What Happens at a Top 100 Courses Panel Meeting
Two elements are at the heart of the Golf Monthly Top 100 and Golf Monthly Next 100 rankings. One is a solid, well-researched list of criteria that has remained virtually unchanged for nearly a decade. The other is our recently expanded team of knowledgeable, dedicated and energetic readers who make up the review committee. They travel all over the UK and Ireland playing and reviewing all the courses on our Contender list and making sure everyone is seen in every 2 year cycle.
Following a recruitment campaign last time, we now have almost 40 readers on the panel, and earlier this month I traveled to the English Golf Coast to meet around half of them at the first 2-day meeting of panelists. The idea for the reunion was conceived by two long-time panelists, Peter Hurst who plays at Lee Park in Liverpool, and Gordon Ross who is a member of Broadstone Golf Club. The goal was to spend time together playing on two great courses, and to exchange some thoughts and experiences on the ranking process while making new friends. Such is everyone’s appetite that, aided by a friendly club discount on green fees, we have all paid our own way.
Our journey began late on a wet Sunday morning at the excellent courses at Wallasey, one of Cheshire’s finest golf courses, just as the rain stopped and the sun began to break through the gray clouds. With a few plus-ones and some representatives from our hosts, there were around 32 players in each round. To inject friendly competition into the proceedings, Peter and Gordon had split the pitch in two – North versus South – although any attempt to understand the logic of how this split had happened was beyond me! This was to be my long-awaited first game at Wallasey, and while my expectations were already high, they were exceeded!
After golf and an excellent buffet, we were treated to an hour-long presentation and discussion with Wallasey’s expert course manager, John McLaughlin. He explained all the great work that has been done and some of his hopes for the future. As course enthusiasts, we were all drawn to John’s insights, knowledge and energy and could easily have spent twice as much time learning more.
The next morning, some of the panelists appeared to have contracted an illness that gave them headaches. Fortunately, a cooked breakfast was offered at the Hillside Golf Club, a top 100 course that is not resting on its laurels. It is one of the best golf courses in Lancashire. Even better, the sun was shining.
As at Wallasey, we were able to enjoy another fascinating presentation, this time by club manager Chris Williams. Once again we were fully engaged when we learned of the many recent and on-going changes that continue this already superb course and club.
It was then time to head into the second round of North vs South, where I really enjoyed playing with both organizers as well as our host manager, Chris.
Having won my pairs match the day before, I was up against Peter Hurst in singles. Despite being unique on the turn, I could only watch him in dismay (not to mention some surprise) as he raised his game to play an excellent back nine and draw his revenge.
With most of us facing long trips home from golf, there was only time for a brief and usually scrambled conversation on my part, and the presentation of the trophy to the coming southern team. to get ahead of him, helped by most people not knowing what team they were on! In honor of the two-time Open champion who was the founding editor of Golf Monthly in 1911 and made some design changes to Wallasey two years later, the elegant trophy will be known as the Harold Hilton Memorial.
What I personally learned from this great event is that although I previously believed that we had an extremely competent and enthusiastic team of Course Evaluators, I had underestimated how competent and enthusiastic they were. ! I went home feeling more confident than ever that the hundreds of reports we receive each cycle are trustworthy and reliable, and therefore our rankings are as informed and as contemporary as possible.
Please look for a more detailed feature on the panelist reunion in the January 2023 issue of Golf Monthly, and be sure to reserve a copy of the May 2023 issue when the updated Top 100 and Next 100 are revealed with information. detailed. coverage of everything related to the new ranking.