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 head into the top 75 and reveal the designs that just missed out on a spot in the top half. 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 – 75-51
75. The Machrie
A nice rise for this ancient links on Islay that was given a thorough overhaul by D.J. Russell to make it more playable in a breeze and extract even more aesthetic appeal from its seaside setting.
Some blind aspects have been removed but, rest assured, some are still in evidence if you are offline, part of a classic links package that includes fast-running, firm turf and, thankfully, still plenty of quirk.
Also play: Ardfin is a 10-minute ferry away, Machrihanish & Mach Dunes on the mainland.
Closest city: Glasgow by plane is the easiest route.
74. Highland Links
Nova Scotia, Canada
Another notable rise for a Canadian course, another wonderful setting and another Stanley Thompson design.
This time in Cape Breton, it opened in 1941 and was originally nine holes but Thompson added another nine and changed the routing in order to follow the Clyburn River.
Expect pot bunkers, dune slacks and undulating greens mixed in with native trees and rocks.
Also play: Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Inverness are two hours away.
Get there: JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.
73. Streamsong (Black)
Opened in 2017, the Black is set apart from the Blue and Red and even has its own clubhouse.
Gil Hanse’s work is understated and is characterised by sandy waste areas, and huge, undulating greens.
Also play: The Red and Blue are also in this ranking so there is really no reason to leave.
Get there: Jacksonville or Orlando.
72. Royal Hague
The Hague, Netherlands
In Harry Colt’s portfolio but C.H. Alison did the key work here, laying out this Dutch masterpiece over significantly undulating seaside terrain.
A proper, proper test in a breeze – from tee to green and then on pure surfaces renovated by Colt-ophile Frank Pont.
Also play: The Kennemer and Noordwijkse are on the same coast – plus Utrecht, inland.
Get there: Amsterdam airport 40 minutes away.
71. Banff Springs
A nice rise compared to 2020, with the panel believing there is little to choose between it and Jasper Park. They have similarities: it also opened as a nine-holer, in 1911, and the setting is magical.
Bill Thomson, Donald Ross and ultimately Stanley Thompson are the names on the deeds here.
The 4th, ‘Devil’s Cauldron’, is a genuine jaw-dropping par 3.
Also play: Jasper Park Lodge is also in this list and Black Hawk GC is a very worthwhile addition.
Get there: Calgary airport is 90 minutes away.
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This Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Curtis Cup host plays over delicious inland-links turf.
Extremely well bunkered and an unremitting test, Ganton has introduced sandy waste areas through Martin Ebert.
Also play: A little out on its own but Alwoodley and Moortown are just over an hour away in Leeds.
Closest city: York is 40 minutes away.
69. Diamante Dunes
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The Pacific Ocean and natural desert are delightful settings for Diamante, a Davis Love design that opened in 2009 and which makes the most of that hybrid.
Rare is the hole where you aren’t playing alongside the ocean, toward it or away from it.
Also play: El Cardonal by Tiger Woods is also on site and a contender for this list.
Get there: Cabo San Lucas is 25 minutes away.
68. West Sussex
The variety at ‘Pulborough’ is a match for most. Long and short par 3s, sporty and exacting par 4s, and gettable and challenging par 5s.
The heathland turf is a delight and the heather paints the prettiest of pictures.
Also play: Rye is also in this list and is a seminal links. Royal Ashdown Forest has two fine courses.
Closest cities: Between Brighton and Portsmouth.
67. Jasper Park Lodge
A beguiling setting plus the skill of Canada’s great architect Stanley Thompson are an intoxicating combination.
Opened in 1925, initially as a nine-holer, it sits between the Rockies and glistening lakes, with elevated tees meaning you are frequently dispatching your ball against the backdrop of the mountains.
Also play: Banff Springs is also in this Top 100, and Black Hawk and Calgary are also worth playing.
Get there: Jasper Airport is 15 minutes away.
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66. Sawgrass (Stadium)
Arguably the US course in this ranking that British golfers know the most about as a result of its hosting of The Players.
Pete Dye’s icon is about more than the legendary 17th – although that is a true bucket-list experience.
Has been upgraded in the last five years.
Also play: It’s in the middle of St Augustine’s strip of courses, and Streamsong is three-hours away.
Closest city: Jacksonville ideally or Orlando.
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65. Royal West Norfolk
A step back in time in every sense, and all the better for it.
‘Feature holes’ on both nines that you’ll have as your personal favourites forever.
Play foursomes for the true ‘Brancaster’ experience.
Also play: Hunstanton, five minutes away, as well as Sheringham, Royal Cromer and King’s Lynn.
Closest city: Norwich is 70 minutes away.
64. Paraparaumu Beach
Paraparaumu, New Zealand
“When we all turn to dust, Paraparaumu should still be lying there as it was when the first golfers came by,” said five-time Open champion Peter Thomson of this New Zealand links.
Alex Russell, the pro who helped Alister MacKenzie on Melbourne’s Sandbelt classics, is the man responsible for Paraparaumu. There are no weak holes and while it’s not tight to the coast, the turf is firm and links.
Also play: Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs, along with Arrowtown.
Get there: Wellington is 100 minutes away.
We have a soft spot for Rye and its collection of funky holes and magnificent par 3s.
