Course Rater Confidential: Overrated? Best architect? Here’s what our raters really think

September 1, 2017

Our Top 100 Courses panelists are among the most well-respected and well-traveled design evaluators in the world. They can ball, too (average handicap: 7.5). Opinions are their business, but sometimes they like to (and should) keep things on the down-low. To loosen their lips a bit, we’ve cloaked our raters in anonymity. Here’s what they really think.

What is the “always-most-overrated” course?

Seminole, 15% (of the 75 panelists polled)

“By a mile. Lovely club, nice course, but a pushover unless the wind is blowing and the greens are brown, running at 13+. The upcoming Coore/Crenshaw renovation will help immensely.”

Baltusrol (Lower), 12%

“A boring slog of long par 4s. Relies on its competitive history and strong conditioning to impress. Its sister, the Upper, is more interesting, more fun.”

Pebble Beach, 7%

“The inland holes are good, but not top 10 in the world.”

Medinah (No. 3), 6%

“One long, tree-lined hole after another with uninteresting greens and predictable bunkering, broken up by an occasional water-shot par 3.”

What is the “always-most-underrated” course?

North Berwick (West Links), 7%

“It’s the most ‘fun’ course in the world.”

Los Angeles Country Club (North), 4%

“[Architect] George Thomas was a genius, and not many people have had the opportunity to see his brilliance on display at this masterpiece, but that’s about to change with this year’s Walker Cup and the [2023] U.S. Open being played at LA North.”

Pebble Beach, 3%

“Many people think it gets the great ratings because it sits on Stillwater Cove, but the course is sensational.”

Royal Melbourne (East), 4%

“Overshadowed by its more famous sibling, it doesn’t fall far behind in quality of architectural strategy, charm and playable fun.”

St. George’s Hill, 3%

“This 1913 Colt classic feels like a cross between Pine Valley and Sunningdale New.”

Valderrama, 3%

“Strategically, it’s one of the best courses I have ever played, and it’s always in beautiful condition.”

Yale, 3%

“Yale University—an architecture master class in scale and consequence.”

Who is the greatest Golden Age architect?

Alister MacKenzie, 54%

“MacKenzie built the highest percentage of great courses and great holes per effort.”

H.S. Colt (with C.H. Alison), 22%

“Harry Colt had no “signature” holes or style. He simply built the best course the property would yield, and the variety of courses he produced is unmatched.”

C.B. Macdonald (with Seth Raynor), 17%

“Raynor combined artistry with his engineering background and his mentor/partner MacDonald’s template holes to design and construct natural-looking courses that are the most enjoyable and fun in the world today.”

Donald Ross, 4%

“He was prolific and consistently fair. Great use of the natural land, bunker placement, green designs. I’ve never played a Ross course I didn’t enjoy.”

A.W. Tillinghast, 4%

“He best understood how subtle elements impacted the play of the game.”

Who is the greatest modern architect?

Bill Coore (with Ben Crenshaw), 54%

“Each has a role to play, but Bill is a genius. He is the MacKenzie of our time.”

Tom Doak, 16%

“He has done more wildly different types of courses that make it into my Top 25 than any other living architect.”

Pete Dye, 11%

“He drew such wonderful inspiration from the Golden Agers, but managed to revolutionize design at the same time. His ability to move massive amounts of earth and rock around to fit his designs is incredible.”

Gil Hanse (with Jim Wagner), 10%

“What he did with a bit of nothing in Rio is amazing.”

What is the design feature most panelists/players/pros overvalue?

Conditioning, 22%

“It’s an outdoor sport. If you want perfect, play on AstroTurf.”

Difficulty, 20%

“Being hard is not a synonym for being great. The game is supposed to be fun.”

Aesthetics, 19%

“Big bodies of water adjacent to courses are another ranking “inflator.””

Length, 16%

“A great course doesn’t have to be 7,500 yards. Golf courses are not built for pros.”

What’s the one course in the Top 100 you would choose to play every day?

Cypress Point, 38%

“It still amazes me that this piece of land was devoted to our game. It may not be the world’s best course given today’s equipment demands, but it is my favorite place in the universe. Simply spectacular.”

National Golf Links of America, 11%

“So much fun, so much variety, amazing history, easy to walk, and did I mention the lobster?”

St. Andrews (Old Course), 7%

“I love the history, nuances and strategy required. It provides fabulous variety. There’s no better walk than the 18th hole at St. Andrews.”

Augusta National, 5%

“You have to ask why?”

Royal Melbourne (West), 5%

“Width, strategy, you won’t lose a ball, and some of the best greens on earth—plus, the turf is perfect.”

If you had one final round to play, where would it be?

Cypress Point, 28%

“Heaven on earth. Amazing beauty, great variety of holes, from parkland, dunes, oceanside. What more can you ask for?”

St. Andrews (Old Course), 13%

“I guess I would like my last round to be on a course that’s older than me. Every time I tee off on the first and 18th holes, the hair still stands up on the back of my neck.”

Augusta National, 8%

“Augusta National, the week before the Masters. Everything is perfect. It is an excellent preparation for golf in heaven, assuming God’s superintendent has access to the same resources. Before I leave, I might attack the old wine cellar and borrow a bottle of their best burgundy.”

Pine Valley, 8%

“The vote isn’t even close. Every hole is great, with its own character and challenge. It’s 18 wow holes.”