Updated:Jan 9, 2023 9:24 am
The Best Golf Courses in the World
The list of best golf courses on the planet changes all the time. Each year we see alterations to our favorite courses, sometimes due to natural causes and sometimes refinements made by architects and designers. Some of the best PGA Tour winners have graced these courses, and the playability isn’t the only reason they sit in such high regard. Locations bring a field of wonder with lots of natural forms to take in, such as mountain scapes, dunes, and bays. Here are six of the very best you can find across the planet.
Hirono – Japan
The Hirono golf course in Japan is one of the finest designed by C.H. Alison, a long-time partner of H.S. Colt. The initial plans were laid in the 1930s on a hill-filled pine forest with vast arrays of clearing wide corridors, gulleys, and positioning greens. One of the things that makes Hirono so special is the spectacular bunkering with a range of diagonal cross bunkers, ragged edges, and difficult carry bunkers. A short time after completion, Hirono coined the Pine Valley of Japan. Over the years, restorative work has been essential for the course to play as intended. Martin Ebert and Tom Mackenzie have sharpened the bunkering angles, restoring the 13th hole to its former glory, once again fronting an angle to the lake rather than straight across it.
The Royal County Down – Northern Ireland
If you can catch this course on a clear spring day there is no better place. The eastern Dundrum Bay and southern Mountains of Mourne and the golden bloom of the gorse-covered dunes make a perfect place for a round of golf. The initial design was that of Tom Morris but has received many refinements across the 120 years of service by around half a dozen different architects, the most recent being Donald Steel. In spite of the flat greens, bunkers are a definite highlight, several of which have thick arched eyebrows and impenetrable clumps of heather.
Royal Melbourne – Australia
Alister MacKenzie expertly designed the rolling sandbelt land of Royal Melbourne in 1926. The routing fits wonderfully into the contours of the space. The greens are small versions of surrounding areas, while the bunkering is crisp, featuring vertical edges sitting at a foot or taller. The majority of holes are doglegs which removes the importance of distance and requires much more from angles into the pin. Six holes from the East Course, ranked 19th in the nation, are substituted for holes 8 and 9 and 13 through 16.
Tara ITI – New Zealand
New Zealand’s other coastal courses, most of which are on the rock, are far more links-like than the course designed by American Tom Doak on the eastern coast of the North Island. In more than two years, Doak and his design associate Brian Slawnik meticulously reshaped sandy soil into hummocks, punchbowls, and dunes that appear to have been naturally shaped by wind and vegetation. Sand is abundant, but bunkers are not. There is no restriction on where golfers may ground their clubs. The course might be New Zealand’s answer to Pebble Beach’s Carmel Bay, with holes reminiscent of Cypress Point, Royal Dornoch, and Royal St. George’s.
Morfontaine – France
Morfontaine is a timeless, windswept heathland course by British architect Tom Simpson north of Paris, dotted with clumps of heather and Scotch pines. While the course is small, it is more challenging than Sunningdale or St. George’s Hill, and the surrounding forest is much denser. The 12-yard par five was extended by 60 yards by American architect Kyle Phillips thirteen years ago in 2004. It is the perfect fit.
Royal Dornoch – Scotland
The course was described as the world’s most natural course by Herbert Warren Wind. During his round, Tom Watson described it as one of the most enjoyable he had ever had playing golf. It was his home course since he was born and raised there, and he learned the game there. With its arc of dunes that run along the North Sea shoreline, Dornoch’s greens, some designed by Old Tom Morris and others by John Sutherland or George Duncan, don’t really lend themselves to bounces and runs.