The best golf courses are of incredible scenic beauty, host famous championships, and offer unique holes created by acclaimed course architects. We weighed expert opinion and personal experience and gathered information on the oldest, most difficult and most beautiful links to create a list of the 25 best golf courses in the world. And if you don’t play golf, these courses are all located in stunning destinations that you’ll enjoy even if you never pick up a club.
These are the best golf courses around the world
Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland
This golf course deserves to top the list as the oldest and most expensive in the world. Beginning in the early 15th century, the Old Course has evolved over the years, remains a public course and is at the top of most golfers’ wish lists. A photo of the iconic Swilken Bridge is a treasured souvenir of the experience.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula, California
With stunning ocean views, rugged coastline and lush vegetation, Pebble Beach is among America’s premier public golf courses. Varied terrain and holes like the par-5 finishing hole – with a tree in the middle of the fairway – make Pebble Beach challenging and fun.
Plantation Course, Maui, Hawaii
Located on the slopes of West Maui’s mountains, the Plantation Course features ocean views from nearly every hole. Dramatic elevation changes, wide fairways and large greens make it a favorite with visitors as well as the pros who come every January for the PGA TOUR Tournament of Champions.
Bethpage Black Course, Long Island, New York
This public course located in Bethpage State Park is best known for its challenging layout and the warning sign posted on the first tee: “The Black Fairway is an extremely difficult course recommended only for skilled golfers.” Considered one of the toughest courses in the country, the Black Course, one of five outstanding golf courses at Page, will host the Ryder Cup in 2025.
Manala Golf Course, Lanai, Hawaii
Exclusively for guests of Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Sensei Lanai, this beautiful Jack Nicklaus signature course is set on coastal cliffs with ocean views on every hole and challenging shots over natural canyons. Manel was recently named the top course in Hawaii by golf week.
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course, Nova Scotia, Canada
This links-style course in Cape Breton features rolling fairways, dunes, forest, elevation changes and ocean views. From the first hole there is a view of the sea and in the distance the village of Inverness. The 18th hole challenges players with a gully in front of the narrow green.
TPC Danzante Bay, Loreto, Mexico
Located among the hills of the Sierra de la Gigante mountains, TPC Danzante Bay offers stunning views of the Loreto Islands. Rhys Jones’ design features a landscape that includes canyons, pubs, elevation changes and cliffs along with challenging bunkers. There is an amazing view of the Sea of Cortez on the 17th hole.
Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula, California
The private Cypress Point Club is located at the tip of the Monterey Peninsula at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Cypress trees, forest, sand dunes, rugged coastline and dramatic ocean views make it a picturesque course, included on this list for its beauty even though it is so exclusive that only a few non-members can play it.
Augusta National, Augusta, GA
Best known as the home of the annual Masters Tournament, Augusta National was designed by Alistair McKenzie and Bobby Jones. The private course is beautifully designed and maintained, with each hole named after a flower or tree that grows there. The course is appreciated by both professional players and lucky patrons who secure tickets to the Masters.
Muirfield, East Lothom, Scotland
This course was originally created by Thomas Mitchell Morris, also known as Old Tom Morris, who designed courses throughout the United Kingdom. Revisions over the years have preserved its unique circular layout, with the front nine rotating clockwise around the perimeter of the property and the back nine moving counter-clockwise in an inner circle.
Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Nestled along two miles (3.2 km) of Lake Michigan shoreline, Whistling Straits links style with rough open terrain, deep bunkers and undulating greens. Holes with names like Shipwreck, Cliffhanger and Down & Dirty should give golfers a hint of what’s to come. To come when they start out The Dyeabolical 18th hole recognizes course architect Pete Dye and his challenging closing hole.
Somerset Hills Country Club, Bernardsville, NJ
This AW Tillinghast design features two distinct nines, the front on more open ground and the back holes set in a wooded area with natural water features. Established more than 100 years ago, the course has been painstakingly restored and is considered by some to be Tillinghast’s finest design.
