50 Best Golf Courses in the World

50 Best Golf Courses in the World (2024 Ranks)

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What makes a course one of the “best golf courses in the world“? An assessment of this nature needs to consider multiple criteria, such as aesthetics, natural elements, entertainment value, challenge level, history, and prestige, to name a few.

The Honest Golfers annual “best of” lists the 50 best golf courses globally, including:

  1. Pine Valley
  2. Cypress Point
  3. Royal County Down
  4. Shinnecock Hills
  5. St Andrews
  6. Royal Melbourne
  7. National Golf Links of America
  8. Royal Dornoch
  9. Oakmont
  10. Sand Hills
  11. And more…

Welcome to the captivating realm where golf meets nature’s splendor 🏌️‍♂️⛳️. It’s a journey of triumphs, challenges, and fairways steeped in history. Buckle up for a thrilling ride through the Honest Golfers’ annual list, unveiling the crème de la crème of 50 golf courses that have etched their names in the sport’s lore.

Could one of your favorite Hawaii golf courses be one of them? Get ready to dive in, because with each paragraph, you’re a swing away from discovering whether your beloved fairway made the cut 🏖️🌄. Let’s tee off on this exhilarating quest, where every course description is a clue, and every sentence is a swing at uncovering the world’s finest 🏆.

1. Pine Valley

Pine Valley
Source: Pine Valley Golf
  • Location: New Jersey, USA
  • Establishment: 1918
  • Architect: George Crump and Harry S. Colt

Pine Valley is an excellent example of the ‘garden state’ since the course consists of numerous trees and greenery that offer scenic views. The natural terrain, with plenty of hazards, makes it unforgiving yet captivating.

Since its opening, it took three years for the first player to complete the 18-hole Pine Valley course in 70 strokes.

2. Cypress Point

Cypress Point
Source: Schnaars
  • Location: California, USA
  • Establishment: 1928
  • Designer: Dr. Allister Mackenzie

Cypress Point is a private golf club said only to have 250 members, making it practically impossible to access. Its signature hole is the 222-yard 16th hole (par 3) framed by bunkers and rocks.

This links course has bold architecture and a daring 6,554-yard terrain with dramatic holes and gorgeous views of the Santa Lucia mountains and Pebble Beach.

3. Royal County Down

Royal County Down
Source: Royal County Down
  • Location: Newcastle, Northern Ireland
  • Establishment: 1889
  • Designer: Tomas Mitchell Morris

Royal County Down is one of the older golf courses in Ireland and was given royal patronage by King Edward VII in 1908.

The course consists of two 18-hole links with stunning views of the Mourne mountains and the Irish sea. Playing these luxury courses at Royal County Down can be demanding, with deep bunkers, blind spots, and fierce winds.

4. Shinnecock Hills

Shinnecock Hills
Source: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Establishment: 1891/1931 (present course)
  • Designer: William Flynn

Shinnecock Hills is a links-style golf course that neighbors the National Golf Links of America and has hosted many major tournaments, including the US Open (five times).

It has a rich history, including being the first golf club to allow female admission, and boasts the oldest clubhouse in the United States. The course is 70 par and currently stretches over 7,400 yards.

5. St Andrews (Old)

 St Andrews (Old)
Source: Gordon Hatton
  • Location: St Andrews, Scotland
  • Establishment: 1552
  • Designers: Dan Anderson and Tomas Mitchell Morris

Inspired by Augusta National, St Andrews is the oldest and arguably one of the most well-known golf courses in the world, having hosted 25 Open Championships.

The course is a par 72 with 18 holes (reduced from 22 in 1764) and stretches over 7,200 yards, offering players plenty of variety, compelling tests, and views of beautiful Scottish architecture.

6. Royal Melbourne (West)

Royal Melbourne (West)
Source: Royal Melbourne
  • Location: Victoria, Australia
  • Establishment: 1891
  • Designer: Dr. Allister Mackenzie

Royal Melbourne is one of the best courses in Australia and has hosted many major international tournaments, like the Australian Open and The President’s Cup.

