Luxury Tour Turkey team prepared Top 100 Golf Courses in the World for you.
Pine Valley, NJ
George Crump / Harry S. Colt
Analyzing a golf course need not be complicated. One simple but effective way to judge a design is by the quality of the course’s property, its hazards, and greens. Pine Valley excels at all three, with many contending it has the most formidable hazards and sophisticated green complexes in golf. Throw in a wonderful routing that hopscotches from one island of turf to the next across the rolling, sandy landscape and you have a course that hasn’t budged from the No. 1 spot for decades, meaning Pine Valley’s only benchmark in itself.
Pebble Beach, CA
It’s almost inconceivable that land this stunning was made available for golf. For the lucky few who get to play here, they enjoy one of the game’s most inspiring walks as Alister MacKenzie’s design effortlessly transports the player around the diverse property. The iconic par-3 16th, which extends into the churning Pacific, is the game’s most dramatic and photographed hole, but there are endless other highlights, from the forested portion to heaving dunes to its famed jagged coastline. MacKenzie extracted the best from the land in part by breaking the “rules” and having back-to-back par-5s on the front and back-to-back par-3s on the back. The drivable ½-par 9th is another standout with its angled green toward play.
Serik, Antalya, Turkey
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Venue for five U.S. Opens since 1986, most recently in 2018, this is William Flynn’s design masterpiece. Apart from being handed a magnificently spacious piece of land upon which to work, Flynn was given something else nearly as valuable: time. Work started in 1928 and the course didn’t open until 1931. True, the Great Depression began during construction but the grace with which the holes flow across the property is a tribute to the hands-on, slow-build process. The same can be said for Royal Melbourne a few spots below, so lesson learned.
David Jones / David Feherty
1963 & 1965 Open Championships 1997 the return of the European Seniors to the National, Then on his second attempt, Tommy Horton shot a great 6 under par total beating Ryder Cup Player Maurice Bembridge by 2 shots. Maurıce was the holder of the course record at Augusta National (64)for many years until a certain Tiger Woods came along and beat it. Australian Noel Ratcliff finished a further shot behind in 3rd. Place. Following the success of the European Seniors Tour at the National, the next promotion in the professional game was to bring the very best of Ladies Professional Golf to Turkey.
Newcastle, Nothern Ireland
Old Tom Morris
The evolution over more than 130 years of this design is fascinating and has yielded what many consider to be the game’s finest front nine. Blind tee shots abound, in brilliant fashion at such holes as 2, 5, and 9. On the backside, one feature that was recently expunged was a natural pond 100 yards shy of the 17th green. Member George Combe deserves much of the credit for RCD as he shepherded the course through the transition to the rubber core Haskell ball 120 years ago. Forty percent of the World’s top 15 (here, Pine Valley, Oakmont, Royal Dornoch, Pebble Beach, and Merion) derived much of their substance from individuals who built few other courses. Such designs enjoy their own unique voices with County Down further blessed with staggeringly handsome long views of the Irish Sea, the Mountains of Mourne, and the red-brick steeple of the Slieve Donard Hotel.
Black Rock, Australia
The immense appeal of Alister MacKenzie’s Golden Age masterwork is captured by former world No. 1 Nick Faldo: “I love the way it plays firm and fast-running, the way the bunkering frames and almost intrudes into the putting surfaces and the brilliance of the bunkering style with the native scrubby look. I’m also a fan of the often very wide fairways that reward positioning and of the mix of long and short par-4s. Add to this the splendid contouring of the greens and the rich variety of approach shots that you play into those greens.” Sir Nick said it all.
No course thrives more on looking mean. Indeed, the beauty of Oakmont is how it doesn’t doll itself up, and yet to a purist, the view from the crest of the hill on 15 is as breathtaking as any in the country. The barren landscape possesses few trees and no water, just drainage ditches that traverse the land. There are few daunting carries and the greens are huge, so what’s the big deal? The question is answered at the 1st, with a green that follows the natural contours and slopes away from the player. Let the beating commence! For a course known for its difficulty, what gets lost in the shuffle is the brilliance of its quartet of short par-4s at 2, 11, 14, and 17.
Alister MacKenzie/Bobby Jones
Augusta National is the vision of Bobby Jones and his chosen architect, Alister MacKenzie. Both intended for Augusta National to reflect the spirit and strategic options of the Old Course at St. Andrews, the course that they admired most. Nearly every hole at St. Andrews and Augusta National provides a safe route to the green and also a riskier one. Modifications to 10 and 15 over the summer of 2021 have tongues wagging and golf fans already giddy for April.
Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw moved teaspoons of dirt to construct the most natural, hew-to-the-land layout built since World War II. Rolling, sandy terrain, rippled fairways that were spared from a bulldozer, ever-present winds, wavy prairie grasses, and gigantic blow-out bunkers create the sensation of being seaside in the middle of landlocked Nebraska. The design was immediately embraced, and the minimalist movement started in earnest, with this course arguably kicking off the second Golden Age. Sand Hills first cracked into our top 10 in 2005 and returns again this year.
East Lothian, Scotland
Old Tom Morris, 1891/H.S. Colt, 1925
This 16-time Open venue — and site of the 2022 Women’s Open — was never more testing or memorable than in 2013 when Phil Mickelson rode his 3-wood to victory. The course so impressed Jack Nicklaus in his 1966 win that he named his own major-worthy course in Ohio after it. Tom Weiskopf cites the primary appeal: “The continuous change in direction from hole to hole leads to different winds, great balance, and maximum variety.”
Old Tom Morris
After Tom Watson played here before his Open defense in 1981, he remarked that the experience was “the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course.” Donald Ross grew up here, though Dornoch took its final shape as we know it today well after he left. Indeed, the course is similar to Oakmont, Pinehurst No. 2, and NGLA in the sense that one man’s steady hand (in this case John Sutherland) elevated the course over a period of several decades.
What makes Merion so distinctive is its remarkable variety. Some par-4s are short, others are monsters with the delta being as much as 200 yards. One par-3 is tiny, at 115 yards; the others measure 236, 246 and 256. The famous par-4 11th, where Bobby Jones clinched the 1930 Grand Slam, is slashed by a creek, while the par-4 16th demands a shot over an abandoned stone quarry. In short, Merion has everything, including sub-air and irrigation systems that lend more control over the firmness and speed of the playing surfaces. The recently expanded greens have created a plethora of new hole locations around the greens’ perimeters, and the player’s chess match with the clever design is more intense than ever.
