The Two Best Tournament Courses in The World

Not sure if there is a quantifiable list out there — but I believe hands down — the best tournament golf course in the world is Augusta National. I would rank St. Andrews a distant second — but without a doubt, Augusta National is my number one. I promise it’s not just because it hosts the Masters (my favorite tournament) every year. It goes much deeper than that. Augusta does something no other golf course does — it identifies the best player in the world. And it does so almost every year. Yes, that’s right – the best player in the world usually wins the Masters — or at the very least, has the chance to win. You cannot say that about any other major event or golf course.

1985 was the first year of the Sony World Rankings and the first recipient of the number one ranking was Bernhard Langer. That year, Bernhard Langer won the Masters. In 1986, Jack Nicklaus (probably the best player ever and owner of more Masters titles than any other golfer) won – but a close second was Greg Norman and in third, two strokes behind, stood Seve Ballesteros. Greg and Seve were the two best players in the world in 1986. In 1987, Larry Mize beat Norman and Ballesteros (again the two best players) in a playoff. In 1988, Sandy Lyle was the number one ranked player in the world and yes – he won the Masters. In 1989 and 90, Nick Faldo won, which vaulted him to the number one spot. In 1991, Ian Woosnam won and was also the world’s number one ranked golfer. In 1992, number one ranked Fred Couples won the Masters. Do you see the pattern? In the first 8 years of the Sony World ranking, the number one ranked golfer in the world either won or came in second — and that pattern has continued to this day

The list of winners since 92 is stellar. Tiger Woods has four victories. By the way, Tiger has been the number one ranked golfer longer than anyone in history. Vijay Singh, a former number one – is a Masters champion. The year Mark O’Meara won the Masters, he was not ranked number one, but most would agree he was the best player in the world in 1998. Phil Mickelson has won twice and although he wasn’t officially ranked number one – each time he took home the green jacket, he was undoubtedly the world’s hottest golfer.

Additionally, the top finishers each year are loaded with top ranked players; Ernie Els, David Duval, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia, Davis Love, and many other highly ranked players have had many chances to win at Augusta. Simply, if you are going into the Masters on top of your game, and you are one of the world’s elite – you will have a wonderful chance to either win or finish well.

In my opinion, the reason for this is the golf course. Augusta National tests all facets of the game. And more importantly, allows for recovery. U.S. Open style courses don’t allow for this style of play. If you’re not hitting fairways and greens at the U.S. Open – you’re not going to win – no matter who you are. Same with the PGA and British Open. But, at the Masters, the golf course lets the best players find a way to still compete. If they aren’t hitting it well, they can make it up with a creative short game. A well rounded golfer always has a chance to do well at Augusta — but a golfer with limitations will be exposed immediately. And when you come right down to it – that’s really what the best player in the world is – well rounded. Ball striking, course management, short game, trouble shots, putting, mental – they can do it all. And if one area of their game is off, they make it up in others. Augusta allows this.

Like I said, a distant second is St. Andrews. If the tour played there more often, it might make a better run at first place. Using the same argument as Augusta – if you look at the major events held there in the last 40 years or so – you get similar results. 1970 – Jack Nicklaus, the best player in the world won. 1978 – Nicklaus won again. 1984 – Seve Ballesteros, the best player in the world won. 1990 – Nick Faldo, the best player in the world won. 1995 – John Daly, who could sometimes play like the best player in the world, won. In 2000 and 2005, number one ranked Tiger Woods won. So it also has a history of finding the best golfer. Bobby Jones once said you could never be considered a great champion unless you won at St. Andrews. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bobby Jones designed and built Augusta National as an homage to St. Andrews

Two courses each identifying the best players in the world – what more evidence do we need?

What do you think? Agree with my opinion? The Masters is coming up in a couple weeks. If history holds up — Look for Tiger, Phil and Ernie in a back nine battle.

4 Responses to “The Two Best Tournament Courses in The World”

  1. Andy Brown says:

    Hi Roger,

    Many thanks for taking the time to write a comment.

    I too agree the New Course is a better test of golf and I love to play a round there. You really need to have played the Old Course many times to get a real feel for where the hazards are and equally the best types of shots to play into the greens.

    I’m glad you like the articles – I try to mix it up a bit.

    Kind Regards


  2. Roger Garrett says:

    Hi Andy,

    I have not purchased your book, but, like Vince, have a very old copy of Dante and Elliot’s book Stop that Slice, which was given to me, though why I am not at all sure as I have always been a hooker. I am afraid its system does not work for me.

    I am not in any position to rate world courses, but from TV, I think that Augusta is a great test of golf. I have played the Old Course, however, and was somewhat disappointed. i found, like Vince, that it was short, and I think the pot bunkers very unfair, as they cannot be seen from the tees. Raising the back of each bunker slightly would obviate this.

    I thought the New Course was better (though somewhat similar and still sporting hidden pot bunkers), Nothing can take away the atmosphere of the home of golf, though. I was completely overcome by the place. I must say that I feel the same about so many of the historical sites in the UK too.

    Although your system may not be for me I enjoy very much your articles, and thank you very much for them.
    i also am a great fan of Laphroaig, rating it very highly. My favourite is Ardberg.



  3. Andy Brown says:

    Hi Vince,

    Many thanks for your comments.

    I agree in so much if you had to determine a great golf course, we would find similar ground in my favourite Carnoustie.

    I do think though that George’s article was determining the best “tournament” golf course in the world, meaning one that identifies the best players in the world.

    Now you may still differ in your views, but I for one found it a very interesting insight into the quality of players that had won at Augusta.

    You can’t beat a drop of Laphroaig – I love my peaty whiskies and Laphroaig is one of the best.

    Take care and play well.


  4. Vince Bradley says:

    Yo Andy –
    Never written to you before, but your latest rating of Augusta and St. Andrews as the two best courses in the world caught me just shaking my head in bewilderment. In my 70 years (65 playing golf) I have played almost all of the best courses in the world: United States & Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, everywhere there are great courses. I have to say Augusta wouldn’t even make my top 10, although St Andrews in the wind might. Augusta, like the Masters itself, is way too campy elitist, and St. Andrews is really a pretty short course. The three best courses in my consdered estimation are the Ko’olau Golf Links in Hawaii; Bayonet Golf Course near Pebble Beach in California; and Carnoustie from the back tees, in your back yard. Ask any pro who’s played these courses. They’ll tell you! I was a scratch golfer in my prime, played intercollegiate golf 36-holes a day and was a college golf coach with championship teams. Incidentally, I have one of the very old copies of Joe Dante’s and Len Elliot’s “Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf.” You are to be congratulated for renewing and promoting the deserved place it should hold among golf literature. Keep up the good work. I’m anxious to see your new DVD. And by the way, if old Alex is still caddying at St. Andrews, give him my best. He introduced me to La Phroaig Single Malt after we toured St. Andrews one fine August morn.

Leave a Reply