Top 10 Golf Courses in the World: Must-Play Destinations for Golf Enthusiasts

Colin McCarthy

Golf Courses in the World

Golf enthusiasts around the globe are always on the lookout for the ultimate golfing experience, and the quest to play on the world’s top courses never ends.

With the ever-changing landscape of golf course architecture and the myriad of rankings available, identifying the crème de la crème can be a daunting task.

In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 golf courses in the world, showcasing the most prestigious and breathtaking venues that every golfer dreams of playing.

Whether you’re an avid golfer or simply appreciate the beauty of these meticulously designed courses, this list is sure to captivate and inspire your next golfing adventure.

1. Pine Valley Golf Club, New Jersey, USA

Pine Valley Golf Club was the brainchild of George Crump. This successful hotelier had never designed a course before.

His collaboration with Harry Colt resulted in a layout that many consider the world’s best. Tragically, Crump passed away before its completion. However, the legacy he left is a marvel enjoyed by many.

Opened officially in 1919, Pine Valley quickly gained recognition as one of the sternest tests in golf. One noteworthy event saw Arnold Palmer challenge members who doubted he could break 70 on his first round; he scored 68, a feat that added to his rising fame.

LocationNew Jersey, USA
Length7,181 yards
DesignersGeorge Crump, Harry Colt

2. Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, USA

A creation of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, Augusta National Golf Club stands as an iconic gem in the golfing world. It has been the home of the Masters Tournament since 1934, a tradition that continues to draw the top professional golfers each year.

Design and Layout

Augusta National features a par 72 layout spread over 7,475 yards. The course is known for its immaculate fairways, precision-designed greens, and strategically placed water hazards.

Holes like the par-5 13th, known as “Azalea,” challenge players with its sweeping dogleg left and tributary of Rae’s Creek that guards the green.

Signature Features

One of the unique aspects of Augusta National is its picturesque yet challenging Amen Corner. This section includes holes 11, 12, and 13, each offering a blend of natural beauty and strategic complexity. Hole 12, “Golden Bell,” is famously short but perilous, demanding precise shots to avoid Rae’s Creek and the bunkers.

Recent Renovations

To maintain its standing in the modern game, Augusta National has undergone several renovations.

The most recent significant changes in 2020 focused on lengthening specific holes, revamping bunkers, and enhancing tee boxes. These updates ensure the course remains competitive and challenging for today’s elite golfers.

Membership and Accessibility

Membership at Augusta National is notoriously exclusive and by invitation only, adding to its mystique. The club’s policies ensure that the course remains a sanctuary for members and a revered stage for the Masters.

Cultural Impact

Augusta National’s influence transcends golf. The Masters green jacket has become a symbol of excellence in sports, and the club’s pristine azaleas and dogwoods signal the arrival of spring. The tournament’s broadcast brings millions of viewers, showcasing the course’s grandeur and the sport’s storied traditions.

Augusta National Golf Club exemplifies the pinnacle of golfing excellence, making it a must-visit for any golf aficionado.

3. Cypress Point Club, California, USA

Located at the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach is often hailed as the most picturesque golf course in the world.

Designed by the legendary Alister MacKenzie, this exclusive course offers a truly unique golfing experience. With less than 250 members, it’s accessible only to members and their guests, making it one of the most sought-after golf courses globally.

Stunning Cliff-Top Terrain

Cypress Point’s location offers breathtaking views of the cliff-top terrain and the Pacific Ocean. The course’s design cleverly incorporates the natural landscape, providing thrilling yet beautiful holes that test even the most skilled golfers. The dramatic coastal holes and stunning vistas make every round memorable.

Exclusivity and Membership

Membership at Cypress Point is highly exclusive. With fewer than 250 members, the club maintains an air of mystery and allure.

Access is strictly limited to members and their guests, adding to its prestige and making it a bucket-list destination for many golf enthusiasts.

Course Design and Layout

The course measures 6,554 yards with a par of 72, demanding precision and strategy from golfers. MacKenzie’s design, coupled with Robert Hunter’s contributions, creates a challenging yet rewarding layout.

Many golfers consider the 16th hole, a daunting 231-yard par-3 over the Pacific Ocean, one of the most incredible holes in golf.

Historical Significance

Established in 1928, Cypress Point has a rich history. It has been the site of many iconic moments in golf and continues to be revered by golf historians.

Despite its age, the course remains in immaculate condition, a testament to the dedication of its caretakers.

Contact Information

For those interested in learning more about Cypress Point, they can reach out at 0800 043 6644. However, due to its exclusivity, gaining access remains a challenge, preserving its mystique and appeal.

Cypress Point Club goes beyond being just a golf course. It’s an experience that combines natural beauty, challenging play, and exclusivity, solidifying its place among the top golf courses in the world.

4. St. Andrews (Old Course), Scotland

St. Andrews, often referred to as the “Home of Golf,” is a must-play for any golfer. Situated in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, this historic course stretches 7,305 yards and features a par of 72.

