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 top half and the courses that rank from 50th to 26th. 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 – 50-26
50. Cabot Links
Nova Scotia, Canada
The sister course to Cabot Cliffs was designed by Rod Whitman, the right-hand man of Bill Coore – who designed the resort’s No.1 course.
Our panel’s feedback suggests there is very little to choose between them and we would liked to have closed the gap even more in this list, but that is not an easy task… just look at the 10 above Cabot Links.
This high-class course has five holes across or along the beach, every one of them blessed with a view of the ocean.
Also play: Cabot Cliffs, which graces this list, plus Baddeck Forks and Le Portage, an hour away.
Get there: Halifax International, three hours away.
49. Royal Cinque Ports
Moves into the World top 50 and that feels absolutely right to us. ‘Deal’ is seriously good.
Fabulous movement in the links terrain gave the opportunity for some holes that would adorn anything on this list.
Also play: Fellow Open hosts Royal St George’s and Prince’s are virtually walkable from Deal.
Closest city: London is two hours away.
48. Gleneagles (King’s)
James Braid’s moorland masterpiece has never been in better shape. Gleneagles are getting things very right on the course and the King’s remains one of the world’s greatest experiences.
At times quirky, at times exacting, always, always compelling.
Also play: The Queen’s and PGA Centenary on site as well as Blairgowrie’s two courses nearby.
Closest cities: Perth is 15 minutes, Edinburgh 50.
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47. Whistling Straits (Straits)
Pete Dye Ryder Cup venue that comfortably stays in the top 50 and has some passionate supporters.
Sits on the edge of Lake Michigan and the regular breeze adds a fun element to a scenic and high-octane round.
It is characterised by its hundreds of bunkers… the 8th alone has more than 100.
Also play: Sand Valley, Erin Hills, Lawsonia Links.
Get there: Chicago (O’Hare) is two hours away.
46. Bandon Dunes (Bandon Trails)
It doesn’t have the aesthetics of the coastal courses at Bandon, so its position here is testament to the architectural skill of Coore-Crenshaw.
It begins in the dunes before moving into more open terrain and then through woodland.
A refreshingly different option; some have it as Bandon’s No.1.
45. St George’s Hill
A Surrey heathland with a difference; St George’s Hill’s loops of nine travel over raunchier terrain than their illustrious neighbours, and that gives it real adventure and something distinctive.
Also play: Sunningdale Old/New, Walton Heath Old/New, three Ws, Swinley Forest, The Berkshire.
Closest city: London is 30 miles away.
44. Royal Liverpool
Often strangely under-appreciated and with suggestions it is a little tame. But it deserves this top-50 slot; the cleverness of the holes being enhanced by wonderful rippling linksland and a delightful setting.
A connoisseur’s delight.
Also play: Wallasey is on the Wirral too, plus you have all the Southport links just 45 minutes away.
Closest city: Liverpool is 30 minutes away.
43. Royal Lytham & St Annes
An entry that really needs little introduction. Lytham does not pick up marks for its setting among houses, and it is not particularly forgiving. But the sharp-edged bunkers punctuating the undulating linksland appeal to many and it is very clearly a class act.
Also play: Southport’s Birkdale, Hillside, Formby, S&A and West Lancs are all an hour away.
Closest city: Blackpool 10 mins, Liverpool 70 mins.
42. Utrecht de Pan
Given Morfontaine is too private to be eligible for this list, De Pan is continental Europe’s top entry.
A majestic Harry Colt heathland dripping with elegance, it will melt even the most icy of hearts. Pines, heather, sandy turf and Colt; need we say any more?
Also play: Royal Hague, Kennemer, Noordwijkse, Hilversumsche and Rosendaelsche.
Get there: Amsterdam airport is 90 minutes away.
41. Skibo Castle
It used to be 95th in our GB&I ranking, now it’s 41st in the world. The redesign by Tom Mackenzie and David Thomson of the 1995 original was stunningly successful.
Breathtaking presentation is matched by the dreamy setting.
Also play: Royal Dornoch is almost walkable, plus Brora is a must. Tain and Golspie are also terrific.
Closest city: Inverness is 60 minutes away.
Opened in 1929, Alister MacKenzie organised this inland classic brilliantly over undulating land and with intriguing green complexes and artistic bunkering.
A notable rise into the top 40 in line with its position in our US list.
An elegant California course that more than just the connoisseur can appreciate.
Also play: Under an hour’s drive from Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach, also in this list.
Closest city: San Francisco airport an hour away.
39. Royal Troon (Championship)
Troon is often given a hard time for being a little tame compared to its Open-hosting brethren. We disagree.
On the outward phase it has way more aesthetic appeal than it is credited with. There are a handful of elite holes that compete with anything. And coming home you are seriously challenged.
In short, it has everything.
Also play: Turnberry Ailsa to the south. Prestwick, Western Gailes and Dundonald nearby.
Closest city: Glasgow is 50 minutes away.
38. Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)
Pete Dye super-course that opened in 1971, with the legendary American saying: “I created 11 holes and God created seven.”
God’s seven are along the coral, sand, turquoise water and black rocks of the coastline. The rest wind through forest with typical Dye drama.
