yards, 74.2/144
-Doug Carrick (1999)
Carrick’s routing is situated around the par 3, 6th, but the rest of the golf course shines as well. The par 5’s are particularly strong—5 and 14 are among the best in Western Canada.
7315 yards, 73.7/131
-John Fought & Andy Staples (2008)
The front plays more low-profile, while the back nine is routed around a canyon that excites even people who are expecting. There’s a lot to love at this Utah gem, and undoubtably among the shortlist for the best in the state.
7155 yards, 73.6/125
-Rod Whitman (1996 & 2010)
Wolf Creek Links shows the evolution of Rod Whitman: on the front side, earlier, more Pete Dye influenced architecture; on the back, big, bold and daring choices. It’s a little disjointed, but the highs are too good to ignore.
40. Chambers Bay Golf Course
University Place, Washington
7165 yards, 75.6/139
-Robert Trent Jones II (2007)
A faux-links south of Seattle, Chambers Bay is a big, exciting golf course that is an adventurous walk. With flexibility on how holes play, it’s a perfect venue for events.
39. World Woods Golf Club (Pine Barrens)
7237 yards, 75.3/133
-Tom Fazio (1993)
The most natural Fazio I’ve played, Pine Barrens is not a typical Florida course, with good movement and interesting topography. Drawing inspiration from Pine Valley, the Faz puts an emphasis on fun & creativity: something his catalog dwindled away from.
6928 yards, 74.1/136
-H.S. Colt (1915)
A relatively disappointing golf course based on where its current ranked in Canada, H.S. Colt’s Hamilton is masterfully routed up & down the steep Ancaster topography. Look for this to move up once the Colt is restored back for 2022.
Vernon, British Columbia
7128 yards, 73.8/137
-Doug Carrick (2009)
Rock outcroppings and rolling topography, the Ridge is a roller coaster golf course in the interior. Standout holes come early with the great stretch of 4-6, but the start of the back nine is also particularly strong, and natural. A wonderful golf course.
La Quinta, California
7038 yards, 73.4/134
-Tom Fazio (1994)
More gentle & natural than a lot of other Fazio’s, most will remember the three hole stretch at the top of the property, but the par 3’s are quite strong and the finishing hole is an epic conclusion.
35. Summit Golf Club
Richmond Hill, Ontario
6865 yards, 70.6/131
-Stanley Thompson (1912)
A shockingly hilly property, George Cummings original golf course extensively renovated by Thompson, with additions in recent years by Doug Carrick, is a strong golf course. Gently working down and back up, the routing is a good walk with some of the best individual holes in Canada.
34. Rawls at Texas Tech, The
7349 yards, 75.3/139
-Tom Doak (2003)
West Texas isn’t a golf mecca, but The Rawls is worth the trip in. The front plays easy, while the back is tough as nails forcing college players to get their birdies in early. In an interesting move, Doak routed some of the longer holes like 13 & 14 straight into the wind, while 1 & 2 play downwind. A great set of greens make this golf course wonderful.
7621 yards, not rated
-Phil Mickelson (2020)
A brand new golf course set to open this year, there’s a lot of creativity and options. For a modern stadium golf course, the ground game is often encouraged, and the golfer is often pondering many options on every shot. An excellent golf course that will only ripen with age.
6667 yards, 72.1/131
-Seth Raynor (1926)
Big, bold templates at this Seth Raynor gem, like the 2nd—“Double Plateau”—and the 8th—“Punchbowl.” This is an excellent walk with all the regular templates, just sometimes ramped up to 10.
6885 yards, 74.0/147
-Tom Fazio (1993)
Relatively early in Fazio’s career, Aldarra is a wonderful golf course outside of Seattle. Benefitting from a fairly steep property, there’s some great golf holes here, as well as the usual Fazio holes & green complexes.
30. Westmount Golf & Country Club
6943 yards, 72.4/133
-Stanley Thompson (1931)
Not a pure Thompson like Jasper or Capilano, Westmount struggles from too many cooks in the kitchen. Influences from Robbie Robinson & Doug Carrick have convoluted this design a tad, but Thompson’s genius thankfully still shines through to make a wonderful golf course.
