The five biennial Golf Digest World’s 100 Greatest Courses rankings—the first was published in 2014—reveal several consistencies. Royal County Down, the top-ranked course for 2022-2023, for instance, has been the No. 1-ranked international course in each previous poll (the first rankings included U.S. courses, and the past three have been for courses only outside the United States).
The 350 panelists who live beyond the U.S. borders bring an international perspective to the list: Courses from 25 countries made this year’s ranking. Designs from the United Kingdom and Ireland, where golf was born, feature prominently—Scotland leads the way with 17, followed by 13 from England—but Canada (12), Australia (10), New Zealand (4) and Japan (4) also made strong showings. China, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea all charted three.
Our panelists are also quick to recognize excellence. In the past it has taken little time for courses like Tara Iti (this year’s No. 2 course), Cabot Cliffs (No. 10) and Cape Wickham (No. 12) to surge to the top of the ranking. Each opened in 2015 and have been fixtures since. Two new courses that opened in 2021 that we expect to see on the ranking soon—Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner’s New Course at Les Bordes in France and Tom Doak’s St. Patrick’s Links at Rosapenna in Ireland—scored highly but didn’t receive enough panelist play to qualify for this year’s list, undoubtedly because of the impact of COVID travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
Twelve courses made this year’s list that weren’t featured in the previous ranking. Some like St. Enodoc in southwest England and The Durban Country Club return after a hiatus, and numerous others make their debut, including a trio from Europe. Some courses fell off the World 100, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not, including South Korea’s South Cape Owner’s Club, Ellerston in Australia, Doonbeg in Ireland and Cabo del Sol’s Ocean Course in Mexico. Such is the revolving nature of course rankings, where estimations and assessments rarely stand still.
(Note: Brackets indicate the course's previous World 100 ranking.)
1  ROYAL COUNTY DOWN G.C. (CHAMPIONSHIP)
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Old Tom Morris (1889), Donald Steel (remodeled, 1998)
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 half a 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.
2  TARA ITI G.C.
Mangawhai, New Zealand
Tom Doak (2015)
6,840 yards, par 71
Built by American designer Tom Doak from what had been a pine-covered Sahara along the eastern coast of New Zealand's North Island, it's far more links-like than the country's other coastal courses, most of which are on rock. Doak and design associate Brian Slawnik spent more than two years gently resculpting the sandy soil into hummocks, punchbowls and sand dunes that look like they were formed by wind and vegetated by nature. There's lots of sand but no bunkers. Golfers may ground the club anywhere. With holes inspired by Cypress Point, Royal Dornoch and Royal St. George's, and views everywhere of the Hauraki Gulf, this might be New Zealand's answer to Pebble Beach's Carmel Bay. The greatest meeting of land and sea is clearly up for debate.
3  ROYAL DORNOCH G.C. (CHAMPIONSHIP)
Old Tom Morris (1892), George Duncan (1947), Donald Steel (1993), Tom Mackenzie (2013)
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 1920 Open champion 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.
4  ROYAL MELBOURNE G.C. (WEST)
Black Rock, Australia
Alister MacKenzie, Alex Russell (1931), Tom Doak (2015-’16)
6,645 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 taller, chew into fairways and putting surfaces. Most holes are doglegs, so distance means nothing and angle into the pin is everything. For championships, holes 8 and 9 and 13 through 16 are skipped in favor of six from the East Course, which is ranked 19th. That "composite course" was once ranked among the best in the world by several publications.
5  MORFONTAINE G.C.
Tom Simpson (1927), Kyle Phillips (2004)
6,584 yards, par 70
A timeless 1927 design north of Paris by British architect Tom Simpson, Morfontaine looks suspiciously like a heathland course around London, with windswept Scotch pines and clumps of heather atop a base of sand. But it's tighter than Sunningdale or St. George's Hill, and the forest surrounding holes is far denser. Thirteen years ago, American architect Kyle Phillips updated the layout in 2004, adding a new 12th green to extend the par 5 by 60 yards. It fits in perfectly.
6  HIRONO G.C.
C.H. Alison (1932), Martin Ebert (2018-’19)
7,169 yards, par 72
This is undoubtedly 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. The restorative work by Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert has sharpened the teeth of Alison’s bunkering and restored the lost tees of the par-3 13th, making the hole play once again at an angle to the fronting lake rather than directly across it.
7  MUIRFIELD
Old Tom Morris (1891), H.S. Colt (1925), Martin Hawtree (2011)
7,245 yards, par 71
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
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.
8  ROYAL PORTRUSH G.C. (DUNLUCE)
Tom Gilroy (9, 1888), Old Tom Morris (9, 1889), H.S. Colt (1933), Martin Ebert (2015)
7,317 yards, par 72
David Cannon/Getty Images
Portrush is still the only Irish course to host The Open. The Old Tom Morris design, reworked by H.S. Colt in the 1930s, was the Open site back in 1951, and was again in 2019. In preparation, architect Martin Ebert added new seventh and eighth holes, fashioned from land on the club's Valley Course, to replace its weak 17th and 18th. That means the notorious Calamity Hole, an uphill 210-yard par 3, will now be the 16th instead of the 14th, and the old dogleg-right par-4 16th will now be the closing hole, with a new back tee. Ebert retained Colt's greens, considered one of the best set of putting surfaces in the world.
9  THE OLD COURSE AT ST. ANDREWS
Allan Robertson (1848), Old Tom Morris (1865-’85), Martin Hawtree (2013-’14)
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' enormous greens or consider them a waste of turf. Latest polarizing topic: Martin Hawtree's design changes in advance of the 2015 Open Championship, which many considered blasphemy beforehand. After Zach Johnson's dramatic overtime victory, few mentioned the alterations. We’ll see how the latest (minor) alterations play out when the historic links hosts the 150th Open Championship in July.
10  CABOT CLIFFS
Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw (2015)
6,765 yards, par 72
John and Jeannine Henebry
Another sensational Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design, Cabot Cliffs overflows with variety with its southernmost holes in Lahinch-like sand dunes, its northernmost atop Pebble Beach-type ocean cliffs and bits of pine-lined Scottish highlands in between. The course has six par 5s, including three in the space of four holes, and six par 3s, plus an additional one-shot bye-hole aside the fourth. Sporting the same fescue turf mix as nearby sister course Cabot Links (ranked 39th), some tee shots seem to roll forever, but so do errant shots that miss greens. The cliff-edged par-3 16th is quickly becoming one of the game's most photographed holes.
11  KINGSTON HEATH G.C.
Des Soutar, Mick Morcom (1925), Mike Clayton (2002)
7,102 yards, par 72
David Cannon/Getty Images
Considered an Alister MacKenzie design, but in fact Australian golf professional Des Soutar designed the course in 1925. MacKenzie made a brief visit the following year and suggested the bunkering, which was constructed by greenkeeper 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.
12  CAPE WICKHAM LINKS
King Island, Australia
Mike DeVries, Darius Oliver (2015)
6,725 yards, par 72
Courtesy of Cape Wickham
American Mike DeVries and Australian golf writer Darius Oliver collaborated on a breathtaking site along Bass Strait, a notorious stretch of Australian seacoast that once shipwrecked many voyages. The routing on this glorious collection of holes is heart-pounding, starting along rocks and crashing surf, moving inland but not out of the wind, returning to ocean edge at the downhill 10th, pitch-shot 11th and drivable par-4 12th. It then wanders into dunes before a crescendo closing hole curving along Victoria Cove beach, which is in play at low tides.
13  TRUMP TURNBERRY (AILSA)
P.M. Ross (1951), Martin Ebert (2015)
7,489 yards, par 71
Courtesy of Trump Turnberry
A legendary links ravaged by WWII, architect Philip Mackenzie Ross re-established it to its present quality, tearing away concrete landing strips to create a dramatic back nine and building a set of varied greens, some receptive, other not so much. After Donald Trump purchased the course, Martin Ebert of the firm of Mackenzie & Ebert made notable changes, creating new par 3s at Nos. 6 and 11, converting the old par-4 ninth into an ocean-edge par 3, and turning the fifth, 10th and 14th into par 5s and the 17th into a long par 4. New tees on 18 eliminate its old dogleg tee shot. To complete the new look, Ebert replaced revetted bunkers with ragged-edged ones.
