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World’s Best Golf Trip (UPDATED RANKINGS)

Even a very cursory examination of this hierarchy would alert you to something very noticeable. There were clearly two hot-spots. One was in the north east of the United States, the other combined Scotland with Northern Ireland.

The American offering was impressive and spanned New Jersey, and New York, (you could legitimately introduce Pennsylvania, Oakmont without bending mileage unreasonably). At face value the Scottish/ Irish offering was up against it, but in fairness, it had the ammunition to reply.

NORTH EAST AMERICA GOLF.COM RANKING SCOTLAND WITH NORTHERN IRELAND GOLF.COM RANKING
Pine Valley 1 St Andrews 3
Shinnecock Hills 6 Royal County Down 4
National Links 7 Muirfield 10
Merion East 12 Royal Portrush 14
Fishers Island 19 Royal Dornoch 15
Winged Foot 27 Trump Turnberry 16


The two golf mines weren’t easily split. They account for over half the globe’s top-20 courses. In a reversal of previous rankings however, the Scottish/ Irish partnership might now hold an edge with six top-20 representatives to the American offers five, albeit if you were to stretch the mileage chart, you could draft Oakmont (#8) to the barricades. The damage done to the average American score (12) is largely due to Winged Foot. If Oakmont were to replace Winged Foot the average rank score drops (8.83) and eclipses the Celtic courses (10.3)

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 266 miles. The crow would need to do a bit of swimming to get from Northern Ireland to Scotland, but otherwise travels a misleading 375 miles in a straight line. Ultimately, the distance covered would look very similar for both assignments, (even if the crow would actually fly around a coastline, and do a bit of swimming too) and be in the region of about 600 miles in total. 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 didn’t bode well for our prospects of getting a result here. 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.

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. There’s no respite from broadening the search area either. Oakmont is as restrictive as any of the others. In order to lay claim to the greatest tour in the world, 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

By the time we started to encounter a more accommodating welcome we’d reached Bethpage Black at number 52, and had run through other Scottish courses before we even reached this point such as Carnoustie (#28), Trump International Links (#46), Troon (#47) and North Berwick (#51). The future Ryder Cup venue was a course we would be comparatively confident about securing, but the nucleus of the claim to be playing the best trip in the world is increasingly being wiped out. Put simply, the Scottish and Northern Ireland option is better by now.

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 be wrong to suggest that golf is the ‘people’s game’, 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. 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 (we’re still working on it). The reason owes nothing to restrictive access, but rather remoteness instead. For now at least, we’ve invoked number 28, Carnoustie, 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 best golf trip in the world. 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%

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