K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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One of the highlights of playing golf is the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and beautiful scenery while perfecting your game. For some, that is the reason to take up the centuries-old sport while others travel across the globe searching for the best golf escapes. Whatever your reason for playing, these courses are sure to give you some of the most spectacular surroundings to gaze at.
Some say that Old Head Golf Links, situated along Ireland’s southern coast in Kinsale, County Cork, is the most breathtaking golf course on earth. It is truly unique, built on a diamond of land that juts out more than two miles into the Atlantic. The course is surrounded by the ocean on all sides, stretching for over 7,200 yards. With the constantly changing sea breeze, it provides challenges to the most experienced pros as well as high handicappers. Designers carefully worked the natural surroundings into the layout, with the remains of a 17th-century and early 19th-century lighthouse located near the 7th tees. A more modern lighthouse, constructed in 1853, can be found at the southern tip of the headland behind the 18th tees. Wildlife habitats provide homes to foxes, hares, voles and kestrels.
Pebble Beach Golf Links is arguably America’s most renowned course. Golf Digest editor Roger Schiffman once remarked, “There is no setting for golf that is more dramatic or distracting than Pebble Beach. Imagine trying to concentrate on the shot at hand while the sound of crashing waves is ringing in your ears and the image of the spray against rock is invading your peripheral vision.” As you work your way across narrow fairways, you can’t help but soak in the awe-inspiring views of the rocky shores along the Pacific Coast.
Cypress Point, just a few miles from world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links, is an exclusive, private place, designed by one of the greatest American course architects, Alister Mackenzie. You won’t see casual players chipping away on the rolling fairways here. Also located on the Pacific coastline in spectacular Big Sur country, there have been very few changes since it was first established in 1928. That’s because, most feel, it’s already perfect.
The Emerald Isle has no shortage of scenic golf courses. Its southwest region is known as one of the most outstanding venues for world-class links golf, including the more recent addition, Greg Norman-designed Doonbeg, set across 400 acres fronting 2.5 miles on the Atlantic Ocean atop high cliffs. When Norman first visited back in 1997, he remarked, “I am almost speechless. I have never seen a piece of land like this in all my travels.”
Doonbeg is especially renowned for its first hole, which some call the most beautiful opening hole in the world, a par five playing slightly downhill to a green surrounded on three sides by towering dunes, with the Atlantic peeking out in between.
The Abaco Club, on Winding Bay about 150 miles east of Miami in the Bahamas, is a private course and the first Scottish-style links course in the world set in a tropical location. The extraordinary course designed by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie is nestled on a peninsula at the edge of turquoise waters and an expansive, powdery soft sand beach. Each of its 18 holes blends into the natural setting of the Caribbean, attracting golf enthusiasts and professionals alike. The 18th hole alone is especially amazing, set along the shoreline 60 feet above the crashing surf. The only downside is that the dramatic setting can be distracting from the game.
Pine Valley Golf Club, located about 45 minutes southeast of Philadelphia in New Jersey, is a private course consistently ranked as one of the top courses in the U.S. and the world. It’s known to be uniquely beautiful and brutal, with the opportunity for one of the wildest golf rides on the planet. It isn’t overly manicured, in fact, it’s actually rather scruffy in some places. The course winds through scrub and wasteland, where some golfers say you’ll find most of the fun, though it’s said that everyone learns to “take failure in stride” at Pine Valley. Dramatic terrain and a brilliant design come together to create an incomparable test of skill and decision making for an unforgettable round of play.
The Bay of Islands is well-known as one of New Zealand’s most picturesque areas, and it’s also home to the Kauri Cliffs Golf Club, one of the most spectacular golf courses designed in the last two decades. Set across 4,000 acres of rolling farmland along the coast near Matauri Bay, it was made to harmonize and blend in with the land’s natural features. Six holes are played alongside cliffs that plunge dramatically down into the sea, though 15 holes offer magnificent views of the Pacific, spanning from the Cavalli Islands to Cape Brett. The 7th hole may be its finest, with an incredible panoramic view taking in lush, green islands and rocky islets.
Augusta is known around the world, seen on TV every spring during the Masters, one of the most revered tournaments in the U.S. It features a narrow green fronted by a deep pond, flanked front and back by deep bunkers while red and purple azaleas provide a beautiful backdrop. Designed by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie, it’s one of the most historic and aesthetically pleasing courses across the globe. While Mackenzie and Jones did the original routing, it’s since been altered by Jack Nicklaus, Trent Jones, Tom Fazi and Perry Maxwell. With its immaculate green grass and thick rows of pine trees that line every fairway, it’s easy to see why Augusta is chosen to host the Master’s every year.
