Longtime readers know I have little regard for the Golf Digest panel's sensitivity to timeless design over short term hystrionics. The panel is often caught up in experiential fun over design, much in the way a theater critic might be too enamored with seats, sound, lighting and cocktail options instead of the actual play they've been assigned to analyze.
So it was refreshing to see the panel's first ever world ranking avoiding any cringeworthy selections based on everything but golf architecture (we call this The Alotian Club syndrome). Granted, Turnberry is about 20th on the list of links worth paying to play, not a world top 20, but at least it features several incredible holes, a beautiful setting and loads of history.
While I'm pretty sure Pine Valley is still the No. 1 golf experience, I'm not sure it's the No. 1 design after studying the historic photos featured in the club's amazing new book where George Crump's vision shines through. And Merion at No. 4 is a typical panelist over-hype based on a recent U.S. Open hosting, though it's certainly worthy of tops in the world status. *Seems it was No. 14, not No. 4, which sounds about right. But you can still pretty much guarantee Pinehurst No. 2 will be a top 20 selection the next time the Digest panel votes on their world favorites.
Most heartening was the inclusion of both Barnbougle Dunes courses, where the magnificent Tom Doak-Mike Clayton first course landed at No. 11 on the list.
Here's a slideshow of the top 20.