Kingston Heath, Victoria, Australia
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The Heath, as it’s affectionately known, always ranks either first or second in Australia and has played host to, and drawn praise from, some of the very best ever to play the game. It is sandbelt golf at is finest.
Augusta National, Georgia, United States
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The Masters and its history here make it a fair bet that if you surveyed 100 golfers, the majority would nominate Augusta National as the course they would most like to play. Laid out by the club’s founder and golf’s greatest amateur, Bobby Jones, in collaboration with golf’s arguably most influential course architect, Dr Alister Mackenzie, Augusta National would be a world-beater even without the annual Masters. Both Jones and Mackenzie were devotees of the Old Course at St Andrews and incorporated similar strategies into Augusta National, which opened in 1933. Wide fairways, large, sweeping greens and holes that encourage golfers to play the ball along the ground as much as through the air are all part of Augusta’s appeal.
Barnbougle Dunes, Tasmania, Australia
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Thirty-six holes of golfing heaven – right on our own back doorstep. The original Dunes course laid out by Tom Doak and Mike Clayton became an instant classic when it opened in 2005 and is now complemented beautifully by Bill Coore’s Lost Farm that opened in 2010. Not only does Barnbougle boast world-class golf, it’s easily the best value for money on the list.
Hirono, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
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It’s not just the golf at Hirono (which is first-rate) but the theatre of the game in Japan that makes a round at the nation’s most highly regarded course so sought after. The coffee beforehand, sit-down lunch – including beer – during, and full steam bath after the round only add to the joy of playing a golf course designed by Charles Hugh Alison in the 1930s that is comfortably among the best in the world.
National Golf Links of America, New York, United States
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Charles Blair Macdonald is often referred to as the Grandfather of American golf and his creation at NGLA is one of world golf’s masterpieces. Inspired by, but not imitating, the UK’s very best holes, it is as much fun as Pine Valley is tough.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, California, United States
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Boasting one of the most spectacular sites in the world, Pebble Beach’s stunning collection of clifftop holes (7, 8, 9 and 10 in particular), some say, make the course worth playing. Others, however, hold it up as America’s most iconic golf course, including 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus who famously said of the course: “If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.”
Pine Valley, New Jersey, United States
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Rated by many as the best course in America, Pine Valley was built during the golden age of golf design, a period that ran from around 1910 to 1937 and spawned many of the world’s best courses. Pine Valley’s chief designer was club founder and amateur architect George Crump, a highly regarded player from Philadelphia. His final creation is a course that’s as difficult and private as any in the world. If you’re a serious fan of the world’s great layouts, this one is in the top handful.
Pinehurst No 2, North Carolina, United States
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After serving an apprenticeship at St Andrews under the game’s first recognised professional, Old Tom Morris, Donald Ross packed up and headed for the new world of the USA in 1899. His influence as a course designer in America is unparalleled but the life-long labour of love that is Pinehurst No 2 is his greatest legacy. The course has hosted two US Opens, a Ryder Cup, a PGA Championship, two US Amateurs and a US Women’s Amateur, among others.
Royal County Down, Newcastle County, Northern Ireland
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Laid out through towering sand dunes bordering Dundrum Bay, Royal County Down is widely considered the best golf course outside the United States. Brutally difficult, stunningly beautiful and as much fun as can be had on a golf course, it’s no surprise it appears on so many a golfer’s must-play list.
The Old Course at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
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Known as the Home of Golf because the game has been played here since the 15th century, the Old Course at St Andrews is among the most influential in the world. The clubhouse is home to the R&A (which stands for Royal and Ancient), the governing body of golf outside the US and Mexico, and it’s thanks to St Andrews that courses worldwide are 18 holes. History aside, however, the Old Course also offers some of the most intriguing, fun and challenging golf of any course, anywhere. It is Scotland’s greatest gift to golf and perhaps the world.
Victoria Golf Club, Victoria, Australia
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One of the great triumvirate of sandbelt courses alongside Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne, Victoria would be much better known if it were in any other location. Like its more famous cousins, it inhabits land ideally suited to golf but after being used by the army for manoeuvres during WWII, many of the course’s fairway bunkers had been filled in. Since 1996 an ongoing restoration program has seen the course return to its former glory.
Cape Wickham, Tasmania, Australia
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One of the world’s premiere fishing, dairy and beef producers, King Island, located halfway between mainland Australia and Tasmania, is now home to some very fine golf. Both Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes have opened to rave reviews in the past 18 months with both courses already slotting into the Aussie top 10 category for those who have played them. Proximity alone puts this destination on the bucket list but the golf looks pretty amazing, too.
Bandon Dunes, Oregon, United States
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From humble beginnings in 1999 this isolated golf paradise has grown to become one of the most popular golf destinations in America. It boasts four world-class courses plus a par-3 layout second to none and despite being somewhat tricky to get to, we think it’s a must-visit course.
Sunningdale, Ascot, England
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The golf is as expected from a course consistently rated one of the world’s best but Sunningdale has an added attraction almost unheard of outside England. Despite being one of the most prestigious clubs in the nation, members are encouraged to take their dogs on-course when they play at Sunningdale. We think other countries should consider following their lead.