Designed by Daw Anderson and Old Tom Morris, the course dates back to 1552, making it one of the oldest in the world.

Major Tournaments

St. Andrews has hosted The Open Championship 30 times, more than any other venue. It also held the Scottish Open in 1973 and the Women’s Open twice, in 2007 and 2013. These events have cemented its status as a premier golfing destination.

Unique Experience

The 1st tee at St. Andrews is renowned as a joyous starting point for golfers worldwide. Standing there, feeling the weight of its rich history, it’s impossible not to smile in anticipation of the challenge ahead.

Course Design

Golf legends like Bobby Jones and course architect Alister MacKenzie admired St. Andrews, influencing their work on other iconic courses, such as Augusta National. Nearly every hole at St. Andrews offers both a safe and a risky route to the green, adding strategic depth to each game played.


Visitors to St. Andrews can explore various accommodations in Fife. Staying nearby allows them to fully immerse themselves in the local golf culture and enjoy the area’s historic ambiance.

Why Play Here?

Playing the Old Course is a unique experience, offering the chance to follow in the footsteps of golf legends. This historic site isn’t just a course; it’s a pilgrimage for those truly passionate about the game.

5. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, New York, USA

Located in Southampton, New York, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is one of the oldest and most revered golf courses in the United States. Established in 1891, it has a storied history and has hosted several U.S. Open championships, including the notable 2004 and 2018 tournaments.

Design and Layout

Designed initially by Willie Davis, the course underwent significant redesigns by the famous duo of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor in 1916. Later, in the 1930s, William S. Flynn provided further enhancements.

Today, the course is known for its challenging layout, which includes sloping greens, narrow fairways, and numerous bunkers.

Notable Features

  • Historic Significance: As one of the five founding clubs of the United States Golf Association (USGA), Shinnecock Hills holds a significant place in golf history.
  • Course Difficulty: The course’s 7,445-yard layout (par 70) is demanding, providing a rigorous test even for seasoned professionals.
  • Wind Factor: Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean ensures that wind plays a critical role, adding another layer of difficulty to the game.

Tournament Legacy

Shinnecock Hills has been a recurrent host for major tournaments, most notably the U.S. Open. Legendary players have graced its greens, making it a site of memorable moments in golf history.

The 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, won by Corey Pavin, is especially remembered for his famous 4-wood shot on the 18th hole.

Membership and Accessibility

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club maintains an air of exclusivity, making it difficult for non-members to play a round. Membership is highly selective, and the club prides itself on preserving tradition and the integrity of the game.

6. Royal County Down Golf Club, Northern Ireland

Located in the scenic Murlough Nature Reserve in Northern Ireland, Royal County Down Golf Club offers breathtaking views of the Mountains of Mourne. Established in 1889, the course is renowned for its natural layout and unique challenges.

Ranked among the best in the world, the Championship Links stretches over 7,186 yards from the back tees. The course demands precision, especially with its blind shots and bunkers strategically placed throughout.

Notable for its signature ninth hole, known as one of the most photographed in golf, players face a demanding tee shot over a large bank of gorse, which adds to the challenge. The ever-changing coastal winds further test golfers’ skills, making each round a unique experience.

Designed by Old Tom Morris, the course underwent significant renovations by modern architects, including Harry Vardon and Harry Colt. The tweaks have preserved its character while enhancing playability and strategy.

Hosting prestigious events such as the Walker Cup in 2007 and the Irish Open in 2015 and 2016, Royal County Down continues to attract top talent from around the globe. Its combination of historical significance and natural beauty makes it a must-visit for avid golfers.

7. Royal Melbourne Golf Club (West Course), Australia

Royal Melbourne’s West Course stands out as a masterpiece of golf architecture, designed by Alister MacKenzie and Alex Russell.

Established in 1926, this iconic course in Victoria, Australia, features a par 72 layout and stretches 6,645 yards.

The course is acclaimed for its picturesque landscapes, integrating seamlessly with the natural contours of the sandbelt region.

MacKenzie’s design flourishes with undulating terrain, lush sandy soil, and rugged sandstone columns along the fairways.

The bunkers, with vertical edges a foot or more tall, are strategically positioned, chewing into fairways and green complexes.

These elements combined create a challenging yet visually stunning experience that immerses golfers in the heart of the sport.

8. Oakmont Country Club, Pennsylvania, USA

Oakmont Country Club, established in 1903, is one of the most storied golf clubs in the United States. Located in the Oakmont suburb of Pittsburgh, this course is renowned for its treacherous hazards and lightning-fast greens. Designed by Henry Fownes, the course is a par 71 and stretches over 7,255 yards.

Challenging Greens

Oakmont’s greens are known for their extraordinary speed, considered among the fastest in the world. The club aggressively maintains them to offer a firm, fast putting surface that demands precision and skill from golfers.