7314 yards, 74.0/147
-Tom Fazio (1995)
One of Fazio’s more high-profile designs, Estancia showcases what Fazio can do without moving heaven & hell. The strength of the golf course lies in holes 1, 2, 5, 11, 18, where he’s at his best.
6506 yards, 71.0/131
-Willie Park Jr. (1922)
The strength of this Willie Park Jr. lies in its green complexes, which features a ton of movement in a small amount of acreage. It’s a difficult site, but Park’s routing finds little pockets to appreciate his prowess.
27 (NEW). Pinehurst Resort (No. 4)
The Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina
7227 yards, 74.9/138
-Gil Hanse (2018)
Gil Hanse took an old Fazio redo of a Donald Ross and restored features Ross would’ve been proud. It’s not a restoration, with Hanse features Ross wouldn’t build like the Great Hazard on 9, but it restores it back to the golden age principals.
7203 yards, 75.5/149
-Robert Lawrence (1962)
The pioneer of desert architecture ironically from the Philadelphia School of Architecture, Desert Forest is creative, fun, albeit hard. It makes you hit a wide variety of shots, and forces you to be sharp on the delicate putting surfaces.
25. Fenway Golf Club
Scarsdale, New York
6706 yards, 73.8/138
-A.W. Tillinghast (1924)
Next door to Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge, Fenway doesn’t deserve to play third-fiddle, but maybe they like it that way. Low-key, this club & course is among the best surprises one can stumble upon.
Bowling Green, Florida
7148 yards, 74.2/130
-Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (2012)
A difficult property without much golf to find prior to the bulldozers, Coore/Crenshaw’s team took adaptations from the classics (16), while innovating (7-9). It’s the perfect Florida golf course, while avoiding the Florida cliches.
Fountain Hills, Arizona
6966 yards, 72.0/137
-Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (2006)
Instead of the stereotypical desert architecture which abuses the landscape, Saguaro sits on top. Coore/Crenshaw found a way to make desert golf as enjoyable as possible, and remains public—a must see.
Foots Bay, Ontario
7157 yards, 75.6/146
-Thomas McBroom (2005)
Completely opposite of Thomas McBroom’s usual work, Öviinbyrd is laid back and lowkey, featuring more subtleties than loudness. With short grass and width, it’s not hard to see why it ranks as highly as it does.
21. Gamble Sands Golf Course and Lodge (Sands)
7169 yards, 74.2/128
-David McLay Kidd (2014)
Wonderful views of the Columbia River paired with sandy, faux-links land is a great mix, and Gamble Sands knocks it out of the park. McLay Kidd’s half-par architecture here leans towards birdies more than bogeys, and delivers on fun more than anything.
20. Blackhawk Golf Club
6835 yards, 73.0/138
-Rod Whitman (2003)
Wonderfully routed to save the river valley for the back nine, Whitman’s work here combines his ability to route difficult properties (Sagebrush) with flatter properties (Wolf Creek). If Cabot hadn’t been built, this could be the quintessential Whitman.
19. Apache Stronghold Golf & Casino
7519 yards, 74.6/145
-Tom Doak (1999)
Doak’s excursion into the Arizona desert landscape came out with an excellent routing, some of his most exciting green complexes, and incredible pacing. A trip to Phoenix is incomplete with arguably the states best.
6967 yards, 73.9/139
-C.H. Alison (1921)
The roller-coaster back nine gets all the press, and rightfully so, but this is more than just a nine hole excursion into the river bottom. With a great set of greens, Alison’s work flies way under the radar in greater Cleveland.
Agar, South Dakota
7226 yards, 74.9/147
-Graham Marsh (2012)
The original golf course at Sutton Bay fell into the lake, so Graham Marsh came back more experienced & ready to build off the original design principals. What feels like perfect links land is actually hand sculpted, showcasing the talent of this Aussie architect.
16 (NEW). Rolling Green Golf Club
6941 yards, 74.7/143
-William Flynn (1926)
On a difficult property, Flynn, rather than routing them cut into the bank, thrusts upon the land to create daring, yet challenging holes. In par with the rest of his catalogue, the greens are exceptional, and the holes full of strategy.
