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Our round-up of the best of the best:

Last updated: 02 March, 2023

Golf may have begun on the windswept dunes of Scotland, but over the last hundred years, courses have been designed and laid out in every corner of the globe, from the Arabian desert to the Caribbean coast and beyond. Traditional links courses can now be found as far away as Australia and Canada, designed by some of the all-time greats, including Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio.

Nowadays, of course, you can play golf anywhere but playing a world-class golf course – amid spectacular landscapes, impeccable fairways and greens, brilliantly designed holes, and following in the footsteps of the game’s greatest players is something entirely different; and a worthy bucket list-experience.

We asked golf expert and journalist Fionn Davenport to select his thirty of the best courses around the world.

Table of Contents

Adare Manor Golf Course

Adare, County Limerick, Ireland

The longtime host of the Irish championships, Adare was completely redesigned by Tom Fazio, creating an outstanding course with fast run-offs, green complexes to rival the world’s top courses and an exceptional 18th, finishing in the shadow of the stunning manor house.

Best for ages: 13+ | £350

Ailsa Turnberry

Turnberry, Scotland, United States of America (USA)

The most scenic of the courses on the Open rota, the Ailsa sits on a craggy headland with stunning views over Ailsa Crag, the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran.

Best for ages: 13+ | £325


Jura, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

A modern masterpiece sat on the southern tip of the Isle of Jura, there’s a run of holes that hug the cliff tops, and the challenging course and stunning surroundings make this one of the best golfing experiences in Europe.

Best for ages: 13+ | £400

Ballybunion Golf Club (Old)

Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland

Ireland’s most scenic course has beauty, intrigue and some wonderful quirks. The opening shot is taken beside a graveyard, from the 6th onwards it’s all about the ocean, with cliffs, sand dunes and greens that run right beside the crashing sea.

Best for ages: 13+ | £220

Bandon Dunes Golf Course

Bandon, Oregon, United States of America (USA)

The Pacific Ocean is everywhere on this glorious course; infinity-view greens stretch out towards the waves and the undulating fairways and devilish bunkers make it hugely enjoyable to play. Wildness, romance and one of the best routings of any course in America.

Best for ages: 13+ | £100

Barnbougle Dunes Golf Course

Bridport, Tasmania, Australia

The nearest Australia has to a classic seaside links course, the big difference here is the size of the dunes – some rising to 100 feet high, making the warps and folds of the fairways super-dramatic and unforgettable to play.

Best for ages: 13+ | £75

Cabot Cliffs Golf Course

Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada

A masterpiece of a course, with a traditional layout that mirrors links golf in Scotland and Ireland; fairways twist down from a forested glade overlooking the sea, with both the inland and oceanside holes super-satisfying to play.

Best for ages: 13+ | £145

Cape Kidnappers Golf Course

Napier, North Island, New Zealand

Set on a rugged stretch of land wedged between a sheep station and a range of mighty cliffs, this is one of the most dramatic stretches of holes most people will ever play. New Zealand’s answer to Pebble Beach.

Best for ages: 13+ | £160

Cape Wickham Golf Course

King Island, Tasmania, Australia

Despite only opening in 2015, this stunning links is already a world-class track. The first few holes wind their way around Cape Farewell before moving inland, returning to spectacular ocean views from the 14th.

Best for ages: 13+ | £100

Carnoustie Golf Links Course

Carnoustie, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Nicknamed ‘car-nasty’, this championship course is a proper test; of length, accuracy, strategy and a whole heap of patience. Play well here and you can comfortably call yourself in experienced and talented golfer.

Best for ages: 13+ | £200

Chambers Bay Golf Course

University Place, Washington, United States of America (USA)

One of the purest and most beautiful links courses in the US, Chambers brings together the best of Scottish and Irish links with huge sand dunes and breathtaking views of the Puget Sound and snow-capped Olympic Mountains.

Best for ages: 13+ | £200

El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Club

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Designed by Greg Norman, this sublime course weaves its way through dense jungle, beautiful stretches of white sand and mangrove forests, with cenotes – natural sink holes – and water canals providing natural hazards. The first course to host an official PGA Tour event outside of the United States or Canada.

Best for ages: 13+ | £125

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Fancourt Links Golf Course

George, Western Cape, South Africa

Designed by Gary Player and strongly reminiscent of a classic Scottish or Irish course, huge dunes rise up around the greens with the Outenique Mountains forming a stunning backdrop.  There’s not a weak hole among the eighteen. South Africa’s top golfing experience.

Best for ages: 13+ | £165

Kawana Fuji Golf Course

Ito, Chubu, Japan

The best course in Japan, where golfers play under the steady gaze of Mount Fuji. It sits on a rippled promontory on the Izu Peninsula, about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo.

