The 2015 GOLF Magazine World Top 100 Ranking list has been published, and is sure to generate plenty of heated debate, as much for the quality of the departing courses as for the wisdom of including the artificial Ayodhya Links course from Thailand in 76th place. Ayodhya continues a worrying trend with GOLF Magazine, of including super exclusive or super wealthy modern courses with enormous marketing budgets. The suggestion being that the small panel of GOLF is more easily swayed with warm and generous hospitality than the larger panels elsewhere. Courses like Nine Bridges, Ayodhya, Oitavos Dunes, Diamante (Dunes) and Kauri Cliffs certainly fuel the conspiracy theorists.
Other newcomers to the list in 2015 included the super-exclusive Ellerston course in Australia at 73 and the remodeled and excellent California Club of San Francisco at 81. Places were also found for old gems like Winged Foot (East) at 84, Royal Hague at 92 and Sunningdale (New) at 95. Major movers included Shanqin Bay, (up from 78 to 47) and Diamante Dunes (up from 52 to 38). Heading the other way were Kauri Cliffs (down from 74 to 94) and Barnbougle Lost Farm (down from 72 to 85).
Those booted from the 100 entirely this year were Medinah (No.3), Old Macdonald, Loch Lomond, Old Sandwich and Aussie classics Royal Melbourne (East) and Royal Adelaide. With the exception of perhaps Medinah and Loch Lomond, it really is hard to mount an argument for courses like Ayodhya, Oitavos and even Nine Bridges outranking those that departed. Nine Bridges is now 43rd in the World, and ranked ahead of Morfontaine in France. We doubt that any judge who had played both would have them in that order.
All magazine panels have their flaws, and it’s a shame that the GOLF team isn’t more active and more discerning when it comes to courses that pamper raters and provide exceptional amenities. There are clearly passionate and engaged judges on the panel, but too many included for celebrity value or with obvious and clear industry conflicts. The golf ‘architects’ are also a problem. While some like Dana Fry and Tom Doak are active and interested in seeing competitors courses, it’s hard to imagine Gary Player, Bob Cupp, Michael Wolveridge, Tom Weiskopf or Rees Jones even studying a competitors work, let alone giving it an objective appraisal.
While GOLF Magazine generally produces the best World ranking list of the major magazines and most of its results are quite reasonable, until they overhaul their process and refresh their panel there will remain these unfortunate and apparent ‘hospitality’ outliers.