Pebble Beach, CA
Jack Neville/Douglas Grant
The first great American public oceanside course, Pebble benefits from an ingenious routing that brings the player to the ocean’s edge, then onto much higher ground, before returning to the cliffs for the climactic final two holes. Even today, with gobs of world-class courses having been built in the past 100 years, no more thrilling, spectacular stretch exists than holes 4 through 10. Additionally, does any walk compare with that final stroll up the iconic par-5 18th as it curves left around Carmel Bay?! Hard for a course this well known to exceed first-time expectations — but it does.
Portrush, Northern Ireland
The only course outside of England and Scotland to host the Open is perennially ranked in the world’s top-15 courses, thanks to a superior 1929 H.S. Colt design that maximizes its setting in the high dunes along the Irish Sea. The golf world saw two new holes in action at 2019 Open: the 7th and 8th, which replaced the old, comparatively dull 17th and 18th holes. Both nines touch the cliff line, with the course’s most spectacular moment coming at the 5th as it doglegs right to a two-tiered green flush against the cliff. Indeed, plenty of the holes elbow one direction or the other, so the driver is not an automatic decision.
Hawtree of England Golf Course
Titanic Golf Club presents golf lovers with a very special golf course with the magnificence of the Taurus Mountain and its location between a romantic stream and the Mediterranean. The paths of the golf course which directly lay through the coastline present golf lovers with an incredible view of each pit.
At one side Titanic Golf Club and at your other side Mediterranean, Belek presents you different designs at each pit with its fascinating habitat and promises a matchless visual pleasure and golf experience.
Village of Pinehurst, NC
Donald Ross’s chef-d’oeuvre rolls spaciously through tall longleaf pines in the Carolina Sandhills with holes culminating with legendary inverted-saucer greens. For the 2014 U.S. Open, a Coore-Crenshaw restoration brought back the tawny-edged fairways and native areas last seen in the 1940s. Even with no rough, the runner-up could muster only one-under-par over four rounds. After the Women’s U.S. Open was played the following week, a powerful message had been broadcast around the world from the home of American golf about the virtues of width, short grass, and great greens. This is one of a handful of courses that presents resort guests with a fun test on which they won’t lose a single ball, and a week later can be ready to host a U.S. Open. That’s the flexibility of short grass — and Ross’s design genius.
Willie Fernie, 1909/Mackenzie Ross, 1946/Martin Ebert, 2016
Turnberry began as a Willie Fernie design and part of the famous Culzean estate. It’s been associated with the Turnberry hotel for more than 100 years. Neither World War was kind to the property, and Mackenzie Ross’s reconstruction after WWII provides the core of today’s layout. After a recent ownership change, a superb upgrade was performed by Martin Ebert that better utilized the jagged cliff line. The famed 9th tee near the iconic lighthouse was preserved but the semi-blind turtleback fairway wasn’t. Instead, a stunning par-3 was created and 10 is now a par-5, longer and more complex while 11 moves are closer to the shore. The 6th has been abbreviated to accommodate a splendid new back tee at the home hole. All and all, the upgrades propel the Aisla course into the highest echelon of links for both challenge and beauty. Turnberry became an Open venue in 1977 and has hosted two of its greatest championships, both headlined by Tom Watson.
C.B. Macdonald, 1895/Seth Raynor, 1923
One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association in 1894, Chicago Golf was the site of the nation’s first 18-hole course; it also was the first course outside of the Northeast to play host to the U.S. Open. Seth Raynor retooled his mentor C.B. Macdonald’s course in 1923 and not much has changed since as its slew of exemplary template holes make it just as relevant today as it was in the hickory era. Holes 1 through 3, which include a Road and Biarritz template, represent one of the game’s most testing starts.
Los Angeles, CA
George C. Thomas Jr.
Gil Hanse and the team restored George Thomas’s classic to perfection in 2010. Bunkers were reshaped and relocated, fairways widened and a natural barranca was brought back into play as a strategic hazard. Arguably America’s premier urban design, LACC North hosted the 2017 Walker Cup and design aficionados can’t wait for the highly anticipated 2023 U.S. Open. As Hanse says, “The course enjoys a perfect sense of place and balance.”
Baiting Hollow, NY
Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw
Tree-dotted dunes, open meadows, and bluff-top views of Long Island Sound highlight play at this 2003 Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that Phil Mickelson has called his favorite modern course. Holes such as the par-5 14th call to mind an East Coast version of Cypress Point. Constant refinements, no matter how small, have helped Friar’s Head consistently climb higher in the rankings. From a presentation perspective, few courses are dialed-in.
Des Soutar, 1925/Alister Mackenzie, 1928
Dan Soutar, Mick Morcom, and Alister MacKenzie each played a key role in creating a visual feast and a strategic masterpiece, helped in large measure by the site’s critical virtue of being located on sandy soil. Any modern architect should spend time here, studying how its creators teased so much from land that is neither rambunctious nor expansive. It’s no wonder this course is a darling among design aficionados.
Te Arai, New Zealand
Tara Iti jumped onto our World list in 2017 as one of our highest-debuting courses ever. Then it moved higher still. The course is buoyed by its enviable location in the dunes along the Pacific Ocean, along with superior fine-fescue fairways and swirls of natural grass and sand. The design is loaded with standout holes. Two of its one-shotters — the 15th and 17th — are media darlings but another of the course’s best moments comes at the long uphill 12th, which plays away from the Pacific Ocean to an open, tilted green that is 7 feet higher on its right than left. Bouncy-bounce golf reigns supreme at the 12th, which is a dazzler even without ocean views.
This Southwest Irish gem is wedged between huge sandhills and the Atlantic Ocean. “Nothing less than the finest seaside course I have ever seen,” said Hall of Fame writer Herbert Warren Wind. Echoed five-time Open champion Tom Watson, “It is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links golf anywhere.” Greenkeeper John Bambury embarked six years ago to convert the poa greens to fine fescue and to re-establish the running game. His hard work has reached fruition.
Hale Irwin survived the 1974 “Massacre at Winged Foot” U.S. Open to win at seven over par. Geoff Ogilvy didn’t fare much better in 2006 when his five-over total took home the trophy. Mark Brooks, 1996 PGA champion, summed up this Golden Age A.W. Tillinghast design this way: “There are probably six hard holes, six really hard holes, and six impossible holes.” Frighteningly contoured, pear-shaped greens, cavernous bunkers, and a procession of rugged par-4s define the trouble. On a “difficulty” scale of 1 to 10, Jack Nicklaus once rated the West course a 12. That said, Gil Hanse’s astonishing green expansion has brought back an exciting element of creativity with which few parkland courses can contend.
