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.
Continuing our countdown of the best golf courses in the world, we’re into the upper echelons of our list as we reveal the names that rank 25th-11th. 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 – 26-11
25. Cruden Bay
Now rightly being talked about alongside North Berwick and Royal Dornoch among Scotland’s most characterful links. Packed with intriguing half-par holes set down on terrain full of mounds, dips, rises and falls, Cruden Bay packs in more entertainment in six holes than most courses manage in 18.
Also play: Trump Aberdeen and Royal Aberdeen in this list, plus Fraserburgh and Murcar.
Closest city: Aberdeen is 20 minutes away.
24. Sunningdale (New)
Even in a World list where there are so many high-calibre candidates, there can never be more than a few places between the New and Old. Some even prefer the New and certainly it offers arguably a more exacting experience – but, really, golf at Sunningdale just makes you glad to be alive.
Also play: The Old, plus Walton Heath, St George’s Hill and Woking are also in this list.
Get there: London is 45 mins away, 60 by train.
23. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
Tom Doak and his team have renovated this grand old heathland course to wonderful effect. Out have gone hundreds of trees and in have come Insta-worthy vistas. Some bunkers have been filled in, others built. There’s more strategy and firmer turf. The Hotchkin now punches its full weight.
Also play: Seacroft, a Top 100 England course, as well as the Hotchkin’s sister course, the Bracken.
Closest city: It’s remote! But Lincoln is 30 mins.
22. Cabot Cliffs
Nova Scotia, Canada
Coore-Crenshaw have built this spectacular course into the breathtaking landscape of Cape Breton. The famed design duo created myriad moments that mix intimidation and daring in many holes on the edge of the bluffs. Jaw-dropping scenes, a clever routing and enjoyably remote.
Also play: Cabot Links is also in this list, plus Baddeck Forks or La Portage in Novia Scotia.
Get there: Halifax airport is three hours away.
The top-ranked modern course from Britain and Ireland, it is a serious achievement for this Fife links to get into the top 25. Kyle Phillips’ design is playable, varied and epically scenic. Sea views on every hole and a brilliant routing that skilfully takes you along the coastline and back again.
Also play: St Andrews Old and New are 20 minutes away. Dumbarnie & The Castle too.
Closest city: St Andrews but also Dundee.
A former Walker Cup venue, Portmarnock is Ireland’s Muirfield on and off the course. A traditional club and a traditional links that oozes pedigree and demands solid ball-striking. Lacks aesthetic appeal of others in the top 20 and doesn’t give lots back to the higher handicapper, but a very classy links.
Also play: The Island, Portmarnock Links and Royal Dublin nearby, The European to the south.
Closest city: Dublin is 20 minutes’ drive away.
19. Barnbougle Dunes (Dunes)
It’s impossible to believe you are on a small island off the coast of Australia here because this course oozes a Celtic links feel.
The dunes are higher than you would see at most British links and, as a result, getting the right line to holes is key – especially if you use the ground game. Get the line right and you will find the ball accelerates to the green, get it wrong and you will be faced with a challenging pitch up from a long way away.
This is even more pronounced on the back nine, where you are often playing from dune to dune. There are several half holes, none better than the sporty par-4 4th. Wonderfully scenic and very playable.
Also play: Lost Farm at Barnbougle Dunes, and hop over to King Island to get to our No.10, Cape Wickham.
Get there: Fly to Hobart from an Australian airport.
18. Carnoustie (Championship)
The legacy of 1999 is now thankfully a distant memory and Carnoustie is now viewed as it should be – an unremittingly demanding test on beautiful linksland. The climax is one of British golf’s great experiences, but there are also lighter moments and a score to be made. It’s also in phenomenal condition.
Also play Monifieth, Montrose & Panmure nearby, Aberdeen’s elite to the north, Fife to the south.
Closest city: Dundee is a short drive away.
17. North Berwick
East Lothian, Scotland
Good luck choosing the ‘signature’ hole at The West Links in North Berwick. Redan, the much-copied par 3, might get the nod from the majority, but that would be to overlook so many vintage alternatives. As memorable as it is entertaining, the closing stretch will have you reminiscing forever.
Also play: Muirfield, Gullane 1 & 2, Renaissance, Luffness, Archerfield, Kilspindie, Dunbar.
Closest city: Edinburgh is 45 minutes away.
16. Royal Birkdale
Birkdale is one of the favourite Open venues among tour players, who enjoy the absence of eccentricity in this Southport links. Instead, Birkdale largely plays along fairly flat fairways between dune corridors. The ‘English Muirfield’ sustains its challenge impressively from the daunting 1st hole.
Also play: Formby, which is also in this list, plus Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, West Lancs.
Closest city: Liverpool is 40 minutes away.
15. Tara Iti (Doak Design)
Auckland, New Zealand
It feels fair to assume you’ll struggle to take your eyes off the image of the first of Tom Doak’s New Zealand masterpieces. Laid out on the Te Arai coast, south of Mangawhai, every hole offers a view of the sea. Tara Iti was built on a sandy site and, as you can tantalisingly see, the terrain is covered in fescue grass from tee to green.
Doak has sculpted the sand into a kaleidoscope of mounds, hollows, bowls, ridges and undulations to create holes that engage your mind and delight your eye. There isn’t a bunker on the course – just a succession of waste areas. Natural and gorgeous, Tara Iti allows limited access… but you can play it.
Also play: Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidknappers.
Get there: Auckland is 80 minutes away.
14. Kingston Heath
Kingston Heath is the archetypal sandbelt course. The turf runs fast, the fairways bleed into scrubby sand rather than rough and the recently renovated bunkering is exquisite. Much is made of the small size (and flatness) of the property, but it gives it a real intimacy. The par 3s are tremendous.
Also play: Royal Melbourne West & East, Victoria and Kingswood Peninsula – all are in this list.
Get there: Melbourne airport is 45 minutes away.
13. Sunningdale (Old)
A Harry Colt masterpiece… you hear those words a lot, but rarely is more apt than here. This is simply heathland heaven. Impossible to believe anyone ever comes to Sunningdale and isn’t utterly charmed by this heather and pine utopia. Looks exquisite and a proper but playable test.
Also play: The New, Walton Heath (Old), Woking, and St George’s Hill are all in this Top 100.
Get there: London is a 45-minute drive away.
12. Royal St George’s
The top-ranked English course in our list manages to be simultaneously quirky as well as challenging. It is fun and entertaining while still managing to host Open Championships. Characterised by wonderful green complexes, our panel are confident it is England’s finest links.
Also play: Royal Cinque Ports is in our World list and Open venue Prince’s is a GB&I Top 100 entry.
Closest city: London is two hours by train or car.
11. Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes)
The highest-ranked of the courses at super resort Bandon in our World ranking. Tom Doak was eager to get the job at Pacific Dunes and boy did he and his Renaissance Golf team make the most of it. Expect one mesmerising hole after another, and a course you would never tire of.
Also play: Bandon Dunes, Sheep Ranch, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald – all on site, incredibly.
Get there: Southwest Oregon or Portland airport.
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.