What are the best golf courses in the world? The Golf World Top 100 panel ranks the finest layouts on the planet… that you can actually play.
Let’s begin our countdown of the best golf courses in the world. And remember, we’ve only considered courses that are open to the public in this inaugural ranking. Head over to our ‘How we did it‘ for a full explanation of why and to see how we carried out this mammoth task!
And, once you’ve enjoyed this ranking, please do take a look at some of our others – from the best courses in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Europe and the USA, to GB&I’s best links, the most fun courses to play and the finest resorts in Europe and the World has to offer, we’ve got it covered.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
Golf World Top 100: Best Courses in the World – 100-76
100. Yangtze Dunes
The two original courses at the Lanhai club were designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2011. The Links was renovated by OCCM architects and rebranded as Yangtze Dunes. Geoff Ogilvy led the overhaul and he wanted holes playing through dunes not on top of them. Now a clever, sandy experience.
Also play: Sheshan Golf Club or Lake Malaren, which are just over an hour away.
Get there: Shanghai airport is 80 minutes away.
99. Western Gailes
It would have been so easy to overlook unpretentious Western Gailes from this list. Few would have howled, because its reputation is relatively low profile, but make no mistake, this is a links of the highest class. As technically good as any in this list and a pure links experience to boot.
Also play: Royal Troon, Prestwick and Turnberry Ailsa are all in this list.
Closest city: Glasgow is 45 minutes away.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
One of the best examples of a links as we would expect to find outside GB&I. Humewood is now presented well and is laid out among dunes on the shores of Algoa Bay. Its undulating, wide fairways are well protected by steep-faced bunkers. Edges into this list ahead of Durban.
Also play: East London to the north and especially St Francis Links to the south.
Get there: Port Elizabeth airport 10 minutes away.
97. Peninsula Kingswood (North Course)
Peninsula Kingswood’s North has always been on great land at the southern tip of the famous sandbelt and northern boundary of the Mornington Peninsula. Its conditioning is now akin to Augusta and this is now no longer Melbourne’s little secret.
Also play: Royal Melbourne East and West, Kingston Heath and sister course the South.
Get there: an hour from Melbourne Airport.
96. Lofoten Links
This Top 100 is packed with spellbinding settings, but this might well be the best – it’s that good. Sprawling on linksland on the edge of the sea that is actually in the Arctic Circle, it looks sensational but also has enough admirable technical holes to put such a raw course in this elite company.
Also play: Miklagard and Oslo GC in Norway’s capital en route are the obvious/only options.
Closest city: Oslo, via flight to Bodo.
95. Tobacco Road
North Carolina, USA
The sight of the 1st hole, funnelling between two grassy, 50ft-tall banks either side of the fairway fills you with anticipation before you even start, and the excitement never really lets up on this North Carolina classic. This is Mike Strantz’s masterpiece – incredibly fun, memorable golf.
Also play: Pinehurst is 30 minutes to the south, and that’s all you need to know.
Get there: Via Charlotte, Washington or Atlanta.
94. Hoiana Shores
Da Nang, Vietnam
Boasting views of the East Sea and Cham Islands, this design by Robert Trent Jones Jr finishes particularly strongly with holes that hug the coastline. The par-4 16th and par-3 17th travel exhilaratingly along the beach.
Also play: It’s a 30-minute trip to play at Montgomerie Links Vietnam, or slightly further to Ba Na Hills.
Get there: Da Nang Airport is 45 minutes away.
93. The Machrie
The Machrie has undergone a quiet revolution in the past decade under astute new owners. DJ Russell has renovated the course to make it more scenic and playable, while retaining a healthy dose of its eccentricities. Some may lament the loss of the original, we celebrate its clever remake.
Also play: Ardfin is a 10-minute ferry away, Machrihanish & Mach Dunes on the mainland.
Closest city: Glasgow by plane is the easiest route.
92. Chambers Bay
Beautifully situated on Puget Sound, this is a much better course than the one we saw in the 2015 US Open, when burnt fairways and disfigured putting surfaces were the story. The fescue on the greens has since been replaced with poa annua and the course plays infinitely better as a result.
Also play: Bandon Dunes is six hours away – you can’t get that close and not visit.
Get there: Forty miles south of Seattle.
A majestic heathland course to the south-east of Paris. Tom Simpson has worked the land brilliantly to create an entertaining and challenging experience among the pines, heather and rocky outcrops. With some tree management it could be much higher but as it is, a class act. It is France’s sole entry.
Also play: Fellow classics Chantilly and Saint Germain, plus Ryder Cup host Le Golf National.
Get there: Paris Charles de Gaulle, 45 mins away.
90. Fancourt (Links)
George, South Africa
The Fancourt estate in George has Gary Player’s prints all over it – he designed all 54 holes. Opened in November 2000 and host to the Presidents Cup in 2003, the Black Knight created undulating fairways and dune-style terrain that mimic a Scottish links. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous.
Also play: There are three courses on site, so play the highly-rated Montagu and Outeniqua too.
Get there: George Airport is 10 minutes away.
89. Silloth on Solway
Some may be surprised at this position, but those raising eyebrows will not have been here. This Cumbrian links is world class and frankly this is the least it deserves. Silloth rewards the determined traveller for its terrific routing between dunes and its equally estimable green complexes. Class.
Also play: Seascale, an English Top 100 entry, and Windermere are the top courses nearby.
Closest city: Carlisle is 80 minutes away.