“I loved Teeth of the Dog. The challenge. The setting. The holes. The routing. The wind. Would love to visit all the Casa courses again,” said one panellist. “Dye Fore might be even better!”
Also play: Dye Fore and The Links courses are also on site and superb, too.
Get there: Las Americas airport is 75 minutes away.
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37. Kawana (Fuji)
Mixes the verdant green of the forest with gorgeous coastline views.
Many drives must be hit through a narrow corridor lined by trees in the forest phase.
Opened in 1936 and designed by Harry Colt’s associate Charles Alison, it has been described as ‘Japan’s Pebble Beach’.
Also play: Ogi GC and Kawana CC are short drives away – plus the Oshima option on site.
Get there: Haneda airport two hrs 30 mins away.
After a relatively modest start, Waterville then leaves nothing in the tank as it travels over classic linksland.
Part of the famed Ring of Kerry courses, it has an evocative history and brawny holes to relish tackling.
Also play: Ballybunion’s Old and Cashen, Tralee, Dooks and Doonbeg/Lahinch to the north.
Closest city: Cork and Limerick, two hours away.
35. Trump Aberdeen
Easy to sum up; holes are generally cut through enormous dunes, running north-south, parallel to the sea and offering drama in abundance.
It is especially worth noting its condition keeps getting even better; more linksy with every passing month.
Also play: Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen in this list, plus Fraserburgh and Murcar.
Closest city: Aberdeen is 20 minutes away.
34. Barnbougle (Lost Farm)
The second course at Barnbougle, but this position shows how good it is.
Its terrain is a little flatter but the same width is in evidence – in fact it might be more forgiving… unless you are really off-target and in which case your ball will be swallowed up.
Boasts some wonderful short holes.
Also play: The Dunes at Barnbougle Dunes, and hop over to King Island to get to Cape Wickham.
Get there: Fly to Hobart from an Australian airport.
33. Castle Stuart
Now under the Cabot banner and with a second course on its way, these are exciting times for Castle Stuart.
The new layout has plenty to live up to, because Castle Stuart is a modern classic. Gil Hanse got the most from a super site and it’s really hard not to have a memorable day here.
Also play: Nairn is within 30 minutes and then head northward to Dornoch, Skibo et al.
Closest city: Inverness is 20 minutes away.
32. Rosapenna (St Patrick’s)
A sensational debut at No.32 for St Patrick’s, which opened in 2021, just a few months after we published our inaugural World 100 ranking.
It moves up a few slots from its position in the spring GB&I ranking, recognition of its progress in terms of conditioning and generally just settling in.
This position might look punchy, and the greens here will vex the odd visitor, but every panellist (and almost all the panel have been already) absolutely lapped it up.
Covid travel restrictions meant Tom Doak leant on his team of Clyde Johnson and Angela Moser more than usual during the final stages of the build, but that has not been to the detriment of the finished product.
No matter what you seek from your round, it is found here in this gloriously remote corner of Donegal.
You want mind-blowing vistas? Rest assured, St Pat’s gives you them.
You need strategic holes to test your brain as well as your brawn? Trust us, they’re all here.
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It is a prominent entry position, but we’ll be amazed if St Patrick’s isn’t threatening the top 25 in 2024. This is the real deal.
31. Lahinch (Old)
‘Ireland’s St Andrews’. ‘The Dell’ and ‘Klondyke’. That’s what you hear about Lahinch and it is categorically an entertaining links. But mixed in are some proper, proper holes – and that gives it something for everyone.
Also play: Doonbeg is half an hour to the south and Ryder Cup host Adare Manor nearby too.
Closest city: Shannon is a 50-minute drive.
30. Cruden Bay
We have been accused of rating Cruden too highly by those who believe it is too quirky and bewildering. Well, we cannot get enough of it.
The car journey home is never a quiet one, discussing the eccentric nature of the holes on this rumbustious links. Brilliant!
Also play: Trump Aberdeen and Royal Aberdeen in this list, plus Fraserburgh and Murcar.
Closest city: Aberdeen is 20 minutes away.
29. Swinley Forest
“Harry Colt’s least worst” are four words that tell you how good Swinley is.
Outcharms courses you thought were intoxicatingly charming and asks questions of your game without length being a factor. Exquisite.
Also play: Sunningdale Old/New, Walton Heath, Woking and St George’s Hill are all in this list.
Closest city: London is 50 minutes away.
28. Carnoustie (Championship)
It is demanding but is certainly far from unplayable, even by higher handicappers.
It is sensationally presented and the drama of the closing holes is matched by the nuance of earlier ones, not least Hogan’s Alley.
Doesn’t dazzle with sea views but has beauty in its landforms, bunkering and fescue.
Also play Monifieth, Montrose & Panmure nearby, Aberdeen’s elite to the north, Fife to the south.
Closest city: Dundee is a short drive away.
27. Sunningdale (New)
Slightly more challenging than the Old and perhaps with slightly less charm and a little less consistent, but we are splitting hairs here.
The New is magnificent, and has arguably the finest holes across the epic 36-hole heathland property.
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.
26. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
Tom Doak’s overhaul of this remote heathland has been an outstanding success and has ensured the Hotchkin is rubbing shoulders with the giants of the game rather than squeezing in in the 80s or 90s.
The bunkering is penal but supremely well done.
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.
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.