Muirfield, the course that, together with some horrendous weather, tamed Tiger Woods at this year’s Open Championship, is the best in Britain and Ireland.
And that’s official – according to the Golf World magazine Top 100 – the recognised biennial survey in which experts nominate the game’s outstanding courses in these isles.
The judges, who included the R&A Secretary Peter Dawson, former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher, PGA chief Sandy Jones and golf course architect Dave Thomas, rated this classic Scottish links the best by a clear margin.
Royal County Down, near Newcastle, Northern Ireland came second. It earned its accolade, not only for its testing holes but for its stunning location, in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne.
The judges, who also included European Tour pro Ronan Rafferty and Sky Presenter Ewen Murray and ex-Walker Cup captain Peter McEvoy, marked the courses on quality of design and test, fairness and presentation, visual appeal and enjoyment and ambience and history.
Strangely The De Vere Belfry’s Brabazon course which hosted Europe’s historic Ryder Cup victory and the annual Benson and Hedges International has been voted off the top 100.
And neither The Celtic Manor, which stages the 2010 event nor the Gleneagles PGA Centenary course, made it in as new entries.
Among the courses which vaulted up towards the top of the ladder since the last survey, were St Andrews Old (from 8 to 4) Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin course (from 14 to 5) and Kingsbarns in Fife (straight to No.13).
Other courses making the top 100 for the first time were: Woburn Marquess (59), The Wisley (64), Donegal (66), Tenby (76), Nefyn (83), Luffness (89), Southport & Ainsdale (91), West Hill (95), Tralee ((96), Enniscrone (97) and Old Head of Kinsale (99).
Biggest jumpers were Brancaster (up 28 35), Rye (Up 27 to 50) and Sunningale New (up 22 to 28), while the tumblers included Machrihanish (down 25 to 65), Gullane No.1 (down 25 to 78) and Southerness (down 24 to 84).
Despite his card-wrecked round in the Open, Tiger Woods still described Muirfield as ‘One of the fairest Open courses.’
"There are no hidden agendas, no tricks," he says.
As for Nick Faldo, who won two Open titles at the course, he says: "In terms of shot values, variety, intricacy and overall strength of the test, Muirfield is out there on its own."
Golf World’s November issue is published next week, price £3.30.