88. Forest Dunes (The Loop)
US publications tend to treat each course on this reversible 18 separately, but we wanted to celebrate Tom Doak’s brilliant concept, routing, and shaping by combining them. The sum of these parts is a truly remarkable achievement. Black tends to be rated over Red, but there’s precious little between them.
Also play: The Tom Weiskopf at Forest Dunes is now public. Also Redwood and Ye Olde CC.
Get there: Roscommon County Airport, 40 mins.
87. Spyglass Hill
Robert Trent Jones Sr had the pleasure of laying out a course among sweeping dunes and outstanding natural beauty, built around the imposing Del Monte Forest. He was helped by son Robert Trent Jones Junior, himself now a famous architect, and the course opened in 1966.
Also play: Pebble Beach is another world-class course and is literally just down the road.
Get there: Monterey Regional Airport is closest.
86. Yas Links
Abu Dhabi, UAE
This Kyle Phillips design takes advantage of its Gulf-side location on Yas Island. The grass is not the fine fescue of a UK links, but it is closely-cropped, sandy and covers undulating fairways and cool green complexes. Has the wow factor in its setting and lots of memorable holes.
Also play: European Tour venue Abu Dhabi GC and Gary Player design Saadiyat Beach.
Get there: Abu Dhabi airport is 15 minutes away.
RELATED: Best Golf Courses in the Middle East
85. Lawsonia (Links)
The Links course at Lawsonia in Green Lake, Wisconsin, is one of America’s most historic courses. It was opened in 1930 and designed by Bill Langford and Ted Moreau during the Great Depression era when the future of golf courses was uncertain.
Also play: Sister course Woodlands is also excellent, plus Tuscumbia GC, Mascoutin and Whistling Straits, which is also in this list.
Get there: Dane County Regional Airport.
84. Royal Porthcawl
A host of the Walker Cup, Senior Open and European Tour, Porthcawl starts in more explosive fashion than almost any course in the UK. The opening trio along the shore are backed up thereafter, with every hole having a view of the sea. Martin Ebert’s re-naturalisation of fairway bunkers is a hit.
Also play: Pennard, Pyle & Kenfig, Southerndown and Tenby along the south coast of Wales.
Closest cities: Midway between Swansea & Cardiff.
83. Highland Links
Nova Scotia, Canada
In 1939, Cape Breton hired legendary designer Stanley Thompson to work his magic. Highland Links was born, opened in 1941 and described by Thompson as the ‘mountains and the ocean’ course. Its British feel extends to its hole names, including Killiecrankie and Canny Slap.
Also play: Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Inverness are two hours away.
Get there: JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.
82. Streamsong (Blue)
The Blue course at the Streamsong Resort opened in 2012, the work of Tom Doak.
It provides an enjoyable walking experience (unlike most in America) and has distinctively big greens, large sand dunes and undulating contours to provide a tough test as well as enjoyment.
Also play: The Resort’s Red and Black are also in this ranking, so there is really no reason to leave.
Get there: Go via Jacksonville or Orlando.
81. South Cape
Gyeongsang, South Korea
South Gyeongsang location guarantees an awesome experience as you look from its coastal fairways to a combination of blue ocean and green islands. Kyle Phillips’ design from 2013 takes in rocky cliffs, jungle-style trees and steep drops. The 14th has echoes of the 7th at Pebble Beach.
Also play: Nine Bridges, Jack Nicklaus Korea and Anyang Country Club.
Get there: Sacheon airport in two hours 45 mins.
Well known for its mix of classic linksland and a mid-round woodland phase, Formby is a worthy entry in this list. The Amateur Championship and Curtis Cup host offers terrific seaside turf, just enough movement in the land to provide varied golf and a fine set of green complexes.
Also play: Royal Birkdale is also in this list, plus Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale and West Lancs.
Closest city: Liverpool is 40 minutes away.
79. Erin Hills
The visiting golfer from the UK will gaze astonished at the sheer immensity of barren, windswept Erin Hills which throws up numerous inviting shots over its 652 acres. Brooks Koepka made it look fairly limp in shooting -16 at the US Open but, be assured, for you and I it is anything but.
Also play: Fellow Top 100 entrant Whistling Straits is 80 minutes away on the edge of Lake Michigan.
Closest city: Chicago O’Hare is 1hr 50 minutes.
78. Banff Springs
Located in an area of world-famous beauty, the original nine-holer by Bill Thomson, an apprentice of Old Tom Morris, was expanded in 1924 by Donald Ross but is credited to Stanley Thompson for his revision. The par-3 4th, the Devil’s Cauldron (pictured) sums up the scenes.
Also play: Jasper Park Lodge is also in this list and Black Hawk GC is a very worthwhile addition.
Get there: Calgary airport is 90 minutes away.
77. Gamble Sands
High on a hillside overlooking the Columbia River in central Washington sits this fabulous David McLay-Kidd design that opened in 2014. It crosses a sandy seam with so many cool, natural features they make every hole a delightful challenge. As playable as it is scenic – and aptly named.
Also play: Alta Lake Golf Resort and Bear Mountain Ranch are both worth your time.
Get there: Spokane airport is two hours away.
76. Sand Valley (Sand Valley)
Located in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, those guarantees-of-success Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed this dramatic course in 2017. Expect characteristically sweeping, wide fairways and cool green complexes. The course that gives every golfer the chance to choose their own route, get creative, and make full use of their imagination is the course that holds their interest day after day, round after round.
Also play: Mammoth Dunes is its sister course and is also in this list. Plus, The Sandbox.
Get there: South Wood County Airport is 25 mins.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.