The modern game of golf has been played since the 15th century in Scotland. And from the humble, rolling sheep-grazing spaces of the early courses of the British Isles, through the grand venues of the Open rota and similar, to the wide-ranging masterpieces in the U.S., there is no shortage of brilliant golf courses to choose from
Here we are listing the best golf courses in the world. Here we have also listed some of the best golf courses in the world.
Ballybunion (Old Course)
Details: Ballybunion, Ireland. Architects: Lionel Hewson, 1906, Tom Simpson, 1936. 6,802 yards. Par 71.
History: Famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind said “Nothing less than the finest seaside course I have ever seen.” The ocean-skirting par-four 11th is an absolute masterpiece. While the course did host the 2000 Irish Open, its inconvenient locale has kept this links standout out of regular tournament rotation, which is a shame because more exposure would show the world how fine the Hewson track is.
Selling point: Ballybunion had finished with back-to-back par fives for years, but the decision to relocate the clubhouse alleviated that problem. Reportedly it’s a favorite of Bill Clinton, and the town has erected a statue of the former President with a golf club in his honor.
Why it’s here: Starting off with a historic links standout seems eminently reasonable. Ballybunion’s lack of tournament pedigree keeps it from placing higher.
Pebble Beach Golf Links (California)
It is among the best golf courses in California
Said to have one of the most breathtaking views in golf, Pebble Beach is another world-renowned course on every golfer’s wish list in California. Opened for play in 1919, Pebble Beach has since hosted multiple US Opens, a PGA Championship and numerous PGA Tournaments. Located on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, south of San Francisco, Pebble Beach is surrounded by a selection of incredible courses, but this picture-perfect links is the pick of the bunch.
Ailsa Course, Trump Turnberry Resort (Scotland)
It may not have the history of St Andrews, or the fear factor of Carnoustie, but the Ailsa Course at Turnberry remains the most scenic course on the Open Championship schedule. Critically acclaimed by anyone who steps foot on this hallowed turf, since its renovation in 2016, Turnberry has gone from strength to strength and is rightfully named one of the best courses in the world.
Turnberry Resort (Ailsa)
Details: Turnberry, Scotland. Architect: Willie Fernie, 1902. 7,204 yards. Par 70.
History: Site of the famed 1977 “Duel in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, Turnberry has hosted the Open Championship four times, most recently in 2009. Turnberry has the unique distinction of being rebuilt from the rubble of Allied airfield during World War II.
Selling point: Beyond the uniqueness of the airfield element and the Open pedigree, Turnberry features some brilliant coastal views and stellar shot values. And there’s a lighthouse in sight, which is always great.
Why it’s here: Turnberry gets the bump ahead of Ballybunion on the tournament pedigree front.
Details: Bandon, Oregon. Architect: Tom Doak, 2001. 6.663 yards. Par 71.
History: Still a rising star some 16 years after its completion, the second course build on a superb piece of Bandon, Oregon, property, is among the best links tracks in America. The cliche about Pac Dunes is Tom Doak moved a bunch of earth around to make the landscape look untouched, but the effect is brilliant. Neighboring Bandon Dunes has hosted four U.S. Amateur championships.
Selling point: The selling point of the Bandon courses is really the totality of the magnificence of the courses together. Just a beautiful, spectacular, almost otherworldly place to tee it up. Pacific Dunes is also arguably the easiest course of the Bandon Trails-Bandon Dunes-Old MacDonald-Pacific quartet.
Why it’s here: Pacific Dunes, due to its length and relative ease, won’t host a major championship. It is however, a brilliant public venue. Thus, the accessibility factor and appeal to a wider swath of the golfing population gives it the edge over Ballybunion and Turnberry.
Sand Hills Golf Club
Details: Mullen, Nebraska. Architects: Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, 1994. 7,089. Par 71.
History: The lack of significant history speaks to the overwhelming quality of the Nebraska venue as it ranks so highly on “best courses” lists. The bunkers aren’t dug-and-filled puts, but rather windblown, pre-existing dunes. Supposedly Coore and Crenshaw wandered the property before construction, picking out the naturally occurring features of a golf course.
Selling point: Venue. There’s no better example of a course in the United States where the architects didn’t have to move any earth to create a magical golf course. Coore and Crenshaw simply built the course that was already there, in a sense. Which is amazing. One of the best seaside courses in America…and there isn’t a sea in sight.
Why it’s here: Sand Hills serves as a model of minimalist course design at its absolute best. While it hasn’t hosted significant tournaments, it’s an extremely important recent construction…and it’s absolutely, staggeringly beautiful.
Pinehurst No. 2
Details: Pinehurst, North Carolina. Architect: Donald Ross, 1907. 7,565. Par 70.
History: Donald Ross’ masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2 was returned to its past glory ahead of the 2014 “dual U.S. Opens” in which the men’s and women’s competitions were held at the venue. No. 2 has hosted an additional two Opens, as well as the 2008 U.S. Amateur. The site of legendary Ben Hogan’s first stroke-play victory, it is widely regarded to be the finest greens in the Donald Ross pantheon of courses.
Selling point: A masterpiece restored. The Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore redesign, which included reshaping and the return of native rough areas, returned the Ross course to its former glory. Certainly, the fine theater of the 2014 Opens—won by Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie respectively—proved Pinehurst No. 2 is a top-notch U.S. Open venue. And it’s public!
Why it’s here: Pebble Beach suffers as the little brother of Cypress Point. Pinehurst No. 2 triumphs as a marvel of restorative work. Hence, Pinehurst before Pebble. Any questions? But really, if not for Cypress Point, Pebble Beach would be inside the top 10 in this ranking. And if that doesn’t make any sense to you, keep thinking about it.
National Golf Links of America
Details: Southampton, New York. Architect: C.B. Macdonald, 1911. 6,935. Par 72.
History: Never the host of a national championship (assuredly because they don’t want to be), ultra-exclusive National Golf Links of America isn’t widely revered outside the world of golf architecture enthusiasts. However, the good folks at National did agree to host the 2013 Walker Cup, which has given a (perhaps unwanted) bump to the club’s profile in recent years.
Selling point: Top-shelf, out-of-reach status. Plus, the uniqueness of architect Charles Blair Macdonald’s approach: imitating the great holes of the courses of England and Scotland he’d seen in his travels. Rather than producing dim parody, Macdonald’s National Links inspires today’s architects in the way the great courses of Europe did National’s course-plotter.
Why it’s here: To push National Golf Links ahead of Merion would mean that it’s a much better venue than Merion, given the Philadelphia-area course’s pedigree. It is.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Details: Dornoch, Scotland. Architect: Old Tom Morris, 1886. 6,722 yards. Par 70.
History: Not incredibly well-known to many in the United States, Old Tom Morris’ second-finest Scottish golf venue. Dornoch was also, notably, architect Donald Ross’ home course. The history of Dornoch, unfortunately, is one of being passed over due to its relative inaccessibility, which unfortunately diminishes its tournament pedigree.
Selling point: The font of Ross’ inspiration, an early Old Tom masterstroke, Royal Dornoch is one of the most stellar links courses in all of Scotland. Thus, it’s a shame most golf fans haven’t heard of it. Unlike most links venues, however, you can’t run the ball on to the greens at Dornoch, as most are elevated, presenting a unique challenge amid the whippy, fickle Scottish winds.
Why it’s here: Bumping the under-appreciated gem this far up the list (and ahead of a powerhouse like Oakmont) is a firm statement about its brilliance. And, in a sense, something of a plea not to weight tournament history so highly in the world of top-100 lists.