The site includes two 18-hole courses (West and East), each over 6,500 yards long. They have several deep bunkers and curving greens, making play challenging. 

7. National Golf Links of America

National Golf Links of America
Source: National Golf Links of America
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Establishment: 1911
  • Designers: Charles Blair Macdonald 

Known as ‘National,’ the 250-acre NGLA course was inspired by several of the most iconic courses in the UK, with many of the 18 holes replicated and named after their British counterparts.

The National is a culmination of some of the best avenues from tee to green that require strategic play and technical skills. It is a course with varied typography, offering dramatic hills and flat terrains.

8. Royal Dornoch

Royal Dornoch
Source: Royal Dornoch
  • Location: Dornoch, Scotland
  • Establishment: 1877
  • Designer: Tomas Mitchell Morris

Royal Dornoch is the third oldest golf course in the world and is located by the coast, with beautiful views of Dornoch beach. It is relatively challenging and has two 18-hole courses at par 70, namely the Championship and the Struie.

Fun Fact: Many avid golfers consider visiting Royal Dornoch a pilgrimage.

9. Oakmont

Source: Oakmont
  • Location: Pennsylvania, USA
  • Establishment: 1903
  • Designer: Henry C. Fownes

The par 71 Oakmont course, which was initially a par 80, has arguably one of the most difficult starting holes in championship golf. It is also known for its vast greens and numerous bunkers scattered throughout the barren terrain.

Oakmont has hosted more major golf tournaments in the USA than any other apart from Augusta National, including a record nine US Opens.

10. Sand Hills

Sand Hills
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: Nebraska, USA
  • Establishment: 1995
  • Designers: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw

Sand Hills is known for its minimalist design, generous fairways, and remote location on the sandy plains of Nebraska. The big bunkers and strong winds make this 7,000-yard course challenging yet still playable to meet the 71 par.

Something to note is that the Sand Hills golf course is closed for eight months every year due to extreme winter conditions.  

11. Augusta National

Augusta National
  • Location: Georgia, USA
  • Establishment: 1932
  • Designer: Dr. Allister Mackenzie and Robert Trent Jones Jr

Augusta National, once a nursery, is best known for hosting the Master’s tournament since 1934. The holes at this 7,500-yard course are all named after the flora within proximity to them.

It is tough to gain access to Augusta as a player since it is one of the most exclusive golf clubs. You will have a better chance of experiencing the course as a spectator. 

12. Muirfield

Source: Alljengi
  • Location: Gullane, Scotland
  • Establishment: 1744/1891 (present course)
  • Designers: Tomas Mitchell Morris (1891) and H.S. Colt (1925)

Muirfield is home to the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG), one of the oldest golfing societies.

This golf course is over 7,2000 yards long and is arguably one of the best links in the world. It is unique in its two-circle design, one clockwise and one anti-clockwise, of nine holes each.

13. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
Source: Royal Portrush Golf Club
  • Location: Portrush, Northern Ireland
  • Establishment: 1888
  • Designer: Harry S. Colt

Royal Portrush is the only golf club outside the UK to host the Open Championship.

The Dunluce links, named after its views of the Dunluce Castle ruins, extend over 7,300 yards of rolling greens. The course also has spectacular views of Whiterock Beach and, weather permitting, Paps of Jura and the Island of Islay.

14. Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach
Source: Pebble Beach
  • Location: California, USA
  • Establishment: 1919
  • Designers: Jack Neville and Douglas Grant

Many consider Pebble Beach one of the top golf links courses in the USA, with wonderfully scenic fairways overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The 18-hole course is over 7,000 yards long and a par 72.

Pebble Beach is a challenging golf course, not well-suited to novice players, yet it poses an intriguing challenge for more experienced golfers.

