What we know as the modern game of golf has been played since the 15th century in Scotland. From the unassuming, rolling sheep-grazing spaces of the early courses to be found in the British Isles, through to the grand venues of the Open rota and similar, to the broad-ranging masterpieces in the U.S., there is no lack of brilliant golf courses to select from.
Pedigree, popularity, as well as richness (in terms of breath-taking layout/shot values) will be the three defining measures for this ranking. However, of course, this is no exact science, and any ranking is an innately subjective exercise.
Here are our picks of the most popular golf courses all over the world.
Royal County Down G.C. – Newcastle, Northern Ireland
On a crystal clear spring day – with Dundrum Bay down to the east, the Mountains of Mourne down to the south and gorse-covered dunes in iridescent bloom – there is no more beautiful place in golf. The design is credited to Old Tom Morris however was perfected by half a dozen architects in the last 120 years, most recently by Donald Steel. Even though the greens are remarkably flat, as if to compensate for the rugged terrain and a number of blind shots, bunkers are a distinct highlight, most with arched eyebrows of dense marram grasses and dense clumps of heather.
Augusta National – Augusta, USA
No golf club has tinkered with its golf course as frequently or as effectively over the decades as the Augusta National. This is owing mainly to the necessity to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament which is an event that it has conducted since 1934, with time off in WWII. All that tinkering has led to an fusion of design ideas, with a routing by Alister MacKenzie and Bob Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens as well as some Trent Jones water hazards.
Turnberry – Scotland
Location of the famed 1977 “Duel in the Sun” fought between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, Turnberry has been host to the Open Championship four times, most recently in 2009. Turnberry has the distinctive distinction of being built from the rubble of Allied airfield during World War II. Beyond the uniqueness of the airfield element as well as the Open pedigree, Turnberry features some superb coastal views and stellar shot values. And there’s a lighthouse in sight, which is always great.
Royal Dornoch G.C. (Championship) – Scotland
Herbert Warren Wind dubbed this course “the most natural golf course in the world” and it certainly is rather remote. If you’re a fan of nightlife, big city lights and excitement, you won’t find it here. In fact, the best you can do is enjoy online NZ casino games if you want a bit of glitz, glamour and non-golfing excitement.
Tom Watson called the Royal Dornoch G.C. the most enjoyable experience he’d ever had playing golf. Donald Ross called it his home, having been born in the village and learning the game on the links.
Nestled snugly into an arc of dunes that runs along the North Sea shoreline, Dornoch’s greens, some by Old Tom Morris and a couple of others by John Sutherland or 1920 Open champion George Duncan, sit typically on plateaus and don’t really favour bounce-and-run golf. That’s the big challenge: hitting those greens against a Dornoch wind.