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12 of the best golf courses in the world

Add these idyllic greens to your next holiday itinerary and putt your stuff on the best golf courses in the world.

There are eight things you should take into consideration when evaluating the best golf courses in the world: environment, facilities, green, routing, bunkers, tees, fairways and design. Some of the criteria are obvious – the environment should be a beautiful location that inspires both players and spectators and if possible, hold some heritage value. How holes are routed – their direction and connection – should avoid slow play features such as tight or narrow spacing, and make the most of the natural terrain of the green. Tee points should be neat, tidy, level and mowed, fairways must be firm, fast and defined. Facilities should include restaurants, refreshment stations, locker rooms, storage and equipment and have flexible booking schedules. However, other criteria are harder to judge.

When it comes to the green, size matters. The grounds should be firm and well-kept, the grass short and the variety of planting suitable for putting. The green should facilitate an even keel of play that’s neither too fast nor too slow. The bunkers should have manicured edges that don’t catch the ball, and be neither too deep nor too shallow. A good bunker needs drainage and sand that’s free from dirt and rocks.

However, judging the design and architecture of a green is subjective. While the best golf courses in the world all showcase similar features, such as making the most of the natural environment, effective drainage and landscape management, and spaciousness, other elements are open to interpretation. Is the golf course challenging, but not excessively so? Does it have a variety of holes that can be played from a variety of angles? Is it enjoyable and inclusive?

We’ve reviewed round-ups, reviews, lists and evaluations of the best golf courses in the world to identify the 12 best golf courses in the world worth checking out on your next holiday abroad.

Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews golf course
Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews © Adobe Stock

St Andrews Old Course, Scotland

Also known as the ‘Old Lady’ or ‘Grand Old Lady’, St. Andrews Old Course is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. Located one hour from Edinburgh and two hours from Glasgow by car, this public green has a 600-year history dating back to 1400 and boasts bucket list challenges recognised worldwide, such as the Swilcan Bridge and Hell Bunker.

Royal County Down Golf Club, Northern Ireland

Set within Northern Ireland’s Murlough Nature Reserve, Royal County Down Golf Club enjoys views of the Mountains of Mourne and stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay. Founded in 1889 by a group of influential men from Belfast, it’s considered one of the best golf courses in the world. The clubhouse has a bar and dining room as well as equipment hire.

Royal County Down Golf Links
Royal County Down

Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia

This private members club was established in 1891 and showcases work by Scottish golf course architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who also designed the greens of Cypress Point and Augusta National. Royal Melbourne Golf Club is located an hour from the city and has five courses, two of which are considered to be some of the best golf courses in the world, the West and East Courses.

Augusta National Golf Club, USA

Another green designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, Augusta National Golf Club in the US state of Georgia opened in 1932. It has hosted the Masters Tournament since 1934, and is famous for its impeccably maintained grounds.

Royal Dornoch, Scotland

Many golfers aspire to play the natural links and championship courses at Scotland’s Royal Dornoch. Wild, isolated and beautiful, the golf course is an hour’s drive from Inverness, three from Edinburgh, and butts up against Dornoch Firth. The Royal Dornoch has two 18-hole greens, the Championship Course and The Struie, and was established in 1877 and has been considered one of the best golf courses in the world since.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, USA

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is a private club founded in 1891 on Long Island in New York. Its clubhouse was designed by renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, and its greens are reminiscent of those found in the British Isles. Regarded as one of the world’s best golf courses, it hosted the second U.S. Open Championship and U.S. Amateur in 1896, the Women’s Amateur in 1900, the Walker Cup Match in 1977, and the U.S. Open Championship in 1986, 1995, 2004 and 2018.

putting green at Royal Dornoch
First hole at Royal Dornoch © Adobe Stock

Pine Valley Golf Club, USA

Located in Camden County in southern New Jersey, Pine Valley Golf Club is a private members organisation founded and partially designed by hotelier George Crump in the early 20th century. With trees, dunes and undulating terrain, this 18-hole walking-only golf course has generous fairway widths and spectacular greens.

Pebble Beach Golf Links, USA

Taking out top spot as the best public golf course in the United States, Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted six U.S Opens. Opened in 1919 and more than a century old, this championship course was remarkably designed by two amateur golfers, Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, and has seen very few changes over the years. Its coastal locale, lovely facilities and exclusivity make it one of the best golf courses in the world.

The 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Image by Evan Schiller

Cypress Point Club, USA

Surrounded by trees with coastal views of the Pacific Ocean, Cypress Point Club is a private 18-hole green at the northern end of the Central Coast in California. Known as one of the best golf courses in the world due to its series of dramatic holes and superb bunkering (and it’s infamous par 3 200-metre 16th hole with ocean carry), this course is another example of Dr. Alistair McKenzie’s work and opened in 1928.

Trump Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course, Scotland

Perched upon the volcanic island of Ailsa Craig with a lush green and lighthouse over yonder, the Ailsa golf course at Trump Turnberry is named after the third Marquess of Ailsa, who owned the land on which the course was built at the time. It has hosted four Open Championships and has a history dating back more than 100 years. The architecture of the course was most recently revitalised by Martin Ebert.

Oakmont Golf Course
Oakmont © Adobe Stock

National Golf Links America

Some of the best golf courses in the world are neighbours. For example, the National Golf Links America is positioned on Long Island between Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and Peconic Bay. Founded in 1908 by Charles B. Macdonald, this particular green was constructed by engineer Seth Raynor, who took inspiration from the courses of the British Isles. This prestigious links-style green is members-only, has 18 holes and covers 102 hectares.

Oakmont, USA

Belonging to Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania, Oakmont was established in 1903 and is known as the oldest top-ranked green in the country. Aside from Augusta National, the 18-hole challenger is has hosted more Championships than any other course in the United States. The green is fast and the bunkers are challenging.

What is the world’s largest golf resort?
Founded in 1992, Mission Hills in Shenzhen, China is the world’s largest golf resort with a total of 396 holes.

What is the longest golf course in the world?
Western Australia’s Nullabor Links is the longest golf course in the world, an 18-hole par 72 course that spans 1365km from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. A single hole can be played in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, each featuring a green, a tee and a fairway of rugged outback natural terrain.

Read more:
Why Queenstown is the golfing capital of the world
Five luxury golf tours
Automotive elegance at the forefront of the Sydney Harbour Concours D’elegance

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