Golf Advisor's Top 100 courses thru the first five years of ratings

Golf Advisor officially launched in February of 2014, but we began receiving reviews as early as September, 2012. So with five full years of golfer input under our belt —over 650,000 reviews and counting — we thought we'd look back and see which courses have fared the best during this time frame.

We compiled this all-time Top 100 list in a similar fashion to our yearly Top 50 best-of list, but with a few wrinkles. For starters, we included non-U.S. courses that had enough review data. Also, a big part of our yearly Top 50 is that courses need a certain threshold of reviews in that calendar year to qualify, but for this list, far more were eligible given their all-time review count from trustworthy accounts. To gather a more granular, complete rating from a review, we scored a course with a combination of the overall star rating and subcategory star ratings average (subcategories aren't required in our reviews but an overwhelming majority of our reviewers rate all six subcategories. They also include text and title, which also isn't required).

And as we continue to grow the amount of reviews and number of reviewers, we can apply more and more weight to those golfers who are the most prolific and trustworthy, like our growing list of Local Golf Advisors and our Top 1000 merit-badged golfers. Ratings by reviewers with a small sample of reviews were filtered out.

We know our yearly best-of lists and state lists look a lot different than top magazine lists. Ours have a mix of true "bucket list" courses and overachieving affordable destination courses. Our users, while not given the strict ratings criteria of a more expert, uniform panel, tend to rate their golf experience relative to the price they paid to play. We didn't begin tracking "Course layout" ratings until 2015, and our scores have less emphasis on course design and more so on the total experience from staff to facilities to value to conditions. There is a good chunk of courses on our Top 100 you might not expect to see on other Top 100s, and that's precisely the beauty of a more crowd-sourced list like ours — or should we say, yours?

In 2017, we're on pace to receive a record number of reviews and users, so we're excited to dig into the data at year's end to determine which courses came out on top.

Some other notes as we sorted through this five-year list:

- Not all courses received had enough reviews to be considered for this list. In our first five years, over 6,000 golf courses have received over ten reviews and over 2,000 courses have received over 100. As our user base continues to grow, we're optimistic we'll soon have a list where virtually all publicly-accessible courses receive enough reviews to be considered for our yearly lists.

- Since we began revealing yearly U.S. Top 50 lists, only one course has made the list all three years: Indiana's Royal Hylands Golf Club, which is also one of our top courses for staff friendliness as well as in our best courses under $50.

- You may have noticed that earlier this year we launched our new "Golf Advisor Index" which applies weight to a course's more recent reviews to give the golfer a clearer picture of what the experience is like now. But in the spirit of this all-time rating, reviews carry equal weight year-to-year.

- We've been receiving more and more international reviews in the last year or so, particularly in the U.K. and Mexico. While this Top 100 is light on non-U.S. entries, in another five years, far more courses around the globe should have enough reviews to be considered.

Top 100 golf courses from 2012-2017 on Golf Advisor

TPC Las Vegas

Daniels, West Virginia

Quintana Roo, Mexico

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Huntsville, Ontario

Klamath Falls, Oregon

Bremerton, Washington

Southampton, Bermuda

Las Vegas, Nevada

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Poway, California

Baywood Greens boasts a spectacular setting just outside Ocean City.

Baywood Greens

Naples, Florida

Elgin, Illinois

Dickson, Tennessee

McHenry, Maryland

Berlin, Maryland

Elberton, Georgia

Longneck, Delaware

Carrabelle, Florida

Corbyville, Ontario, Canada

Brooksville, Florida

The opening par 4 on the Saguaro Course heads gently downhill over a rippling fairway with 360-degree mountain views.

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course

Blythewood, South Carolina

Brutus, Michigan

Scottsdale, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Saucier, Mississippi

Onaway, Michigan

Tucson, Arizona

Hawley, Pennsylvania

Quintana Roo, Mexico

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Ross Course at French Lick

Peoria, Arizona

St. Simons Island, Georgia

Adairsville, Georgia

Ojai, California

Palm Desert, California

Sanford, North Carolina

Maricopa, Arizona

Nashport, Ohio

French Lick, Indiana

Savannah, Georgia

Princeville Makai Golf Club

Anaconda, Montana

Brooksville, Florida

Frankston, Texas

Oxford, Pennsylvania

Princeville, Hawaii

Marengo, Illinois

Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Statham, Georgia

West Lafayette, Indiana

Pawleys Island, South Carolina

A lone golfer walks the first fairway at Pasatiempo Golf Club in the fading light.

Pasatiempo Golf Club

Quintana Roo, Mexico

Newton, Kansas

Santa Cruz, California

Farmingdale, New York

Seaside, California

Verona, Wisconsin

San Antonio, Texas

Knightstown, Indiana

Roscommon, Michigan

Las Vegas, Nevada

Pinehurst No. 2 is the signature must-play in the North Carolina Sandhills.

Pinehurst No. 2

Indian Wells, California

Birmingham, Alabama

Laconia, Indiana

Bellaire, Michigan

Bandon, Oregon

Waterloo, Illinois

Batavia, Ohio

Sonora, Mexico

Pinehurst, North Carolina

Panama City, Florida

Las Vegas Paiute

Wickenburg, Arizona

Orlando, Florida

Tabernash, Colorado

Fort Meade, Florida

Las Vegas, Nevada

Ellwood City, Pennsylvania

Woodstock, Vermont

Bath, Michigan

Sylacauga, Alabama

Arcadia, Michigan

This view from a corporate chalet shows the hour-glass-shaped 17th green on Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach, Calif.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Lake City, Minnesota

Merry Hill, North Carolina

Howey in the Hills, Florida

Fife, Scotland

Bandon, Oregon

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Brooks, California

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

East Lothian, Scotland

The Swilcan Burn guards the first green of the Old Course.

Old Course in St. Andrews

Angola, Indiana

Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

French Lick, Indiana

Borrego Springs, California

Gordonsville, Virginia

St. Andrews, Scotland

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Lahaina, Hawaii

Bandon, Oregon

You can see the Old Macdonald Course in the background as you play the 13th hole of the Pacific Dunes Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
Commented on

It seems odd to think about it with all the big boys on the list as being the only 3-time member, but Royal Hylands deserves all the accolades it gets. About 30-45 minutes east of Indianapolis it's always in great shape, has great amenities for a country course, and the course itself has all sorts of challenges on it from tight holes to forced water carries to elevation changes to undulating greens. There are a couple greens, 8 and 15 come to mind, that if you hit the wrong side away from the pin, just take a 3-putt and move on, or you could be there a while. It never gets the press as the bigger names closer to Indy, but you never can go wrong by playing there. And if you find a hot deal time on GolfNow, you're flat out robbing them for a chance to play it.

Commented on

I have no idea why The Hideaway Country Club in Fort Myers, Florida is not on this list. With an average review score of 4.8 with 128 reviews, The Hideaway's reviews far exceeds most courses on this list.

Commented on

Please stop publishing these lists. If the word continues to get out that that the Bayonet and Blackhorse golf courses are among the nation's best, the people that run those courses might start thinking about raising their prices. Right now, both courses on the old Ford Ord army base near Monterey are the best I have ever played for under $100. If they ever build a resort hotel on the property as has been proposed, those green fees will triple overnight. The same thing happened in Half Moon Bay up the Northern California coast when the Ritz Carlton finished construction on the property. In the meantime, I am counting my lucky stars that I can still play them and have some change in my pocket when I am done.

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Golf Advisor's Top 100 courses thru the first five years of ratings