After weeks of tromping around the yucca-choked sandhills of Hutchinson, architect Perry Maxwell proclaimed, “There are 118 good golf holes here. All I have to do is eliminate 100 of them.” All that’s missing is an ocean at this linky-looking layout that played host to the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open (Juli Inkster) and 2006 U.S. Senior Open (Allen Doyle). What a delight that the Maxwells got to work with this special site as their soft touch on the land is a must-study for any architect.
Pacific Palisades, CA
George Thomas Jr./Billy Bell Sr.
The value that an architect provides is highlighted here in technicolor. Built-in a narrow canyon, there was no reason to hold high hopes for this course. Yet what emerged, courtesy of George Thomas and Billy Bell is one of the game’s strategic design marvels. Together, the designers took bunker configuration and angled greens to new heights in the 1920s. As proof of their magical skills, look no further than Riv’s 311-yard, par-4 10th. Thanks to the inspired positioning of the bunkers and the angled green, options abound on how to card a big number on this tiny hole. Thomas’s famous quote — “strategy is the soul of the game” — manifests itself at Riv.
This unconventional Tom Doak treasure catapulted him into the spotlight. A slew of par-4s on the first nine gives way to a 3-3-5-4-3-5 start to the second nine. Only Mike Keiser would have approved of such an unusual par sequence and this course helped modern architecture break free from some certain design shackles that had constrained designers over the past five decades. Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens, and Pacific panoramas complete Doak’s first masterpiece.
Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell
Because of its remote location, Crystal Downs was once overlooked but that changed when Tom Doak introduced the course to Ben Crenshaw in the 1980s. A combination of strong breezes off Lake Michigan, thick fescue roughs, undulating terrain, and fiendishly contoured greens make this one of the more difficult Top 100 courses relative to its par of 70. Measuring just under 6,600 yards, monster length is not required when you have greens this good. (Photo: Gary Kellner/Dimpled Rock)
Willie Park Jr., 1901/H.S. Colt, 1922
Golf in the United Kingdom originated along its coastline on linksland but as the sport became popular, people wanted courses nearer to where they lived. One of the earliest inland courses that established a new standard in design came here at Sunningdale just after the turn of the last century. When you layer on Harry Colt’s improvements (such as moving the 12th green high and to the left) to Willie Park Jr.’s original effort, you end up with one of the game’s most noble inland courses.
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Donald Ross, 1917
Through the years, Oakland Hills — the famed “monster” that Ben Hogan slew in the 1951 U.S. Open — became long, narrow, and hard, which fit the description of other American championship courses. That was never meant to be the course’s fate — this was Donald Ross’s parkland thought-provoking magnum opus. Happily, all of Ross’s glories, and then some, were brought back in 2020 when Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, and the team restored Ross’s width and playing angles. The greens were expanded a whopping 35 percent, and the bunkers themselves were restored to their previous immense scale. Fescue grasses blow in the wind and the undulating site, no longer hidden by trees, optimizes parkland golf’s regal offering.
Juno Beach, FL
Since our last World ranking was published, golf fans have twice been treated to views of Seminole on television, first by an event to raise money to fight Covid in May 2020 followed by the Walker Cup in 2021. Arguably the finest site on which Donald Ross ever worked, the course plays along and between two main dune lines, and Ross made the most of the opportunity with holes continually tacking in different directions. The club prides itself on its firm playing surfaces, which were on full display during the Walker Cup. Some grouse that the course’s reputation is built on the club’s exclusivity, which is unwarranted given that standout holes abound, including the 4th, 6th, 13th, and one of the game’s finest finishing three-hole stretches.
This 15-time British Open host dates to 1887. “Sandwich,” as it is known colloquially, occupies some of the most rambunctious dunes of any Open venue. Yes, that means there are more blind shots here than at the other host sites. Some professionals embrace that aspect while others are leery. Amateurs, who look at links golf as an adventure vs. a livelihood, are more uniformly effusive in their praise. Though Sandwich is expansive, tense moments present themselves, including on the 4th tee, where you must clear the rota’s most fearsome fairway bunker. James Bond creator Ian Fleming was a big fan of the perils of the perched 10th green but the nerviest single moment comes at the par-5 14th tee with outbounds hard along the right. Much to his credit, nothing fazed Collin Morikawa en route to his impressive 2021 Open win.
San Francisco, CA
A.W. Tillinghast built his most artistic collection of bunkers at this low-key Bay Area hideaway that avoids publicity as steadfastly as its neighbor the Olympic Club embraces it. Known as the Duel Hole, the drop-shot par-3 7th may be the course’s most famous hole, but its par-4s, including the 2nd, 3rd, 10th, and 12th, are the real headliners.
North Berwick, Scotland
East of Edinburgh sits these fabled links. Among its many highlights are the 15th hole, the much-copied Redan, a par-3 played to an elevated, diagonal green. In the memorability department, however, 15 takes a backseat to the par-4 13th, The Pit, whose green sits directly behind a low stone wall. Less discussed but just as exciting is its 16th green, with its left and right plateaus separated by a deep channel. Our panel clearly appreciates the variety of obstacles that the golfer must overcome as the course has steadily climbed the World ranking since its initial appearance in 2007.
Old Tom Morris, 1893/Alister MacKenzie, 1927/Martin Hawtree, 2003
Lahinch charms with titanic sandhills and stunning views of both the Atlantic Ocean and of the Cliffs of Moher. Old Tom Morris’ 1893 design, coupled with Alister MacKenzie’s 1927 enhancements, including the 9th green, and Martin Hawtree’s 2003 push into the big dunes, proves an irresistible combination of beauty, challenge, and fun.
Japanese golfers had never seen the kind of deep, strategically placed bunkers that architect C.H. Alison introduced to Hirono in the early 1930s, so bunkers built since became known as “Alison’s.” Originally, the course bore a sandy, scrubby appearance, but tree planting changed Hirono’s character over the decades. Thankfully, Martin Ebert’s recent restoration efforts have reestablished sand as a dominant theme.
Tom Doak/Mike Clayton
Australia’s greatest links continually achieve top-40 status thanks to a sophisticated design coupled with a stirring seaside setting with holes nestled in large dunes that run parallel to the ocean. The clubhouse is situated in the middle, with each nine fanning out on either side. The dunes extend inland “only” some 350 yards and the architects did a fabulous job in having the holes flow across them in every conceivable manner. One highlight is the short 7th, which is the Southern Hemisphere’s equivalent to the Troon’s Postage Stamp hole and is equally adept at wreaking havoc. One of its tricks? Its abrupt change in direction from any previous holes means golfers don’t have a good read on how the wind will affect their tee balls.
