Tee up to the world’s greatest golf courses of 2023!
With nearly 40,000 golf courses around the world, there are plenty of places for golfers to putt, chip, and drive to their heart’s content. Unlike most other sports, there is no standard play area in golf, letting the designer’s imagination go wild. In fact, golf courses are a form of architecture alongside world-famous landscapes, skyscrapers and theatres – important enough to warrant its own critics, rankings, and even coffee table books. With all that diversity, the best golf courses take advantage of the local surroundings with a unique environment for truly unique and awe-inspiring designs.
But you’re no doubt wondering what are the best of the best? That’s why we’ve scoured the globe to find the world’s greatest golf courses. Don’t settle for anything sub-par, instead opt for a hole-in-one unforgettable experience thanks to our list of the top golf courses in the world!
Royal County Down Golf Club
With the Mountains of Mourne to the south, the dunes dressed in a golden bloom of gorse and the Dundrum Bay to the east, there is no finer place than the Royal County Down Golf Course. Opening for play in 1889, its design is attributed to Old Tom Morris, with refinements by dozens of architects for over 100 years. With its stunning views, the ninth hole is arguably the world’s most photographed golf course. The course has a level of eccentricity: blind drives, bunkers fringed with coarse grass that all add to the charm. If the number of holes you remember is the measure of a great golf course, then Royal County Down is by far one of the greatest courses in the world.
Augusta National Golf Club
The 12th hole at Augusta National may be the most recognisable hole in golf. Viewed on TV by millions of golf fans every year for the annual Masters Tournament, a championship it’s held since 1934. This meadowland course with nothing but closely cropped green turf punctuated with pines and spots of white sand, the Augusta National has undergone minor changes almost every year to keep it competitive for the Masters. One of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world, the course was designed by one of the world’s most preeminent golfers, Bobby Jones, and leader in his own field architect Alister Mackenzie.
Pine Valley Golf Club
Forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest New Jersey, Pine Valley’s unique character was the dream of Philadelphian hotelier, George Crump. With its design, Crump set some idiosyncratic principles: no hole should be laid out parallel to the next; no more than two consecutive holes should play in the same direction; and players shouldn’t be able to see any hole other than the one they were playing. He also felt that a round of golf on his course should require a player to use every club in the bag. With what has been argued as having 18 signature holes, Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design – penal, heroic and strategic. One of the world’s top golf courses, be sure to add Pine Valley to your list.
Cypress Point Club
Situated at the most felicitous meeting of land and sea, Cypress Point Club is set at the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains on the very tip of the Monterey Peninsula. Leaving members with a cliff top terrain that is varied and thrilling, even those not avid fans of golf would find it laborious to find fault in its beauty. Designed by Seth Reynor and completed in 1928, the course is as strategic as they come: bunkers appearing where you don’t want them, the greens sloping severely and the fairways extremely generous. Cypress Point undeniably gives a rich and rewarding experience – every hole demanding your absolute attention.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
The world’s third oldest golf course, Royal Dornoch Golf Club is an ancient link tucked in an arc of dunes along the North Sea shoreline. Its remoteness in the far north of Scotland, on the dark side of the Grampians – which has the same latitude as Alaska – all adds to its allure. Mesmerising to amateur and professional golfers alike, the course itself is pretty straight forward, sauntering along the shoreline for six holes before retreating up the hill to the clubhouse. Many of the greens though are built on natural raised plateaus and don’t particularly favour bounce-and-run golf; that being the challenge, hitting those greens in a Dornoch wind. Experience the majesty of Royal Dornoch Golf Club, one of the best golf courses in the world.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Renowned Scottish architect Alister MacKenzie proves his expertise in his commissioned design of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Snuggling into the contours of the rolling sandbelt land, the greens are miniature versions of the surrounding topography. The West Course boasts bold bunkering that is visually spectacular while the surrounding terrain is a mix of native grasses that natural frame each hole providing great definition and contrast without distracting from the strategy. One of the best golf courses in the southern hemisphere, Royal Melbourne is Australia’s best and most established course by far.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Course
An old golf club with old traditions, Shinnecock has hardly been meddled with in nearly 50 years. Dating back to 1891, Willie Dunn with the aid of 150 Native Americans from the neighbouring Shinnecock Reservation are owned credit to the inaugural, authentic United States golf course design. The course itself resembles what one would find on Scottish links, though the conditioning is quite different. No two holes are alike, all moving in different directions with respect to the wind. A players course, Shinnecock is a tough test of golf for all but the most experienced.
St. Andrews Link
The spiritual home of golf, The Old Course is the world’s most famous link course, always ranked inside any top ten list. Inspiration is often drawn from the course either in favour of, or in reaction to its features with architects either favouring the course’s blind shots or loathing them, embracing the enormous greens or instead viewing them as wasted potential – many don’t even favour the course on their first play. Take a swing at a piece of golfing history at St. Andrews Link, one of the best golf courses anywhere in the world.
The layout design of Muirfield is a masterpiece and highly unusual for links courses of this time. Most were laid out simply with nine out and nine back, yet Muirfield was the first to be designed with two concentric rings of nine holes; the outward nine run clockwise around the edge and the inward nine run anti-clockwise, sitting inside the outward nine. Almost every shot on the course is visible and well-defined, making it one of the most satisfying and top golf courses in the world.
Merion Golf Course
Merion is another one of America’s top-flight golf courses, and like many of their kind, difficult to get on unless you know a member. Admittedly when the club was founded in 1896 Philadelphians were more likely to play cricket than golf. An inland course, Merion has the appearance of seaside links with its framework of greens and combination of multiform mounds with sand and turf. It’s the well-shaped, appealing green areas are what make Merion characteristically different from most American courses.
Looking for a down-under hole-in-one type of experience? Check out Australia’s Top 16 Golf Courses of 2023. Or, score a new read with our list of the 10 Best Sport Autobiography Books You Must Read in 2023.