15. Kingston Heath

Kingston Heath
Source: Pga Tour
  • Location: Victoria, Australia
  • Establishment: 1925
  • Designers: Dan Soutar and Dr. Allister Mackenzie 

Kingston Heath is one of Australia’s best golf courses. It is a course that combines the golf professional Soutar’s skilled routing and Mackenzie’s bunkering, surrounded by Australia’s stunning flora.

This course is over 7,100 yards long and a par 72. Many regard the last five holes of Kingston Heath as the best in Australian championship golf.

16. Ballybunion (Old)

Ballybunion (Old)
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: County Kerry, Republic of Ireland
  • Establishment: 1893
  • Designers: James McKenna (1893), Lionel Hewson (1906), Tom Simpson (1937)

Ballybunion golf course sits on the remote end of the southwestern coast and has some of the most extensive dunes in Ireland. It has undergone numerous facelifts over the decades and currently consists of two links, i.e., the Old and Cashen courses.

The Old course is a par 71 extending 6,802 yards along the coastal dunes overlooking Ballybunion beach.

17. Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)

Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)
Source: Turn Berry
  • Location: Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Establishment: 1902/1951
  • Designers: Willie Fernie (1902), Mackenzie Ross (1949), and Martin Ebert (2016)

Turnberry was once a base for military operations during WWII. After the war, three courses (including Ailsa) were restored and reopened in 1951.

The Ailsa course offers breathtaking scenes of the Ayrshire coast and includes views of the:

  • Ruins of Bruce’s Castle (9th hole)
  • Iconic lighthouse (9th to 11th hole)
  • WWII memorial (12th hole)    

18. Fishers Island

Fishers Island
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Establishment: 1926
  • Designer: Seth Raynor

Fishers Island golf course is on a narrow island, accessible via a ferry ride from Connecticut. The rough terrain and deep bunkering at Fishers Island can be unforgiving for players, but it is worth facing the diverse challenges to chase the 72 par.

This links-style course is 6,566 yards long and offers beautiful water scenery.

19. Friar’s Head

Friar’s Head
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Establishment: 2003
  • Designers: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw

Friar’s Head is a famous par 71 golf course a few miles from Riverhead. Its design forces players to get creative in their technique, with rugged terrain, wild typography, and densely wooded dunes.

The greens at Friar’s Head are extensive, some reaching 18,000 square feet, yet players are encouraged to walk the course rather than use a buggy.

20. Pinehurst (No.2)

Pinehurst (No.2)
Source: Pinehurst
  • Location: North Carolina, USA
  • Establishment: 1907
  • Designer: Donald Ross

The sandy Pine Hurst golf course consists of nine 18-hole courses, of which the No. 2 has hosted more single tournaments than any other course in the US, including the PGA Championship, US Open, and the Ryder Cup.

This 72-par short-grass course has world-renowned holes (5th, 9th, and 16th) and poses compelling challenges to its players.

21. Hirono

Source: Hirono Golf Club
  • Location: Hyogo, Japan
  • Establishment: 1932
  • Designer: Charles H. Alison (1932)

Hirono is Japan’s most prominent golf course and has hosted most major Japanese championships.

The 7,169-yard course challenges players with deep bunkers and plenty of tree-dense areas. It acted as a runway during WWII, after which Toyohiko Inui and Osamu Ueda restored it using Alison’s designs.

22. North Berwick (West Links)

North Berwick (West Links)
Source: North Berwick Golf Club
  • Location: North Berwick, Scotland
  • Establishment: 1832
  • Designer: David Strath

North Berwick is the 13th oldest golf course in the world. The 15th hole (aka ‘Redan’) is North Berkwick’s most famous and replicated worldwide.

This par 71 course will delight all golfers, regardless of experience, since it offers breathtaking views and forces you to play creative shots to contend with the extreme typography, stonewalls, and winds.

23. Merion (East)

Merion (East)
Source: Golf Course Gurus
  • Location: Pennsylvania, USA
  • Establishment: 1912
  • Designer: Hugh Wilson

Merion East golf course is a par 70 course, extending 7,050 yards, that many regards as the most difficult to play in the US, especially the 18th hole (par 4).