Pacific Dunes, located along the Oregon coast, one of the most jaw-dropping coastlines on the planet, features magnificent panoramic ocean views from atop soaring cliffs that jut into the Pacific. The rolling fairways remain just as they were found, with natural bunkers lining the landscape as they have for hundreds of years. The course emerges from shore pines to stunning 60-foot sand dunes that morph into lightning-fast greens. It’s as if nature perfectly carved this layout herself, without any assistance by man. Pacific Dunes is regarded as the best of the best at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and even one of the finest in the world.
Located on the Garden Isle, the Ocean Course at Hokuala is considered by many to be the most beautiful course in the Hawaiian Islands with its lush courses lined with palm trees and magnificent Pacific Ocean views. Golfers enjoy the warm weather along with a spectacular course surrounded by emerald-hued mountains and the waves crashing against the green. The Kiele course is uniquely styled, with fairways weaving along the imposing sea cliffs, across promontories high above the water and roughly 40 acres of freshwater lagoons winding throughout the resort.
Playing host to the Open Championship more than once, the Ailsa Course is a standout of Turnberry’s three courses in west Scotland. It runs along the rocky Ayrshire coast, inspiring a truly magical round with golfers encountering dunes, gorse and all sorts of landmarks. The signature 9th hole brings golfers to the top of a stony ridge with views of the majestic Turnberry lighthouse and ruins of Bruce’s Castle. A World War II memorial in the shape of a cross sits near the 12th green. The striking beauty of this hole exemplifies the finest links golf has to offer.
There are few golf enthusiasts, if any, who don’t dream of playing the Old Course at St. Andrews, the most legendary course in the world. There is nowhere else on the planet where golfers can walk in the spike marks of every acclaimed figure to have played the game. Golf has been played on this patch of land on Scotland’s east coast since the 15th century, with the course officially established in 1552. It’s embedded in the North Sea dunes, challenging even the most skilled players. The 17th hole, known as the most challenging, features a narrow green tucked between a pot bunker and a road, framed by the Royal & Ancient clubhouse and picturesque city of St. Andrews.
This breathtaking course at the Lemuria Resort on Praslin Island is the only 18-hole course in this Indian Ocean archipelago. The first 12 holes are lined with palm trees, but from the 13th hole on it becomes a much greater challenge. The 15th hole is known as the most extraordinary with incredible views from its vantage point high atop a rocky ridge, looking out across the magnificent waters and other islands. From there, it plunges down to a fairway carved through the rainforest, and ultimately to a green fronted by a lake. For golfers staying at the resort, your green fees are included in the room rates.
Once ranked as the top course in the Caribbean by Golf Magazine, the Teeth of the Dog draws some of the best pro and amateur golfers in the world. This is a true “bucket list” track, designed by leading golf architect Pete Dye, with seven holes playing along or over the glistening Caribbean Sea, four on the front and three on the backside. While it may not be as dramatic as Pebble Beach, it has a more intimate relationship with the water, with golfers playing directly over it on several holes – close enough to bring the sea into play more than some would prefer.
Opened in 2010, golf is the biggest draw for this luxurious resort with two 18-hole championship courses designed by Kyle Phillips, famed for his designs of links courses in Scotland. Every hole features sweeping views of the Mediterranean, within an amphitheater of the Sicilian Mountains. Both The East and The West course offer challenges to golfers of all skill sets.
Falsterbo, located at the tip of the scenic Falsterbo peninsula in Sweden where the Baltic and Oresund meet, is one of the most prestigious and oldest golf clubs in the country. Bordered on three sides by the sea, the course is frequently seen among lists of the top golf courses in Europe with a traditional well-bunkered links course featuring dunes and a historic lighthouse. Set within a nature preserve on the migratory path of many bird species, it’s also popular with bird watchers.
Cape Kidnappers, designed by renowned golf architect Tom Doak, has been hailed as one of the great modern marvels in golf, ranked as one of the best in the world. Set atop New Zealand’s rolling farmland at the edge of the Pacific, you’ll play along the precipitous cliffs of the bay, enjoying some of the most breathtaking views on the planet. The 7,119-yard course offers challenges for all skill levels too.
The Ocean Club Golf Course is another one of the most magnificent in the Caribbean. The views of the breathtaking coastline and azure-colored waters make the frustration of the crosswinds a little easier to take. It was masterfully designed by Tom Weiskopf, providing every element for the perfect game stretched over 7,100 yards on Paradise Island’s peninsula. Golf Digest Magazine once recognized it as a top 10 course in North America and the Caribbean, and it’s also played host to a number of nationally-televised events like the Michael Jordan Invitational.
This spectacular course is perched on a bluff above the crashing waves of the Pacific, delivering amazing views at every hole. The 6,914-yard course was fashioned after classic Scottish links, with the natural terrain playing a major part in the game. The final four holes are famed as some of the best in the world of golf. Wispy native grasses accent tees, while the wail of bagpipers can be heard playing every weekend just as the sun goes down.