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 golf 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. Al Mouj Golf
A new entry for a course in Oman, giving the Middle East two of the World’s Top 100 courses. Al Mouj is located on the coast, on the outskirts of Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate, four hours’ drive south of Dubai.
The Wave, Muscat, is Oman’s leading tourism development, and the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj is the centerpiece of the complex.
The course is stunning. It is located along a 2km stretch of sandy coastline north of the center of Muscat. But it is also a serious test, stretching to 7,342 yards and every inch a championship course.
It enjoys views of the Gulf of Oman – every hole has a sight of the ocean – as well as the dramatic Hajar Mountains that dominate the Muscat skyline. Al Mouj incorporates natural and man-made sand dunes and several holes sit right next to the sea. It is not dissimilar to Yas Links in the way it mixes strong golf holes with a spectacular setting – and that gets it in this Top 100 for the first time.
99. Western Gailes
This connoisseur’s links comprises undulating fairways, a line of dunes running along the coastal stretch from the 5th to 13th, and meandering burns and greens tucked between sand hills.
Laid down just to the north of Troon, the Gailes links are draped on a slender strip of land that’s never more than two holes deep.
Also play: Royal Troon, Prestwick and Turnberry Ailsa are all in this list.
Closest city: Glasgow is 45 minutes away.
98. Tobacco Road
North Carolina, USA
Mike Strantz’s masterpiece is the epitome of distinctive, idiosyncratic, memorable golf. Not a well-known name to overseas golfers, perhaps, but it stays in the 100 with something to spare.
Also play: Pinehurst is 30 minutes to the south, and that’s all you need to know.
Get there: Via Charlotte, Washington or Atlanta.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
This South African course, by Colonel S.V. Hotchkin, from 1929, is a proper links with a distinctive atmosphere for the Southern Hemisphere.
It has beautiful greens complexes, thanks to a renovation project in 2008 and, although sparsely bunkered by GB&I links standards, is affected by the wind; members talk of two ‘courses’, the West and East, depending on the breeze across Algoa Bay.
Also play: East London to the north and especially St Francis Links to the south.
Get there: Port Elizabeth airport 10 minutes away.
96. The National (Gunnamatta)
New entry for Tom Doak’s 2019 work that might be a relatively new name to many of you.
Three years after being unveiled, it gets in our World list by virtue of its fun, interesting and uber-playable characteristics. Incorporates classic design features from some of the world’s great courses. Width and angles, along with wonderful green complexes. Ink it on your Australia itinerary, if you ever go…
95. Saunton (East Course)
A new entry to the list, the East starts with a bang and the quality is relentless early on; this is no slow burner. You leave one green and dart briskly to the next tee, interested to see what awaits.
The finish is also explosive, the last three forming a superlative closing stretch.
94. Hoiana Shores
Da Nang, Vietnam
This design, by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, offers amazing views of the Eastern Sea and Cham Islands. Its natural seaside setting is comparable, aesthetically, to a links and the bluffs-hugging closing holes on this Vietnamese course are particularly good.
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. Lawsonia (Links)
One of America’s most historic courses has its origins in 1930. It is the elegant work of Bill Langford and Ted Moreau and, although not well known, is an exceptionally interesting test.
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.
92. Royal Adelaide
Alister MacKenzie laid out the course when the club eventually settled on the firm, sandy base of Seaton in 1906. The host of nine Australian Opens, the sporty par-4 3rd and 11th, where you drive into fairway lined by sandy waste areas then to a green within a bowl, are high class.
Also play: Westward Ho and Mount Osmond are also within striking distance of the city.
Get there: Adelaide airport is 10 minutes away.
91. Silloth on Solway
We are so pleased to have this unpretentious Cumbrian links in the 100 again; it 100 percent deserves it.
Anyone querying how Silloth, which doesn’t hype up its course, is in the list simply cannot have been here. It is everything you want from a links.
Also play: Seascale, an English Top 100 entry, and Windermere are the top courses nearby.
Closest city: Carlisle is 80 minutes away.
90. Fancourt (Links)
George, South Africa
Set in a wildlife reserve with fairways bordered by wetlands and grasslands but without large animals, Gary Player’s Links is our South African No.1.
“It is one of the world’s most significant and creative design achievements, with dramatic, unconventional holes, undulating fairways, pot bunkers, and links-style greens in various shapes and elevations,” says our SA panellist.
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.
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89. Yas Links
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Yas, our number one pick in the best golf courses in the Middle East, comfortably retains its place in the World list with all on the panel who have played it impressed by its design and setting.
Kyle Phillips made a predictably fine job of creating thrilling holes and an enjoyable flow to this island course, whose most dramatic moments come alongside the blue water of the Gulf.
Also play: European Tour venue Abu Dhabi GC and Gary Player design Saadiyat Beach.
Get there: Abu Dhabi airport is 15 minutes away.
Links-heathland hybrid touched by a combination of Park, Colt, Braid, Hawtree and Steel. Stellar land and brilliant golf brains makes for a predictably good course.
