Golf Digest has been ranking courses for almost half a century. Here, for the first time, we present the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses.
We compiled a ballot of the world's best layouts, from Aamby Valley to Zimbali, and sent it to our U.S. Course Ranking panelists, our 27 international editions and their respective Course Ranking panels, and other selected people we have come to know and trust. In total, 846 knowledgeable, well-traveled golfers completed our survey, rating each course they were familiar with on a 10-point scale. Courses needed a minimum of 20 ballots to qualify for our ranking.
Top of the list, by a clear margin, was Pine Valley, New Jersey's heathland homage to Sunningdale in England. Forty of the top 100 are American courses—a fitting number given that America's 15,619 courses make up 46 percent of the estimated 34,000 global total. Our ranking spans 18 countries.
Expect future rankings to change dramatically. Though many mature markets like the United States are facing course reductions—there are 500 fewer courses in America than in 2005—elsewhere there are pockets of growth, fueled by prosperity, tourism and, in two years, golf once again becoming an Olympic sport. The number of courses in China, for instance, has tripled in less than a decade—despite a technical government ban. The Chinese golf market will inevitably become the largest in the world. —John Barton