Golf Digest have released their third ever ranking of the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses. While the list does not include courses in the United States, which for some reason they rank separately, it is an extensive list chosen by a large group of international panelists.
In the two years since the previous list was released, there has been a lot of change up and down the rankings, but the number one course remains the same - Royal County Down (Championship Course).
The panel said of the course:
On a clear spring day, with Dundrum Bay to the east, the Mountains of Mourne to the south and gorse-covered dunes in golden bloom, there is no lovelier place in golf. The design is attributed to Old Tom Morris but was refined by half a dozen architects in the past 120 years, most recently by Donald Steel. Though the greens are surprisingly flat, as if to compensate for the rugged terrain and numerous blind shots, bunkers are a definite highlight, most with arched eyebrows of dense marram grasses and impenetrable clumps of heather.
The course which Rory McIlroy has said is his favourite in the world hosted the Irish Open in 2015, as well as the Walker Cup in 2007, and was the home of the Senior British Open from 2000 to 2002. The green fees to play the course in summer can upwards of £200, but until March, you can get a game for just £70 if you want to check out the best course in the world.
The other Irish course in the Top 10 is also in the North. Royal Portrush was selected as the seventh best course in the world.
Overall, there are eight Irish courses in the Top 100. Other than Royal County Down and Royal Portrush, there's also Ballybunion (16), Lahinch (34), Waterville (55), Portmarnock (58), Old Head of Kinsale (83), and the European Club in Brittas Bay (92).
Scotland lead the way with most courses on the list, 16, headed up by Royal Dornogh, which is named at number two.