This ancient links dates to 1842 and is defined by heather, gorse, jungle-like fescue rough, steep-faced revetted bunkers, and the sinuous Barry Burn — all of which create havoc in the wind. The meanest of the Open rota courses has produced winners such as Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Tom Watson. A poor course set-up for the 1999 Open furthered its reputation as “Carnoustie.” That’s a shame. Played from the appropriate set of tees, you will be pleasantly surprised — and thoroughly impressed — by the course’s variety and its excellent, diverse set of greens.
TCC Members/Willie Campbell
A Boston Brahmin society haunts for more than 125 years, this tree-lined design has played host to three U.S. Opens and the famous 1999 Ryder Cup. Its tournament course is a composite layout, comprised of 18 of the club’s 27 holes. The Clyde/Squirrel combo was used for the 1913 Open when local lad Francis Ouimet stunned the big, bad Brits. Its old-school features include cross hazards and medium-size greens. The field at the 2022 U.S. Open will be reminded that there is no substitute for hitting fairways and greens as thick rough is a component of the course’s challenge just as it was in 1913. (Note: We rank the course that is routinely played by the members, not the composite.)
Tucked away in a nearly impossible-to-find forested location 40 miles north of Paris is a low-key heathland design that is utterly charming and utterly private. A bold start that features a 475-yard par-4 and a 225-yard par-3 give way to gentler, though strategically rich holes that were favorites of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a frequent visitor. Don’t miss Morfontaine’s nine-hole Valliere course; its green contours are as dazzling as the City of Lights itself.
George Low Jr., 1889/Fred Hawtree, 1932
Many consider this links to be the “fairest” Open rota course as most of the holes roll through valleys and the number of blind shots is few, despite the course being set in towering dunes. Peter Thomson won the first Open played here, in 1954, and Birkdale has staged nine other editions, most recently Jordan Spieth’s remarkable win in 2017. (Photo: Kevin Murray)
Thanks to a 25-year-long restoration effort with meticulous attention to detail, Somerset Hills has reached the point where some trumpet it as A.W. Tillinghast’s finest design for regular play. Its two nines are diverse — the first is on more open land while the second jump into the woods where Tillinghast incorporated natural water features to perfection. A die-hard New Yorker remarked, “It’s enough to make one want to live in New Jersey.”
Inverness, Nova Scotia
Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw
Canada’s top-ranked course is a six-year-old Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw that alternates between big dunes at the southern end and cliffs at the northern end that rises more than 100 feet above the Gulf of St. Lawrence, inspiring Pebble Beach-like awe. The 2nd hole, arguably the course’s finest, starts from a tee high on a bluff and requires a rousing tee shot over wetlands, followed by an equally dramatic approach to an elevated green with punchbowl qualities. The opportunity to use side slopes to kick balls onto the putting surfaces is a recurring design theme and the fescue fairways encourage lively interaction with the ground. Two of the best examples occur late in the round. One is at the downhill 560-yard 15th, which is reachable under certain wind conditions. The other comes at the 320-yard 17th, where a courageous well-executed power fade over the cliffs and down the sloping fairway could result in an eagle putt. A great design lends itself to lasting memories, and Cabot Cliffs are aces in that department.
Garden City, NY
Devereux Emmet, 1899/Walter Travis, 1906
Devereux Emmet and Walter Travis share credit for this old-school design that plays across Hempstead Plain on Long Island. The water is 10 miles both north and south, so sea breezes are a frequent companion. Laurie Auchterlonie won the 1902 U.S. Open here with record scores, owing to the debut of the longer, more durable Haskell ball. Garden City’s tilted greens, like the 10th and 15th, are lay-of-the-land architecture at its highest form. To understand what it means to “get the most from the land,” study the small parcel around the clubhouse that contains the 1st, 2nd and 18th holes, each stellar in its own right.
Site of three U.S. Opens and a quartet of PGA Championships, this Depression-era Perry Maxwell design features holes that gracefully flow across a plot of undulating ground perfectly suited for golf. For decades, the land was smothered underneath a canopy of trees but Keith Foster and then Gil Hanse have opened up the property for all to admire. Gone too are the clean-edged bunkers that never looked at home on a Maxwell design. Raves all around for how this course has evolved this century.
La Perouse, Australia
Alister Mackenzie, 1928/Eric Apperly, 1947
Sydney’s magnificent Harbour Bridge and Opera House speak to a city of impossible beauty and the course at La Perouse is its crowning golf offering. The middle of each nine features holes along the rugged shoreline. The two most famous holes are the par-5 5th, with its long, downward sloping fairway toward the Pacific, and the 195-yard 6th that plays over an inlet of Cape Banks, but the stretch from 13 to 16 is as good a run of par-4s as you will find anywhere.
South San Francisco, CA
A.V. Macan, 1926/Alister MacKenzie, 1928/Kyle Phillips, 2007
For most of its 80-year history, the Cal Club, as locals call it, served up a tight though the well-regarded course, enhanced by its association with Ken Venturi. Following a 2008 Kyle Phillips re-do that was the part restoration and part redesign, many feel this private course is equal to any in California north of Cypress Point. Situated on the side of a hill, Cal Club is guaranteed to catch any wind that is about. Add in fescue fairways and the site’s broad slopes and you have a course whose asks change daily. Even in calm conditions, the mix of short grass, sprawling bunkers, and cypress trees provide constant photo opportunities. When you discover the design plays as well as it looks, you have something special.
Lake Bluff, IL
Steep ravines affect play throughout Shoreacres’ famed stretch of holes from 10-15. The rest of the property has a more modest topography but you are unlikely to notice that fact as the expansive greens offer such interesting targets. Ironic for an architect who built template holes but the best hole on this Seth Raynor design may well be the thoroughly original risk-reward 520-yard par-5 15th, which doglegs left, over, and around a ravine.
South Ascot, England
Unlike America, England doesn’t have a phobia about courses with par under 70. Seeing a 6,431-yard, par-69 course like Swinley Forest be embraced as an epitome of great design is a powerful message. Like Rye, its quintet of one-shotters and tight sub-70 par make it more of a complete test than a quick glance at its scorecard might indicate. The more the world speeds up, the more people appreciate clubs like Swinley where calm reigns supreme.
