Posted by & filed under Golf Courses.

Trying to define the best golf courses in the world is clearly a difficult and subjective task.

However, in this blog, we’ve tried to help ourselves a bit by breaking it down into different sub-categories—from the most historic and beautiful courses to bucket list-type trips and everything else in between.

Need a bit of inspiration? Read on…


The best golf courses in the world

best golf courses in the world

Skip to:

  1. Most historic golf courses
  2. Most beautiful golf courses
  3. Bucket list visits
  4. Best overall experiences
  5. Best course designs
  6. Best golf resorts
  7. Best new golf courses
  8. The world’s best cheap golf course


Most historic golf courses

There really is nowhere else to start but the Old Course at St Andrews. The original and, many believe, still the best.

The Old Course might not dazzle with scenery or drama, but it’s packed with a challenge so nuanced and subtle that it sometimes takes multiple plays to fully appreciate it.

The legendary Bobby Jones was famously not a fan initially—but eventually came to love it.

It’s the only course where you’ll hear the usually cynical, clinical Tour pros routinely state how they have hairs on the back of their neck standing up on the first tee.

Also in this category sit Prestwick, scene of the first 24 Opens, and Musselburgh Old, another part of Open folklore.

Meanwhile, Royal North Devon is England’s answer to St Andrews.


Most beautiful golf courses

One of the best things about golf is that its stages take you to beautiful locations you might otherwise never visit.

Do football, rugby, tennis or F1 venues take your breath away? Not really. Cricket sometimes does, to be fair, but golf often does.

The most spectacular course in the UK, in our opinion, is Turnberry’s Ailsa in Scotland, with a third of its holes set along the water.

Over in Ireland, step forward Old Head, a clifftop golf course of quite staggering drama.

In continental Europe, Lofoten Links is the easy winner. Set within the North Pole, this spectacular Norwegian course lies where the mountains meet the sea. Epic.

In the US, California’s Pebble Beach puts a huge tick in the beautiful box. Pacific views come as standard here—and as one of the big-name American courses open to the general public, it’s a must-visit if you’re ever lucky enough to visit this part of the world.

South Cape in South Korea and Japan’s Kawana Fuji are solid representatives for Asia in this category, while down under in Australia, Cape Wickham could be described as a fusion of Turnberry and Old Head—check that one out, too.


Bucket list visits

These are the courses that most encourage you to say, “Oh, I’d love to play there!”. We’ve got four for you, in fact.

Top of the list for most golfers is surely Augusta National.

The annual host of the Masters has ‘emulate-the-stars’ moments on every hole—some of which are the most thrilling, risk-reward you’ll ever face. The course is in bewilderingly good condition, too, of course.

Pine Valley in New Jersey is often the connoisseur’s choice for the world’s best golf course title. It’s uber-private, so few actually get to play it, but you never hear a disappointed verdict. Colin Montgomerie, in fact, rates it as his #1 course.

Spain’s Real Club Valderrama has the sense of mystique you’d expect from a €500 green fee and the hosting of a mythical Ryder Cup in 1997 (the first time the tournament had ever been held outside of either the UK or the US). And you’ll not find a blade of grass out of place, either.

A perhaps less obvious bucket list golf course, but no less spectacular, is the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.

You’ve watched the Tour pros hit THAT tee shot towards the skyscrapers; now it’s your turn.


Best overall experiences

South Africa has many fine golf courses, but the big lure of playing here is that at the likes of Sun City, for example, you take on a superb challenge while also taking in a ‘Big Five’ game safari.

Or, how about staying at the epic beachside JW Marriott Resort in Mauritius, playing at Tamarina Golf, and climbing Le Morne for Insta-worthy pictures at the top?

Midnight golf, anyone? Back at Lofoten, and also at the likes of Iceland’s Brautarholt, Westman Island, and Keilir, you can play through the night during the summer months.

If you’ve ever thought about skiing and playing golf in the same day, visit the beautiful nation of Georgia, and you can do just that. Start with a morning on the mountain slopes before an afternoon drive down to the capital to play Tbilisi Hills.


Best course designs

‘Best course design’ is a potentially contentious category, but a few courses are worthy of inclusion nonetheless, not least Muirfield in Scotland.

This seasoned host of The Open lacks the sea views of other links but is nevertheless an unremitting challenge. Its frequent changes in direction mean you constantly have to calculate and work with the wind.

We mentioned it right at the beginning, but the Old Course at St Andrews deserves another mention here, too, as do the glorious Harry Colt heathlands of Sunningdale and Swinley Forest.

Over in Australia, Dr Alister Mackenzie’s principles of playable-but-strategic golf are in full view at Royal Melbourne’s East Course.


Best golf resorts

You could say that Bandon Dunes is the only definitive answer when debating the best in any category of golf.

It has four courses ranked by Golf World in its World Top 100 public access list, all within 600 yards of each other on-site. Just imagine that—four of the best golf courses in the world in the same resort. Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Sheep Ranch are all comfortably on that list, and a fifth—Old Macdonald—is just outside it.

Streamsong also has three World Top 100 entries, while Pinehurst opens its 10th course in April 2024. None of its other nine are anything other than excellent.

We can’t not mention St Andrews again, either. The Old, New, Castle, Eden, Jubilee, Strathtyrum,and Balgove courses make this undoubtedly one of the oldest (and most historic) golf resorts.

The King’s, Queen’s, and Centenary courses at Gleneagles make the list, too, while Ireland’s Rosapenna, with a new Tom Doak course to add to its two great existing links, also deserves a mention.


Best new golf courses

Here are a couple of golf courses that have only recently opened.

In New Zealand, Te Arai has two courses, one by Doak and the other by Coore-Crenshaw, that look stunning and play just as well.

Coore-Crenshaw also have a brand-new design opening at Cabot St Lucia that images and early feedback suggest is epic.


BONUS: The world’s best cheap golf course

As an added bonus to round off our list of the best golf courses in the world, we’re suggesting Shiskine on the island of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland.

It’s only 12 holes, but still riotous fun among glorious seaside scenery, too.

What’s more—it’s yours for a truly astonishing £32*.

See you there soon?

*Based on 2023 visitor green fees. Price shown for an adult 12-hole round Monday to Friday.