Cape Kidnappers, Te Awanga, New Zealand
Recently reopened after a seven-month renovation, this course was designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak. With some holes located hundreds of meters above the bay, the sea views are spectacular, and the cliffside courses are challenging. Deep ravines, bunkers and valleys create a beautiful but difficult experience.
Ocean Course, Kiwah Island, South Carolina
Located on the easternmost tip of the island, this course features seaside holes, with ten along the Atlantic Ocean. Pete Day’s design also offers unobstructed views of the shoreline from every hole and terrain that includes tidal marshes, sand dunes and live oaks. The course hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup and the 2021 PGA Championship.
Nine Bridges Golf Club, Jeju Island, South Korea
This private club is located on a tranquil volcanic island in the shadow of Mount Halla, Korea’s highest peak. The Highland holes feature an abundance of maple, oak and heather trees, reminiscent of a Scottish layout. The Creek Nine has rolling greens with deep bunkers and water hazards.
Ballybunion Golf Club, County Kerry, Ireland
The links-style Old Course, which dates back to 1883, is located on the Atlantic coast with holes along beach dunes and cliffs. The first hole plays next to an old cemetery and the front nine winds its way to the sea until the par-4 seventh hole along the beach. The other course at Ballybunion is the Robert Trent Jones designed Cashen course.
Capilano Golf Club, British Columbia, Canada
This Stanley Thompson design features tree-lined fairways in a rainforest setting with a backdrop of the North Coast Mountains and stunning views of Vancouver. The course starts at its highest point and works its way downhill through the first six holes, before gradually ascending to the spectacular par-five finishing hole.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Victoria, Australia
Both courses at Royal Melbourne are considered among the best in the world. The West Course, designed by Alistair McKenzie, features native Australian tree scrub along the fairways, deep greenside bunkers, elevated tees and fast greens.
Quivira Golf Club, Los Cabos, Mexico
This Jack Nicklaus signature design features spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from every hole. Created for Quivira owners and guests of the Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resort, Quivira’s cliffs, canyons, dunes and elevation changes make for a challenging layout.
Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links, Tasmania, Australia
This links course is located on the northeast coast of Tasmania, and its holes roll in and out of the coastal sand dunes, following the natural layout of the landscape. Undulating greens, wide fairways and a large bunker on the fourth hole make it interesting and challenging. Barnbougle has three tracks: Lost Farm, Bougle Run and The Dunes.
Shanqin Bay Golf Club, Hainan Island, China
Located along the coast, the course is surrounded on three sides by the South China Sea for spectacular views. The design by Bill Corr and Ben Crenshaw includes dense vegetation, cliffs, chasms and sand dunes. The short 16th hole drops more than 50 feet from the tee to the green before the 17th runs along the beach to a narrow green.
The Jockey Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Two courses, the Red and the Blue, were both designed by Alistair McKenzie. The red, which hosted the World Cup of Golf in 1970, is mostly at sea level with challenging contours and bunkers. Its special 18th hole, inspired by the 18th at St. Andrews, is the same length, straight and without bunkers.
Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome, Italy
Chosen to host the 2023 Ryder Cup, the stadium golf course is located in the Roman countryside. The par-five 18th hole features a wide fairway, a water hazard and a sloping green for a challenging finish. The course has been redesigned for the Ryder Cup, and spectators will enjoy views of the golf game as well as Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.
Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
This links course is located in the beautiful Morelo Nature Reserve along the shores of Dundrum Bay. Each hole offers a different landscape as golfers face blind tee shots, narrow fairways surrounded by purple heather and golden gorse, deep bunkers and fast domed greens. The ninth hole is one of the most photographed holes in golf.
Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
Pinehurst Number Two is the centerpiece of the resort’s nine courses, having hosted several US Opens and other professional tournaments. The 1907 Donald Ross design was updated in 2010 by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Corr, bringing it back to Ross’ original style. Tree-lined fairways, bunkers and crowned greens make this a challenge for golfers of all levels.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main image and photo credit: Owen Schiller/Courtesy of Albanyion Golf Club