I actually rate golf courses in a spreadsheet. Here are my criteria:
Architecture (35 pts) - does the course employ good architectural principles, as I understand them? Is it playable for all handicap levels? Are the holes unique and memorable?
Fun factor (30 pts) - how badly do I want to play it again? Are there 2 shot par 5s and a drivable par 4? Are the greens interesting? Is this a course where players will lose a lot of balls?
Condition (20 pts) - is the course well maintained for the price I paid? Level tees and consistent green speeds go a long way for me. I prefer firm and fast if possible.
Vibe (10 pts) - is the course a place I want to hang out? Does it have a 19th hole and how much fun is it? I basically use this category for intangibles.
Pace of Play (5 pts) - does the course play in a reasonable time given the layout?
So with all that said, I tend to prefer courses that have width off the tee so I can usually find my ball. I want interesting green sites that allow multiple types of short game shots.
My top 5 courses:
- Prairie Dunes
- Erin Hills
- Lawsonia Links
- Tobacco Road
- Dunes Golf & Beach Club