Golf Digest editors picks
New ranking

World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses


The Methodology | Photos: The Top 20 | Best Courses In 205 Countries
America's 100 Greatest Courses | America's 100 Greatest Public Courses

February 2014
Pine Valley

Pine Valley's Par-3 14th (bottom right) | Par-5 15th (left) | Par-4 16th (right)

Golf Digest has been ranking courses for almost half a century. Here, for the first time, we present the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses.

We compiled a ballot of the world's best layouts, from Aamby Valley to Zimbali, and sent it to our U.S. Course Ranking panelists, our 27 international editions and their respective Course Ranking panels, and other selected people we have come to know and trust. In total, 846 knowledgeable, well-traveled golfers completed our survey, rating each course they were familiar with on a 10-point scale. Courses needed a minimum of 20 ballots to qualify for our ranking.

Top of the list, by a clear margin, was Pine Valley, New Jersey's heathland homage to Sunningdale in England. Forty of the top 100 are American courses—a fitting number given that America's 15,619 courses make up 46 percent of the estimated 34,000 global total. Our ranking spans 18 countries.

Expect future rankings to change dramatically. Though many mature markets like the United States are facing course reductions—there are 500 fewer courses in America than in 2005—elsewhere there are pockets of growth, fueled by prosperity, tourism and, in two years, golf once again becoming an Olympic sport. The number of courses in China, for instance, has tripled in less than a decade—despite a technical government ban. The Chinese golf market will inevitably become the largest in the world. —John Barton

Note: For additional information on courses in the U.S. and Canada click on the course name or photo.

Pine Valley GC
Pine Valley, N.J., U.S.A. / 7,057 yards, Par 70
A genuine original, its unique character forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest Jersey. Founder George Crump had help from architects H.S. Colt, A.W. Tillinghast, George C. Thomas Jr. and Walter Travis. Hugh Wilson of Merion fame finished the job. Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design -- penal, heroic and strategic -- throughout the course, often times on a single hole.
Cypress Point
Pebble Beach, U.S.A. / 6,524 yards, Par 72
Alister MacKenzie's masterpiece, woven through cypress, sand dunes and jagged coastline. In the 2000s, member Sandy Tatum, a former USGA president who christened Cypress Point as the Sistine Chapel of golf, convinced the club not to combat technology by adding new back tees, but instead make a statement by celebrating its original architecture. So Cypress remains timeless, if short, its charm helped in part by the re-establishment of MacKenzie's fancy bunkering.
Augusta National
Augusta, Ga., U.S.A. / 7,435 yards, Par 72
No club has tinkered with its golf course as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament, an event it has conducted since 1934, with time off during WWII. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister MacKenzie and Bob Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and, most recently, extensive lengthening and rebunkering by Tom Fazio.
Royal County Down

4. ROYAL COUNTY DOWN G.C.

Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland / 7,186 yards, Par 71
On a clear spring day, with Dundrum Bay to the east, the Mountains of Mourne to the south and gorse-covered dunes in golden bloom, there is no lovelier place in golf. The design is attributed to Old Tom Morris but was refined by a half dozen architects in the past 120 years, most recently by Donald Steel. Though the greens are surprisingly flat, as if to compensate for the rugged terrain and numerous blind shots, bunkers are a definite highlight, most with arched eyebrows of dense marram grasses and impenetrable clumps of heather.
5. SHINNECOCK HILLS G.C.
Southampton, N.Y., U.S.A. / 7,041 yards, Par 70
Generally considered to be the earliest links in America, heavily remodeled twice by C.B. Macdonald, then replaced (except for three holes) by William S. Flynn in the early 1930s. It's so sublime that its architecture hasn't really been fiddled with in nearly 50 years, although the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has made a few changes to prepare Shinnecock for the 2018 U.S. Open.
Royal Dornoch