It is played in an anti-clockwise direction around the also-outstanding Formby Ladies, and is a welcome change in pace from the high-octane, big-dune neighbours.
Also play: Royal Birkdale is also in this list, plus Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale and West Lancs.
Closest city: Liverpool is 40 minutes away.
87. Erin Hills
Sculpted by glaciers in the Midwest, it opened in 2009 but was reworked soon after to make it ready for the US Open.
Michael Hurdzan’s layout spreads across 652 windswept, tree-less acres and is a big, bold, muscular modern course that is well-bunkered and well-conceived.
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.
Part of the Sandbelt courses, having moved from Fisherman’s Bend in 1926 to the suburb of Cheltenham. Peter Thomson joined as a member in 1947 and remained until his death in 2018.
Positioning and strategy are key on a course with the firmness and sandy turf of a links but also with trees and some greenery.
“It now has a remarkable set of greens with pure surfaces,” says Geoff Ogilvy.
Also play: Royal Melbourne West/East, in this 100, plus Kingston Heath and Kingswood Peninsula.
Get there: Melbourne airport 90 minutes away.
85. Gamble Sands
David McLay-Kidd got back to his roots with this uber-playable, fun design in Washington. It enjoys a fine setting but the most memorable aspects are the entertaining holes that cross a sandy seam with cool features.
Firm, wide fairways in a brilliant minimalist design.
Also play: Alta Lake Golf Resort and Bear Mountain Ranch are both worth your time.
Get there: Spokane airport is two hours away.
84. Royal Melbourne (East)
Former pro Alex Russell and greenkeeper Mick Morcom built the sister course to our No.3 after helping Alister MacKenzie create the West.
Shorter than its sister and set down over less undulating terrain, but it has the same majestic green complexes and bunkering.
Also play: The West, in this 100, plus Victoria, Kingston Heath and Kingswood Peninsula.
Get there: Melbourne Airport is 45 minutes away.
83. Peninsula Kingswood (North Course)
Something of a surprise entry in 2020 but enhances its position after further panellist play.
“It has so many of the ingredients I love in a course – sensible length par 3s, a healthy smattering of short par 4s, sensational bunkering with strategic questions asked in abundance,” says one panellist.
Also play: Royal Melbourne East and West, Kingston Heath and sister course the South.
Get there: an hour from Melbourne Airport.
82. South Cape
Gyeongsang, South Korea
Kyle Phillips’ routing from 2013 takes in rocky cliffs, jungle-style trees and steep drops. The views from its coastal fairways offer a combination of blue ocean and green islands, and the short 14th is a stunner, with echoes of the famed 7th at Pebble Beach.
Also play: Nine Bridges, Jack Nicklaus Korea and Anyang Country Club.
Get there: Sacheon airport in two hours 45 mins.
Morfontaine is just too exclusive but with some effort you can get a game here, (especially in August when Parisians are on holiday). And it is worth the effort.
Routed by Tom Simpson among boulders, heather and pines, it is an adventurous journey that is never anything less than fascinating.
A little tree management and it would be in the 70s easily.
Also play: Fellow classics Chantilly and Saint Germain, plus Ryder Cup host Le Golf National.
Get there: Paris Charles de Gaulle, 45 mins away.
80. Sand Valley (Sand Valley)
A Coore-Crenshaw design that was the original course at this Mike Keiser resort and, as our ranking suggests, there is very little to choose between them.
Sweeping, generous fairways as per its sister, but runoffs around greens with movement in them offer plenty of challenge.
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.
79. Lofoten Links
You’ve seen the pictures and, over the past couple of years, you’ve read on our site that it is way more than just good to look at. It really is, and absolutely deserves its place in this Top 100 – and indeed its rise from its 2020 position.
Epic truly is the word for Lofoten.
Also play: Miklagard and Oslo GC in Norway’s capital en route are the obvious/only options.
Closest city: Oslo, via flight to Bodo.
78. Sand Valley (Mammoth Dunes)
David McLay-Kidd continued his return to fun, playable golf with this course in Nekoosa, Wisconsin.
Loads of space off the tee and yet there is still plenty to think about with cleverly-positioned hazards. You probably won’t lose a ball, but you will always have plenty to ponder.
Also play: Sand Valley is its sister course and is also in this list. Plus The Sandbox.
Get there: South Wood County Airport 25 mins.
One of the famous ‘Three Ws’, Woking’s strategic merit inspired Tom Simpson to become involved in architecture.
Thank you for that, Woking, and thank you for the elegant puzzle you set, framed by heather and characterised by wonderful green complexes.
Also play: Sunningdale Old/New, Walton Heath, Swinley Forest and St George’s Hill, all in this list.
Closest city: London is 50 minutes away.
76. Streamsong (Blue)
The Tom Doak design here starts with scoreable holes to ease you and builds to a wonderful crescendo.
Blends in beautifully to its landscape, a former phosphate mine. Firm, fast greens lie at the end of wide fairways – though perhaps not quite the movement in the putting surfaces Doak is known for.
An enjoyable walking experience.
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.
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.