SE­CRET PLAY­GROUNDS

This rank­ings cy­cle sees a ma­jor change with re­gards to ex­clu­sive clubs. Jeremy Ell­wood ex­plains all…

Golf Monthly - - Flo­rian Fritsch -

ince the ad­vent of our then Top 120 UK & Ire­land Course Rank­ings back in 2004, a num­ber of things have evolved grad­u­ally and sub­tly as we have sought to make our list as ro­bust and rel­e­vant as pos­si­ble.

Much of the change has in­volved a grad­ual ce­ment­ing of the process via which we as­sess cour­ses, and tweaks to the ra­tio of marks al­lo­cated to each of our assess­ment cri­te­ria. Over the course of the past 12 years this has helped us to gen­er­ate an au­thor­i­ta­tive list that is well re­garded in the in­dus­try and among our readers.

We have al­ways rea­soned that any course that al­lows our as­ses­sors to play and ex­pe­ri­ence what is on of­fer should be in the rank­ings, re­gard­less of that course’s wider ac­ces­si­bil­ity to golfers in gen­eral. This has of­ten proved a bone of con­tention among readers who have ar­gued that the list should only be a rank­ing of cour­ses that are ac­ces­si­ble to all golfers, and that those where it is im­pos­si­ble for an un­ac­com­pa­nied vis­i­tor to get a game should be ex­cluded.

For 2017/18 we have lis­tened anew to this in­creas­ingly widely held view, and taken note of changes in pol­icy at two clubs – Went­worth and Bear­wood Lakes – that would have dou­bled the num­ber of such non-ac­ces­si­ble cour­ses in our Top 100 to six and in­creased the num­ber in our Next 100 to three. After much de­lib­er­a­tion, we have de­cided to ex­clude clubs where it is not pos­si­ble for an un­ac­com­pa­nied vis­i­tor to get a game.

The cour­ses in both our Top 100 and Next 100 af­fected by this de­ci­sion are listed in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing panel. We are aware that it may be pos­si­ble to play some of these cour­ses as a mem­ber’s guest, as part of a cor­po­rate day, or, in one in­stance, on a one-time

Svis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence which im­plies no re­peat vis­its. Some will ap­plaud our de­ci­sion and oth­ers will no doubt dis­agree, but we feel the time is right to take such a stance.

We should stress that price alone is no bar­rier to in­clu­sion. While the cost of play­ing some of our top cour­ses may be pro­hib­i­tive to some, if an un­ac­com­pa­nied vis­i­tor can pay a green fee then that club will fea­ture in our Top 100 and Next 100 rank­ings. Ex­clu­siv­ity is the only bar­rier to in­clu­sion. The clubs con­cerned have been in­formed of our new stance out of cour­tesy.

It is also worth not­ing that there are less ex­pen­sive ways to play many of our very finest cour­ses if you are flex­i­ble about time of day, time of year or per­haps stay­ing over. Fel­low se­nior pan­el­list, Rob Smith, in­ves­ti­gates some of the ways to play the Top 100 for less on pages 62 and 63. Went­worth’s West course hosts the BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship Bear­wood Lakes was ranked 81st in 2015/16

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