14  NEW SOUTH WALES G.C.
Le Perouse, Australia
Des Soutar, Carnegie Clark, Alister MacKenzie (1928), Eric Apperly (1936), Greg Norman (2010), Tom Doak (2018)
6,829 yards, par 72
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
On the dramatic rugged seacoast of Botany Bay near Sydney, on the spot where Captain Cook first stepped onto Australia in 1770, La Perouse is renowned for its ocean views and high winds. On his brief but productive 1926 trip, Alister MacKenzie prepared a routing for the course, but it was radically altered during a 1936 remodeling by Eric Apperly and by neglect during WWII. A succession of post-war architects has slowly re-established the integrity of the design, most recently Tom Doak.
15  SUNNINGDALE G.C. (OLD)
Willie Park Jr. (1901), H.S. Colt 1922), Donald Steel (1986)
6,627 yards, par 70
A Willie Park Jr. design that dates from 1901, it's perhaps the most advanced of its day. Chopped from a pine forest but routed like a links, with the ninth at the far end of the property, it plays like a links, too, for there's a sand base beneath the turf. The Old has big greens, as Park put a premium on approach putting, and artful bunkers, with both angled cross-bunkers and necklaces of sand hampering direct routes to some greens. To American visitors, the look of Sunningdale brings to mind Pine Valley or Pinehurst.
16  BARNBOUGLE DUNES
Tom Doak, Mike Clayton (2004)
6,724 yards, par 71
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
A 2004 collaboration of American superstar designer Tom Doak and Australian tour-pro-turned-architect Michael Clayton, Barnbougle Dunes is a tremendous 18 in a fantastic stretch of sand dunes along Bass Strait, the sea that separates Tasmania from Melbourne. What's most fascinating is that the back nine is completely reversed from how Doak originally routed it. So was the site so 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?
17 [T-23] ROYAL BIRKDALE G.C.
George Lowe (1897), F.G. Hawtree, J.H. Taylor (1931), Fred W. Hawtree (1974-’85), Martin Hawtree (2010)
7,156 yards, par 70
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
Site of Jordan Spieth's remarkable Open victory in 2017, Royal Birkdale has also been the venue for past Women's British Opens, Ryder Cups, Walker and Curtis Cups. Three generations of the Hawtree design firm, oldest in the world, are responsible for Royal Birkdale. Patriarch Frederic G. did the present design, with its surprisingly flat fairways and docile greens between towering dunes, in 1931. Thirty years later, son Fred W. remodeled it, adding the now-classic par-3 12th. Forty years after that, grandson Martin revised the course for its ninth Open Championship, the one Spieth tried to throw away on the 13th before quickly rallying, going birdie-eagle on the next two holes to ultimately win by three.
18  BALLYBUNION G.C. (OLD)
Lionel Hewson (9, 1906), Reginald Beale (9, 1927), Tom Simpson (1937), Martin Hawtree (2011), Graeme Webster (2015)
6,802 yards, par 71
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Ballybunion has always been great, but it wasn't until they relocated the clubhouse in 1971 to the southern end that it became thrilling. The move turned the old finish of anticlimactic back-to-back par 5s, into the fourth and fifth holes, and shifted the new closing holes to ones in spectacular dunes just north of the intersection of the Shannon River and the Atlantic Ocean. Honorary member Tom Watson suggested modest design changes in the 1990s. Five years ago, Martin Hawtree added new tees atop dunes on several holes.
19 [T-23] ROYAL MELBOURNE G.C. (EAST)
Black Rock, Australia
Alex Russell (1932), Tom Doak (2012)
6,579 yards, par 71
David Cannon/Getty Images
Former Australian Open champion Alex Russell and greenkeeper Mick Morcom built the West Course to plans of Alister MacKenzie, then added the East in 1931, on somewhat less inspiring land, flatter and more wooded. But the bunkering and green contours are very similar to the West. (Mackenzie had routed a nine-hole East Course that was never built. Russell incorporated a few of those holes.) A slight flaw may be that all four par 3s play in the same northerly direction. For composite tournament play, East's holes 1-3 and 16-18 are used along with 12 of the West holes.
20  CASA DE CAMPO (TEETH OF THE DOG)
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Pete Dye (1971)
7,471 yards, par 72
Tony Arruza/Courtesy of Casa de Campo/The Leading Hotels of the World
The Dominican Republic is now a major golf destination. Teeth of the Dog started it all back in 1971. Pete Dye rebuilt and updated the course several times, sometimes after hurricane damage and sometimes to fine tune the design. The routing is stunning, a clockwise front nine, counterclockwise back nine, with seven holes hunkered down on the ocean, no more than 20 feet above the surf. The sea is on the left on holes five through eight, on the right on holes 15 through 17. Every hole is unique and scenic.
21  CAPE KIDNAPPERS G. CSE.
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Tom Doak (2004)
7,143 yards, par 71
Not a links, more like a stratospheric Pebble Beach, high atop a windswept plateau some 500 feet above the sea. The 2004 design truly demonstrates the lay-of-the-land philosophy of American architect Tom Doak, who ran holes out and back along a series of ridges perpendicular with the coastline, most framed by deep canyons. The fairways are wide, but Doak rewards bold tee shots that flirt with ravines and sets strategies using some of the deepest bunkers he has ever built. Cape Kidnappers was also the International winner of a 2012 Environmental Leaders in Golf Award, co-sponsored by Golf Digest.
22  NATIONAL G.C. OF CANADA
Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada
George Fazio, Tom Fazio (1974), Tom Fazio (2005)
7,235 yards, par 72
Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images
George Fazio once lost a U.S. Open in a playoff to Ben Hogan and his architecture reflected the sort of discipline needed to win that championship: tight well-guarded fairways, big, well-bunkered, fast-paced greens and polished conditions. National G.C. of Canada reflects that and more, with gambling water hazards and double doglegs. In 2005, Tom Fazio, who helped his uncle with the original 1974 design, rebunkered some holes and created a new par-4 16th.
23  NORTH BERWICK G.C.
East Lothian, Scotland
David Strath (1877), C.K. Hutchison (1935)
6,458 yards, par 71
David Cannon/Getty Images
North Berwick must be played with good humor. To do otherwise is to not properly appreciate its outrageous topography (some terrain is like an elephant cemetery) and outlandish holes, like the sunken 13th green beyond a stone wall, the renown Redan par-3 15th, blind from the tee, and the long, narrow 16th green with a gulch separating front and back plateaus, surely the model for the infamous Biarritz green, although purists say otherwise.
24  CARNOUSTIE G. LINKS (CHAMPIONSHIP)
Allan Robertson (1838), Old Tom Morris (1895), James Wright (1931), Martin Hawtree (2006), Martin Ebert (2016)
7,421 yards, par 71
Perhaps the homeliest, certainly the longest and toughest of Open venues, Carnoustie is a no-holds-barred layout intended to test the best. James Braid is usually credited with the present design, but it was green chairman James Wright who in 1931 created the stirring last three holes, with 17 and 18 harassed by twisting, turning Barry Burn. In the 1968 Open, Jack Nicklaus complained that a knob in the middle of the ninth fairway kicked his drives into the rough. When he returned for the 1975 Open, he found it had been converted to a pot bunker.
25  SWINLEY FOREST G.C.
H.S. Colt (1911), Frank Pont (2012)
6,045 yards, par 69
David Alexander/Getty Images
Due west of Sunningdale G.C. in London's heathland is Swinley Forest, which H.S. Colt described as the "least bad course" he ever designed. Much of its reputation is built around its five par 3s, each with its own personality and challenge. Colt supposedly located them first, then built around them, using an ideal balance of short and long par 4s on each nine. The par-3s are indeed outstanding; the 17th looks like it might have been the role model for A.W. Tillinghast's 10th at Winged Foot's West course.
26  KAURI CLIFFS
Matauri Bay, New Zealand
David Harman (2000)
7,151 yards, par 72
Like Cape Kidnappers 400 miles to the southeast, Kauri Cliffs occupies an old sheep ranch atop an ocean-front plateau laced with canyons. Unlike Kidnappers, the 2000 layout by design-and-build guy Dave Harman of Orlando, has hills of native rough, stands of fern and more forced carries over gorges. The topography allowed Harman to string the seventh and eighth and 14th through 17th holes parallel to the edge of the Pacific, although several hundred feet above it. Sadly, Harman died in 2004 of tongue cancer. Kauri Cliffs was his finest achievement.
27 [NR] Monte Rei G. & C.C.
Jack Nicklaus (2007)
7,182 yards, par 72
Monte Rei leaps into the World 100 for the first time and is the highest ranked international course from Nicklaus Design. How could that be? Well, let’s see: it’s located on a panoramic site in the Algarve region of southern Portugal just 3.5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, with holes that roll over 1,000 acres of crumpled, arid foothills. The design is a blend of modern and classic—wide fairways, aggressive bunkering and shallow, angled greens that hook around hazards including a variety of American-style water features. Troubled economic times when the course opened has meant the resort development is peacefully underbuilt, an advantage in accentuating a feeling of remoteness in the surrounding hill country.