6. ROYAL DORNOCH G.C. (CHAMPIONSHIP)

Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland / 6,704 yards, Par 70
Herbert Warren Wind called it the most natural course in the world. Tom Watson called it the most fun he'd had playing golf. Donald Ross called it his home, having been born in the village and learned the game on the links. Tucked in an arc of dunes along the North Sea shoreline, Dornoch's greens, some by Old Tom Morris, others by John Sutherland or tour pro George Duncan, sit mostly on plateaus and don't really favor bounce-and-run golf. That's the challenge: hitting those greens in a Dornoch wind.
The Old Course at St. Andrews

7. THE OLD COURSE AT ST. ANDREWS LINKS

St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland / 7,279 yards, Par 72
The Old Course at St. Andrews is ground zero for all golf architecture.  Every course designed since has either been in response to one or more of its features, or in reaction against it.  Architects either favor the Old Course's blind shots or detest them, either embrace St. Andrews's enormous greens or consider them a waste of turf. Latest polarizing topic: Martin Hawtree's design changes at the Old Course, in advance of the 2015 British Open. Many consider it blasphemy.
Muirfield

8. MUIRFIELD

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland / 7,209 yards, Par 71
Muirfield is universally admired as a low-key, straightforward links with fairways seemingly containing a million traffic bumps.  Except for a blind tee shot on the 11th, every shot is visible and well-defined. Greens are the correct size to fit the expected iron of approach. The routing changes direction on every hole to pose different wind conditions. The front runs clockwise, the back counterclockwise, but history mistakenly credits Old Tom Morris with Muirfield's returning nines. That was the result of H.S. Colt's 1925 redesign.
Royal Melbourne G.C. (West Cse.)

9. ROYAL MELBOURNE G.C. (WEST CSE.)

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia / 6,643 yards, Par 72
Alister MacKenzie's 1926 routing fits snuggly into the contours of the rolling sandbelt land. His greens are miniature versions of the surrounding topography. His  crisp bunkering, with vertical edges a foot or more tall, chew into fairways and putting surfaces.  Most holes dogleg, so distance means nothing and angle into the pin is everything. For championships, holes 8 & 9 and 13 - 16 are skipped in favor of six from the East Course, which is ranked 28th.  That "composite course" was once ranked by several publications.
Oakmont
Oakmont, Pa., U.S.A. / 7,255 yards, Par 71
Once the epitome of a green chairman gone crazy (old man William C. Fownes would stake out new bunkers whenever and where ever he saw a player hit an offline shot), Oakmont now represents the zenith of architectural restoration. It began with the deforestation of thousands of non-native trees planted by decades of green committees and continued with Tom Fazio's reclamation of the game's nastiest, most notorious bunkers and deep drainage ditches. Oh yes, Oakmont also has the game's swiftest putting surfaces. They actually slow them down for professional tournament play, like the upcoming U.S. Open in 2016.
Barnbougle Dunes

