The best golf courses have incredible scenic beauty, host famous championships, and offer unique holes created by esteemed course architects. We considered expert opinions and personal experience and gathered information about the oldest, hardest, and most beautiful links to create a list of 25 of the best golf courses in the world. And if you don’t play golf, these courses are all located in amazing 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 treasured in the world. Dating to the early 15th century, the Old Course has evolved over the years, remaining a public course and topping most golfers’ wish lists. A photo on the iconic Swilcan Bridge is a valued souvenir of the experience.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula, California
Featuring stunning views of the ocean, rugged coastline, and lush greenery, Pebble Beach is among the top public golf courses in America. Varied terrain and holes like the par-five 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 the West Maui Mountains, the Plantation Course features ocean views from nearly every hole. Dramatic elevation changes, wide fairways, and large greens make it a favourite of visitors as well as the pros who arrive each January for the PGA TOUR’s Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Bethpage Black Course, Long Island, New York
This public course located at Bethpage State Park is best known for its challenging layout and warning sign posted on the first tee: “The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.” Considered one of the toughest courses in the country, the Black Course, one of five outstanding golf courses at Bethpage, will host the 2025 Ryder Cup.
Manele Golf Course, Lanai, Hawaii
Exclusively for guests of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Sensei Lanai, this scenic Jack Nicklaus signature course is set on seaside cliffs with ocean views on every hole and challenging shots over natural ravines. Manele was recently named the top course in Hawaii by Golf Week.
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course, Nova Scotia, Canada
This links-style course set on Cape Breton features rolling fairways, dunes, forest, elevation changes, and ocean landscapes. The first hole offers a view of the sea and, in the distance, the village of Inverness. The 18th hole challenges players with a ravine in front of the narrow green.
TPC Danzante Bay, Loreto, Mexico
Set amidst the hills of the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains, TPC Danzante Bay offers stunning views of the Islands of Loreto. The Rees Jones design features a landscape that includes canyons, arroyos, elevation changes, and cliffs along with challenging bunkers. There’s a stunning view of the Sea of Cortez on the par-three 17th hole.
Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula, California
The private Cypress Point Club is located on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula in the foothills 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 few non-members get to play it.
Augusta National, Augusta, Georgia
Best known as the home of the annual Masters Tournament, Augusta National was designed by Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. The private course is exquisitely landscaped and maintained, with each hole named for a flower or tree that grows there. The course is prized by both professional players and the 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 through the years have maintained its unique circular layout, with the front nine circling clockwise around the perimeter of the property and the back nine going counterclockwise on an inner circuit.
Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Set along two miles (3.2 km) of Lake Michigan coastline, links-style Whistling Straits features open, rugged terrain, deep pot bunkers, and undulating greens. Holes with names like Shipwreck, Cliffhanger, and Down & Dirty should give golfers a hint of what’s to come when they tee off. The 18th hole, Dyeabolical, recognises course architect Pete Dye and his challenging closing hole.
Somerset Hills Country Club, Bernardsville, New Jersey
This A.W. Tillinghast design features two distinct nines, the front on more open land and the back holes set in a wooded area with natural water features. Founded more than 100 years ago, the course has been meticulously restored, and some consider it 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 set hundreds of feet above the bay, the sea views are splendid, and cliff-edge fairways are challenging. Deep ravines, bunkers, and valleys create a beautiful but difficult experience.
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Located on the easternmost end of the island, this course features seaside holes, with ten along the Atlantic. The Pete Dye design also offers unobstructed coastline views from every hole and terrain that includes tidal marshes, sand dunes, and live oaks. The course hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup and 2021 PGA Championship.
Nine Bridges Golf Club, Jeju Island, South Korea
This private club is set on a tranquil volcanic island in the shadow of Mount Halla, Korea’s tallest peak. The Highland holes feature abundant maple and oak trees and heather, reminiscent of a Scottish layout. The Creek Nine has rolling green fairways 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 coastal dunes and clifftops. The first hole plays alongside an old graveyard and the front nine works its way to the sea until the par-four 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 environment with a backdrop of the North Shore Mountains and stunning views of Vancouver. The course starts at its highest point and works downhill for the first six holes, before gradually heading up to the spectacular par-five finishing hole.
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Victoria, Australia
Both courses at Royal Melbourne are considered among the best in the world. The West Course, designed by Alister MacKenzie, 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 Pacific Ocean views from every hole. Created for Quivira owners and guests of Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resort and residences, Quivira’s cliffs, canyons, dunes, and elevation changes make for a challenging layout.
Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links, Tasmania, Australia
This links course is set 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 features three courses: Lost Farm, Bougle Run, and The Dunes.
Shanqin Bay Golf Club, Hainan Island, China
Set along the coast, the course is surrounded on three sides by the South China Sea for spectacular views. The Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design includes dense vegetation, cliffs, chasms, and sand dunes. The short 16th hole drops more than 50 feet from tee to green before the 17th heads along the beach to a narrow green.
The Jockey Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Two courses, the Red and the Blue, were both designed by Alister MacKenzie. The Red, which hosted the World Cup of Golf in 1970, is mainly at sea level with contours and challenging bunkers. Its signature 18th hole, inspired by the 18th at St. Andrews, is the same length, straight, and without bunkers.
Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy
Selected to host the 2023 Ryder Cup, the stadium golf course is set in the Roman countryside. The par-five 18th hole features a wide fairway, water hazard, and sloping green for a challenging finish. The course was redesigned in preparation for the Ryder Cup, and spectators will enjoy views of the golf match as well as Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.
The Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
This links course is set in the beautiful Murlough Nature Reserve along the shores of Dundrum Bay. Each hole offers a different view as golfers deal with 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 centrepiece 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 Coore, returning it to Ross’s original style. Tree-lined fairways, bunkers, and crowned greens make it a challenge for golfers of all levels.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credits: Evan Schiller/Courtesy of Ballybunion Golf Club