28  FANCOURT (LINKS)
George, South Africa
Gary Player, Phil Jacobs (2000)
7,578 yards, par 73
Created by Gary Player and then-associate Phil Jacobs from a dead flat airfield, over 760,000 cubic yards of earth were churned and piled to create the first faux links in South Africa. (Player later added the similarly-themed Bramble Hill G.C. next door.) They used cool-season grasses to promote bounce-and-roll on their topsy-turvy fairways. Greens, mostly long and thin or wide and shallow, are guarded by revetted pot bunkers. The Links hosted the 2003 Presidents Cup as well as the 2005 South African Open and 2012 Volvo on the European Tour.
29  VALDERRAMA G.C.
Robert Trent Jones (1975), Kyle Phillips (2012)
6,990 yards, par 71
Best known as the site of the 1997 Ryder Cup, won by Europe in a squeaker, Valderrama was a favorite design of the late architect Robert Trent Jones. His tight, twisting fairways, pinched at every turn by squat olive trees, led to surprisingly small putting surfaces protected by Trent's trademark splashy bunkers. Valderrama contains one of the more controversial holes in golf: the par-5 17th guarded by water in front, which European captain Seve Ballesteros toughened for that Ryder Cup. It influenced the outcome then, and was a game changer again in 2017, when Sergio Garcia won his own foundation's tournament, the European Tour's Andalucia Valderrama Classic. His birdie on 17 in the final round was the margin of victory.
30  ROYAL ST. GEORGE'S G.C.
Laidlaw Purves (1887), H.S. Colt (1914), Martin Ebert (2010)
7,204 yards, par 70
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
Royal St. George's, in dunes along the English Channel, is what writer Adam Lawrence calls the ideal mix of championship golf and gentle quirks. Its quirks include a duo of massive bunkers that howl at tee shots on the par-5 fourth. Once as tall as a six story building, they've eroded over the years, and have been stabilized the past 20 years by the addition of 93 railroad ties along their top edges. A longtime member of the Open rota, Royal St. George's was the site of Darren Clarke's surprise victory in 2011 and Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021.
31  THE CLUB AT NINE BRIDGES
Jeju Island, South Korea
David Dale, Ron Fream (2001); David Dale, Steve Wenzloff (2016)
7,196 yards, par 72
Our Korean affiliates call The Club at Nine Bridges the Taj Mahal of Golf. After all, architects Ronald Fream and David Dale spent an estimated $40 million in the early 2000s creating it. (The entire project, including land, clubhouse, condos and spa, cost $100 million.) The site was volcanic rock, capped with 150,000 cubic yards of sand as a base for bent-grass fairways and greens. The site had natural streams edged with massive Japanese Maples and 20-foot-tall Korean Azaleas, but they also transplanted 300 mature evergreens like Kryptomeria and cedars for additional color. With lakes connected by cascading weirs and a par-5 18th finishing on an island green, the course hosts the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, the first official PGA Tour event in Korea, from 2017 to 2019.
32 [T-23] ST. GEORGE'S G. AND C.C.
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
Stanley Thompson (1930), Tom Doak, Ian Andrew (2015)
7,014 yards, par 71
An outstanding Stanley Thompson design, it's routed through forest-covered glacial land, with meandering fairways that diagonally traverse valleys to greens perched on domes. The putting surfaces are tightly bunkered and full of hidden undulations. These are considered some of Thompson's best bunkering, thanks in part to American architect Tom Doak and Canadian architect Ian Andrew, who recently collaborated to restore the bunkering, highlighting their sweeping lines and graceful movements. St. George’s hosted the Canadian Open six times, including the 2022 event won flamboyantly by Rory McIlroy.
33  MID OCEAN CLUB
Tucker's Town, Bermuda
Charles Blair Macdonald, Seth Raynor (1923), Tom Doak (2014-’15)
6,548 yards, par 71
This was C.B. Macdonald's lone international design, done in the early 1920s with his faithful assistant Seth Raynor, who according to ship records, made most of the trips to the site. Spurred by the 18th Amendment, which established alcohol prohibition in America, Macdonald and his partners bought a bunch of onion and potato fields for the course. Macdonald used his pet template holes mainly on the par 3s—Short, Eden, Biarritz and Redan are all represented— but the par-4 fifth is the standout, with its bite-off-what-you-dare tee shot over Mangrove Lake.
34  YAS LINKS
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Kyle Phillips (2010)
7,414 yards, par 72
Designed by American Kyle Phillips, whose breakthrough course was No. 46 Kingsbarns in Scotland, Yas Links is part of a massive Arabian Gulf entertainment complex that includes a Formula 1 racetrack and a Ferrari World amusement park. As the name suggestions, Phillips fashioned this as a warm-weather links, using two million cubic yards of sand dredged from an adjacent marina to give the layout the shape and contour, then covering everything with salt-tolerant Paspalum turf. Eight holes play along a vast intracoastal waterway that leads to the Persian Sea, including holes 14 through 18, a most invigorating stretch.
35  NARUO G.C.
Inagawa, Hyogo, Japan
Rokuro Akaboshi, Shiro Akaboshi (1929), C.H. Alison (1930), Harry C. Crane (1948)
6,564 yards, par 70
The most mountainous of the Japanese courses ranked on our World 100 Greatest, Naruo reminds many Americans of courses found on the Monterey Peninsula, with hilly fairways slashed by gulleys that run to the sea lined by dense Monterey-like pines. Originally designed in 1920 by brothers Harry, Bert and Joseph Crane, it was rebunkered by C.H. Alison during his 1930s tour of the country. With that dramatic deep bunkering, Naruo looks both lovely and lethal. Only the flattish greens, many on hilltop locations, seem out of place.
36 [NR] Bro Hof Slott G.C. (Stadium)
Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (2007)
7,946 yards, par 72
The Stadium Course at this 36-hole complex outside of Stockholm plays like a mashup of mid-century American design trends. That’s because its designer, Trent Jones, Jr., is one of the industry’s great inheritors of those architectural traditions. The holes use large jigsaw bunkers, streams and gentle landforms to set up angles and opportunities that demand calculation while rewarding courage. Holes like the par-5 ninth and par-4 third invoke the risk/reward strategies of Dick Wilson at Bay Hill and Doral. Pete Dye is evidenced in the par 3s like seven and 17, and the par-5 13th, which wraps perpetually around a lake is an updated version of “Waterloo,” Robert Trent Jones, Sr.’s famous par-5 13th at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach.
37  BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM
Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw (2010)
6,849 yards, par 72
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
On a site just across the river from sister Barnbougle Dunes (No. 16), with taller dunes but fewer of them, Lost Farm has not 18, but 20 holes, counting its two short pitch-shot bye holes. The design is dramatic and unusual, particularly the par-4 fifth, a dogleg right along the river, whose blind tee shot brings to mind the 17th at St. Andrews. Instead of old black sheds, a high dune blocks view of the fairway from the tee. Billed as a Coore and Crenshaw design, schedule conflicts kept Ben Crenshaw from participating. Bill Coore used the usual C&C construction team, though.
38  SHANQIN BAY G.C.
Hainan Island, China
Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw (2012)
6,894 yards, par 71
Courtesy of Shanqin Bay G.C.
It has wide corridors flanked by jungle gunch, big intricate greens and eye-catching ragged-edge bunkering, yet Shanqin Bay is perhaps the most controversial design the highly regarded firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has ever built. Partly because it was created on a site far more rugged than the duo normally tackle—land that housed a World War II Army barracks, complete with stone tunnels. Coore's routing manages to traverse the mountainous property, but only with the help of some blind shots, two holes around an artificial irrigation pond and a very unusual finish with two drivable par 4s among the last three holes. All its quirks are worth it, for its proximity along the South China Sea is outstanding.
39 [T-35] CABOT LINKS
Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
Rod Whitman (2013)
6,854 yards, par 70
The older sister to No. 10 Cabot Cliffs is not a natural links, though it looks and plays like it. Cabot Links was man-made by designer-shaper Rod Whitman, with help from Dave Axland and Jeff Mingay, on a coastal coal mine staging area that serviced mines beneath the sea. Bump-and-run on firm fescue turf is the game on this understated layout, with muted dunes, austere bunkering and gentle, generous greens. Call it Canada's Portmarnock, though Ireland has no match for Cabot's postcard par-4 11th, a dogleg-left around a tidal yacht basin. In early routings, that was going to be the closing hole.
