There are two questions I’ve gotten over and over since founding The Fried Egg: 1) What’s the best golf course in the world? and 2) When are you going to start rating courses?

In answering the first question, I ask a question back: What kind of mood am I in?

And the answer to the second question is… now!

In case you missed it, we recently announced a new membership program, Club TFE. (You can find more information on Club TFE, including how to join, here.) Part of what you’ll get as a Club TFE member is weekly course review, along with a rating.

We’re not going to rate courses in the usual way. I’ve always struggled with ranking courses 1-10 or 1-100 or whatever. This is partly because I don’t believe in the idea of a “best course,” and partly because I think it’s ridiculous to state that one course is, say, 14th best while another is 15th. How can you possibly make that distinction?

So instead, we’re going to define tiers of courses: three Eggs, two Eggs, one Egg, and zero Eggs (more on the Egg system below). Courses in the top tier must be elite in three categories: land, design, and presentation—or “LDP,” as we’ll sometimes call it.


Land – Refers not just to views or beauty but to all of the natural characteristics that a site offers a golf architect, from contour to vegetation to soil. An outstanding property can come in a wide range of sizes and aesthetics but, generally speaking, provides thought-provoking golf with very few constructed features.

Design – Involves all of the creative work that goes into the conception and building of a golf course. The best designs usually offer: a variety of distinct, instantly memorable holes; strategic options, allowing each hole to be played in multiple ways; a routing that uses landforms to full advantage and that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better version of; a collection of attractive and strategic built features, such as well-placed hazards and intelligently shaped green complexes; challenge for better players and playability for golfers of lesser ability; and less sexy but just as important infrastructural elements like drainage, which can enhance the architecture while at times being architectural features themselves. An expertly designed golf course generates excitement and propels you from hole to hole with eager anticipation, and can do so even on the dullest of landscapes.

Presentation – Encompasses the ongoing tasks that keep a golf course alive and thriving, from daily greenkeeping to tree management. The goal of a maintenance team is to provide golfers with a playing surface that brings the most out of the land and design. The best superintendents understand what the architect intended and are committed to presenting the course in accordance with that vision. Beyond day-to-day turf and hazard maintenance, it’s critically important that a course’s custodians keep track of fairway lines, green sizes, and vegetation growth over time.

Each of these categories influences the others, and in some cases neglect of one can take away from a strength in another. For example, the most compelling piece of land can’t shine if the design—especially the routing—doesn’t use it well. And the most brilliant Golden Age design can be diminished if the presentation of the course involves blazing green speeds that reduce the number of viable hole locations. This is why the best courses must be exceptional in all three categories of LDP.

The Egg system

Keeping those principles in mind, here’s a breakdown our Egg rating system:

3 Eggs – The best of the best. These are the greatest designs on the greatest sites, cared for by the most capable maintenance teams. There are so few weak moments in the round of golf that any critique feels like a nitpick. The land is consistently compelling, the design is museum-worthy, and the presentation reflects sensitive and knowledgeable stewardship. There are just a handful of three-Egg courses in the world, and they should be at the top of every golfer’s bucket list.

2 Eggs – The best of the rest. These courses are terrific, full stop. But they’re often less-than-outstanding in one category of LDP, or excellent across all three ingredients without being extraordinary in them. For avid golfers, these courses, especially the ones available to the public, should be prioritized in future travel plans.

1 Egg – The rest of the best. These courses either excel in one of the LDP criteria while falling somewhat short in the others, or put together a strong combination of the three factors but can’t be considered phenomenal in any of them. Many of these courses are the best in their locales, and you should jump at the opportunity to play them when in the area.

0 Eggs – The vast majority of courses in the world. A lot of them are really good! In fact, the members of The Fried Egg staff play almost all of their rounds at such courses. But in their current state, zero-Egg courses don’t rise to the level of truly exceptional land, design, or presentation.

In addition to an Egg rating, we also plan to recognize courses for virtues beyond LDP. We’ll do this with a set of badges. More on that later!

The Egg rating system will be an aspect of Club TFE’s course reviews, which will post each week throughout the year for that new membership offering. You can find more here on what you get as a member of Club TFE and how to join.