The big stuff - that's under the control of the courses
1 - course conditions
2 - course conditions
3 - design
4 - course conditions
I want to play on a well maintained course with good turf and greens that aren't beat up and full of unrepaired ball marks. Clean and raked sand, under a million divots.
I want to play interesting holes with different looks and challenges throughout a round.
and the minor but important stuff - a bit less objective, but some level of control is possible by management
5 - one that is not crowded or overbooked - pace can be fast or slow, I don't care, I just like it to keep moving steadily. I don't want to stand around waiting, but I don't want to feel rushed by anyone.
6 - the other players on the whole course are decent and friendly types. nothing takes away fun more than groups and individuals that act like they own the place. Pushing or going slow, etc etc. Aren't respectful to each other and other groups. It's a social activity and good people make or break it.
My best round lately was on a course new to me. I was able to walk right on without a reservation by joining a small group. The layout was fun and each hole was unique. It was in very good condition. I played with two strangers starting on the first tee and we all enjoyed each other's company, had a cooler of beers, and played compatibly. It was slow at times, but it didn't matter. when we'd catch the group in front of us, or the group behind would catch us, we'd all tell stories and laugh together until it was out turn - at the turn, whoever was causing the log jamb must have left as the pace cleaned up and we only caught those groups maybe one more time. I scored great. (one problem.....no drink cart). Facilities were clean, the staff was friendly, the carts operated well.