40 [NR] Utrecht Golfclub de Pan
Harry Colt (1929 first nine, 1932 second nine); Frank Pont (2004—ongoing)
6,668 yards, par 72
Debuting in the World 100 rankings, de Pan feels like it was cut through the dark woods of a medieval fairy tale, though the city of Utrecht is just two miles away. The holes wander, spin and double back as if searching for a way out, with very few offering any glimpse of another. A beautiful collection of short par 4s await, including the sharp, partially blind dogleg seventh and the remarkable 10th snaking through a narrow passage of mounds. Colt’s golf influence in the Netherlands, here as well as at Kennemer and Koninklijke Haagsche (aka, Royal Hague), is almost as significant as it is in the London Heathlands, which makes sense given the similarities of the landscapes.
41  LAHINCH G.C. (OLD)
Old Tom Morris (1894), Alister MacKenzie (1928), Martin Hawtree (2003)
6,950 yards, par 72
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
Considered by some to be the St. Andrews of Ireland, the splendid links at Lahinch reflects evolution in golf architecture. After Alister MacKenzie remodeled it in the 1920s, only a few of Old Tom Morris' original holes, like the Klondyke par-5 fourth, and Dell par-3 fifth, both with hidden greens, remained. In the 1980s, Donald Steel altered some of MacKenzie's holes and in the 2000s Martin Hawtree rebuilt everything and added four new holes. One classic MacKenzie par 3, the old 13th, is now a bye hole.
42  KAWANA HOTEL G. CSE. (FUJI)
C.H. Alison (1936)
6,691 yards, par 72
Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images
C.H. Alison's 1936 design for Japan's first golf resort has long been dubbed the "Pebble Beach of Japan," but the layout is far more mountainous. That's evident from the opening hole, which drops down a tumbling fairway framed by twisted pines to a green with Sagami Bay as its backdrop. The sea also backdrops the steep downhill fourth, seventh, 10th, 11th, 14th and 15th holes. Unlike at No. 13 Hirono, Alison's bunkering here is subdued.
43 [T-35] SUNNINGDALE G.C. (NEW)
H.S. Colt (1923), Martin Hawtree (2010)
6,729 yards, par 70
H.S. Colt, who was the club's secretary from 1901 to 1913, laid out the New Course in 1923, well after he'd established his reputation as a grand golf architect. It's considered by most to be tougher than No. 15 Sunningdale Old, mainly because Colt's greens are smaller, with subtle contours that nudge balls toward bunkers hard along the collars. It's a toss-up as to which course is prettier. Both have fields of heather, gorse, Scotch broom and clusters of pine, oak and silver birch.
44 [NR] Lofoten Links
Jeremy Turner (2015)
6,687 yards, par 71
Perhaps the most remote course in the rankings, Lofoten Links is located, for reference, four degrees latitude north of Iceland on Norway’s Lofoten archipelago that branches deep into the Norwegian Sea. The course is set in an austere but stunning Game of Thrones landscape of rock and ocean, and the bumpy links-like holes are studded with pot bunkers and ramble through fields of stone and cold season native grasses. Lofoten started as a six-hole course in the 1990s and was only expanded to 18 holes in 2015, so it’s a newcomer to global golf travelers—but the prediction here is this might not be the highest ranking it ultimately achieves.
45  ROYAL PORTHCAWL G.C.
Ramsay Hunter (1898), H.S. Colt (1919), Martin Ebert (2011)
7,065 yards, par 72
Considered a seaside venue but not a true links, Royal Porthcawl, situated on the south coast of Wales, doesn't have returning nines, but it's not an out-and-back routing either. Instead, the front nine moves in a clockwise crescent-shaped manner, with the back nine running counterclockwise inside the crescent. Only the first three holes play adjacent to Bristol Channel, but there are ocean views and ocean winds on all the inland holes too, which are on higher ground. The 2017 Senior Open was contested at Royal Porthcawl, with Bernhard Langer winning a record 10th senior major.
46  KINGSBARNS G. LINKS
St. Andrews, Scotland
Kyle Phillips, Mark Parsinen (1999)
7,224 yards, par 72
Just down the coastline from the links at St. Andrews, Kingsbarns looks absolutely natural in its links setting. It's a tribute to owner Mark Parsinen and architect Kyle Phillips (both Californians), who collaborated on transforming a lifeless farm field into a course that fools even the most discerning eye. The routing is ingenious, crescent-shaped along the Fife coast, with holes on three separate levels (130 feet of elevation change in all) to provide ocean views from every fairway. Six holes play right on the shoreline, and every hole offers genuine alternate angles of attack.
47  LEOPARD CREEK C.C.
Malelane, South Africa
Gary Player, Phil Jacobs (1996), Ernie Els, Greg Letsche (2007)
7,288 yards, par 72
Intended to merge with its Bushveld environs, what with Kruger National Park and the Crocodile River on the north and west, the Gary Player-designed Leopard Creek is really more akin to a polished, immaculate American layout, with a manmade stream diagonally slashing in front of the 14th green, the fifth, 15th, 16th and 18th greens guarded by stone-bulkheaded ponds and the par-5 18th green on an island. But no course in America has views of elephants, hippos and crocodiles in the wild.
48  ROYAL LYTHAM & ST. ANNES G.C.
George Lowe (1897), H.S. Colt (1923), Martin Ebert (2010)
7,118 yards, par 70
Perhaps the least dramatic-looking links in The Open rota, mainly because it's surrounded by houses and a rail line, with the seacoast being hundreds of yards distant and never in sight. Lytham boasts over 200 bunkers, most built a century ago, when the club was heralded as a pioneer of natural bunkering. Its par-3 first hole is unusual, while its finish, six straight par 4s, is a terrific challenge that was, in 2011, the downfall of Adam Scott and a triumph for Ernie Els. Royal Lytham next hosts the 2018 Ricoh Women's British Open.
49 [T-35] PUNTA ESPADA G.C.
Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
Jack Nicklaus (2006)
7,396 yards, par 72
Jack Nicklaus got his start in golf design working with Pete Dye, and his Punta Espada is a lively version of Dye's 1971 design of the Teeth of the Dog course (No. 20) farther down the Dominican coast, from the to the broad waste areas of brilliant white sand usually associated with Pete's work, as well as the low-profile greens and the eight green complexes right on the Caribbean shore. Punta Espada starts and finishes on the Caribbean and returns to it early in the back nine, with the awesome 249-yard, par-3 13th directly over an ocean cove.
50  DIAMANTE G.C. (DUNES)
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Davis Love III (2010)
7,160 yards, par 72
Photo by Angus Murray /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
Mexico's first true links, fashioned by Davis Love III and his design team (which included his brother Mark Love and designer Paul Cowley) from a fantastic set of white sand dunes along the Pacific Ocean, huge portions of which are without vegetation and seem like enormous snow drifts. Holes hug the flowing terrain with little artificiality. Two holes on the back nine once played past around a long lagoon, but have been replaced by new 12th and 13th holes on the beach. Now all of the second nine is adjacent to the ocean, amidst the tallest dunes. No other links in the world sports cactus.
51  CRUDEN BAY G.C.
Old Tom Morris, Archie Simpson (1899), Tom Simpson (1926), Tom Mackenzie (2015)
6,615 yards, par 70
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Cruden Bay is yet another marvelous links, stretched along the base of a high bluff with tall dunes to the immediate east blocking views of the North Sea shoreline. Within the course, holes lie among what have been described as "stumpy dunes." They may well be, compared to those at nearby Trump International, but the routing is excellent, looping north then south, crisscrossing at the eighth and 16th. There are many blind shots, including consecutive ones to hidden punchbowl greens on the par-4 14th and par-3 15th (pictured below).
52  HAMILTON G. AND C.C. (WEST/SOUTH)
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
H.S. Colt (1915), Tom Clark (1989-2012), Martin Ebert (2014-2022)
7,055 yards, par 70
A fascinating H.S. Colt layout, with holes routed in clusters of triangles, traversing the hilly landscape both face-on and diagonally, with meandering creeks winding across fairway landing areas. Tom Clark, who spent 20-plus years as consulting architect, rebuilt greens and did work to further emphasize the land contours. More recently, Englishman Martin Ebert was brought in to re-establish Colt's design philosophy from original drawings. Hamilton has hosted the Canadian Open six times, including four times since 2003.
