Architects’ Choice: 40-31

Architects’ Choice: 40-31
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.

Today we reveal which courses feature in positions 40-31 on our list:

40. Swinley Forest
Surrey, England
Harry Colt, 1909

Colt famously described Swinley Forest as his ‘least bad’ course. Our Top 100 suggests there are three more Colt courses that are even less bad, but there’s something uniquely enjoyable about Swinley. At little over 6,000 yards and with a par of 68, it’s the shortest course in our Top 100, and perhaps this – along with its wonderful heathland setting – is what makes golf here such a pleasurable experience.

39. Riviera
California, USA
George Thomas, 1926

The $250,000 construction cost was unheard of at the time, but this allowed George Thomas to create a magnificent design where golfers are constantly faced with strategic choices – typified by the famous short par four tenth hole.

38. Muirfield Village
Ohio, USA
Jack Nicklaus, Desmond Muirhead, 1974

The Memorial Tournament has been played here yearly since 1976, and the course design is modified on a regular basis to keep pace with the elite game. “Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village surprised the heck out of me – every hole a very good hole and every hole very playable,” says Stephen Kay.

37. Gleneagles (King’s)
Perthshire, Scotland
James Braid, 1919

“The King’s Course at Gleneagles is the one choice where I’ve let my heart rule my head. There is nothing that can beat a summer’s evening here, whether it be the views, the light, the quality of the turf or the variety of the design,” says Ross McMurray of European Golf Design.

36. Portmarnock
William Pickeman, 1894

The club’s original secretary William Pickeman laid out the links at Portmarnock, with the help of professional Mungo Park, on land leased from the famous Jameson distiller family. The course sits naturally in gentle dunes and is a true and fair test of shotmaking.

35. TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)
Florida, USA
Pete Dye, Alice Dye, 1980

Constructed specifically for tournament play, TPC Sawgrass was the first ‘stadium’ design. Initially receiving quite a critical reception, with the help of subsequent tweaks by Dye, the course has become widely admired and – thanks to its famous seventeenth island par three – universally recognised. Mike Hurdzan says: “Off the charts creative, great visuals, demanding shot values, fun to play or watch, ground breaking”.

34. Prairie Dunes
Kansas, USA
Perry Maxwell, Press Maxwell, 1937

When Emerson Carey commissioned architect Perry Maxwell to design a course in 480 acres of rolling Kansas hills, he replied: “There are 118 holes here, and all I have to do is eliminate 100”. Nine holes were opened in 1937 and a further nine designed by Maxwell’s son Press completed the eighteen in 1957.

33. Kiawah Island (Ocean)
South Carolina, USA
Pete Dye, Alice Dye, 1991

Originally designed to sit behind the dunes, Alice Dye suggested raising the entire course to provide views of the Atlantic. This also means that golfers are more exposed to the unpredictable winds, making a difficult course even tougher.

32. Crystal Downs
Michigan, USA
Alister MacKenzie, Perry Maxwell, 1929

Mike DeVries says: “I grew up working and playing there and even after thousands of days on the property, I still learn something about golf architecture every time I am there. The variety and intricacies of the layout and the green complexes make it worthy of consideration with the best courses.” Arthur Hills says: “So delightful, a wonderful venue and amazing fit with the ground.”

31. Winged Foot (West)
New York, USA
AW Tillinghast, 1923

Perhaps the best test of a great architect is their ability to produce a fine course on relatively ordinary terrain, and Tillinghast’s skill is demonstrated at Winged Foot, where he designed both East and West courses. The West’s clever design provides a complete examination of golfing skills, demanding every type of shot and every club in the bag.

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