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 – 25-11
A breathtaking site for anything, never mind golf.
From the opening tee shot along the 150ft-high bluffs, you are rarely anything but blown away by Bob Harrison’s work on tiny Jura.
The site means it is not especially forgiving, but that is superseded by the brilliance.
Also play: The Machrie on neighbouring Islay is also in this list, and Machrihanish en route too.
Get there: Fly/sail to Islay, then a ferry to Jura.
24. New South Wales
Another example of the jewels bequeathed to Australia by Alister MacKenzie, but this time it is routed among sand hills alongside the Pacific Ocean.
‘La Perouse’ opened in 1928 in Botany Bay and marries MacKenzie’s architectural skill on undulating fairways and small greens, with a fabulous setting.
The 5th, with a blind tee shot then a brilliant reveal of crashing waves as you bring the ocean into view, is epic.
NSW has just appointed Mackenzie & Ebert to ensure architectural consistency across its famed course.
Also play: Lakes GC and The Australian are both a short drive away.
Get there: Sydney airport is 15 minutes away.
23. Bandon Dunes (Bandon Dunes)
The original course at Bandon – and many would argue still its best.
Scotsman David McLay-Kidd’s routing takes you to the ocean at the 4th and back again at the 6th, 12th, 15th and the all-world 16th.
Also play: Pacific Dunes, Sheep Ranch, Bandon Trails & Old Macdonald all on site.
Get there: Southwest Oregon or Portland.
A real player’s course which, if our panel were all proper single-figure handicaps, would likely be a few places higher.
Oozes class and if you are hitting it well it gives you lots back.
Sits at 13 in GB&I, which like Ballybunion might feel a little skinny, so it is so good to have it this high in a world sense.
Also play: The Island, Portmarnock Links and Royal Dublin nearby, The European to the south.
Closest city: Dublin is 20 minutes’ drive away.
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21. Ballybunion (Old)
Number 21 in the world feels like due reward for the drama and aesthetic appeal of a course that looks hard-done-to at its slot of No.12 in GB&I.
After a relatively quiet start, your jaw is rarely not dropping…
Also play: It’s in the famed Ring of Kerry, so Tralee, Waterville, Dooks – plus the Cashen, its No.2.
Closest city: Limerick is 80 minutes away.
Kyle Phillips’ 2000 creation continues to impress. It’s scenic, dramatic and playable – although rest assured it has plenty in the tank to test you.
You might as well keep your phone in your pocket, to save on all the unzipping needed to capture the scenes…
Also play: St Andrews Old and New are 20 minutes away. Dumbarnie & The Castle too.
Closest city: St Andrews but also Dundee.
19. Cabot Cliffs
Nova Scotia, Canada
The first of two entries for this Canadian resort, the brainchild of Ben Cowan-Dewar and his mentor Mike Keiser. They engaged Coore-Crenshaw to build a course on the prime landscape in Cape Breton and the American pair produced a fine routing punctuated with holes of daring and drama.
The 16th, to an infinity green, might be worth the long journey to Novia Scotia alone.
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.
18. North Berwick
East Lothian, Scotland
The West Links has certainly benefited from our emphasis on fun, playable courses in the past two years and we accept some will question it being this high. Yet go through the marks and tell us where it is too high; no-one can surely suggest it lacks design quality, memorable holes or has a modest setting.
Its conditioning is now improved, too.
Consistency? Possibly. But, seriously, what a ride.
Also play: Muirfield, Gullane 1 & 2, Renaissance, Luffness, Archerfield, Kilspindie, Dunbar.
Closest city: Edinburgh is 45 minutes away.
17. Royal Birkdale
A high-octane links that plays through tall dunes, offering breathtaking views and well-framed holes.
Always impeccably conditioned and a consistent test, the last couple, with the iconic Art Deco clubhouse awaiting, are a famous end.
Also play: Formby, which is also in this list, plus Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, West Lancs.
Closest city: Liverpool is 40 minutes away.
16. Barnbougle Dunes (Dunes)
“It is not only one of Australia’s best, but is one of the best courses in the world, old or new,” said former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Barnbougle Dunes.
Opened in 2004, this collaboration between the extravagant combined nous of Tom Doak and Mike Clayton sits on the north-east coast of Tasmania.
Half-par holes, none better than the sporty par-4 4th, abound on a scenic and playable experience.
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.
15. Pinehurst (No.2)
North Carolina, USA
One panelist believes No.2 to be out on its own in terms of design merit. This super resort is the cradle of US golf in the way St Andrews is for us – and No.2 is its biggest attraction.
It’s the essence of the ‘wide fairways and angles’ philosophy and its fun/exacting/evil greens – famous for their domed appearance – are the ultimate representation of putting being a game within a game.
Boston philanthropist James Walker Tufts built the New England-style village among towering pines and sandhills in the 1890s and when Dornoch’s Donald Ross modified No.1 and created No.2, Pinehurst’s aura and enduring legacy were secured.
Also play: You never need leave Pinehurst, which has nine courses. Kiawah to the south.
Get there: Raleigh Durham is 60 minutes away.
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14. Sunningdale (Old)
Pure class. A delightful, gorgeous, luxurious golf experience.
If the heathland vistas of pine, heather and sand don’t captivate you, then the luxuriant but firm turf or the ingenious holes certainly will.
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.
13. Tara Iti
Auckland, New Zealand
Tom Doak received a mesmerically good sandy site on the Te Arai coast, south of Mangawhai, towards the top of New Zealand’s North Island, and duly capitalized on it.
Doak is a master router and every fescue-covered hole offers a view of the sea.
It doesn’t need bunkers; the sandy waste areas, mounds, hollows, bowls, ridges and undulations provide more than enough interest and challenge.
It’s also about to get a sister which, if eligible, you have to fancy will be a strong contender for our 2024 ranking.
Also play: Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidknappers.
Get there: Auckland is 80 minutes away.
12. Royal St George’s
England’s No.1 for almost all of the last decade, ‘Sandwich’ is one of Great Britain & Ireland’s most entertaining links.
It might infuriate the pros during The Open, but we can’t ever imagine walking off here without a huge smile splashed across our face. Just a brilliant, brilliant course.
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. Pebble Beach
San Francisco, USA
As soon as the 2020 list came out, three panellists involved indicated Pebble “looked high” to them, because it lacks the consistent interest to sit among the absolute elite.
Some moot a restoration, but all that said, it has truly epic moments and is one of the game’s achievable (if expensive) bucket list affairs
Also play: Spyglass Hill, also in this list, is along the coast. So, tantalisingly, is Cypress Point.
Get there: Fly to San Francisco or Los Angeles.
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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.