World’s Best Golf Trip (UPDATED RANKINGS)
So where exactly would the World’s best golf trip be? What would it look like? and what might it cost? Perhaps the logical place to start are the well publicised world course rankings.
Rather than rely on a single source to settle this argument, Faraway Fairways have used the median ranking allocated to a course, drawing from three such ranking lists, Golf Digest, Golf.Com (monthly) and the ‘theworldstop100golfcourses.com’. A very cursory examination of these pretty much nails the location(s) down straight-away. There were clearly two hot-spots. One is in the north east of the United States, the other combines Scotland with Northern Ireland.
The two golf mines weren’t easily split. They account for over half the globe’s top-20 courses.
|NORTH EAST AMERICA||MEDIAN RANKING||SCOTLAND WITH NORTHERN IRELAND||MEDIAN RANKING|
|Pine Valley||2||Royal County Down ||4|
|Shinnecock Hills||6||St Andrews ||8|
|Oakmont ||8||Royal Dornoch||12|
|Merion East ||12||Royal Portrush ||14|
|Fishers Island||19||Trump Turnberry||16|
Both offers have six representatives from the world’s top-20 each. The American offer probably holds the edge with an average ranking score of 9.0 compared to the Scottish/ Irish average of 10.6, but you might argue that this has been achieved by stretching the mileage chart out to include eastern Pennsylvania (Oakmont).
The decision as to whether or not you’re prepared to do this is down to you. There’s no rules to it after all. The only thing Faraway Fairways would point out is that we’re in search of World’s Best Golf Trip, and whereas Oakmont certainly qualifies for that in anyone’s calculation, we’re also trying to fit the courses into a manageable cluster. Oakmont’s inclusion would be a little bit of a geographic disruptor, (not unlike Royal Dornoch’s though) but it needn’t be impractical either.
The question that Faraway Fairways were bound to ask however is whether it is logistically possible to play these lists in a single week, without turning the task into some kind of endurance competition? Once the dots are joined up as the crow flies, the American option is certainly feasible at about 675 miles with Oakmont included in a fairly logical sequential ‘string of pearls’. The same crow would need to do a bit of swimming to get from Northern Ireland to Scotland, but otherwise travels about 600 miles, albeit on a much more quirky route. Ultimately, the distance covered would look very similar for both assignment. Either burden is manageable, so we can’t really raise an objection against the American contender based on logistic practicality. So the two options are still quite evenly matched.
Now as a golf tour operator, Faraway Fairways have to ask the next question. It was the application of this filter that tipped the verdict. Is it possible to play all these courses in a week, as a visitor?
The Crump Cup, played in late September, is the only day of the year that ordinary members of the public can view Pine Valley. Playing there requires an invitation from a member. Indeed, one member caused minor rancour when he requested that he invite a guest, a well-known US politician. Needless to say, the nomination didn’t meet with universal approval!. After due consideration, he was told he could, but, “if he takes just one Mulligan you’re out of here”. Presented with the ultimate risk and reward proposition, the nominating member duly rang back later that week explaining that his guest didn’t have the time after all. Well was he ever likely to jeopardise his membership on the integrity of a politician?
Shinnecock Hills is another we can pretty well kiss goodbye to. Writing for Forbes, Larry Olmsted clarified our prospects; “Shinnecock, like its closely ranked brethren, Pine Valley, Cyprus Point, & Augusta National, the top four rated courses in the nation, are all ultra private. Generally if you have a friend who is a member it’s easy to play – and if you don’t it’s impossible”.
The course can actually be played in late May as part of a charity day in support of the late Bruce Edwards, Tom Watson’s caddy, but it’ll cost you at least $2500, and only 20 foursomes slots are available
In 1962 Robert H Boyle described the National Links of America as “America’s snootiest golf course”. It needn’t bode well for our prospects of getting a result here either then. It was a familiar story. If you’re very rich or famous, you stand a chance, but more important perhaps is influence. You really need to know a member. The same story rang true for Fishers Island. Charity days with more expensive green fees present themselves in mid-September. Oakmont is just as restrictive as any of the others. In order to lay claim to the World’s best golf trip, we needed to assemble something that ran in a single week.
Paying a charity green fee in the region of about $3000 a time, with a tour that spreads out over many months, and perhaps years, didn’t really do it. Ultimately we had disqualify the American candidate as being inaccessible
With the core fast disintegrating, the cavalry was needed to perform a rescue act. At number 27, Winged Foot wouldn’t offer us any sanctuary. The obstacles encountered here are every bit as formidable.
By the time we started to encounter a more accommodating welcome we’d reached Bethpage Black at number 52. The future Ryder Cup venue was somewhere we would be comparatively confident about securing, but the nucleus of the claim to be playing on the World’s best golf trip has been wiped out by now. Before we even set foot on Bethpage we’d have run through other Scottish courses Carnoustie (#28), Trump International Links (#46), Troon (#47) and North Berwick (#51). Put simply, the Scottish and Northern Ireland option is better.
So what of the Faraway fairways nomination then? The first thing to report is that Scotland in particular has a tradition of egalitarianism (more so than England). It would still be wrong to suggest that golf is the ‘people’s game’ however, but it doesn’t carry the elitist label that applies south of the border. A ‘tour’ can be done, albeit things are far from straight-forward. Peak season windows where all courses juxtapose to fall in sequence are not exactly numerous, but they do exist and as such the claim to be on the World’s Best Golf Trip needn’t be marketing hyperbole. The challenge concerns blending visitor tee times to dovetail with manageable geography and transport solutions, but that’s where Faraway Fairways comes in.
The only casualty Faraway Fairways incurred in our wanderlust was Royal Dornoch (it can be done incidentally, it just requires a bit of commitment). Golfer’s might prefer to use the more convenient Carnoustie instead (#28), as a replacement. With this in mind therefore, we feel that we’re pretty well on the money to suggest that Faraway Fairways have the World’s best golf trip. Furthermore, we’ve done it at a price that would cost you less than two charity tee times at Shinnecock Hills. Finally, it’s also worth considering the possibility of playing this off-season, (an early Christmas present?). Sure there is an enhanced weather risk. This can be mitigated to some extent by using flexible hotel cancelation rates, but the price will fall by about 33%
So what do we advise? – This bit is kind of critical
There are a series of deadlines to meet for play the following year, which often involve planning 18 months ahead.
- Sometime around Christmas / Early New Year to ‘go onto’ the waiting list at Royal Portrush – this is a soft deadline
- Late March (circa 27th) to book Muirfield – this is a hard deadline – peak season dates sell out by early/ mid April
- Early April to ‘go onto’ the waiting list at Royal Dornoch – this is a soft deadline
- Third week of May to book Royal County Down – this is a hard deadline
- Late June/ early July, St Andrews confirm their diary for play the following year
Please note – St Andrews involves a bit of a blind leap of faith. We have to try and pick a window we think will be clear based on the previous years diary. If we wait until St Andrews confirms their diary for the following season we will almost certainly have lost the opportunity to play both Muirfield and Royal County Down, since they begin booking a few months earlier, and if we’re targeting the peak season, then we’ve probably lost Royal Portrush and possibly Royal Dornoch too
Finally, there are a couple of other things to consider also worth considering
- The Open Championship – this blocks out June and July. The Open will be held at St Andrews in 2021, and probably Muirfield in 2023
- Beware the Irish Open – this is much harder to predict as dates aren’t laid out so far in advance
- You will need to play in multiples of four, up to a maximum of twelve golfers to satisfy Muirfield’s terms and conditions
- The further you can play away from the super peak season the better
- St Andrews is normally unavailable from about 10th September until early October
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