As a golf property appraiser & consultant, I often address the issue of how the quality of a golf course and its “ranking” impacts the economic value. As a golf enthusiast, I enjoy discussing and comparing the golf courses I’ve played with my friends. As a longtime golf course rating panelist for Golf Digest and now Golfweek, I’m constantly intrigued by what (I think) makes a golf course worthy of “Top 100” recognition.
Recently, noted golf course architect Tripp Davis, my Facebook friend, made the following post, which I believe is an excellent summary of what criteria should be for a “Top 100” course. With his permission, here’s his post:
What should be the criteria for Top 100?
- Difficulty? Should have not much to do with it, but the flexibility to be capable of being set up to play more challenging without simply tricking it up should be a factor. Or, does design allow setup to make the course enjoyable for most, while a good test for the better players with a slightly altered set up?
- Quality of conditions? Should not be a huge factor, but ability for design to work whether the course is perfectly manicured or something less than perfect should matter, and I would tend to suggest it should work best when a little brown, dry and fast.
- Surroundings? Is it by the ocean, in a mountain valley along a river, or in an Augusta National like park setting? It’s hard to not allow the surrounds to influence how we like a course, but more important should be how interesting it is to play – most often a byproduct of how well placed “hazards” (bunkers, rough, water, trees, etc) are, how well located tees, fairways and greens are to provide a strategic foundation, how contours add interest, how well the course flows strategically, and in my book how well balanced the test is.
I define balance in this case to mean it is a golf course that does not overly favor one skill or strength over another, other than the ability to score, providing most in a field of players of like scoring ability the ability to compete. If a course allows length to dominate and does not require the longer players to show a complete game by not having their length be a predominant advantage, it is not balanced. If a course overly favors the player who hits it really straight off the tee, but is below average in length, the course is not balanced. If a course overly favors a player who moves the ball only right to left, it is not balanced. If a course does not require a player to combine a variety of strengths to score well, it is not balanced. What else would you include in the criteria? And how many times do you need to play a course, and how much time should you spend doing homework, before being able to “rank” it properly?
Rating golf courses is a subjective game. Tripp has done a great job here in giving us his (quite qualified) thoughts on what makes a great golf course. To some extent, rating golf courses is like comparing chocolate to vanilla. Here, however Tripp applies some serious knowledge of the topic with the experience of playing, designing and restoring many golf courses. It’s a great and concise summary of the criteria for “Top 100” golf courses.