Te Awanga, New Zealand
Drone shots of this course are evocative, showing holes located on fingers of land hundreds of feet above the Pacific Ocean. But golf is played from the ground, not the air, and that’s just fine here as the tumbling landforms are ideal for golf. The course’s most famous hole is also its most feared, the 650-yard, par-5 15th, which falls away on both sides of the fairway and sports a horizon green perched precariously on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Architecture buffs are likely to be just as captivated by the playing angles at the preceding hole, a short two-shotter with a Road Hole green complex.
The Black intimidates golfers with a sign at the 1st tee that recommends the course “only for highly skilled golfers.” Among them? Tiger Woods, who won the 2002 “People’s Open,” as that U.S. Open came to be known. Woods was the only golfer to break par for 72 holes, owing to rugged, uphill par-4s, massive bunkers and the wrist-fracturing rough found on this Rees Jones-restored A.W. Tillinghast layout. The Black is one of the great routings, highlighted by the masterful way Tillinghast placed the fairways and greens from the 2nd hole in a valley all the way through the dogleg left 9th. The par-5 4th and its iconic cross-bunkering is a world-beater.
W.C. Pickerman/George Ross/Mungo Park, 1894/George Coburn, 1896
On approach to the Dublin airport, keep your eyes peeled out the window for a glimpse of the most romantic location for a golf course imaginable. Yes, that would be Portmarnock, set among low dunes at the end of a peninsula. The sense of seclusion is palpable, even though you are only 7 miles as the crow flies from a bustling capital city. Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, and Ian Woosnam are among those who won Irish Opens here. Arnold Palmer once tabbed the 15th as one of golf’s best par-3s and yet the other par-3 on that side (the shorter 12th) is just as good. Be prepared for some of the fastest, purest running conditions that the game offers. Also, don’t miss its third nine, the Yellow Nine.
Founding a private club in a remote destination is not without peril and it is reasonable to expect a club to take some time to find its footing. Now well in its second decade, Ballyneal enjoys its finest playing conditions since opening. Balls are releasing across the rumpled ground and players delight in finding creative ways to use banks and punchbowl features to work their shots close. Fescue fairways help the ground-game options flourish.
Carrickart, Co. Donegal, Ireland
Ireland’s dunes have benefited from sand deposits over the millennia along its west coast as exemplified by its fabled links in the southwest including Ballybunion, Lahinch, and Waterville. Each enjoys some of the game’s most impressive landforms. Set in the northwest county of Donegal, St. Patrick’s too will soon become a household name with golfers flocking here to experience the unbridled joy that comes from playing in and among big dunes as one battle the wind. The course looks like it has been there for a century, instead of having opened in 2021, which speaks volumes of the routing and the talented shapers that worked the project. Some of the interior green contours like those found on 5, 10, 11, and 17 are as dazzling as the overall environment. Both casual golfers and architecture buffs alike should take note of the features that make the three longest par-4s (9, 11, and 16) so much fun to play.
East Hampton, NY
John Park/Willie Park Jr.
Maidstone’s glorious edge-of-the-Atlantic location is once again fully evident, thanks to a recent restoration by Coore & Crenshaw. Maintaining coastal dunes is an art form: expose too much sand and it blows away; cover it up and you lose a sense of place. Maidstone has struck the perfect balance. Adding to the pleasure of its romantic location is an exceptional set of Willie and John Park greens, many of which feature dramatic false fronts. Maidstone is a dream course to play regularly, in part because its asks change daily with the weather.
Jack Nicklaus has called Baltusrol one of his favorite courses, and it’s easy to see why — he won two U.S. Opens there. The layout is a Tillinghast classic, with undulating fairways, challenging greens and back-to-back par-5 beasts that close out the round. Over the years, the Lower has played host to four U.S. Opens (Balty’s other three Opens were on the Upper course) and two PGAs, but with no more Opens on the schedule, some wonder if the course has fallen off the USGA’s unofficial rota. Gil Hanse’s current renovation should fix that.
This low-key 1926 Seth Raynor creation in suburban Cincinnati dishes out deep bunkers and huge, squared-off greens on a property laced with valleys and ravines. The usual quartet of Raynor template one-shot holes (Redan, Short, Biarritz, and Eden) are here and rival his best set.
Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, and Tom Watson are among the Americans who have triumphed at Troon, yet the most memorable shot was struck by a non-winner: 71-year-old Gene Sarazen, who aced the 123-yard “Postage Stamp” 8th (pictured) during 1973 Open — with a 5-iron! The mighty-mite 8th gets much of the attention, but Troon also has a host of sterling two-shutters, including the 7th, 11th, 13th, and 15th. The stonewall separating the course and the rail line is unnervingly tight right off the 11th green and serves as a great litmus test to determine who is (and isn’t) in full control of their swings. By all means, celebrate the Postage Stamp but pay heed to the course’s other riches, too.
Kiawah Island, SC
The blend of tidal marshes, scrub-topped dunes, live oaks, and the soothing sound of the Atlantic on every hole make this one of the South’s most memorable playing experiences. Though the course just turned 30 years old, it already has an illustrious history of hosting big-time events, none more memorable than the drama-filled 1991 “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup. Much more short grass has been added around the green complexes since then and now the design is more thought-provoking rather than terror-inducing. Many of its greens are plateaued, with some of the more pronounced coming on the 3rd, 11th, and 14th holes. Phil Mickelson more than handled the putting surfaces on his way to his historic win at the 2021 PGA Championship.
Woodhall Spa, England
Harry Vardon, 1905/H.S. Colt, 1912/S.V. Hotchkin, 1926
Credit architects H.S. Colt and S.V. Hotchkin for enhancing Harry Vardon’s initial work and turning the course into one of golf’s supreme inland delights, an oasis amid the surrounding flat fenland of Lincolnshire. Deep bunkers are Woodhall Spa’s defining trait, along with plentiful gorse and a stellar set of par-3s.
C.H. Alison/Kinya Fujita
Japan’s answer to Pebble Beach is this 1936 design that boasts staggering views of snow-capped Mt. Fuji and cliff-top panoramas of the Pacific Ocean. Alison’s superb bunkering and strategies mix with undulating terrain that makes it worth the three-hour trip from Tokyo. Recent tree clearing along the perimeter has enhanced the site’s phenomenal coastal setting.
