David Edwards: Golf course rater extraordinaire

The 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. Pebble Beach is listed at number one on Golfweek’s “Best Courses You Can Play 2022: Top 100 U.S. public-access courses ranked”. (Gavi Virabyan/Unsplash.com)

By Drew Steiner
Medill Reports

Traveling to play and rate some of the top golf courses all over the world, David Edwards lives the golfer’s dream.

Edwards, 58, played competitively in high school and college. He took a short break from the game before getting back into the swing of things in the early 2000s.

“I played in college a couple years at Washington University in St. Louis,” said Edwards, who now resides in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. “I then got into the retail industry, and I didn’t play much golf for several years. It wasn’t until 2005 when I started playing a fair amount of golf again.”

The golf course rating dream started for Edwards when he would travel for work with his business partner.

“My business partner and his friends belong to some fantastic courses around the country,” Edwards said. “So, I had the opportunity to start seeing some nice places in the early 2000s.”

If there’s one course that is on every golfer’s bucket list, it is probably the host of the Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. And yes, Edwards had the opportunity to experience this course routinely rated among the most exclusive golf clubs in the world.

“I got a call from a friend in 2005 saying that he had an opportunity to play Augusta National if I wanted to join him,” Edwards said. “I about drove my car off the road. I mean, that is it right there, that’s a lifelong dream.

“And so, after I played Augusta, I had played over 20 of the top 100 golf courses in the country,” he said.

At that point, Edwards set his first goal of his course-chasing career: get to 50 of the top 100 in America.

Edwards said he quickly knocked off that goal in about three years or so. Soon after, in 2011, he became an official golf course rater for Golfweek. The course-rater dream doesn’t pay him for the content, but he has the privilege of traveling to golf courses around the world with other raters.

“When I joined Golfweek I was able to meet a lot of the other golf course architecture nuts,” Edwards said. “We go on retreats to play courses around the world and talk about them during and after the round. We discuss concepts like layout, playability, variety of holes and other details that all come together to form an overall ranking.”

An app that allows Edwards and other raters to track the courses they have played is a useful tool for the industry.

“The app tracks the number of courses you play, and I am at about 1,050,” Edwards said. “There is another rater that’s a buddy of mine who is probably in the 1,600 or 1,700 range. And there is another rater that we estimate is in the 3,100 range. It is a cool way for us to keep up with each other and see where everyone is at.”

Michael Walsh, a low handicap golfer from Burlington, Vermont, prides himself on golf course knowledge and playing some of the top courses around the world.

“It’s raters like David Edwards that add so much to the game of golf,” Walsh said. “They have the years of experience, and they pass it along to players like me through their detailed ratings. It makes it so much easier to know what to look for when I go to a golf course.”

With all the golf courses Edwards has seen, it could be inferred this golf course expert would possibly want to dive into golf course design. But that is not the case.

“I ran into a comedian about five years ago as I was traveling, right, this young lady, and we just struck up a conversation,” Edwards said. “With the stories she told me, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a comedian, where people are actually paying to hear you and you have to keep their attention. You have to make them laugh for half an hour or an hour.

“And it’s kind of the same way with being a golf course architect, right? You know, I know, just enough to know how difficult it would be to create a compelling golf course. And so I want to have nothing to do with that.”

Edwards has now shifted from a national to a global scale. He said he is chasing the 2005 top 100 in the world list and is only four courses away from completing it.

“As close as I am, I figure at some point, you know, I am going to complete at least one of the lists top 100 lists in the world,” Edwards said.

Drew Steiner is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can contact him on LinkedIn.