53  ROYAL TROON G.C. (OLD)
Charles Hunter (1878), Willie Fernie (1909), Martin Ebert (2014)
7,202 yards, par 71
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Looks are deceiving at Royal Troon. It looks straightforward, almost docile, until the wind blows. Then, if play out to the ninth hole is downwind, as it usually is, the homeward nine becomes a long march into a stiff breeze, if not an ocean gale. Troon dates from 1878, was given its Royal title 100 years later. Few know its famed 123-yard 8th, the Postage Stamp, the shortest in British Open golf, was originally a blind par 3; the present green wasn't built until 1910. In 2016, Royal Troon was the site of one of the most dramatic duels in Open history, with Henrik Stenson prevailing over Phil Mickelson to win his first major title.
54  RYE G.C. (OLD)
Douglas Rolland, H.S. Colt (1894), Sir Guy Campbell (1959)
6,308 yards, par 68
A great myth is that Rye hasn't changed in a century. In truth, during World War II the Royal Army built pillboxes and buried fuel storage tanks on the existing course. Architect Guy Campbell reclaimed the course in 1946, using a bulldozer to create new holes. To play such seemingly natural holes as the par-3 seventh on Rye's rolling links today, you'd never suspect it. Rye has long been considered the toughest par-68 on earth. This ranking confirms that.
55  SENTOSA G.C. (SERAPONG)
Ron Fream (1983), Gene Bates (2007), Andrew Johnston (2020). 7,420 yards, par 71
Courtesy of the club
It took years to build the Serapong course back in the early 1980s. The site was a mangrove swamp filled with some three million cubic yards of sand dredged from Singapore Harbor. Designer Ron Fream, a globe-trotting American, routed as many holes as he could along the water's edge, resulting in the now-famed "Dragon's Tail," a loop of holes, four through six, with island fairways around a tidal basin. American architect Gene Bates revamped the design in 2007, adding length, new green complexes and a new bunker scheme. A more recent renovation was completed in 2020 by Bates' former design associate Andrew Johnston, who also serves as the club's director of agronomy.
56  LOCH LOMOND G.C.
Jay Morrish, Tom Weiskopf (1992)
7,100 yards, par 71
Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf were the first American architects to work in Scotland, not on the coast but west of Glasgow on the shore of Loch Lomond. The design is mostly the work of Weiskopf, who lived on site supervising construction while Morrish recovered from a heart attack at home. Opened in 1992, it's a graceful layout, the third, sixth, seventh and 18th holes touching the shoreline, others winding through inland hazards of oaks, sculptured bunkers, streams, marsh and a pond. There are a pair of reachable par 4s, the ninth and the 14th, the latter a favorite of Weiskopf's.
57  VICTORIA G.C.
William Meanor, Oscar Damman (1927), Alister MacKenzie (1927), Mike Clayton, Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking (2015)
6,888 yards, par 72
Located kitty-corner across a road from Royal Melbourne, Victoria Golf Club is the home course of stars Peter Thomson and Geoff Ogilvy. It was designed originally by a couple of club founders. Alister MacKenzie made bunkering suggestions during a 1926 visit, changes later implemented by Alex Russell. Victoria has smaller greens than at other prominent Melbourne courses, and the bunkers hard against the collars make them play even tighter. Once heavily forested, consulting architect Michael Clayton is slowly removing many trees.
58  METROPOLITAN G.C.
J.B. Mackenzie (1908), Alister MacKenzie (1926), Dick Wilson (1959); Neil Crafter, Paul Mogford (2016)
7,066 yards, par 72
Metropolitan was designed by club members J.B. Mackenzie and C.W. Chapman in 1908 and was revised in 1926 by famed architect Alister MacKenzie, as part of his two-month visit to Australia. But the present design is the work of American architect Dick Wilson, who added eight new holes in the late 1950s. Wilson also revised the remaining holes to reflect his philosophy that golf is meant to be played through the air. Bunkers front nearly every green and pinch nearly every fairway. Metropolitan hosted the PGA Tour's World Cup of Golf in 2018.
59  ROYAL ABERDEEN G.C. (BALGOWNIE)
Robert Simpson (1888), James Braid (1925), Martin Hawtree (2011)
6,910 yards, par 71
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
One of the least known of Scotland's great links has been even more overshadowed in recent years by its new neighbor to the north, Trump International Golf Links Scotland. Royal Aberdeen's front nine runs north in dramatic dunesland along the shoreline, with the inward nine backtracking inland along softer terrain to the clubhouse. Though the final stretch might be a bit underwhelming visually, its holes are just as testing. The links saw a few touchups by Martin Hawtree prior to the 2011 Walker Cup, which mostly included the addition of bunkers and a new green on the 15th hole.
60  WATERVILLE G. LINKS
Eddie Hackett (1972), Tom Fazio (2003)
7,355 yards, par 72
Waterville has some superb dunes holes, next to the Ballinskelligs Bay, and several laid out in former potato fields. Original owner John Mulcahy and 1947 Masters champion Claude Harmon (Butch's dad) collaborated with Irish golf architect Eddie Hackett on the early 1970s design. A decade ago, Tom Fazio added new par-3 sixth & par-4 seventh holes and altered 13 others, adding new tees, greens and much-needed humps and bumps to the flattish front nine.
61  Tokyo G.C.
Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Komei Ohtani (1939), Gil Hanse (2010-’18)
6,915 yards par 72
It is a common misbelief that Toyko G.C. was designed by C.H. Alison, the talented Englishman who visited Japan in the early 1930s and transformed the country’s golf architecture with such courses as Hirono and Kawana Hotel. Alison did design a course for Tokyo in 1932, but its land was requisitioned by the Imperial Army in the lead-up to WWII. The club moved to a new layout designed by Japanese architect Komei Ohtani in 1939, while Alison’s course became potato fields. That didn’t keep golf architect Gil Hanse, who has done extensive remodeling of Tokyo G.C. over the past 10 years, to fashion features that reflect Alison’s, not Ohtani’s, philosophy of design.
T-62  PORTMARNOCK G.C. (CHAMPIONSHIP)
W.C. Pickeman, George Ross, Mungo Park (1895), Martin Hawtree (2000-’04)
7,365 yards, par 72
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
A true links in rolling ground with soft rather than dramatic dunes, Portmarnock, on a spit of land in the Irish Sea north of Dublin, is known for its routing, which hasn't been altered in over a hundred years and was revolutionary at the time for constantly changing wind direction with every shot. The links is also known for its fairness, as nearly every feature is plainly in view from tee to green. Which makes its maze of bunkers and subtle greens all the more testing.
T-62  JACK'S POINT G. CSE.
Queenstown, New Zealand
John Darby (2008)
6,986 yards, par 72
John Darby, a New Zealand land planner and golf architect, routed Jack's Point from a valley clubhouse up onto a plateau and down again to offer sterling views of Lake Wakatipu and the mile-high Remarkables Mountains. Many have likened Jack's Point opening uphill holes to those of Gullane in Scotland. But Australian writer and course designer Darius Oliver is less enamored, writing: "Darby decided to attack the hills and get his holes as quickly and as close to the [lake] edge as he possibly could. The result is at times an awkward mix of quite spectacular golf with some difficult uphill and downhill slogs." Our ranking would suggest Oliver's is the minority opinion.
64  MACHRIHANISH G.C.
Charles Hunter (1876), Sir Guy Campbell (1948)
6,462 yards, par 70
To reach Machrihanish, Old Tom Morris needed a train, a steamboat and a long carriage ride. Visitors today have to resort to much the same mode, so remote is Machrihanish, on the southern end of Scotland's Kintyre Peninsula. It's a journey rewarded, from one of the game’s greatest opening tee shots, which the bold will carry over a beach and Atlantic tide on the left, to the remainder of the links in some of the most rugged dunes known to links golf.
65 [T-76] THE BLUFFS HO TRAM STRIP
Ho Tram, Vietnam
Greg Norman (2014)
6,855 yards, par 71
2015 Khalid Redza/Asian Tour/Getty Images
This is a 2014 design by Greg Norman, an Australian who now lives in Florida, so it's no surprise that Bluffs Ho Tram is very reminiscent of a Florida golf course, Jupiter Hills. Like Jupiter, it's separated from the ocean by a highway, but plays through dramatic sand dunes covered in tropical vegetation, has joint fairways and even a pair of par 3s playing from a common dunes-top tee box complex to greens in opposite directions. As the name suggests, The Bluffs has some dramatic elevations, with the long par-3 15th green at the highest point, 165 feet above the South China Sea.