This course feels like a seaside links course and allows you to play a variety of shots, given the differing lengths of each hole, the routing, and the numerous surface angles.

24. Sunningdale (Old)

Sunningdale (Old)
Source: Sunning Dale Golf Club
  • Location: Ascot, England
  • Established: 1901
  • Designers: Willie Park Jr. (1901) and Harry S. Colt (1922)

The Old Course at Sunningdale is a pleasure to the eye and is one of the earlier inland courses created in Britain.

It is a par 70 that extends roughly 6,700 yards and has hosted many prominent tournaments, like the Walker Cup and British Masters. It has big greens, provides magnificent tree-lined views, and plays like a links course.

25. Tara Iti

Tara Iti
Source: Tara Iti
  • Location: Auckland, New Zealand
  • Establishment: 2015
  • Designer: Tom Doak

Tara Iti is a young seaside links course that has cemented New Zealand’s presence on the golfing map. A 90-minute drive from Auckland, this course stretches 6,840 yards at par 71, with the most notable holes being the 3rd, 6th, 13th, and 18th.

Upon first glance, it looks like the site was formed by the elements, giving the appearance of natural dunes rather than being carefully sculpted.

26. Crystal Downs

Crystal Downs
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: Michigan, USA
  • Establishment: 1927
  • Designer: Dr. Allister Mackenzie

Crystal Downs is a private golf club between Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake. It is a par 70 course designed around the area’s natural terrain rather than incorporating artificial features.

Playing Crystal Downs can be tricky because of its contoured greens, rough terrain, and strong winds, but it poses an excitable challenge.

27. Royal St George’s

Royal St George’s
Source: Royal St Georges
  • Location: Sandwich, England
  • Establishment: 1887
  • Designers: W. Laidlaw Purves (1887) and Harry S. Colt (1922)

Royal St George’s golf club, named after England’s patron saint, was the first English course to host an Open Championship and has since done so fifteen times.

This 7,204-yard course has a natural feel, with plenty of dunes (i.e., plenty of blind spots), local flora, and stunning views of Pegwell Bay and the cliffs of Dover. 

28. Chicago GC

Chicago GC
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: Illinois, USA
  • Establishment: 1894
  • Designers: Charles Blair Macdonald (1894) and Set Raynor (1923)

The exclusive Chicago Golf Club was the first 18-hole course in the US and the first to use bent grass greens. This fast and firm course comes under 7,000 yards with a par 70. It is known for having the most challenging first four holes.

29. Prairie Dunes

Prairie Dunes
Source: Prairie Dunes
  • Location: Kansas, USA
  • Establishment: 1937
  • Designers: Perry Maxwell (1937) and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2004)

Even though the Prairie Dunes golf course is in the heart of Kansas, it has the same feel as a seaside links course. It offers players around 6,700 yards of sand hills, uneven greens, and strategically placed holes, making it delightful to play.

30. Riviera

Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: California, USA
  • Establishment: 1926
  • Designers: George C. Thomas Jr. and Billy Bell Sr.

Riviera is a 7,322-yard architectural marvel created in a narrow canyon. Golfers rate it ‘tough but fair’ as every one of the 18 holes allows players to apply diverse tactics to navigate the strategically placed bunkers and angled greens. It hosted many notable tournaments, including the PGA Championship and US Open. 

31. Morfontaine (Le Grand Parcours)

Morfontaine (Le Grand Parcours)
Source: Golf De Morfontaine
  • Location: Hauts-de-France, France
  • Establishment: 1927
  • Designer: Tom Simpson

Morfontaine is a relatively remote and understated golf course just north of Paris. It has two courses, the Valiere (9 holes) and the Grand Parcours (18 holes).

The Grand Parcours resembles a heathland course and offers a tight play at par 70, with beautifully dense forestry and various bunkers.

