The strange thing about course ranking lists in golf magazines is that, while I never completely agree with the order of things, I always read them to see what the voters have come up with.
CHICAGO GOLF CLUB (US)
This course is everything Oakmont isn’t in that it is 100 percent about fun. It’s a little bit eccentric. Not too many trees come into play. It has all the old C.B Macdonald stuff – a punchbowl green, a Redan-style par-3. And there is no pretentiousness. Every hole and every green is different and fun.
OLD COURSE AT ST ANDREWS (SCOTLAND)
This one was always going to make any list of mine. The Old Course remains the best example of strategic and interesting holes on the planet. It is different every time you play it. You learn something new every time. And every time I have played there – no matter how I happen to be scoring – I have found myself standing on the 17th tee far too quickly. A round there finishes before you are ready for it to finish. To me, that shows how much I have loved every minute of the experience. The Old Course is everything you want that experience to be. In fact, it is everything you want golf to be. It may not be that pretty, but as far as strategic interest is concerned, it is unmatched. I keep going back because I can’t quite work it all out. And I’m not sure I ever will.
This course is just 18 great holes, during which you are asked every possible question. It’s not quite as wide as I would like to see in order to keep it interesting. It’s a bit narrow in places. But it’s allowed to be that way because it is such a complete test of every club, driver through to putter.
There is a huge variety of holes at Muirfield, helped by the fact that the routing means that the wind is constantly changing direction. You very rarely go in the same direction two shots in a row. So if you can’t hit every shot – high, low, right-to-left, left-to-right – you won’t be able to compete with someone who can. It is the most complete test in golf, even more than the Old Course. Because it has an accuracy component you don’t find at St Andrews.