66  KINLOCH G.C.
Jack Nicklaus (2007)
7,364 yards, par 72
Built along the base of volcanic slopes on New Zealand’s North Island, three hours south of Auckland, this outstanding Jack Nicklaus design was started in 2001 but not completed until 2007. Its slow gestation gave Nicklaus and his builders time to fine-tune every feature, including the routing that encompasses every possible slope and direction. “The land is simply cascading toward Lake Taupo,” says Chris Cochran, longtime Nickaus senior designer, who assisted Nicklaus in the design, as did design coordinator Brian Pollock, who lived on the site for two years. “We sought to mimic the surroundings,” Cochran says, “creating natural, distressed-looking bunkers and greens that blended perfectly.” The result are fairways that ripple and rumble from side to side and greens sometimes recessed into folds of the land. Rock outcroppings are a frequent hazard in the rough, and a few greens are protected by manmade fault lines that look incredibly natural, like the ground had slumped following a tremor.
T-67 [T-60] WOODHALL SPA G.C. (HOTCHKIN)
Harry Vardon (9, 1905), H.S. Colt (9, 1912), S.V. Hotchkin, Sir Guy Campbell (1926), Tom Doak (2018)
7,080 yards, par 73
This par-73 layout is named for obscure architect S.V. Hotchkin, who purchased the club in the early 1920s and remodeled the course, which consisted of a 1905 nine by Harry Vardon and a 1912 nine by H.S. Colt. Hotchkin tinkered with the lovely, ground-hugging heathland layout until his death in 1953, producing what some call the most ferocious bunkers in Great Britain. Some are hidden from view, others are steep and deep and some are ringed with heather. Recent work includes restoration by Tom Doak.
T-67  TRUMP INTERNATIONAL G. LINKS
Martin Hawtree (2011)
7,428 yards, par 72
Just six years old, this Martin Hawtree design is set in as dramatic a set of sand dunes as can be found in golf, better than those at No. 17 Royal Birkdale and No. 30 Royal St. George's. Some dunes reach 100 feet above fairways. All are covered in deep marram grasses. Fairways pitch and tumble, often posing downhill lies to uphill targets. Every bunker is at least knee deep, encircled with stacked-sod faces. Greens are perched and edged by deep hollows. Owner Trump Golf Inc. wants an Open; we suspect it'll someday host a Ryder Cup.
69  ST. GEORGE'S HILL G.C.
H.S. Colt (1913), Martin Hawtree (2003), Tim Lobb (2018)
6,526 yards, par 70
In his classic 1925 book, The Links, Robert Hunter raved about H.S. Colt's "bold hazards, well designed" at St. George's Hill. And while, nearly 100 years later, some are now tamer, with less ragged, jagged edges, their placements are still ideal. Towering fir trees and patches of heather add additional challenge and charm to what many consider to be Colt's finest heathland design, more stirring even than No. 25 Swinley Forest. St. George's Hill's main 18, now the Blue & Red 9s, opened in 1913 as one of the first residential golf projects in the world.
70  ROYAL ADELAIDE G.C.
Seaton, South Australia, Australia
Cargie Rymill, C.L. Gardiner (1905), Alister MacKenzie (1925), Tom Doak (2015-’17)
6,557 yards, par 73
Herbert Rymill, chairman of the club's green committee, is credited with designing a new course for the club in sand dunes near Seaton in 1905. Within a year, Rymill collaborated an improvement plan with other members. It took until 1910 to implement his revisions, which included 90 bunkers, many of which were criticized by Alister MacKenzie when he inspected the course in 1926. Rymill offered to supervise any redesign MacKenzie proposed, but instead MacKenzie had his representative, Alex Russell, rebuild the bunkers into their now-famous MacKenzie style. Russell returned in 1951 and supervised more modifications. More recently, Australian Michael Clayton has remodeled several holes.
71  GANTON G.C.
Tom Chisholm, Robert Bird (1891)
6,998 yards, par 71
Not everyone has been enamored with Ganton, the great Harry Vardon's home club. Back in 1949, American Ryder Cupper Jimmy Demaret described the course, still recovering from WWII, as "a sort of Pennsylvania Turnpike with trees." It's matured greatly since then. Situated on a pocket of sand in an otherwise inland landscape of clay and rock, Ganton plays firm and fast with holes hemmed in by blooming gorse. Among the course's difficult hazards include more than 110 vertical-edged bunkers, many deep enough to require wooden steps. Bernard Darwin famously said golfers playing Ganton suffer either sandy or prickly disaster.
72 [T-60] CASTLE STUART G.C.
Gil Hanse, Mark Parsinen (2009)
7,009 yards, par 72
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
Once he completed Kingsbarns (No. 46), owner Mark Parsinen found another ideal venue farther north, on the shores of the Moray Firth. Golf architect Gil Hanse and associate Jim Wagner hand-built Castle Stuart, with Parsinen, who passed away in 2019, involved on every hole. Each nine opens with holes framed by shore's edge on one side and a high bluff on the other. Then each nine moves to a mezzanine level where the views are spectacular and several "infinity greens" seem perched on cliffs directly over the sea. Castle Stuart has hosted several Scottish Opens. Parsinen's dream was to host The Open.
73  QUERENCIA C.C.
Los Cabos, Baja Sur, Mexico
Tom Fazio (2000)
7,050 yards, par 72
The routing of this Tom Fazio design, one of only two in Mexico, wanders the rugged terrain and low-growth vegetation of a high desert plateau above the Sea of Cortez. Holes jump across or sidle up to the edges of rocky canyons and arroyos, with rippling, humpbacked fairways and a number of greens tucked behind stone outcroppings. The club recently brought Fazio back to design three new holes on land it had acquired to the west of the existing course. Those holes, the current 13th through 15th, replace the old ninth and 10th holes. The fairway of the par-4 seventh was also shifted, and the former 11th and 12th have been combined into the new par-5 ninth.
74  SHESHAN INTERNATIONAL G.C.
Neil Haworth, Robin Nelson (2004)
7,199 yards, par 72
2009 Getty Images
Sheshan International, at the base of Sheshan Mountain, is considered by some to be the Augusta National of China because of its opulent conditioning. The stylistic design, by Canadian Neil Haworth and his late partner Robin Nelson, incorporates a small forest, a canal, several manmade ponds and a small, deep stone quarry, over which both the drivable par-4 16th and long par-3 17th play. Sheshan has hosted the annual World Golf Championship's HSBC Champions event since 2005, though the event was canceled the past two years due to Covid-19.
75  FAIRMONT JASPER PARK LODGE G.C.
Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Stanley Thompson (1926), W.H. Brinkworth (1948)
6,663 yards, par 71
Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Jasper Park actually lies farther north than Stanley Thompson's other Alberta masterpiece, No. 88 Banff Springs, and is a perfect complement to it. The routing has holes lined up with every prominent mountain peak in the distance. Thompson's typical sprawling bunkers are everywhere, some staggered diagonally across lines of play, others on the margins of a hole, poking out from beneath tree lines. Built in 1925 by the hand labor of some 200 men, holes are carved through fir, aspen and silver birch trees, and rocks were piled and covered with earth to create greens like the one on the short par-3 15th, a shot so precarious it's like hitting to the back of a slumbering sea lion.
76  CAPILANO G. & C.C
West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Stanley Thompson (1937), Doug Carrick (2016)
6,706 yards, par 70
Capilano is definitely Old School updated to modern times. The Stanley Thompson design is now over 80 years old, with fairways lined by towering Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar, all giving the mistaken impression that the corridors are narrow. Thompson’s bunkering is spectacular and prolific. In recent years, Doug Carrick has rebuilt three greens and expanded others to accommodate desired green speeds of 10 to 11 on a Stimpmeter. From the elevated first tee, the city of Vancouver, five miles south, is visible, and the last six holes provide outstanding views of the Coastal Range, particularly Hollyburn Mountain.
T-77  SPRING CITY GOLF AND LAKE RESORT (LAKE)
Kunming, Yunnan Province, China
Robert Trent Jones Jr. (1995)
7,204 yards, par 72
This Robert Trent Jones Jr. design on the shoreline of Yang Zong Hai Lake (as gorgeous as Lake Tahoe) opened a year after the club's Mountain Course, a Jack Nicklaus design. Holes on the Lake Course are benched along a tumbling slope leading down to the lake. The opening and closing holes sit at the highest location, and a spectacular trio lead down on the water's edge: the par-3 eighth, plunging 100 feet down to a peninsula green, the par-5 ninth with a lake hard against the right edge, and the par-3 10th, over a lake cove to a clifftop green.
T-77  ROYAL LIVERPOOL G.C.
