Architects’ Choice: 20-11

Architects’ Choice: 20-11
Toby Ingleton
By Toby Ingleton

We’re counting down the Golf Course Architecture Architects’ Choice Top 100 Golf Courses in the World, as voted for by over 240 golf course architects from 28 countries across the globe.

We reveal which courses feature in positions 20-11 on our list:

20. Pacific Dunes
Oregon, USA
Tom Doak, 2001

Thad Layton says: “I never tire of playing Pacific Dunes – it is also the course I borrow from more than any other when designing... the setting, strategy, and beauty are unmatched.” Christian Althaus adds: “I’ve played Pacific Dunes four or five times and it has been different every time. It provides so many strategic options, variety and shot values, plus it is aesthetically a very beautiful design.”

19. Kingsbarns
Fife, Scotland
Kyle Phillips, 2000

One of only three modern (post-1960) golf courses to make it into our Top 20, Kingsbarns stands alongside its historic neighbours as one of Scotland’s finest links experiences.

18. North Berwick
East Lothian, Scotland
Ben Sayers, 1832

Golf has been played on the site of North Berwick since the formation of the club in 1832, at which time the links extended as far as the March Dyke which runs across the third and sixteenth holes. Subsequent extensions followed and in 1932 Ben Sayers oversaw alterations which gave the course its present shape. Mike Hurdzan describes North Berwick as: “bold, innovative, memorable, exciting, unique and historic. An inspirational golf experience”. Mary Armstrong adds: “North Berwick, I believe, is held back from being world renowned only by its lack of space for hosting a major event. It is easily the most fun golf course I have experienced.”

17. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Harry Colt, 1929

Major successes from Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke have put a spotlight on Northern Irish golf, with Royal Portrush credited in the development of their games. Kevin Ramsey says: “For too long Portrush has lived in the shadow of County Down and the Open rota courses in Scotland and England. Its time has come.”

16. Sand Hills
Nebraska, USA
Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, 1995

Sand Hills earns the title of the highest ranked modern course in our Top 100. Dan Allen Blankenship says: “My biggest influence as an architect has been Sand Hills. The natural use of the land is genius. Every time I play there I see something different that makes me wonder if Coore and Crenshaw were just lucky or had an amazing insight on how every little nuance in the golf course would challenge golfers differently on every day. I can’t imagine ever playing a better golf course!” Baxter Spann adds: “A fantastic setting, with the course melded perfectly into natural features.”

15. Pinehurst (No. 2)
North Carolina, USA
Donald Ross, 1907

The 2010-11 restoration of Pinehurst’s No. 2 course, by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, has returned it to what Donald Ross originally intended. “Along with St. Andrews and Dornoch, Pinehurst No. 2 is probably the most mandatory course study in design in the world,” says Kyle Franz, who worked on the restoration. “Ross’s imaginative use of the native sand barrens and width create incredible strategy. But its greens complexes are the eighth wonder of the architectural world for a student of design.”

14. Oakmont

Pennsylvania, USA
Henry Fownes, 1983

“Oakmont is easily the best course I have ever played,” says Joe Jemsek. “It requires exacting shotmaking every hole, every shot.” David Krause adds: “Oakmont was a jaw dropping experience, beauty and terror all rolled into one.”

13. Ballybunion (Old)
County Kerry, Ireland
Lionel Hewson, Fred Smith, Tom Simpson, 1906

The original layout of the links is thought to have been undertaken by officers of The Black Watch Regiment in 1893, but Lionel Hewson in 1906, Fred Smith in 1926 and Tom Simpson in 1936 all made significant contributions. Mike Hurdzan says: “Golf as it was meant to be played among giant dunes, with shifting winds and great elevations.” Joe Jemsek adds: “It’s been nearly 20 years since I played Ballybunion. It was my first experience of links golf and was akin to playing on the moon for someone who grew up in the middle of the US.”

12. Turnberry (Ailsa)
Ayrshire, Scotland
Philip Mackenzie Ross, 1951

Where many courses on the Open Championship do not even offer a glimpse of the sea, Turnberry’s dramatic coastline, from beach to cliffside, sets it apart. Formal golf on this site began in 1906 with a design by Willie Fernie of Troon, but the land was required for both the First and Second World Wars, after which Mackenzie Ross created the current layout.

11. Muirfield
East Lothian, Scotland
Tom Morris, Harry Colt, 1891

Tom Morris laid out the first 16 holes in 1891 and added two more for the following year’s Open. In 1923, with more land acquired, Harry Colt was consulted and his recommendations defined the current course. Dr Arthur Spring says: “Each and every hole is a strong one. I rate golf holes on the overall layout, the changes of direction and the avoidance of visual and auditory interference on each hole in normal playing conditions. Muirfield ticks all the boxes in every regard.”

A full report of the Top 100 – including the observations of golf course architects – will be sent to Golf Course Architecture monthly e-mail newsletter subscribers on July 12th. Sign up for free by entering your email address in the e-mail newsletter box on the home page of this website.

Architects’ Choice: 100-91| 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | the full report