Cruden Bay, Scotland
This cult classic is a personal favorite of both Pete Dye and Tom Doak. Twenty-three miles north of Aberdeen, Cruden Bay offers many novel features, including the postcard-perfect par-3 4th, which overlooks the Water of Cruden and the fishing village of Port Erroll, and the par-4 14th, with its funnel-shaped bathtub green. The 4th kicks off a five-hole stretch that any links course would love to claim as its own, so wildly varied and well-conceived is each hole.
H.S. Colt’s 99-year-old companion to its charming elder, the Old, stands on its own merits. In fact, some golfers prefer the more muscular New Course to the Old. Heathland golf around London is famous for all sorts of reasons but the strength of its par-5s isn’t one of them. Two of the New’s par-5s — the 6th and 13th — are exceptions and anchor each nine. Additionally, the best par-3 at the club is found on the New (its 5th, which plays from high point to high point across a heath-laden shallow valley). The par-4s run the full gamut, from the beefy 4th that rewards a fade off the tee and a draw for an approach to the sub-400 yard gem 12th, which plays to a plateau green.
Donald Ross, 1919/Andrew Green, 2017
Andrew Green’s renovation restored Ross features, expunged those that were not, and added length to test today’s tournament players. Few courses can claim as sterling a set of two-shotters, headlined by the 6th, 7th, 9th, 15th, 17th, and 18th holes. Inverness’s home hole famously measures under 400 yards and is one of the most interesting closers in the game. Too bad more modern architects are leery to build finishers that reward mind over muscle.
H.S. Colt, 1895/Tom Simpson/Herbert Tippet/Guy Campbell, 1907
The opener is the easiest hole (and the course’s only three-shotter) and then … hold on! What follows are a dozen par-4s, 10 of which measure more than 420 yards, and an infamously diabolical group of five par-3s that have this 6,503-yard course weighing in the yard for the yard as one of the most difficult on our list. The fact that you can walk Rye in two and half hours makes you question the merit of courses that are so much longer.
Lytham St. Annes, England
George Low Jr.
Regardless of whether the wind is blowing or what technology does, Lytham’s 205 bunkers mean that this rugged link is always ready to test the best, just as it has done since 1926 when it played host to its first Open Championship. One of those bunkers, in the left-center of the 18th fairway, cost Adam Scott the 2012 Open. Indeed, the entire 18th hole is a master class in how to stagger fairway bunkers to create playing interest and should be recognized as one of the game’s top dozen finishers. No one was better at getting out of jail than Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, who twice won here in glorious fashion.
Joan Dudok Van Heel
Kemer Country Golf Club is the only address that comes to mind when it comes to golf in Istanbul with its 18-hole golf course of international standards. Designed by renowned designer Joan Dudok van Heel in accordance with USGA standards, the golf course caters to beginners as well as hard-hitting professional golfers.
The courses prepared by PGA-certified golf professionals, who also coaches the Turkish National Golf Team, make it possible for beginners to play on an 18-hole course (73 par- 6.113m) in a short time. The club, which has made the greatest contribution to the development of golf in Turkey and is in the leading position in this sport, hosts more than 50 tournaments every year.
Old Tom Morris
This host to 24 Open Championships (including the first 12) features an irresistible combination of quirk and muscle. The lumpiest/bumpiest ground is near the clubhouse and yields such marvels as the 1st with the stonewall and railroad line hard down the right of the fairway, the Narrows 15th, and the famous Alps 17th. Meanwhile, a brawny collection of two-shotters dominates the stretch from 6-10. Add all the different asks together and you have a historic course like no other. The more you travel, the more you appreciate Prestwick’s unique charms.
King Island, Australia
Mike DeVries with Darius Oliver
Wickham wows with an opening stretch of seaside headland holes, three par-3s that skirt the sea, and a Cape-style 18th that demands a bite-off-as-much-as-you-dare drive over Victoria Cove. Set on the northern end of King Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia, this course occupies the windiest spot of any on our list. Wickham compensates with wide landing areas and greens that are open in front, meaning golfers are guaranteed to have fun, be they in a one-club wind — or five!
C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor, 1913/A.W. Tillinghast, 1929/Gil Hanse, 2017
This Westchester County course has always enjoyed a spectacular component to it, courtesy of breathtaking views of the Hudson River, particularly at the 15th and 16th holes. What its holes lacked was playing interest from 50 yards and in. That changed in 2016 when Gil Hanse embarked on a two-year project to imbue the greens with a C.B. Macdonald flair that, well, even Macdonald would appreciate.
South Hamilton, MA
Some critics of rankings grumble that hosting a major unduly elevates a course. Is that true for Myopia Hunt, given that it has played host to four U.S. Opens? Probably not, given its last one was in 1908! What helped Myopia continue to rise in the list was their appreciation for Gil Hanse’s restoration work whereby trees came down, and fairways were expanded/reconnected to Herbert Leeds’s fabulous pit bunkers. The handsome blue stem rough is best admired from a distance but there is no hiding from the severely titled greens at the 4th, 6th, and 13th. None of those two-shotters is long but the slopes with which Leeds imbued them about 120 years ago define treachery at modern green speeds. With the wind more evident and the playing surfaces firm, the course’s thorny playing attributes are once again on full display. Fun fact: The winning score at its four U.S. Opens averaged nearly 324, or 81 strokes per round.
Marmara Golf Club is the only address that comes to mind when it comes to golf in Istanbul with its 18-hole golf course of international standards.
The design of the Marmara Golf Course, which was opened in 1994, belongs to Tony Jacklin, one of the best golfers in the world. there are four par 3, five par 5, nine par 4 courses in the 18-hole, 73-park, 6245-meter championship golf course. There is no fairway on the No. 12 hole of the course, instead, there is a valley 50 meters deep. There are differences in jeans ranging from 0-60 meters dec the terrain.
Since natural oak is established within the trees, rugged and challenging field and is described as a field specifically preferred by professional golfers, PGA and senior tours such as the PGA European Challenge 1997-1998 1999 has hosted many international tournaments and has represented Turkey Beko.
Isle of Jura, Scotland
Manmade hazards are few on Australian architect Bob Harrison’s design, but he puts golfers on notice early, with the tee shot at the 205-yard 2nd needing to carry a 100-foot cliff. The thrill ride continues, with holes 8 through 11 hugging the cliff line. Harrison mixes up the asks with a variety of fine green complexes. Most are open in front to accommodate for the wind, some greens fall away from the player, a couple are knobs that are particularly hard to hold and the tiny putting surface at the 9th protects par at the drivable 295-yard par-4.