32. Cabot Cliffs

Cabot Cliffs
Source: Cabot Cape Breton
  • Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Establishment: 2016
  • Designers: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw

Cabot Cliffs golf course is the youngest on this list. It is a public, 6,800-yard course that boasts stunning views of the Gulf of St Lawrence and offers players variety.

The course’s signature hole is the 16th (par 3), which plays at the edge of the cliffs. Yet the designers’ votes go to the 13th (par 4).

33. Barnbougle Dunes

Barnbougle Dunes
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: Tasmania, Australia
  • Establishment: 2004
  • Designers: Tom Doak and Michael Clayton

Initially, a relatively unloved pasture, the Barnbougle Dunes site is considered one of Australia’s best links courses. The Dunes course is a par 71 scattered with dunes, and the regular winds and incredible vistas make for an enjoyable play.

34. Carnoustie

Source: Carnoustie Golf Club
  • Location: Carnoustie, Scotland
  • Establishment: 1857
  • Designer: Tomas Mitchell Morris

Carnoustie is the oldest artisan golf club in the world and is widely considered one of the most challenging, with a par 68 designed to test even the most experienced players. It rewards excellence yet punishes the slightest of errors, with holes 16-18 regarded as the toughest.

35. Los Angeles (North)

Los Angeles (North)
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: California, USA
  • Establishment: 1897/1927
  • Designer: George C. Thomas Jr.

Los Angeles Country Club currently sits in a prime location adjacent to Beverly Hills, California. The famous North golf course (par 71) is challenging but a pleasure to play, requiring creativity to overcome the 6,895 yards of hills, ridges, and valleys.

36. Oakland Hills (South)

Oakland Hills (South)
Source: George Vezza
  • Location: Michigan, USA
  • Establishment: 1917
  • Designer: Donald Ross

The Oakland Hills South course, known as ‘The Monster,’ is long, narrow, and demanding. It has hosted 17 major championships to date, including the US Open, Ryder Cup, and PGA Championships. The par 72 course is tough to beat but worth the challenge, especially after its recent restoration.

37. Royal Birkdale

Royal Birkdale
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: Southport, England
  • Establishment: 1889
  • Designers: George Low Jr. (1889) and Fred G. Hawtree (1932) 

Royal Birkdale is a challenging course that has hosted the Open Championship ten times.

Since its birth as a 9-hole course, three generations of Hawtree designers have followed to improve its layout to the Championship standard it is today. The now 18-hole Royal Birkdale is a challenging yet fair course to play.

38. Winged Foot (West)

Winged Foot (West)
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Establishment: 1923
  • Designer: A.W. Tillinghast

Winged Foot golf club’s West course has a demanding layout, dense roughs, and tumbling hills. The 7,477-yard stretch contains challenging par fours, ten extending beyond 400 yards, with the last six holes being the most treacherous.

39. Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest
Source: Swinley Fgc
  • Location: Ascot, England
  • Establishment: 1910
  • Designer: Harry S. Colt 

Swinley Forest is a charming golf course that took a while to awaken from old traditions. Yet many now enjoy it for its ambiance, unpretentious nature, and great design.

The par 69 golf course offers just over 6,400 yards of variety, great one-shot holes, and firm fairways framed by pine trees.

40. Lahinch

Source: Lahinch Golf
  • Location: County Clare, Republic of Ireland
  • Establishment: 1892
  • Designers: Tomas Mitchell Morris (1894), Alister MacKenzie (1928), and Martin Hawtree (2003)

Lahinch is the perfect example of a classic natural course and is a product of some of the best golf course architects in history. It is known for its big sandhills and superb views of the Cliffs of Moher and the Atlantic Ocean.

Fun Fact: People often refer to this 6,950-yard course as the ‘St Andrews of Ireland.’

41. New South Wales

New South Wales
Source: Nsw Golf Club
  • Location: New South Wales, Australia
  • Establishment: 1926
  • Designers: Dr. Alister Mackenzie (1926) and Eric Apperly (1947)

Perched on a rugged coastline is the New South Wales golf course – one of the most challenging in Australia. It requires working in various directions with the wind and beating some challenging holes, like the dreaded 6th (par 3).