Harry Colt worked the dune ridges predictably well and there is a ‘glad to be a golfer’ vibe about a game here.
Also play: West Sussex is also in this list, but you can also hop over the border to Kent’s links.
Closest city: London is two hours away.
62. St Enodoc (Church)
We rate the Church higher than anyone else and we think we are correct…!
This is a links of unforgettable holes, enviable variety and endless fun. Only the less explosive short spell on the back nine holds it back from being inside the top 50.
Also play: Perranporth, Royal North Devon, Saunton East and West are all on that coastline.
Closest city: Plymouth, a 90-minute drive away.
Yes, it has that opening tee shot, but if you think the thrills end there, think again. The rest of the opening half is at least as good and would be enough to get it in the GB&I Top 100 alone.
It is relatively quiet to finish, otherwise it would be World top 50.
Also play: Machrihanish Dunes, Dunaverty and The Machrie, plus Ardfin on Jura.
Closest city: Glasgow is two hours away.
60. Royal Porthcawl
Whenever a panellist returns from this corner of Wales, having played the Principality’s No.1, they always give glowing feedback.
It starts with a bang, with three along the shore, and the tempo is maintained across holes that dart about the linksland, à la Muirfield.
Also play: Pennard, Pyle & Kenfig, Southerndown and Tenby along the south coast of Wales.
Closest cities: Midway between Swansea & Cardiff.
59. Walton Heath (Old)
Not quite catching the imagination of the panel as it did last time, so a little fall for the Old. Expansive heathland lets you follow in the footsteps of the icons in the 1981 Ryder Cup.
Also play: Sunningdale Old/New, Walton Heath, Woking and St George’s Hill are all in this list.
Closest city: London is 22 miles to the north.
58. Streamsong (Red)
Another entry for Coore-Crenshaw, this time in Florida.
We rate the Red as Streamsong’s top course, but as at Bandon we acknowledge the order is wholly debatable.
Expect dramatic slopes and firm, fast surfaces as well as wide fairways – but on the Red there is a premium on finding the optimum entry to the green.
Scoreable on the front nine, its back nine starts in more exacting fashion and can quickly ruin your scorecard.
Also play: You have two more courses in this list – Black and Blue – plus Florida’s many others.
Get there: Fly to either Tampa or Orlando.
West Yorkshire, England
A significant rise for the course that set Alister MacKenzie on his way to architectural fame and reverence.
It’s much more than a Mackenzie pilgrimage, though; expect a heathland of excellent variety, strategy and subtlety.
Also play: Moortown, another classic Alister MacKenzie heathland, is literally across the A61.
Closest city: It is 15 minutes from Leeds centre.
56. Royal Aberdeen
Awesome links with an outward half the equal of pretty much anything in this 100 – it’s that good.
The tee shot from under the window of the clubhouse lounge directly towards the North Sea sets the tone for an explosive round.
Also play: Cruden Bay and Trump Aberdeen in this list, plus Fraserburgh, Murcar and Newburgh.
Closest city: Aberdeen is 20 minutes away.
55. Bethpage (Black)
New York, USA
Defined by the infamous sign that ‘welcomes’ golfers to the 1st tee of the Black with the warning: ‘This is an extremely difficult course’.
The brainchild of Joseph Burbeck, superintendent at the State Park, who asked A.W. Tillinghast to add his considerable nous.
Slender fairways, penal rough, large bunkers, elevated greens and true three-shot par 5s make it the test you come to New York for.
Also play: So many courses in New York – including some all-world private ones.
Get there: New York JFK is 40 minutes away.
54. Bandon Dunes (Sheep Ranch)
Only opened in 2020, but made it into our World list instantly. Some already think it is the venue’s No.1.
Half of the holes have clifftop greens to give it an edge-of-the-world feel, and a routing that darts in and away from the peninsula means firing over the promontories is more prevalent here than on other Bandon courses.
Also play: Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald are all also on site.
Get there: Southwest Oregon airport or Portland
It doesn’t blow you away with its setting and it has some quieter moments, but you drink in the history and the idiosyncratic holes from the moment you reach for a 7-iron on the tee of the par-4 1st.
Also play: Turnberry Ailsa to the south and Troon is also in this list. Western Gailes just outside it.
Get there: Glasgow is around an hour away.
52. Kiawah Island (Ocean)
South Carolina, USA
Stellar host of tournaments and its oceanside setting gives Kiawah’s No.1 serious X Factor.
In parts intimidating but always exhilarating, this is one of the great experiences in US public access golf.
Also play: There are a handful of other courses on site and Pinehurst also in North Carolina.
Get there: Charleston airport 45 minutes away.
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51. Cape Kidnappers (Doak Classic)
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Tom Doak, predictably, perfectly sums up what to expect on the fingers of headland made famous by David Cannon’s aerial photograph: “Three times you have to make a perilous leap from the end of one ridge to the end of the next.
“Cape Kidnappers is not true links terrain, with the wrinkles of sand dunes; instead the land tilts toward the sea as a series of ridges jutting out toward the edge of the cliffs. Yet, the play is seaside golf at its finest. The surface is firm and fast, the conditions can be windy.”
Also play: Kauri Cliffs is further north in the North Island, Paraparaumu Beach GC is to the south.
Getting there: Sits between Auckland and Wellington.
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.