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Founder Alvaro Carta deserves credit for hiring Pete Dye in 1970 to build this centerpiece attraction for his retreat and then allowing him to have nearly three miles of coastline with which to work. The construction process was slow going as jungle brush needed to beat back with machetes. Machinery was prohibitively expensive to import, so 300 Dominicans assisted. Ultimately, Dye found a way to place eight holes along the shoreline, three of which are par-3s that from the back tees require heart-pounding shots over the azure water; the fourth par-3 (No. 13) was Dye’s first island hole with its built-up green pad surrounded by a sea of sand. This low-profile course has aged gracefully and remains in the conversation for Dye’s best work.
Donald Ross, 1921/Andrew Green, 2020
Championship golf is a double-edged sword. Hosting major events on a regular basis confers prestige and pride to any membership. Conversely, many sites deemed worthy were built approximately a century ago when hickory-shafted clubs were the norm. Immense pressure is placed on clubs to have their course evolve to handle equipment advancements. One banal way? Increase the use of penal water hazards. Such happened at Oak Hill in the late 1970s. Much to its credit, the club recently reversed course, recognizing that Donald Ross’s work should be brought back to the greatest extent possible. Among other things, Andrew Green saw to it that the incongruent water features were removed and made sure that the mighty East Course was once again a cohesive Golden Age masterpiece without blemishes.
Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen
GOLF Magazine’s Top New International Course of 2009 has maintained its early lofty results thanks to a brilliant Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen design that was effusively praised by Phil Mickelson — before Mickelson won 2013 Scottish Open here. Highlights include wide fairways, wild and woolly bunkers, and panoramic views of Moray Firth and the Scottish Highlands. Its thrilling finish features three consecutive ½-par holes where anything can happen: the drivable 16th, the brutish one-shot 17th (which plays in the opposite direction as 16), and the par-5 18th, which cascades downhill toward the distinctive white art-deco clubhouse.
Inverness, Nova Scotia
Developers Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser handed over a rolling plot of coastal Nova Scotia terrain to Canadian architect Rod Whitman. The result is Canada’s first authentic links. Firm, rumpled, fescue fairways, coastal breezes, and endless views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence make it abundantly clear why Nova Scotia is the Latin name for “New Scotland.” Whitman’s talent for adding micro-contours in and around the greens (such as those that promote running approach shots into the 13th and 16th) is unsurpassed but is overlooked here because the long views are so spectacular.
George Morris/HS Colt/Fred Hawtree
“Hoylake,” as it’s popularly known, welcomed its 12th Open Championship in 2014. It’s not a pretty course in the conventional sense, as there are no lighthouses, mountains, or majestic undulations. But its fairways are rumpled and its revetted bunkers are well placed and invariably extract a ½-shot penalty. There’s also internal out-of-bounds, a feature for which the course is well known. When the wind is up, Hoylake is one of the game’s fiercest links, one that requires supreme shotmaking, as demonstrated by Tiger’s virtuoso performance at the 2006 Open.
David McLay Kidd
Bandon’s original course is a David McLay Kidd design draped atop craggy headlands above the Pacific. Ocean views stun the senses, along with bluff-top sand dunes sprinkled with Scotch broom and gorse bushes, coastal pines, crashing surf, wind-whipped tall native grasses, and stacked sod bunkers. The most memorable seaside tests are the par-4 4th and 5th, the par-3 12th, and the drivable par-4 16th, each with eye-popping scenery and enjoyable risk/rewards. The 2020 U.S. Amateur telecast from here was captivating.
St. Andrews, Scotland
This 1999 Kyle Phillips design 15 miles from the Old Course has earned the respect of links fans, who can be a tough bunch as they generally travel to the United Kingdom to play courses that are 100-plus years old. There is much to admire here, including the 606-yard, par-5 12th, which arcs around the bay, and the 212-yard, par-3 15th that demands a carry over the sea. Others might relish the shelf green at the 9th that poses similar intriguing questions as the 12th at the Old Course. Kudos to Phillips as the seamless melding of flat farmland and Old World links contours is quite the design accomplishment.
Home of the 2004, ’10, and ’15 PGA Championships, this 1998 Pete Dye design on Lake Michigan was once a poker-table-flat military training base in World War II. Eventually, it became a site for the illegal dumping of toxic waste. Dye and owner Herb Kohler engineered a mind-boggling cleanup, moving 3 million cubic yards of dirt, trucking in 7,000 loads of sand to create the hills and bunkers, and relocating the bluffs back off the shore. All Kohler told Dye was “I want the course to look like it’s in Ireland.” Mission accomplished. The 2021 Ryder Cup played here highlighted what a great match-play course it is, too, with its plethora of ½-par holes.
Hunter Valley, Australia
Greg Norman/Bob Harrison
Greg Norman has never been shy about professing his admiration for Alister MacKenzie. At ultra-exclusive Ellerston, he and design partner Bob Harrison adapted MacKenzie strategies and bunker stylings on a rugged landscape, resulting in one of the strongest, most option-laden tests in the Southern Hemisphere. Forced carries over ravines, greens set along ridge-tops and the influence of Pages Creek add to the challenge.
Deer Lodge, MT
Tom Doak’s works along large bodies of water populate our list but some contend what he did in the American West at Rock Creek is just as exhilarating as his more photographed courses in sandy soil. Though Montana’s rocky conditions made for a tough build, the result is wide fairways that flow over the tumbling land with grace and ease that is hard to fathom. The same design principles — fairway contours that either shunt you out of position or send you to the ideal location, hazards that appear ageless, and greens that offer a wide range of hole locations — demand you reassess how to best play each hole from one day to the next. Hard to find better playing angles.
Jack Nicklaus/Desmond Muirhead
Conceived by Jack Nicklaus in 1966 to be his hometown equivalent of Bobby Jones’ Augusta National, this 1974 collaboration with Desmond Muirhead was an instant smash, both for its strategic design and flawless conditioning. Equally impressive was how Nicklaus seamlessly integrated spectator areas into the closing holes, using hillsides and amphitheater-style mounding to provide patrons with clear views of the action. Hard to imagine that the professionals now try to drive the sliver of green at 14 but that’s how much the game has changed — and yet the hole is still no automatic par. That’s great architecture. Work over 2020 saw the unlikely happen: one of the best sets of par-5s on the list got even better.