Robert Chambers, Geordie Morris (1871), H.S. Colt (1920), Martin Hawtree (2010), Martin Ebert (2020)
6,907 yards, par 72
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Hoylake is a layout of stark contrasts—a series of splendid natural holes within coastal sand dunes (holes attributed to a 1930s H.S. Colt remodeling), with a less scenic start and finish inland on dead flat land. Still, the first hole, a stern dogleg-right around an internal out-of-bounds, is considered one of the most testing opening holes in links golf. A dozen years ago, this writer (architecture editor emeritus Ron Whitten) suggested that Royal Liverpool, which hadn't seen an Open since 1967, was past its prime as a championship venue. It has hosted two Opens since then, won in 2006 by Tiger Woods and in 2014 by Rory McIlroy. Hoylake thankfully remains in the Open rota as host of the 2023 Open Championship.
T-77  ANYANG C.C.
Kunpo-shi, Kyonggi-Do, South Korea
Chohei Miyazawa (1968), Robert Trent Jones Jr. (1997)
6,951 yards, par 72
Korea's oldest-ranked course was cut from thick tree cover in 1968 by Japanese golf architect Chohei Miyazawa, but it didn't become great until Robert Trent Jones Jr. remodeled the layout in 1996, reshaping greens, rebunkering holes and adding some strategic ponds, particularly on two par 3s, the fourth and 17th. The club's name was changed to Anyang Benest Country Club in 1996; it reverted to its original name in 2013.
80  THE NATIONAL G.C. (MOONAH)
Cape Schanck, Victoria, Australia
Greg Norman & Bob Harrison (2001)
7,192 yards, par 72
Nothing on this Greg Norman design looks manufactured or contrived. Fairways emerge from the rolling topography, greens are positioned at grade and the gnarly bunkering is recessed into the earth, never propped above it. Some tees are positioned atop hills posing carries over gulleys, but bounce and roll in the game here. With generous targets surrounded by vast, dry, domed hills, the Moonah Course seems eerily like one in the African Veldt. One would not be surprised to see a giraffe lope by one of the squat, umbrella-like moonah trees that are scattered along hillsides.
81  ROYAL CINQUE PORTS G.C.
Deal, Kent, England
Tom Dunn (1895), Sir Guy Campbell (1949), Martin Ebert (2007)
7,367 yards, par 72
Resting just three miles from Royal St. George's (No. 30), the Royal Cinque Ports links rolls over gentle oceanfront sand dunes with some holes playing off a single prominent ridge that runs the length of the property. Cinque (pronounced sank) Ports hosted two British Opens, in 1909 won by J.H. Taylor, and 1920 won by George Duncan. It was slated to host three others, in 1915, 1938 and 1949, but a combination of a World War and ocean storms forced officials to move the championship elsewhere each time. The present course is far different than Tom Dunn’s original design. Before the 1920 Open, James Braid rearranged the layout, adding several new holes, including all four of the present par 3s. In the process, he abandoned the beloved, blind par-3 fourth, called “Sandy Parlour,” but his replacement fourth, playing off a dune toward the ocean, has become beloved as well.
82 [NR] St. Enodoc G.C. (Church)
North Cornwall, England
James Braid (1907 & 1937); Tom Simpson (1930); Peter McEvoy (2004)
6,557 yards, par 69
This is St. Enodoc’s first appearance on this list since the inaugural World’s 100 Greatest Courses ranking in 2014, when it came in at No. 99. The layout, located in Cornwall in the extreme southwest corner of England, traverses some of the most ideal natural golf land in the UK, bumping through sand hills on the banks of the River Carmel estuary. The routing takes full advantage of the land, turning, twisting and crossing at it works out to far fields, having too much fun to be in any hurry home. One of the world’s most famous hazards is located here, the Himalaya bunker on the short, blind par 4 sixth, a massive crater carved into a dune that was once over 70-feet high, though less so now due to wind and erosion.
83 [NR] Memphrémagog G.C.
Thomas McBroom (2008)
7,498 yards, par 72
Back in the ranking for the first time since 2016, Memphrémagog in southern Quebec, an hour east of Montreal, is perhaps the toughest ticket in Canadian golf. The ultra-exclusive club is believed to have around just 50 ultrawealthy members and outside play is extremely rare. It’s a shame more golfers don’t get a taste of it—Magog, as it’s known, is a big, lovely course with holes carved into the slopes of the Green Mountains above a lake of the same name. McBroom’s architectural artistry is on full display with high, panoramic tee shots, holes that get down in the lows close to streams and ponds, and intricately shaped bunkering offset by southern Quebec’s lush green hues. But ultimately, it’s the difficult, enormously contoured putting surfaces that leave the biggest impression.
84  JACK NICKLAUS G.C. KOREA
Incheon City, South Korea
Jack Nicklaus (2009)
7,470 yards, par 72
Lying in the shadow of skyscrapers in the Songdo International Business District, this is an impressive Nicklaus design, one that transformed a flat, dull site into a surprisingly rolling, pine-dotted layout with water on 11 holes, equitably distributed with six hazards to the left and five to the right. Despite the site being inland, artificial rocks edging most of the lakes leave the impression of a jagged coastline. Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea hosted the 2015 Presidents Cup, won by the U.S. team captained by Jay Haas over the International side headed by Nick Price. It was the first Presidents Cup contested in Asia.
85  OLD HEAD OF KINSALE
County Cork, Ireland
Ron Kirby, Eddie Hackett, Paddy Merrigan, Joe Carr (1996), Ron Kirby (2013)
7,159 yards, par 72
In the 1980s, the golf potential of this 220-acre swollen thumb of land poking into the Atlantic had many course architects excited. The job went to Ron Kirby, one-time design partner of Gary Player and former associate of Dick Wilson, Robert Trent Jones and, later, Jack Nicklaus. He consulted with Irish legends Paddy Merrigan, Eddie Hackett, Joe Carr and Liam Higgins. Kirby lived on the site for two years, determined to find an ideal routing that would maximize the rocky ocean cliffs that encircle the peninsula. It opened in 1996 with nine holes along ledges 300 feet above the surf. Kirby later returned to add a second nine, relocating the par-3 13th to cling along an ocean slope.
86  LE GOLF NATIONAL (Albatros)
Robert von Hagge, Hubert Chesneau (1990), Ross McMurray (2016)
7,331 yards, par 71
The championship 18 at the multi-course Le Golf National may well be an albatross around the necks of 2018 American Ryder Cup teammates, given their lopsided loss to the Europeans. But they couldn’t blame the Albatros Course, a Florida-style design of the late Robert von Hagge, who delighted in sculpting courses with massive humps and bumps that cast shadows at high noon and carving out water hazards at every turn. What the European team had going for it was familiarity with the design, as it has hosted the European Tour’s French Open for decades. In advance of the Ryder Cup, French officials insisted that sole design credit should be given to French landscape architect Hubert Chesneau (who was a consultant on the project), but that was soon debunked, as von Hagge’s style is clearly evident.
87 [NR] Quivira G.C.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Jack Nicklaus (2014)
7,019 yards, par 72
Quivira questions a foundational premise in golf architecture: that golf courses can only be as good as their routings. To be more exact, can a course be considered great if it possesses sensational individual holes but a layout that’s disjointed or lacks rhythm and continuity? The holes at Quivira are strung out across extreme lengths over Cabo’s stark high desert landscape requiring lengthy cart rides to access the disparate sections. But holes like the short par 4 fifth and the jaw dropping par 3s at six and 13 that plummet sharply from rocky headlands down to greens notched onto the edges of cliffs 80 feet above the Pacific Ocean make the extended journeys worthwhile. When it comes to the importance of cohesive routings, enough of our panelists have determined there are exceptions to every rule.
88  BANFF SPRINGS G. CSE. (THOMPSON)
Banff, Alberta, Canada
Stanley Thompson (1929), Les Furber (1999)
6,938 yards, par 71
Courtesy: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Where No. 85 Old Head in Ireland plays along the top of escarpments, Banff in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta lies beneath escarpments, with near-vertical cliffs of Mount Rundle towering 3,000 feet over almost every fairway. The course, another masterful design by Canadian Stanley Thompson, is tucked into the narrow Y-shaped valley formed by the Bow and Spray Rivers. Bunkering at Banff may be the best of Thompson's career. There are 150 of them, often in circular clusters, with ebbs and flows in their shapes that mirror mountain peaks.
89  PRESTWICK G.C.
Old Tom Morris (12, 1851), Charles Hunter (6, 1883)
6,908 yards, par 71
We should rejoice in the fact that the World 100 Greatest has room for at least one museum piece of golf architecture—an authentic relic from a time when golfers played cross-country without benefit of crisply mown turf and inviting targets. The third hole demands a forced carry over notorious Cardinal bunker. There's a blind tee shot over a ridge dubbed the Himalayas into par-3 fifth green, a blind approach shot down an escarpment to the 15th green and another blind approach over dunes known as The Alps to reach green on the par-4 17th. Prestwick hosted 24 Open Championships but none since 1925. That doesn't matter. It's an anachronistic design worth preserving.
