3M Open

TPC Twin Cities


Course Rankings

Golf Digest's course rankings: How Our Process Works

Russell Kirk

To arrive at our ranking of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, our panelists play and score courses on the eight criteria below.

Note: Golf Digest briefly published the incorrect category-by-category subset of scores on the website on Tuesday. The total scores used to calculate America’s 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest were and are correct. The final rankings remain unchanged.

To maintain the integrity of our rankings, it has been a long-standing practice for Golf Digest’s statistician Dean Knuth to perform “outlier analysis”—in which he statistically removes any extreme outliers that deviate from the mean of the panel by more than two standard deviations—in order to calculate a course’s scores. The category-by-category scores published Tuesday contained scores that had not undergone our normal outlier analysis, although the actual 1-200 ranking did include that analysis, thus the discrepancy.

To illustrate why our outlier analysis is needed, consider Pikewood National, for instance, ranked 33rd on our most recent 100 Greatest. In the 122 evaluations we had for Pikewood National, eight of them were deemed extreme outliers. One of them, submitted by a veteran panelist, would have scored Pikewood National at 74.2000. That is nearly two full points higher than the No. 1-ranked course on our list, Pine Valley. We deem that deviation—in that example, a difference of more than 11 points—to be an extreme, emotional reaction to a course.

The chart of 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest rankings (below) were drawn from the fully updated balloting, which is why the order remains correct and unchanged. The difference is that the data subset of individual categories had not been updated to reflect the outlier analysis when the article was written. We regret the error.

The below data is accurate, and if a course seeks to obtain their scores—not listed below—please reach out to Stephen Hennessey (Stephen_Hennessey@discovery.com) or Derek Duncan (Derek_Duncan@discovery.com).

How well does the course present a variety of options involving risks and rewards and require a wide range of shots?

How challenging, while still being fair, is the course for a typical scratch golfer playing from the tees designated as back tees for everyday play (not from seldom-used championship tees)?

How varied is the physical layout of the course in terms of differing lengths (long, medium and short par 3s, 4s and 5s), configurations (straight holes, doglegs left and right), hazard placements, green shapes and green contours?

How individual is each hole when compared to all others on this course?

Watch Golf Digest’s latest “Every Hole At” course videos below:

How well do the scenic values of the course add to the pleasure of a round?

How firm, fast and rolling were the fairways, how firm yet receptive were the greens and how true were the roll of putts on the day you played the course?

How well does the course design exude ingenuity and uniqueness and possess profound characteristics that you would consider outstanding for its era?

How enjoyable for all levels of golfers would this course be to play on a regular basis?

Golf Digest's Fun category was introduced two years ago, so we do not have enough data to use in the calculations of our 100 Greatest rankings.

To arrive at a course's final score, we total its averages in the seven categories, doubling Shot Options. A course needs 75 evaluations over the past 10 years to be eligible for America's 100 Greatest and the Second 100 Greatest.


Here are the category-by-category scores for all courses on our 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest.