Well known course designer, Pete Dye, once said, “Golf is not a fair game, so why build a course fair?” This has sort of become a signature, a trademark attribute of every good golf course out there – the challenge, the notorious holes, the twists and turns. Win or lose, some of these golf courses are punishing enough to make professional golfers cry on global television. Some of sport’s most unforgettable moments (of joy or of defeat). Which explains why some of the toughest golf courses are the most famous ones. Here at Golf Escapes, our team has over 60 years of collective experience in travel and over 40 years of collective experience in golf travel, so we know a thing or two about golf courses by now, including the best ones, the hardest ones, the most scenic ones, and the most iconic ones. Here are 15 of the most famous golf courses from around the world!
1. St. Andrews Old Course, Fife (Scotland)
Scotland’s courses make the big lists every single year and few have beaten the fame or the popularity of St. Andrews. The club boasts seven courses in total but it’s the Old Course that really has people talking. This par 72 course spans 6721 yards and anyone who plays here will be following in the footsteps of legends. St. Andrews Old Course is one of the oldest and most acclaimed courses in the world, and the Swilcan Bridge and Hell Bunker are recognised as seriously tough obstacles by golfers worldwide. Despite its status though, this course remains open to the public so it’s as accessible as it is prestigious.
And in addition to its shining reputation, the course is also incredibly well managed – in a sustainable and responsible way – to ensure that every golfer has the best possible experience.
2. The King’s Course, Perthshire (Scotland)
Often referred to as “the best moorland course in the world”, King’s Course remains a favourite amongst amateur and professional golfers. The course itself is designed by renowned architect, James Baird, and is best known for blending all 18 holes seamlessly into the landscape for a scenic and utterly soul-soothing experience. An absolute visual masterpiece, with the rugged natural beauty of rural Perthshire serving as its backdrop, the King’s Course is a test to even some of the best players in the world. A unique challenge with unbelievable views of the surrounding moorlands.
3. The Stadium Course at Sawgrass, Florida (USA)
The Stadium Course at Sawgrass in Florida is a regular contender for the Top 100 lists in well-known golf publications and the notoriously tricky 17th island green is one of the reasons that makes this course such a famous one. Designed by Pete Dye, this is one of the most recognised courses across the globe. And with 44 average balls in the water according to 2013 stats, it makes for a riveting watch during the annual Players Championships. The 17th is the course’s shortest hole and one of the most dramatic. It can easily go one way or the other. Plenty of pro players manage to score a birdie here, but you can cut the tension with a knife between player and audience every time, because no matter how seemingly achievable it is, golfers are always just one swing away from a double bogey.
4. Oakmont, Pennsylvania (USA)
This par 4 course opened back in 1903 and was built by the father-son team of Henry and William Fownes, two highly regarded designers who set the standards of golf and took it to a whole new level. Henry and William said of the game, “A shot poorly played should be irrevocably lost.” And that has been the concept behind their challenging course architecture. One slight mistake, one minor error and all chances could be blown. Created to be the most punishing and difficult course in America, Oakmont makes you work for it at the Church Pews bunker and also on the left side of the 4th hole.
5. Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia (USA)
If the spectacular scenery doesn’t blow you away, the history and the long list of world famous players sure will. The course was founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, was designed by Jones and Alister MacKenzie, and has been the home grounds for the Masters Tournament ever since 1934. This is the only major tournament played at the same course every single year, making Augusta National Golf Club one of the most famous across the globe. It goes without saying that it ranks as one of – if not, the – best course in numerous publications and tournament experiences are always a fantastic and memorable experience for visitors. Our packages include hotel and breakfast with Masters tickets and transfers (with custom holiday packages also available).
6. Trump International Golf Links, Aberdeenshire (Scotland)
Made up of majestic sand dunes, rugged grassland and breath-taking sea views, golfing at Aberdeenshire’s Trump International Golf Links course is a truly memorable experience. Switch perfectly manicured greens for something wonderful and wild, and bring the whole family along for a great holiday exploring the area’s natural beauty and many nearby beaches. Set along the coast in Balmedie, this golf course is one of the most dramatic and golfers will enjoy staying at the grand five star Macleod House.
7. Cypress Point, California (USA)
Cypress Point is another world famous course that never fails to be listed by big golf publications. Set along the stunning coastline of Pebble Beach in California, this 18 hole golf course offers the most awe-inspiring views. The natural beauty of the surrounding area is unmatched by any other golf course in the US, and the course boasts a timeless feel for classic playing. The course was designed by Alister Mackenzie, with a view of allowing the golf course to take a natural and organic route, blending the holes flawlessly with the beauty of the landscape. Watch out for the 16th hole and beware of The Pacific – the ultimate water hazard.
8. Pine Valley, New Jersey (USA)
Another impressive course that regularly makes the Top 100 and even Top 10 lists of the best golf courses in the world. And it isn’t without reason. Founder George Crump, who sadly died before the course’s completion in 1919, took a piece of desolate land in New Jersey and set about transforming it into a beautiful masterpiece. After public opening in 1919, it took more than three years before anyone could complete the course in 70 strokes and Pine Valley quickly earned its reputation as one of the most testing courses for even the best golfers. In the book Complete Golfer, Robert Trent Jones wrote about Pine Valley, “It fills you with dread and delight…..it takes your breath away…..it’s a monster…..but it’s beautiful”.
9. Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle (Northern Ireland)
It’s no surprise that an Irish golf course has made it onto our list. With the incredible rugged landscapes and unforgiving coastal winds, golfing in Ireland or Northern Ireland is both a challenging and beautiful experience. The Republic of Ireland is fast becoming a key destination for golf holidays but we simply can’t go without mentioning a Northern Ireland course, the famous Royal County Down Golf Club and regular contender in Top 100 lists. It’s often compared to Royal Portrush, with the two clubs going head to head to be the best golf course in the Norther Ireland region. Nestled at the foothills of the Mourne Mountains and still upholding many of golfing’s old traditions, this is a great place to play.
10. Kingsbarns Golf Links, near St. Andrews (Scotland)
Ranked in the ‘Worldwide Top 100 Golf Courses Outside the United States’, Kingsbarns is an 18 hole 72 par links course that every golfer should get to know. A dream to play for avid golfers, this course offers spellbinding views. And with such a beautiful seaside location along the Fife coastline, sunsets are pretty amazing too. Co-hosting the annual European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (together with the Old Course at St Andrews and Carnoustie Golf Links), this is one of the most prestigious places to tee off in Scotland.
The Kingsbarns experience is something of a traditional one and the club aims to deliver the most excellent service to all of its guests. So if you’re looking for prominent, high-status course together with a friendly service from a very passionate team, this is the place to be for your next golf holiday.
11. Monte Rei Golf Course, Algarve (Portugal)
This signature golf course ranks as the number 1 golf course in Portugal. Set in the beautiful Eastern Algarve, a golfing holiday here is fantastic for the entire family. The towns of Faro, Olhão, Tavira and Monte Gordo are all worth a visit and the beaches will keep everyone happy. The course itself is designed by golf legend, Jack Nicklaus and shortly after opening to the public in 2007, this new course quickly established a reputation of being the best course in the country. The beautiful course features five stunning lakes and there is also a great driving range on site for practice.
12. Muirfield, East Lothian (Scotland)
Having been ranked number 3 in the world several times, Muirfield is a must. A rite of passage even. Since 1892, Muirfield has hosted 42 national and international competitions, averaging about one every three years. And the course has seen some of the biggest golfing stars come and go, including James Braid and Sir Nick Faldo (who have both won two majors on the course), Harry Vardon, Tom Watson, Sir Michael Bonallack, Ronnie Shade, Cyril Tolley, Robert A Gardner, Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin and many more. Known to the golfing world as a low-key yet highly admired golf course with straightforward links and challenging fairways, Muirfield is just fantastic through and through.
13. Dubai Creek, Dubai (UAE)
The Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club has had global attention in recent years and is listed as the 5th best course in the United Arab Emirates. A relatively new club, opening in 1993, Dubai Creek has already been dubbed a “golfer’s paradise”. Best known for its well-groomed fairways and manicured greens, this is a picture perfect course that creates a serious challenge from tournament tees. But don’t worry if you’re not up to a punishing play because the course goes a little easier from the forward tees, making it a good course for golfers of every level. Situated just 5 minutes away from Dubai city centre, it’s also in a very convenient location, especially for holiday makers who are bringing the whole family.
14. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, New York (USA)
A superb golf course for anyone touring the US! The beautifully green and rugged looking Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is set in the town of Southampton on Long Island in New York. For anyone popping over to the Big Apple, this course is a must. Prestigious, extremely well managed, and a course that holds its own with other high status courses in the US, Shinnecock Hills offers an experience you won’t forget. It has hosted the U.S. Open four times in three different centuries and is scheduled to host again in 2018.
15. Corballis Links, County Dublin (Ireland)
Ranked in the Top 100 list, we simply can’t forget to mention Corballis Links in Donabate, County Dublin. Less than 30 minutes from the city of Dublin, it’s in a great location for a golf holiday, with easy access to sightseeing and the great food and drink culture of Ireland. The course is over 100 years old and you stumble across some old quirks, a smattering of old fashioned course design even though the layout has been upgraded a number of times.
If you are interested in experiencing what it is like to play golf on one of the most famous golf courses in the world, please do get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.