11. BARNBOUGLE DUNES

Bridport, Tasmania, Australia / 6,721 yards, Par 71
A 2004 collaboration of American superstar designer Tom Doak and Australian tour-pro turned architect Michael Clayton, this is a tremendous 18 in a fantastic stretch of sand dunes along Bass Strait, the sea that separates Tasmania from Melbourne. What is fascinating is that the back nine is completely reversed from how Doak originally routed it. So was the site that good that, once construction started, Doak and Clayton were able to find nine new green sites at the opposite ends of holes originally envisioned? Or did they create those "natural" green sites?
Sand Hills
Mullen, Neb., U.S.A. / 7,089 yards, Par 71
The golf course wasn't so much designed as discovered. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw trudged back and forth over a thousand acres of rolling sand hills in central Nebraska, flagging out naturally-occurring fairways and greens. By moving just 4,000 cubic yards of earth, and letting the winds shape (and reshape) the bunkers, the duo created what is undoubtedly the most natural golf course in America.
National Golf Links
Southampton, N.Y., U.S.A. / 6,935 yards, Par 72
As the 2013 Walker Cup reminded us, National Golf Links is a true links containing a marvelous collection of strategic holes. Credit architect C.B. Macdonald, who designed National as a collection of his favorite features from grand old British golf holes. Macdonald's versions are actually superior in strategy to the originals, which is why National's design is still studied by golf architects today.
Merion East
Ardmore, Pa., U.S.A. / 6,886 yards, Par 70
What a treat it was to see Merion East, long considered the best course on the tightest acreage in America, hosting the 2013 U.S. Open. Today's generation of big hitters couldn't conquer the little old course. They couldn't stay on its canted fairways edged by creeks, hodge-podge rough and OB stakes and they couldn't consistently hit its canted greens edged by bunkers that stare back. Let's hope it doesn't take another 32 years for the U.S. Open to return to Merion.
Pebble Beach G. Links
Pebble Beach, U.S.A. / 6,828 yards, Par 72
Not just the greatest meeting of land and sea in American golf, but the most extensive one, too, with nine holes perched immediately above the crashing Pacific surf -- the fourth through 10th plus the 17th and 18th. Pebble's sixth through eighth are golf's real Amen Corner, with a few Hail Marys thrown in over a ocean cove on eight from atop a 75-foot-high bluff.  Pebble will host another U.S. Amateur in 2018, and its sixth U.S. Open in 2019.
Royal Portrush

16. ROYAL PORTRUSH G.C.

Portrush, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland / 7,143 yards, Par 72
An Old Tom Morris design reworked by H.S. Colt in the 1930s. He fit fairways into seams between dunes and molded one of the best set of putting surfaces in the world, making Portrush what many feel is Colt's finest design. His most notorious hole is the uphill 210-yard par-3 14th, called Calamity, as there's a steep drop to oblivion on its right. Portrush is the only Irish course to host the Open, back in 1951. Now updated by Martin Hawtree, there's talk it may finally return, perhaps in 2018.
Fishers Island
Fishers Island, N.Y., U.S.A. / 6,566 yards, Par 72
Probably the consummate design of architect Seth Raynor, who died in early 1926, before the course had opened. His steeply-banked bunkers and geometric greens harmonize perfectly with the linear panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. The quality of the holes is also superb, with all of Raynor's usual suspects, including not one but two Redan greens, one on a par 4.
Hirono G.C.

18. HIRONO G.C.

Hirono, Hyogo, Japan / 6,925 yards, Par 72
Undoubted the finest design of globetrotting C.H. Alison, longtime partner of H.S. Colt.  He laid out Hirono in the early 1930s in a hilly pine forest slashed by gulleys, clearing wide corridors and positioning greens on the crests of ridges. What makes Hirono special was Alison's spectacular bunkering, which ranged from diagonal cross bunkers, fearsome carry bunkers and strings of ragged-edged ones. Soon after completion, writers were calling Hirono the Pine Valley of Japan.
Turnberry Resort (Ailsa Cse.)

19. TURNBERRY RESORT (AILSA)

Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland / 7,211 yards, Par 70
A legendary links ravaged by WWII, it was re-established to its present quality by architect Philip Mackenzie Ross, who tore away concrete landing strips to create a dramatic back nine and built a set of varied greens, some receptive, other not so much. Its revetted bunkering is not P.M. Ross; Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas created them before the 1977 Open.  More recently Martin Ebert altered some holes, notably the famed par-4 16th, turning it into a dogleg but retaining the burn before the green.
Kingston Heath

20. KINGSTON HEATH G.C.

Cheltenham, Victoria, Australia / 6,494 meters, Par 72
Considered an Alister MacKenzie design, but in fact Australian pro Des Soutar designed the course in 1925. MacKenzie made a brief visit the following year and suggested the bunkering, which was constructed by Mick Morcom before he built Royal Melbourne's two courses. The bunkers are long, sinewy, shaggy, gnarly, windswept and, of course, strategically placed. Some say MacKenzie's tee-to-green stretch of bunkers on the par-3 15th set the standard for all Sandbelt layouts.
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