Wassenaar, The Netherlands
C.H. Alison/J.S.F. Morrison
Better known to English speakers as The Hague, The Netherlands’ highest-ranking course is a Morrison-and-Alison collaboration that plays across chaotically heaving fairways amid substantial dunes. How they were able to connect all 18 holes without an awkward moment is a marvel. So, too, is the variety of its greens, headlined by the famous hard-to-hit knob green at 6 followed by a well-defended, diminutive sunken green on the ensuing hole. (Photo: Frank Pont)
This quiet club across the street from Winged Foot has counted Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye among its admirers. Its outstanding cluster of gently rolling par-4s, notably the 6th and the 11th, provided a terrific canvas for amateurs such as Justin Rose and Jason Gore in the 1997 Walker Cup. Dating to 1916, the course was made over by A.W. Tillinghast in 1926 and Gil Hanse’s restoration this past decade has the course at its peak. The par-3 9th is one of the hidden gem one-shotters in the Northeast, though it may take a few rounds to figure out why. (Photo: Evan Schiller)
From London’s heathland to the cliffs of Northern Ireland to sandy sites in the Netherlands, Colt enjoyed many fine sites in Europe over his extended career. One of the best is this property, where Colt teased a diverse collection of holes from the rolling landscape. His placement of the green sites — some on knobs or plateaus, some at ground level, and the magnificent 10th green at the hole’s low point beyond a hillock — define the challenge.
Marrying classic Seth Raynor design with coastal South Carolina topography, Yeamans presents a charming tour of Redan, Biarritz, and Road holes woven through marshland and magnificent live oaks. Over the years, the course’s original wonder faded as bunkers grew in and green complexes shrank. But a two-decade-long renovation based on Raynor’s original property maps — discovered in the clubhouse attic — has returned this Golden Age masterpiece to its original brilliance.
Robert Trent Jones Sr./Bobby Jones
Built-in the late 1940s, this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design came before he acquired his Oakland Hills “monster” rep. More of Stanley Thompson’s influence is seen in Jones’ early work, highlighted here by his imaginative — and enormous — punchbowl green at the 10th. More than 70 years later and this Georgia course still adheres to the founding vision, which speaks volumes to the quality of RTJ’s original design.
Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw
Several of Coore & Crenshaw’s finest designs are located at hard-to-access private clubs but many of their works thankfully are available to the public, often courtesy of developer Mike Keiser. Trails is one of their best — public or private. The routing works its way over and across heaving dunes and through an enchanting coastal forest, and the fact that you don’t miss the sight of the nearby water for most of the round speaks volumes to its design quality. The 3rd through the 5th is a particularly inspired stretch of inland golf, featuring an exemplary par-5, par-4, and par-3.
Few have heard of Old Town, much less played it. With wooden flagsticks, cast-iron cups, historic stone walls, and small membership, Old Town defines old-school Southern exclusivity. Perry Maxwell built this inspired North Carolina layout on a former horse farm, and the naturally rolling fairways lead to devilish greens. Wake Forest practices at Old Town, and former Demon Deacon Lanny Wadkins called it the best course for training serious young golfers. Tom Doak had another compliment for Old Town, saying it’s worth groveling to play here.
Jeju Island, South Korea
Ron Fream/David Dale
Nine Bridges’ appeal starts with its tranquil setting on Jeju island, with holes etched into pine-clad rolling topography in the shadows of Mount Halla, Korea’s tallest peak. Lakes, creeks, and wooded slopes not only contribute to the beauty and variety but also are seamlessly integrated into the design. When Nine Bridges has played host to the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup, the pro routinely praises both its challenge and presentation.
Black Rock, Australia
Confident in his own work, Alister MacKenzie freely lauded the work of others. In the United States, he considered Perry Maxwell to be as talented as anyone; in Australia, his man was Alex Russell, who deserves full credit for the East Course, in addition to Paraparaumu Beach, Lake Karrinyup, and other gems in Australia and New Zealand, including Yarra Yarra. The panel’s appreciation of the East Course raises the question: What is the finest 36-hole day in golf at one location? Winged Foot, Bandon, Sunningdale, or here?
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Modern architecture did itself no favors by pursuing holes that constantly scream at the golfer because at some point the golfer goes tone-deaf. Colt never went down that path and thus his courses enjoy timeless appeal. Here, he did what he did best: produce a course that is a delight to play every day. De Pan may not have the topography of St. George’s Hill but it does have sand dunes throughout the property. A master router, Colt incorporated the dunes in every way possible.
Daly City, CA
It’s always a delight to find a course that rewards the lost art of shaping shots. The 4th hole, for instance, features a reverse-camber fairway: the hole swings right to left but the fairway tilts left to right, mandating a draw from the tee. The next hole, a dogleg right, calls for a fade. Recent clearing has helped to highlight the stunning nature of the cypress trees that line this hillside overlooking Lake Merced. Its famous 5-5-short 4 closing stretch produced another climactic finish at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open. Kudos to William Watson, who might well be the less appreciated important architect from the Golden Age.
Gil Hanse/Jim Wagner
Gil Hanse and the team cut formidable bunkers into the sandy environs and the art is having your tee balls and approach shots skirt past them. Central hazards abound and numerous rounds are required to sort through the design asks. Most of the greens are open in front and many are at grade with their surroundings, presenting countless run-up shot opportunities that dovetail with the bouncy playing conditions derived from the sandy soil underneath. This design is one for the ages — literally — as it’s ideal for both youngsters and aging golfers alike. Too few modern courses meet that criterium, but this one est parfait.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Davis Love III/Mark Love, 2010/Paul Cowley, 2016
Diamante’s free-form architecture rests gently on the land, and the absence of any hard lines lets the golfer’s eye soak in the delightful contrast between the dazzling Pacific Ocean, the dune scape, and the emerald playing surfaces. The Dunes’ random green contours are noteworthy as is the construction technique that left micro-undulations in the fairways. Spectacular ocean views sometimes come with the price of cold and damp playing conditions but not here.
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
Preeminent Canadian architect Stanley Thompson hit his professional peak at this quiet club near downtown Toronto. The wonderful rolling parkland terrain is replete with streams and natural valleys and has been the venue for five Canadian Opens, most recently in 2010. Tom Doak and Ian Andrew spearheaded a restoration that was completed in 2015.
New Albany, OH
One of Pete Dye’s early masterworks, this rural retreat built-in 1967 in suburban Columbus is where Jack Nicklaus first learned about design, as an unpaid consultant. With bunkers and water hazards framed by railroad ties and tall native grasses scattered throughout, this thorough original left no doubt that Dye was a generational talent in the works. Golf simply hadn’t seen holes like the 3rd and 13th. Golf architecture was about to head in a more exciting direction, one that prized variety as well as the use of grasses for texture and contrast. Dye’s contributions to modern architecture can’t be overstated.
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