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