Best for ages: 13+ | £200

Lahinch Old Course

Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland

An exceptional links course, beautifully trapped between the Inagh River and the Atlantic Ocean. Unquestionably a stern test of golf, with its fair share of blind shots, but the standout feature is the beauty of the landscape.

Best for ages: 13+ | £160

Muirfield Golf Course

Gullane, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Host to 16 Open Championships and home to the world’s oldest golf club, Muirfield oozes history – second only to St Andrew’s in golf lore. There’s no trickery, apart from the bumpy fairways – the greens are perfectly sized.

Best for ages: 13+ | £285

Pacific Dunes Golf Course

Bandon, Oregon, United States of America (USA)

A modern masterpiece in the style of a classic Scottish links, the unorthodox routing (four par 3s on the back 9) is framed by jagged sand dunes and some outrageous bunkers. The course demands all kinds of shot making and every ounce of concentration.

Best for ages: 13+ | £100

Pinehurst (No 2) Golf Course

Pinehurst, North Carolina, United States of America (USA)

This Donald Ross masterpiece is many a golfer’s choice as the best course in the USA. Every hole is exceptional, but the 5th, 9th and 16th are world-class.

Best for ages: 13+ | £230

Real Club Valderrama Golf Course

Torreguardiaro, Andalusia, Spain

Plot your way strategically among the cork trees in one of the best golfing experiences in Europe. Immaculately maintained, beautifully designed and devilishly tricky without being overlong, Valderrama is everything a world-class parkland course should be.

Best for ages: 13+ | £350

Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Southport, Merseyside, United Kingdom (UK)

Rated by many a pro as the finest of all English links courses, Royal Birkdale has hosted 10 Open Championships – more than any other course in the world since WWII. 18 challenging holes winding their way through magnificent dunes.

Best for ages: 13+ | £165

Royal County Down Golf Club

Newcastle, Northern Ireland, Ireland

‘RCD’ is arguably the world’s best golf course you can play without being a member. A riot of gorse and heather skirting the Irish Sea and backdropped by the Mountains of Mourne.

Best for ages: 13+ | £270 | 4 hours

Royal Dornoch Golf Club

Sutherland, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Wild, isolated and spellbindingly beautiful, Royal Dornoch is the third oldest in the world, with turtleback greens creating some real challenges. To play here is to tee off in the shadow of golf’s very beginnings.

Best for ages: 13+ | £250

Royal Melbourne Golf Club (West Course)

Blackrock, Victoria, Australia

Australia’s best course is arguably Alistair Mackenzie’s masterpiece – surpassing even Augusta National, with generous fairways and firm-faced bunkers tight to the greens. Exceptional design, from tee to hole.

Best for ages: 13+ | £500

Royal Portrush Golf Club

Portrush, Northern Ireland, Ireland

Routed between the natural dunes and grassy hummocks of the North Antrim coast this is one of Irish golf’s greatest challenges, and its most famous holes are part of golfing lore. There’s real history too; first laid out in the 1880s.

Best for ages: 13+ | £240

Royal St George’s Golf Club

Sandwich, Kent, United Kingdom (UK)

The Royal’s circular layout, natural landscaping and the sheer quality of its very best holes – the 4th, 6th and 15th – make this England’s greatest links course. It’s a tough track, and a good score is well-earned, but its rewards are timeless.

Best for ages: 13+ | £160

Shadow Creek Golf Course

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America (USA)

An extraordinary course carved out of the Nevada desert, with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. All the qualities of Augusta, but only 15 minutes away from the Vegas strip.

Best for ages: 13+ | £360

St Andrews Old Course

St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Setting foot on the Old Course means walking in the footsteps of every great golfer who has graced the game over the last centuries. Truly special, its famous tee shots, infamous bunkers, huge greens and crazy fairways make up the greatest walk in golf.

Best for ages: 13+ | £250

Sunningdale Old Course

Sunningdale, Berkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

A terrific test of golf that couldn’t be more beautifully situated, surrounded by glorious pines and sturdy oak trees. The surfaces are carpet-like and fast and it all comes together with remarkable elegance, best appreciated on the elevated 10th hole.

Best for ages: 13+ | £275

Teeth of the Dog Golf Course

La Romana, Province of La Romana, Dominican Republic

A serious contender for the best course in the Caribbean, CdC has 18 salivating holes of golf meticulously carved out of the rock and coral of the south-eastern shores of the Dominican coast.

Best for ages: 13+ | £300

The Players’ Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, United States of America (USA)

Everyone comes to try their luck on the notorious 17th, with its treacherous island green, but the rest of the course – with links-style bunkers and hundreds of oaks, pines and palms – is one of the most challenging in America.

Best for ages: 13+ | £400

Yas Links Golf Course

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

There may be more famous courses in the United Arab Emirates, but this one is the best. 18 holes of classic golf that finish with three of the very best holes in the region.

Best for ages: 13+ | £120