My Top Ten: Jeff Mingay

My Top Ten: Jeff Mingay
Jeff Mingay
By Jeff Mingay

For the second article in this new series, we asked Canadian designer Jeff Mingay to list his ten favourite golf courses.

Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of numerically ranking golf courses. It’s too subjective. Most golf design enthusiasts are aware which courses are in fact the world’s top ten, too. So, here, I offer a list of courses that have inspired me over the past two decades working in golf course design and construction.

Elie, Scotland. This historic Tom Morris layout down the road from St Andrews is where the great James Braid learned the game. Elie, a par 70, features just one par three per nine and not a single par five over 18 holes! However, that’s not something that crosses your mind while enjoying Elie. The course occupies a perfectly rumpled piece of ground featuring views across the Firth of Forth towards Edinburgh and the East Lothian coast. Elie is a dream.

The Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland. Another equally perfect, albeit more famous piece of rumpled ground, the Old Course brilliantly presents courses within a course. Its huge greens and wide swaths of mown turf allow the Old Course to be set up significantly different day to day. Oh yes, it can be played in reverse, too. The Old Course is indeed the most dynamic layout in the world. Add all its history and the charm of the Auld Grey Toon, and there’s nothing quite like it.

The Loop at Forest Dunes, Michigan. Considering the reverence golf architects have shown for the Old Course throughout history, it’s amazing more designers haven’t attempted a reversible course. Now that Tom Doak has brilliantly done so at Forest Dunes, hopefully more contemporary architects will be inspired to try the same. Both loops around The Loop are excellent, which is very important, as Doak says: “if one loop is better than the other, one course will be preferred, which defeats the purpose of a reversible course.”

The Toronto Golf Club, Canada. Toronto is where Harry Colt set the benchmark for golf architecture in Canada in about 1912. What is more-or-less his original layout continues to stand the test of time following a thoughtful restoration by British golf architect Martin Hawtree. But still, Toronto is more. It’s the only club in Canada where everything comes together in similar fashion to the best in America and the UK, including a small sign at the entrance drive, which winds through the course en route to a historic clubhouse, which better fits Surrey than Toronto!

Essex Golf & Country Club, Canada. Everything comes together pretty well at Essex, too. With a sprawling 1929 Tudor-style clubhouse looming over a sublime Donald Ross course cut through an oak forest, Essex is special. Having grown up there, I’m biased, but the golf course is a great illustration of what can be accomplished on flat ground by putting together a smart routing and moulding eighteen varied and interesting greens. Essex shows us that golf architecture can be simple when you’re a complex thinker like Mr Ross.

Harbour Town Golf Links, South Carolina. Despite all its distinctive features – wildly shaped greens held up by wood bulkheads, tiny pot bunkers, vast areas of sand, overhanging mossy oaks and so on – Harbour Town remains a beautiful example of seemingly restrained yet complex architecture. The beauty of the low country takes Pete Dye’s thoughtful creativity to the next level, too.

TPC Sawgrass, Florida. Speaking of Mr Dye, no course emphasises old school strategic angles quite like Sawgrass… perhaps to the point of overkill, in fact! Nonetheless, the development (and evolution) of the Tour’s flagship course is fascinating. Not only did Dye engineer a less-than-ideal site to accommodate golf in a Florida swamp, but he also created what have become some of the most iconic holes in the world at Sawgrass.

High Pointe Golf Club, Michigan. The current renaissance in golf architecture didn’t start at Sand Hills in 1995. It began in northern Michigan in 1989, at High Pointe, where a young Tom Doak genuinely took a beautiful piece of ground and let it dictate where golf would be played. This is popularly referred to as minimalism today, but no one had taken that approach in decades before Doak. This isn’t just a romantic thought, either. Not only does High Pointe represent a watershed moment in the history of golf architecture, but the course was also great.

The North course at Los Angeles Country Club, California. Legendary golf architect George Thomas created a number of brilliant courses in southern California during the 1920s, including Riviera and Bel-Air. However, it was his redesign of LACC’s North course where Thomas attempted to move golf architecture forward by laying out eighteen holes that can be set up markedly different day to day. He called this brilliant concept, which hasn’t been emulated nearly enough since, “courses within a course”. It’ll be interesting to see how the USGA uses Thomas’s set-up options, recently restored by Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford, for the 2023 US Open.

Garden City Golf Club, New York. Like Merion East, for example, Garden City has no business being as good as it is under the circumstance. Set in a dense urban environment, the club’s property is relatively small, oddly shaped and pretty flat. However, the ground is sandy, and Devereux Emmet and Walter Travis’s century-old architecture is remarkably unique and incredibly daring! Hence, Garden City endures.

Victoria Golf Club in Canada. Historically known as the Oak Bay Golf Links, VGC occupies a stunningly beautiful seaside property on cliffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Luca, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Its century-old course might be the most intriguing 6,100 yards of golf in the world, too. Somehow, legendary golf architect Vernon Macan – a long-time member of VGC – brilliantly figured out how to not only fit eighteen holes on 78 acres but create one of Canada’s best courses over a challenging site. If Victoria were an ultra-exclusive private club, it’d be one of the most coveted tee times on the planet.

[Editor’s note: That’s 11. But we’ll allow it!]

Jeff Mingay’s portfolio includes renovation work at Victoria Golf Club in British Columbia, Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle and Town & Country Club in Minnesota. Read more at