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.
One other thing: the little children’s course that runs alongside the 15th and 16th holes is just delightful. Adults can only play if accompanied by a child. That fact alone tells me that North Berwick – and Scotland in general – ‘gets it’. I mean, is there a better way to grow the game?
ROYAL MELBOURNE WEST COURSE
I grew up right next-door and there isn’t a bad hole on the course. Some say the first is a bit weak but for me it is a fantastic opening hole. Then the next 17 holes are incredibly good. The runs of 4-7 and 10-12 and 16-18 cannot be improved upon. Nowhere is better.
I laugh sometimes at how lucky I was as a kid. I grew up thinking Royal Melbourne was normal. I knew it was good because everyone said it was good. And I thought golf was the best sport ever because it was so good. Only later did I realise that not every course was like that.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay Royal Melbourne is that – although I have played there thousands of times – every time I go back it gets better in my mind. It’s like great art or great music in that respect.
For me, this is clearly the second-best course in Australia, although there are a couple of new contenders in Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm in Tasmania. The best thing about Kingston Heath, though, is that it has great holes built on mostly poor or boring land. It is genius really, and the measure of how good a course you can build on a less-than-perfect site.
It’s getting better, too. Over the past 20 to 30 years the course has improved through good tree management. That’s so important.
One last thing. While recognising that every course ranking is by definition subjective, I have a suggestion as to how we could come up with the definitive list. Lock the ten best architectural brains on the planet in a room – beer and pizza optional – and don’t let them come out until they have agreed on at least the top-50. If guys like Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Mike Clayton can’t figure it out, no one can.