Players often face a formidable challenge navigating these greens, requiring both strategy and finesse. St. Andrews Links in Scotland, often called the “Home of Golf,” presents a contrasting historical charm.

Its iconic Old Course, with the famous Swilcan Bridge and strategic bunkers, offers golfers a remarkable blend of tradition and challenge.

Iconic Hazards

The course features some of the most iconic hazards in golf, including the infamous “Church Pews” bunker on the third and fourth holes.

This large bunker with grass ridges resembling church pews is a formidable obstacle. Numerous bunkers and strategically placed hazards add to the course’s difficulty, making it a true test of golf.

Historic Tournaments

Oakmont has hosted more major championships than any other American golf course, including nine U.S. Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, three PGA Championships, and two U.S. Women’s Opens.

The course’s challenging layout and prestigious history make it a favorite for top-level competitions. Players appreciate its lightning-fast greens and deep bunkers, which demand precision and skill.

Oakmont’s unwavering commitment to maintaining its traditional design further solidifies its status as a premier golfing destination.

Architectural Integrity

Though the course has undergone several renovations, its original design principles remain intact. Fownes’ vision of a challenging, risk-reward layout continues to define Oakmont, keeping it on the bucket list of golfers worldwide.

Oakmont Country Club offers an unparalleled golfing experience, combining history, challenge, and architectural excellence in a setting that has tested and delighted golfers for over a century.

9. Muirfield, Scotland

Muirfield, located in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland, is one of the oldest and most respected golf courses in the world.

Established by The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1891, Muirfield is known for its unique layout and historical significance. The course is a hallmark of traditional Scottish links design, featuring fast greens and deep bunkers.

Renovated in 2011, the course’s layout ensures a challenging round for even the most skilled golfers. Unlike most links courses, Muirfield’s layout is designed in two loops of nine holes each, one clockwise, the other counterclockwise. This setup exposes players to varying wind directions, adding a strategic element to every round.

The course has hosted 16 Open Championships, with the first taking place in 1892 and the most recent in 2013. Legendary golfers like Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson have claimed victory at Muirfield, contributing to its prestigious reputation.

The greens are notably fast and require precise putting, and the rough is punishing, making it crucial to stay on the fairway.

10. Merion Golf Club (East Course), Pennsylvania, USA

Merion Golf Club’s East Course is a historic gem in Pennsylvania, designed by Hugh Wilson and opened in 1912. The course stretches 6,846 yards and plays to a par 70.

Known for its tight fairways and strategically placed bunkers, Merion challenges golfers to exhibit precision and strategy.

Merion’s unique feature is the wicker basket flagsticks, replacing traditional flags. This distinct characteristic has become an iconic symbol of the course.

Hosting five U.S. Opens, Merion has witnessed some of golf’s greatest moments, like Bobby Jones completing his Grand Slam in 1930 and Justin Rose’s triumph over Phil Mickelson in 2013.

The careful preservation of its classic design elements keeps Merion relevant in the modern era. It requires meticulous accuracy, especially on narrow fairways guarded by deep roughs and penalizing bunkers.

This expert blend of historic charm and modern challenges ensures that Merion Golf Club’s East Course remains a top destination for golf enthusiasts worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Pine Valley considered one of the best golf clubs?

Pine Valley is frequently ranked as the best golf course in the world for its challenging layout, creative design, and pristine conditions. Each hole presents a unique test, making it a favorite among golf enthusiasts.

What makes Augusta National significant in golf history?

Augusta National is renowned for hosting The Masters Tournament, one of golf’s four major championships. Its iconic design, rich history, and association with legendary players solidify its status as a cornerstone of the sport.

What is unique about Muirfield’s golf course design?

Muirfield, located in Scotland, is known for its unique ‘two-loop’ layout that requires players to adjust to changing wind directions. The course’s strategy and design have challenged golfers since its establishment in 1744.

Who designed Merion Golf Club’s East Course?

Merion Golf Club’s East Course was designed by Hugh Wilson in 1912. Wilson’s innovative design incorporates tight fairways, deep roughs, and iconic wicker basket flagsticks to challenge even the most skilled golfers.

How many U.S. Opens has Merion Golf Club hosted?

Merion Golf Club’s East Course has hosted five U.S. Open Championships. Its demanding layout and historical significance make it a premier venue for major golfing events.


Golf courses around the world offer unique experiences that blend history, design, and challenge. From the storied fairways of Pine Valley and Augusta National to the strategic demands of Merion’s East Course, each venue provides a distinct test for golfers of all levels.

These top courses not only showcase the sport’s rich heritage but also highlight the evolution of course architecture and strategy.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an enthusiastic amateur, these destinations promise unforgettable rounds and a deeper appreciation for the game.

Set against stunning landscapes, the top 10 golf courses in the world elevate the sport to an art form. Players will find themselves immersed in the natural beauty and meticulous design that make each course a must-visit.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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