6836 yards, 73.7/141
-H.S. Colt (1912)
Martin Hawtree’s restoration/renovation hybrid of Colt’s work is exceptional, and features a collection of stout par 4’s. On a relatively dull site, the pureness of golden age architecture shines bright
14. Bandon Trails
6788 yards, 73.6/130
-Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (2005)
Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw’s inland golf course at the Bandon Dunes resort is one of the best walks in the game, with a great collection of strategic golf holes and wonderful par 5’s
13. The Country Club
Pepper Pike, Ohio
7080 yards, 74.3/138
-William S. Flynn (1930)
Effortlessly routed over the wonderful Northeastern Ohio terrain, William Flynn balances aggressive, daring architecture with subtle, gentle choices. With the typical Flynn archetypes, you’re in for a show.
6938 yards, 72.9/135
-Stanley Thompson (1927)
There may not be a more photographed golf course in Canada, but it’s more than just a dumb, pretty blonde. Banff’s use of a flat piece of land (minus 4 & the tee shot on 15) is exceptional, and features some of Thompson’s smartest green complexes
11. Inverness Club
7730 yards, 78.4/151
-Donald Ross (1916)
Inverness Club is more than just a tournament venue. Using the burn running through the property effortlessly, Donald Ross’ routing takes advantage of the property, creating great golf holes with interesting variety. After Andrew Green’s recent work, this is as good as it’s ever been.
10. Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club (NLE)
Merritt, British Columbia
7396 yards, 75.7/142
-Rod Whitman, Richard Zokol & Armen Suny (2009)
On a property Rod Whitman questioned if they were golfing or skiing, the golf is just as good as the skiing would be. Tumbling up and down the side of a mountain, there’s not a weak golf hole on the entire site.
Santa Cruz, California
6500 yards, 72.4/141
-Allister Mackenzie (1929)
On such a severe site, Mackenzie’s routing is effortless, with some of the most artistic bunkering in the world. Every hole is as good as the last, with some great movement and next-level green complexes.
7014 yards, 74.4/136
-Stanley Thompson (1929)
There’s not a golf course I’ve seen with as much beautiful, natural land movement at St. George’s, and then add in the fact that it’s built on clay. This is Thompson’s best bunkering, and a stern test a century later.
6663 yards, 71.6/130
-Stanley Thompson (1929)
An incredible set of variety and fun golf shots, Jasper is a spectacular golf course with numerous half-par holes, and the best set of par 3’s I’ve ever seen.
West Vancouver, British Columbia
6706 yards, 73.0/133
-Stanley Thompson (1937)
No golf course handles such a severe property with such ease, and provides a beautiful summary of Thompson’s work: the wildness of Jasper, with the stern test of St. George’s and the beauty of Banff Springs.
6633 yards, 73.0/142
-Tom Doak (2001)
The ocean holes are revered, but inland, Doak really shines, with the 6th, 9th, 17th being easy standouts. A superb routing that balances out ocean holes among the front and back nine, with creativity and variety.
4 (NEW). Pinehurst Resort (No. 2)
The Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina
7588 yards, 76.8/138
-Donald Ross (1907)
There’s not a better case study on getting the most out of a property, and not a better course to study the difficulty of perfectly executed short grass. Donald Ross’ masterpiece is truly one of golf’s greatest gems.
Deer Lodge, Montana
7466 yards, 74.9/137
-Tom Doak (2008)
Over a property that’s unusually aggressive for a Doak, Rock Creek Cattle Company is the biggest, boldest modern course I’ve seen, and features some of the best par 4’s anywhere.
6599 yards, 73.6/149
-Hugh Wilson & William Flynn (1912)
Merion’s small property is perfectly executed, with the golf course split into three acts like a Tarantino movie or Shakespeare: Drama, the first 6; Comedy, holes 7-13; and Tragedy, the final 6. A compelling round on a golf course that doesn’t stop.
Southampton, New York
6940 yards, 74.4/140
-William S. Flynn (1931)
No golf course I’ve seen balances the line of fair and playable than Shinnecock Hills. Multiple times throughout the round the golf course demands perfection, without requiring a single individual way to get there.