90 [NR] Tobiano G.Cse.
Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Tom McBroom (2007)
7,367 yards, par 72
There aren’t many places in Canada as ruggedly beautiful as Tobiano, perched on benchland next to Kamloops Lake. The holes work an Ocean Course at Kiawah kind of routing, with each nine moving outward in opposite directions on inland ground before turning and coming back along the water. The wide-open property is a labyrinth of dry ravines and rocky arroyos, and the design keeps mostly to the high ground along the tops of the narrow ridges, plunging between them only occasionally (the fifth feels like Lahinch playing between dunes). But the severed topography also means there are forced carries galore and many will find it difficult to finish holes like the par 3 seventh with a green placed on an outcropping that falls away on all sides. Still, for the public player’s money, there’s more visceral excitement at Tobiano than almost anywhere else on the continent.
91 [NR] County Sligo G.C. at Rosses Point (Colt Course)
County Sligo, Ireland
Harry Colt (1927); Eddie Hackett (1983); Pat Ruddy (2014)
7,259 yards, par 71
Significant work was done in 2014 to bring this gem on Ireland’s northwest coast up to the standards and demands of modern players. The old Colt course, set across beautiful links terrain, gained roughly 300 yards through the addition of new tees and green extensions (the par 5 third received an entirely new green 65 yards beyond where it was) along with numerous new fairway bunkers and several putting surface expansions. Holes 12 through 17 skirt the beach making for a lovely run of holes (the course is named for the peninsula of land that juts into Drumcliff Bay), but the real intrigue comes from a system of burns that meander in rhymeless direction through fairways and in front of greens.
92  SIAM C.C. (OLD)
Ichisuke Izumi (1970), Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley (2007)
7,162 yards, par 72
Originally designed by Japanese architect Ichisuke Izumi, Siam Country Club was just the country's second course when it opened in 1970. It was built on what was called the Pattaya desert, and Izumi concocted a special compost to turn sterile sand into soil in order to grow grass. Early on, Siam was known for its dramatically contoured greens and its gentle bunkering. In 2006, Americans Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley remodeled everything, changing parallel holes into curving fairways by adding ponds and relocating greens, while still preserving those legendary Siam undulating putting surfaces.
93  THE EUROPEAN CLUB
Brittas Bay, County Wicklow, Ireland
Pat Ruddy (1992, 2000-’11)
7,377 yards, par 71
One of the newest courses to be built on genuine Irish linksland, The European Club is the lifetime accomplishment of Pat Ruddy, a golf writer from the 1960s and a golf architect from 1975 onward. He mortgaged his home to buy the land and spent five years designing and building it. It opened in 1992 and is still a family business today. Hard against the Irish Sea's Arklow Bay, European Club rolls across untamed landscape with pot bunkers lined in railroad ties and two extra par-3 holes. It's not always linkslike: The routing has returning nines, a marsh off the seventh tee, a pond in front of the 18th green and not a single blind shot anywhere. Ruddy says he was once offered to sell it for 22 million pounds and passed. That makes the Irish design priceless.
94 [T-76] CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDS LINKS
Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada
Stanley Thompson (1941), Ian Andrew (2011)
6,592 yards, par 72
On the opposite Nova Scotia coast from Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links is the 80-year-old Highlands Links in Cape Breton, a sterling Stanley Thompson design routed to give golfers the full coastal experience, from ocean beach, to deep forest, to river’s edge and back. Thompson even shaped greenside mounds to mimic certain mountain ridges in the distance. A national park operation, Highlands had long been criticized for spotty maintenance, but after a 2010 flood, serious efforts, directed by Canadian golf architect Ian Andrew, were undertaken to restore its luster and improve its turf quality.
95  EMIRATES G.C. (MAJLIS)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Karl Litten (1988), Tim Lobb, Ross Perrett (2014)
7,301 yards, par 72
David Cannon/Getty Images
When Emirates G.C. first opened in 1988, it was a literal oasis in the desert, the first all-grass golf course built in the Middle East. Now it sits in the shadows of more than a hundred high rise buildings and thousands of palms and hardwood trees transplanted on the site. Designed by American Karl Litten, who'd previously specialized in residential development courses in Florida, the Majlis Course looks like a Florida transplant, with five lakes coming in play on eight holes. Where he'd normally plot housing lots, Litten maintained as desert. Some of those areas have now become homesites.
96 [NR] Toronto G.C.
Harry Colt (1912), Martin Hawtree (2010)
6,836 yards, par 70
It seems that everything Harry Colt touched turned to gold. The old man was responsible for eight original designs in these rankings, and his additions to nine others like Muirfield (No. 7), Royal Portrush (No. 8) and Sunningdale Old (No. 15) are largely responsible for those courses’ placements. He only visited North America a few times, none after 1913, but he made the time count: in addition to several notable U.S. designs (he routed Pine Valley for George Crump), Colt was responsible for two of Canada’s top courses, Hamilton (No. 52) and Toronto. Located not far from the shore of Lake Ontario in what’s now a congested suburb, Toronto feels like it’s a world away with holes that unspool in every direction imaginable through woods and fields of native grasses, with a unique sequencing where the first par 5 doesn’t appear until the 13th hole.
97 [NR] The Durban C.C.
Durban, South Africa
Laurie Waters & George Waterman (1920); S.V. Hotchkin (1928); Bob Grimsdell (1959)
6,733 yards, par 72
Packed into a scant 125 acres across a highway from Blue Lagoon Beach and the Indian Ocean, Durban spent most of the 20th century with the honor of being the African continent’s premier piece of golf architecture. The holes running along the eastern boundary—mostly the first nine—play through the coastal bush over severely heaving dunes with movements that can cause seasickness, particularly at the par 5 eighth and par 4 17th. The western half of the course is more treelined and sedate, and one wonders if a different routing could have taken the game more effectively in and out of the best land. Durban’s return to the rankings (it was No. 96 in 2018) could be short-lived: the course suffered massive flooding in the spring of 2022 that put 15 holes under water, and its future remains unclear.
98  WESTERN GAILES G.C.
Willie Fernie (1894), Fred W. Hawtree (1975)
7,014 yards, par 71
The last to make the list is perhaps the least-known grand old Scottish links. Western Gailes is located north of Royal Troon, just off the Firth of Clyde, squeezed on the east by active railroad tracks, and thus its north-south routing over and between rolling sand dunes seems far tighter than its neighbors. Holes one through four, all par 4s, head north, then five through 13 march due south along the beach, with fairways mostly aimed southeast or southwest. The closing five play due north and sport some of the most intense bunkering on the 18. The club insists Fred Morris, its first greenkeeper laid out the course, but we say Willie Fernie, who also did Troon, did it.
99 [NR] BRG Da Nang GC (Norman)
Da Nang City, Vietnam
Greg Norman (2010)
7,190 yards, par 72
The golf potential of Vietnam’s eastern seaboard is still just beginning to be discovered—the vast stretches of dunes and coastal vegetation scream for links golf, if only resort developments don’t commandeer the best of it. The Norman Dunes course, located near edge of the East Vietnamese Sea (the 16th and 17th touch portions of the beach), evokes an inland sand-forest course more than a links, primarily because the majority of the routing is set inland. But the holes, running back and forth though sections of scrub pine, are vividly rendered with sweeping cape and bay bunkers, three gettable short par 4s and the type of tight turf bleeding into hollows and sandscapes that has been fixture in the Norman design portfolio.
100  GLENEAGLES HOTEL G.C. (King’s)
James Braid, C.K. Hutchison (1919)
6,790 yards, par 71
Constructed just after the First World War by James Braid, with the assistance of then-budding designer C.K. Hutchison, and studiously preserved for the last hundred years, the King’s Course at Gleneagles Hotel has been overshadowed in recent times by the emergence of the resort’s Jack Nicklaus-designed PGA Centenary Course, which hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup. But to golf architecture fans, and Golf Digest panelists, the King’s is still king, (Braid, by the way, always considered King’s to be his best work.) The course meanders along novel topography, full of odd elephant-shaped mounds, humps and abrupt gulches, lined with pine, fir, heather and bracken. It’s a pleasant stroll but a difficult test of golf. Over the decades, various publications have listed various Gleneagles holes as Best in the World, including the long, uphill par-4 fourth, the dinky “Denty Den” 14th, now a drivable par 4 thanks to advanced technology, and the short par-4 17th with its wasp-waist of a fairway. But the hole everyone must see to believe is the par-3 fifth, “Het Girdle,” its green a frying pan turned upside down with bunkers gouged into its sides.