12 of the world's best golf courses
Henry Peters takes a look at some of the world’s best places to tee off, as well as the best time to do so.
By Henry Peters | Published #68, Summer 2017
December – February
Fancourt (The Links)
George, South Africa
Halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, Fancourt is Africa’s ultimate golfing oasis featuring three world-class courses – The Links, Montagu and Outeniqua – all designed by legendary South African Gary Player. The Links is consistently ranked the country’s premier layout and hosted the famous 2003 Presidents Cup, which ended in a tie between the Americans and the Internationals after Tiger Woods and local hero Ernie Els played until near darkness. Although The Links is a private club, it offers public access to guests of Fancourt Hotel or Manor House.
Green fees: $185
Stay here: Fancourt Hotel (on-site)
Leopard Creek Country Club
Malelane, South Africa
Only a river separates Leopard Creek from Kruger National Park, so don’t be alarmed if you’re distracted in your backswing by the sight of a crocodile or hippopotamus. Another Gary Player design, Leopard Creek has hosted the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship every year since 2005 and is famous for its 18th island green. Tee times are available to guests of various local lodges.
Green fees: $320
Stay here: Buhala Lodge
January – March
Tasmania has become a haven for international golf tourists with the addition of two breathtaking courses on King Island and the revered Barnbougle resort on the state’s mainland north coast. Barnbougle’s The Dunes, which is carved out of sand dunes, opened in 2004 and has been ranked by Golf Digest as the world’s 11th-best course while the newer Lost Farm (2010) has 20 holes and is considered by many to be just as good. Light charter flights take off and land on a runway right beside The Dunes.
Green fees: $99 (low season), $109 (high season)
Stay here: The Dunes Villas (on-site)
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
If photos of the cliff-top location of Cape Kidnappers leave you astounded, you can only imagine the feeling of being there. Perched 140 metres above the Pacific Ocean, Cape Kidnappers opened in 2004 to instant acclaim. Many holes are separated by gaping ravines, providing golfers with thrilling risk-reward play. Each hole has at least three sets of tees, allowing players of all levels a chance to succeed.
Green fees: $290 (low season), $460 (high season)
Stay here: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers (on-site)
Northland Region, New Zealand
The Pacific Ocean is in plain view on all but three of Kauri Cliffs’ 18 holes. Rolling plains, wide fairways and giant greens make Kauri Cliffs grand in scale and, just like Cape Kidnappers, a collection of tees on each hole give less confident golfers a chance to thrive. Like Kidnappers, it’s an absolute must for any golfer visiting New Zealand.
Green fees: $290 (low season), $460 (high season)
Stay here: The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs (on-site)
March – May
Mission Hills Haikou
The game is growing in China, in particular on Hainan Island off the nation’s southern coast. The island is about half the size of Tasmania and is dotted with dozens of world-class public-access resort courses. For sheer shock value, visit Mission Hills in the island’s capital, Haikou. Mission Hills’ main complex is on the Chinese mainland but its Haikou facility alone has an eye-popping 10 courses, shopping centres, an 18-storey hotel and its own ‘Movie Town’.
Green fees: $300 (most expensive of 10 courses)
Stay here: Mission Hills Resort (on-site)
June – September
Pebble Beach Golf Links
California, United States
A five-time US Open venue and the annual host of the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Pebble Beach is among the most famous courses on the planet. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson have all won at Pebble Beach, which hugs the Pacific Ocean, offers breathtaking cliff-top golf and is arguably the world’s best public course. About a two-hour drive south of San Francisco, it neighbours the ultra-exclusive masterpiece Cypress Point, but there’s no hassle getting a tee time at Pebble if you stay at any of its three on-site hotels.
Green fees (hotel guests): $650
Stay here: The Lodge at Pebble Beach (on-site)
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Oregon, United States
About a two-hour drive north of the California border on the Pacific coast, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has become a global golf mecca. It has four world-class 18-hole links courses – Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald – and its newest design, Bandon Preserve, is a 13-hole par-3 course. Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes are its most revered layouts, built on rugged coastline, exposing golfers to the elements and offering a quintessential links experience.
Green fees: $110 (low season), $330 (high season)
Stay here: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (on-site)
Nova Scotia, Canada
Perched atop Atlantic Ocean coastline, 36-hole venue Cabot Links is so spectacular that one major golf magazine declared its 2016 addition, Cabot Cliffs, the 19th-best course in the world before it had opened to the public. Cabot Links is Canada’s answer to Pebble Beach and considered the nation’s only authentic links golf resort. Cabot Links is in the community of Inverness, which was named after the Scottish town, so it makes sense the ocean views conjure comparisons to those in Scotland.
Green fees (hotel guests): $90 (low season), $215 (high season)
Stay here: Cabot Links Lodge (on-site)
July – August
The Old Course at St Andrews
Universally recognised as ‘The Home of Golf’, St Andrews is where the game started and the Old Course is the crown jewel of its seven courses. Few golf experiences can match the joy of crossing the tiny Swilcan Bridge and striding up the 18th fairway towards the clubhouse. Bookings on the Old Course can fill up more than 12 months in advance, so another option is to enter a ballot a few days before you want to play, or you can try your luck arriving unannounced on the morning you want to play.
Green fees: $127 (low season), $252 (high season)
Stay here: Old Course Hotel
THE MIDDLE EAST
October – December
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Yas Links is hailed as the first links golf course in the Middle East. Built on flat, sandy land, the 18-hole layout runs along one side of a Persian Gulf inlet and its sand dunes, man-made bumps and hollows, and clever bunkering have earned it a reputation as the premier course in the Emirates. Formula 1 fans will be pleased to know the Abu Dhabi F1 circuit is only a stone’s throw away.
Green fees: $170 (twilight), $230 (peak)
Stay here: The Yas Hotel
Emirates Golf Club
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
With the burgeoning Dubai skyline as a backdrop, the 45-hole Emirates Golf Club has a unique wow factor. Built on desert terrain, Emirates’ Majlis Course opened in 1988 as the Middle East’s only 18-hole grass golf course and has hosted the European Tour’s iconic Dubai Desert Classic since 1989. Truly a modern marvel, you can even play night golf at Emirates Golf Club on its fully flood-lit Faldo Course and nine-hole course, Par-3.
Green fees: $350 (Majlis Course)
Stay here: The Ritz-Carlton Dubai