INSIDE this issue is the granddaddy of all course rankings, still recognised as the oldest and most authoritative order of Australia’s Top 100 Golf Courses.

Since its inception in 1986, the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 Courses ranking has sparked rigorous debate in clubhouses, inspired positive change from club committees, and united a golf nation that continues to punch well above its weight when it comes to world-class golf.

But while this list is considered the gold standard of its kind, we know something so subjective can always be better. It’s why, after numerous chats with key industry figures, we have made the decision to raise our minimum number of panellists from 40 to upwards of 200 by 2020.

To reach that goal, we’re offering up the rare chance to join our team of golf-course architecture aficionados. Think you have what it takes to spot a great course from a good one? We’ll tell you upfront: it’s a thankless, though ultimately rewarding, activity. Panellists are expected to cover their travel and accommodation and arrange tee-times with the assistance of the many great clubs who are eager to have Australian Golf Digest review their courses. We allow clubs to offer panellists complimentary green fees if they choose, but only that. Panellists are continually lectured by Top 100 Editor Steve Keipert on the updated seven criteria of judgement and reminded to get their ballots in on time via our new online judging portal that automatically – and accurately – calculates scores to eliminate the once-strenuous task of sorting through printed spreadsheets. Every score is scrutinised by the editors for outliers, and panellists receive regular feedback on how they are doing in their role. Those who fail to meet expectations at the end of the two-year judging cycle are given their marching orders.

Most panellists tell us theres personal satisfaction in being part of an exclusive club that has an enormous impact on architecture, which influences site selection for championships. Many panellists appreciate the education; they thought they knew golf design before, but they get exposed to a much greater variety of architectural philosophies. They recognise strategic nuances and understand factors that might amplify or compromise the design of a particular hole. Such enhanced knowledge elevates their passion for the game.

If you’d like to be part of this exclusive club, hold a Golf Australia Handicap of 10.0 or less (those with higher handicaps will still be considered), and have enough time to play and evaluate at least two dozen courses within a two-year cycle, or know of a player who fits this description, e-mail us at [email protected] and we’ll start the process for membership.

Before you do that, though, sit our little exam to see how you stack up against our expectations [see below]. If you score anything less than six out of six, make sure it’s the one and only time you do! After all, this could be your golden ticket.


Brad Clifton

Could You Cut It As A Top 100 Judge?

Am I ready to be an Australian Golf Digest Top 100 Courses panellist?
Answer these true-or-false questions correctly and the answer is likely to be yes.

1. Now that I’m an AGD Top 100 Courses panellist I can expect to ring up any club, any time and enjoy free golf.

2. It should be expected that the courses I play well on are naturally going to rate better in my eyes.

3. The sign of a great golf course with strong Shot Values is one that asks me to use every club in my bag.

4. When judging a course’s Conditioning, disregard trees and vegetation.

5. Memorability is how well I can remember the course without holes blurring into one another.

6. I’m a woman so there’s no point in applying to be a golf course panellist.


1. False. Sorry to burst your bubble there, Freddie Freeloader, but while joining the country’s most respected course-ranking team does have its privileges (e.g. gaining access to world-renowned courses), waltzing onto any course and demanding a free slice of the action isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s left to the discretion of each individual club how they would like to treat judge access and green fees. Whether they charge or not has absolutely zero bearing on the scores they receive.

2. Absolutely false. And this is an important point. Panellists should never judge any course in any category by how well or how poorly a course fits their own particular golf game. To do so is to mark emotionally, giving high scores to places where one plays well and low scores to places where one plays poorly. That’s not what we’re looking for. We’re not running a popularity contest.

3. False again. In fact, it’s an old cliché, used mostly by golf course critics to sound profound. It’s now almost meaningless, mainly because no two golf bags contain the same 14 clubs anymore. If you’ve got four wedges in your bag, it says little about a course’s Shot Values and a lot about your game.

4. True. None of that applies to our definition of Conditioning, which is solely about firm and fast turfgrass. What you describe is grooming, which you may properly address in the Aesthetics category, because grooming is cosmetics, and Aesthetics is one of two categories where you do get to express emotion. If lush perfection of uniform turf excites you, you express that in Aesthetics, or in Ambience, if you think that’s a traditional value of golf worth upholding.

5. False. That’s precisely not the definition of Memorability. What this describes is a test of your memory. You deserve the 9.5, not the course. Memorability asks how individual are the holes while retaining a collective continuity from first hole to last.

6. The biggest false of the lot. We’re actually on the lookout for more female panellists to provide scores and comment that better reflects the 20-percent makeup of Australia’s golf membership population.