The site, i.e., Botany Bay, is famous for being the first area Captain Cook reached when he arrived in Australia in 1770.

42. Somerset Hills

Somerset Hills
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: New Jersey, USA
  • Establishment: 1899
  • Designer: A.W. Tillinghast

Somerset Hills is a prestigious private golf club that boasts a course that is both aesthetically pleasing and unusual in its layout.

It extends 6,784 yards but feels much longer in reality. The first nine holes are played in the open, whereas holes 10-18 will find you among denser woodlands.

43. Cape Wickham

Cape Wickham
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: Tasmania, Australia
  • Establishment: 2015
  • Designer: Mike DeVries and Darius Oliver

Cape Wickham is a 6,725-yard course that is a relatively young inclusion to any top golf course list.

Players find the last three holes at this course to be world-class, and although the winds can be gale-force at times, the views of the lighthouse and the magnificent ocean backdrop make it a popular venue.

44. Seminole

Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: Florida, USA
  • Establishment: 1930
  • Designer: Donald Ross

Seminole, situated in Juno Beach, is one of the best examples of Ross’ work and the last seaside course he designed. The 7,305-yard site shows off broad fairways, a variety of bunkers, and extraordinary coastal scenes.

45. The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel)

The Country Club (ClydeSquirrel)
Source: Golf Digest
  • Location: Massachusetts, USA
  • Establishment: 1882
  • Designer: Willie Campbell

This iconic venue was one of the first country clubs in the US and has twice hosted The US Open tournaments. The Clyde/Squirrel course has remained practically unchanged since its inception.

What makes this 6,940-yard course so enjoyable is the multiple blind shots and unexpected twists and turns of the land.   

46. San Francisco GC

San Francisco GC
Source: Golf Course Gurus
  • Location: California, USA
  • Establishment: 1915
  • Designer: A.W. Tillinghast

San Francisco Golf Club is near the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and many deem its course one of the finest examples of Tillinghast’s work.

The 6,716-yard course (par 71) features a bold terrain with valleys and ravines. The course’s signature hole is the 7th (par 3), called the ‘Duel Hole.’

47. Garden City

Garden City
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Establishment: 1899
  • Designers: Devereux Emmet (1899), Walter Travis (1920’s) and Tom Doak (2015)

Garden City golf course covers 6,900 yards and plays like a heathland or links course. It still has the same minimalistic design since its birth, with hardly any bold or flashy features. The only downside to this golf club is that it’s still a males-only club.  

48. Ballyneal

source: Golf Digest
  • Location: Colorado, USA
  • Establishment: 2006
  • Designer: Tom Doak

Situated on top of a giant dune, Ballyneal is well known for its ‘inland links feel’ and the need to get creative with your shots in the hope of coming in under par 71.

The 7,100-yard course has the unique feeling of playing alone, with other players hidden by the numerous hills scattered around the site.

49. Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers
Source: Robert Son Lodges
  • Location: Te Awanga, New Zealand
  • Establishment: 2004
  • Designer: Tom Doak

This young golf course might have an ominous name, but Cape Kidnappers is one of the most beautiful courses in the southern hemisphere. It is nestled among rolling green hills and boasts spectacular ocean views.

The course’s most photographed and famous hole, the 650-yard 15th hole, is a par five and the most challenging, as it runs along a cliff with a steep drop-off.

50. Kawana (Fuji)

Kawana (Fuji)
Source: Top100 Golf Courses
  • Location: Shizuoka, Japan
  • Establishment: 1936
  • Designer: C.H. Alison 

The Fuji course is considered superior at the Kawana Hotel, about 2 hours from Yokohama. It offers glorious views of the Pacific Ocean and Mount Fuji.

The 11th hole (par 5) is the most charming, which brings you to a lighthouse shaped like a tee peg. The most challenging hole is the 16th.