The five biennial Golf Digest World’s 100 Greatest Courses rankings—the first was published in 2014—reveal several consistencies. Royal County Down, the top-ranked course for 2022-2023, for instance, has been the No. 1-ranked international course in each previous poll (the first rankings included U.S. courses, and the past three have been for courses only outside the United States).
The 350 panelists who live beyond the U.S. borders bring an international perspective to the list: Courses from 25 countries made this year’s ranking. Designs from the United Kingdom and Ireland, where golf was born, feature prominently—Scotland leads the way with 17, followed by 13 from England—but Canada (12), Australia (10), New Zealand (4) and Japan (4) also made strong showings. China, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea all charted three.
Our panelists are also quick to recognize excellence. In the past it has taken little time for courses like Tara Iti (this year’s No. 2 course), Cabot Cliffs (No. 10) and Cape Wickham (No. 12) to surge to the top of the ranking. Each opened in 2015 and have been fixtures since. Two new courses that opened in 2021 that we expect to see on the ranking soon—Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner’s New Course at Les Bordes in France and Tom Doak’s St. Patrick’s Links at Rosapenna in Ireland—scored highly but didn’t receive enough panelist play to qualify for this year’s list, undoubtedly because of the impact of COVID travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
Twelve courses made this year’s list that weren’t featured in the previous ranking. Some like St. Enodoc in southwest England and The Durban Country Club return after a hiatus, and numerous others make their debut, including a trio from Europe. Some courses fell off the World 100, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not, including South Korea’s South Cape Owner’s Club, Ellerston in Australia, Doonbeg in Ireland and Cabo del Sol’s Ocean Course in Mexico. Such is the revolving nature of course rankings, where estimations and assessments rarely stand still.