THE TOP 100 COURSES IN THE UK & IRELAND
Flag represents course attached to hotel / resort
Red denotes course on the Open Rota
Black denotes course played by BigLittleBirdie
26 courses played to date* (GM = 25 / GW = 22 / NCG = 21 / TOP100 = 22)
The Top 100 By the Numbers
There are 129 golf courses in the UK & Ireland that can rightly claim to be a top 100 course. That's because there are four publications: Golf Monthly, Golf World, National Club Golfer, and Top 100 Golf Courses each with their own list. Note Golf Monthly excludes courses which aren't accessible to the public. This egalitarian approach actually doesn't rule out a significant number of courses in the UK & Ireland, but does exclude the likes of Wentworth, Queenwood and Loch Lomond which appear on other lists.
We couldn't make a decision which list to go with (and are somewhat optimistic about our chances for these three) so are currently attempting to complete all four lists. Don't be surprised if we get less ambitious as we go on and focus on only one list.
Thankfully there is significant overlap. 80 courses appear on all four lists. 10 courses feature on three lists and an additional 11 courses appear on two lists. This leaves (as some Kumonsters might have already worked out), 28 courses which are unique to one list.
England and London in particular is a pretty good base to tackle this challenge. Approximately half of the courses with at least one top 100 ranking are based in England (62 out of 129). Surrey alone is home to 13 top courses (more than 2x any other county). Coupled with the shires of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, this amounts to 22 courses within a 90 minute drive of central London.
But Scotland dominates the top. Scotland is home to the second largest number of top-rated courses with 39 courses making at least one top 100 list. A minimum of ten courses in Scotland feature in the top quartile of each list and each publication (with the exception of NCG) has 5 courses in Scotland in its top 10.
Some well planned trips can cross off a bunch of courses in a flurry. Nine clubs are home to 20 top-rated courses. St. Andrews and Woburn both have 3 courses ranked within the top 100. Seven other clubs have two top-ranked courses. Trips to just three counties: Ayrshire (Scotland), East Lothian (Scotland Golf Coast) and Merseyside (England) each home to 6 top-ranked courses can cross off another 18.
Britain's most prestigious tournament is played on Britain's most prestigious courses. All ten courses on the Open Rota appear in each top 100 list. National Club Golfer features 8 courses in the rota in its top 10. The least number of Open Rota courses in any top 10 list is 6. As a cohort, the Non-Royals (Turnberry, St. Andrews, Muirfield, Carnoustie) outrank the Royals (Portrush, St. George's, Birkdale, Lytham and St. Annes, Troon and Liverpool).
The same can't be said about Ryder Cup venues. The last three GB&I hosts, fail to make any list. Fun fact. The King's course (Gleneagles) served as the driving range during the Ryder Cup and is on the top 100 list. Its sister course (the Queen's) is also ranked in the top 100. The course the event was played on (PGA Centenary) is not.
To complete the challenge, requires playing the "Old" course 11x. Three "New" courses (St. Andrews, Sunningdale and Walton Heath) partner with an "Old" to form a top-rated tandem.
And in case you are wondering, we plan on taking the risk of each list changing. Our goal is to finish playing the top 100 rated courses at the time of completion. This shouldn't make things that much more difficult as most of the lists are bi-annual with a sparing number of promotions / relegations. For example, Golf Monthly's most recent update (2021 / 2022) added only 3 new courses - one of which regained its prior status. We also plan on completing this journey within the next 5 years which also minimizes the risk of our progress getting erased.
GM = Golf Monthly (2021 / 2022)
GW = Golf World (2020 / 2021)
NCG = National Club Golfer (2020)
TOP = Top100 Golf Courses (2020)
Note for sorting purposes, courses not ranked within the top 100 have been assigned a ranking of 101. This is not taken into account when calculating either the # LISTS or AVERAGE.