Top 10 Golf Courses in the World
Tee up to check out our top 10 golf courses from around the world.
Golf can range from deadly dull to immeasurably inspiring. Golf course architecture in its own right stands along with the other fine arts of architecture including landscapes, skyscrapers to theatres in being considered important enough to warrant its own critics, rankings, and even coffee table books. With a clear trend that seaside venues bring out best the best in golfing design, the dominant theme in our Top 5 is proximity to the sea.
With the majority from the Uniteds States, Ireland and Scotland manage to sneak their way onto the list too, and we even a pay homage to the beauty that is Royal Melbourne (West).
1. Royal County Down Golf Club
Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland / 6.6km, Par 71
Out on the green in springtime, 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 for golf. Opening for play in 1889, its design is attributed to Old Tom Morris, but has since been refined by dozens of architects over the past 125 years. The 9th hole, a long par four, is arguably the world’s most photographed, with the line from the elevated tee directly at the Slieve Donard peak. The course has a level of eccentricity; blind drives, bunkers fringed with coarse grass, but all that add to the charm. If the number of holes you remember is the measure of a great golf course, Royal County Down is then by far one of the greatest of them all.
2. Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta, Georgia, United States / 6.8km, Par 72
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, only breaking during WWII. A 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 up its playing value, and to keep it competitive for the Masters. One of the most exclusive 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.
3. Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley, New Jersey, United States / 6.5km, Par 70
Forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest New Jersey, Pine Valley’s unique character was the dream of Philadelphian hotelier, George Crump, who unfortunately passed before the course’s completion. With its design, Crump set himself 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 – throughout the course, often times on a single hole.
4. Cypress Point Club
Pebble Beach, California, United States / 6km, Par 72
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, the course was finished in 1928 by Alister MacKenzie who has proven himself to be one of golf’s greatest architects. 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. Arguably Pebble Beach has a better stretch of holes, but Cypress Point undeniably gives a far more rich and rewarding experience – every hole demanding your absolute attention. A green unlikely played by many due to strict membership, folklore has it that J.F Kennedy was once refused entry to the club’s restaurant.
5. Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland / 6km, Par 70
The world’s third oldest golf course (behind St Andrews and Leith), 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, on the same latitude as Alaska – all part of its allure. Mesmerising to amateur and professional golfers alike, ostensibly 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 favor bounce-and-run golf; that being the challenge, hitting those greens in a Dornoch wind. Designed by Old Tom Morris, a man responsible most of Scotland’s fine golf courses than perhaps any other individual.
6. Royal Melbourne Golf Club (West)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia / 6km, Par 72
Once again 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 courses in the southern hemisphere, Royal Melbourne (West) is Australia’s best and most established course by far.
7. Shinnecock Hills Golf Course
Southhampton, New York, United States / 6.4km, Par 70
An old golf club with old traditions, Shinnecock has hardly been meddled with in nearly 50 years, although some features have been restored to prepare the course for the 2018 U.S Open. Dating back to 1891, Willie Dunn with the aid of 150 Indians 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 (strong prevailing winds off the Atlantic to the southwest). A players course, Shinnecock is a tough test of golf.
8. The Old Course at St. Andrews Link
St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland / 6.7km, Par 72
The spiritual home of golf, The Old Course is the world’s most famous link course, rarely ranked outside of the top ten. 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. The latest to create divide are plans drawn up by architect Martin Hawtree which call for work on nine of the course’s holes, including revisions to the iconic eleventh and seventeenth greens. Changes on this scale have not been contemplated on the course since alterations of the opening nine holes between 1905-1908.
Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland / 6.6km, Par 71
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. The purpose of this in H.S Colt’s 1925 redesign was to ensure that the wind hits from all directions. Every shot on the course is visible and well-defined, except for one blind tee shot on the 11th hole.
10. Merion Golf Course (East)
Ardmore, Pennsylvania, United States / 6.6km, Par 70
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 somewhat 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.