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These are the 7 best golf courses in the world

Championship Course at Royal County Down
Royal County Down Championship Course, Scotland Royal County Down

Visiting and playing at famous golf courses is like skiing at noted resorts. At your local course (or mountain), you can refine your skills and enjoy what the sport offers. Over time, you might yearn for more — like a world-class course design or a towering peak — and traveling to the finest venues lets you realize that goal.

The best golf courses combine scenery, design, and challenge, letting you up your game while also providing a sensory experience. Stunning landscapes dazzle the senses. Historic settings let you play where the pros play. It’s worth every penny.

To that end, Golf Digest recently published its biennial list of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. Hundreds of global panelists chimed in on the finest places to enjoy a round. Here are the top seven.

The top 7 golf courses in the world

18th green and clubhouse at Muirfield, Scotland
Muirfield, Scotland Muirfield

Golf courses test you with water hazards, thick grass, and rugged bunkers. But they also let you get outside and be with friends. Over time, your skills advance, and you can have even more fun on the links, with fewer missed putts and errant drivers. Here are the best golf courses in the world.

Royal County Down G.C. (Championship), Northern Ireland

Located in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, this course combines history, scenery, and challenge. Designed by Old Tom Morris in 1889, Royal County Down has seen numerous changes over the years, with Donald Steel providing the most recent update in 1998. Bordered by Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains, with gorse-lined dunes, it’s a place that’ll take you back in time while testing you with bunkers, dense grass, and blind shots.

Tara Iti G.C., New Zealand

In Mangawhai, on the eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island, is a links-style course with coastal vistas and holes inspired by Cypress Point, Royal St. George’s, and Royal Dornoch. Designer Tom Doak and his associate, Bryan Slawnik, spent two years shaping the sand-rich soil into dunes and punchbowls reminiscent of naturally formed features. Though sand abounds, there aren’t any bunkers, and your club could find the ground no matter where you’re hitting from. While you play, take in views of the Pacific Ocean and majestic coastal topography.

Royal Dornoch G.C. (Championship), Scotland

Go back to golf’s birthplace with this 1892 design by Old Tom Morris. Called the most natural course in the world by Herbert Warren, its links border the North Sea and its greens reside largely on plateaus. That’ll test your game in the strong coastal wind, where you’ll have to hit the greens instead of relying on a bump-and-run strategy. 

Royal Melbourne G.C. (West), Australia 

Originally designed by Alister MacKenzie in 1926, this Black Rock, Australia course winds through undulating sandbelt land and mimics the surroundings. If you’re a long hitter, you’ll have to adjust your strategy, as doglegs abound and aiming for the pin takes precedence. Pronounced bunkers with vertical sides line the greens and fairways, so shot placement and club selection is critical. 

Morfontaine G.C., France

British architect Tom Simpson designed Morfontaine in 1927 with a layout reminiscent of London’s heathland courses. A thick forest surrounds the holes, and Scotch pines and heather clumps stand above the sand base. Just travel north from Paris, and you’ll be there — a perfect complement to a French vacation. But with its tight confines, you’ll need to bring your A-game.

Hirono G.C., Japan

Set amongst a rolling pine forest, this C.H. Alison design took shape in 1932. The fairways are long swaths cut through the trees, and greens stand atop ridges. Especially notable are the many bunkers — carry bunkers, cross bunkers, and jagged cutouts — that add hazard to the otherwise picturesque links. Recent revisions by Martin Ebert and Tom Mackenzie honed the bunkers and brought back the classic tees to the par-3 13th hole. That takes the hole back to its prior layout, with a tee shot along a lake instead of above it. 

Muirfield, Scotland

Another journey into golf’s past, Muirfield traces its roots to 1891, when Old Tom Morris designed the first holes. The classic links-style course hugs the coastline of Gullane, Scotland, with abundant bumps and undulations at every turn. Each hole adds a direction change, making you adjust to the changing coastal winds. The front nine features a clockwise layout, while the back nine is the opposite, added by H.S. Colt in 1925.

Elevate your game on the world’s best courses

Hirono Golf Club, Japan
Hirono Golf Club, Japan Hirono Golf Club

If you’re a devoted golfer, you want to keep adding to your resume. That can mean time on the links, refining your technique, and playing different courses. You can take that even further by visiting the world’s best venues, where timeless designs and unique challenges put your game to the test. While you take in amazing sights — like the forests of Japan or the coast of New Zealand — you’ll have to tap into your skill set to make par. So peruse this list, make your reservations, and tee it up at a world-class course. 

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Mark Reif
Mark Reif is a writer from Stowe, Vermont. During the winter, he works as a snowboard coach and rides more than 100 days. The…
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