How our panel rates the courses

What does it take to become one of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses? You've got to impress some very particular people: the Golf Digest Course Rating Panel. Composed of more than 800 low-handicap men and women, our panel evaluates courses on seven criteria, giving each a scale of 1 (unacceptable ) to 10 (perfect). The categories, which also apply to our 100 Greatest Public Courses ranking, are as follows:

1. Shot values. How well does the course pose risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse?

2. Resistance to scoring. How difficult, while still being fair, is the course for a scratch player from the back tees?

3. Design variety. How varied are the golf course's holes in differing lengths, configurations, hazard placements, green shapes and green contours?

4. Memorability. How well do the design features (tees, fairways, greens, hazards, vegetation and terrain) provide individuality to each hole, yet a collective continuity to the entire 18?

5. Aesthetics. How well do the scenic values of the course (including landscaping, vegetation, water features and backdrops) add to the pleasure of a round?

6. Conditioning. How would you rate the playing quality of tees, fairways and greens when you last played the course?

7. Ambience. How well does the overall feel and atmosphere of the course reflect or uphold the traditional values of the game?

To arrive at the final score for each course, we average the scores it gets in the seven categories (the scores in the shot values category count double).

Note: Gold Digest rankings editor Topsy Siderowf, manager/editorial projects Sue Sawyer and editorial assistant Mary Jane McGirr oversaw the compilation of surveys for America's 100 Greatest Courses and America's 100 Greatest Public Courses.

Text provided by Golf Digest.