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The Old Guard dominates the top 10. There’s No. 3 Muirfield, created in 1891, No. 4 Royal Dornoch (1892) and No. 6 Old Course at St. Andrews (1848). Royal Portrush, site of last year’s Open Championship and ranked eighth, has been around since 1888. Farther down the list are veteran layouts less modified and more reflective of an earlier game of persimmon and even hickory: the delightful North Berwick (1877) at No. 39, the natural Machrihanish (1876) at No. 46 and the classic Prestwick (1851) at No. 66. The Old Guard are all vintage designs that still carry a lot of clout.
The talent of the respective architects should not be discounted. Old Tom Morris, whose craft involved the rudimentary staking out of fairways and greens wherever the land suggested, is responsible for the original layouts of seven ranked courses—the most of any architect. Besides County Down, Muirfield, Royal Dornoch and Royal Portrush in the top 10, there’s also No. 31 Lahinch, No. 53 Cruden Bay and No. 66 Prestwick. He also remodeled two of the top 100 courses, No. 6 Old Course at St. Andrews and No. 20 Carnoustie. Many of his original routings remain.
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