Golf Digest’s 2018 list of the world’s 100 greatest golf courses features some impressive destinations! Even if the golf tragic’s long-suffering ‘golf widow’ accompanies them on the trip, there are sure to be some pretty sweet payoffs for everybody, for making the pilgrimage.
Of course, which should be declared the top golf courses around the world is completely subjective, but you can expect Golf Digest to know a thing or two about the topic. Here, we’ll introduce you to the top three courses and throw in a couple of others for fascination’s sake.
No. 1 Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
With a nickname like ‘the Emerald Isle’, you’d logically expect Ireland to boast a spectacular golfing green. Voted number one by the magazine, Royal County Down Golf Club is arguably the most scenic place in all of Britain and Ireland to tee off. Located thirty miles south of Belfast in the small, seaside holiday town of Newcastle which is hugged to the Irish Sea by the Mourne Mountains, Royal County Down is steeped in tradition.
Established as a 9-hole course in 1889 by Scottish schoolteacher, George L. Baillie, it has undergone numerous modifications. No fewer than six architects over the past 120 years have contributed to the evolving design, but it remains unusually flat, with the jagged mountains as its compensatory backdrop.
Enjoy the services of highly experienced caddies, be challenged by the difficult bunkers, myriad blind shots and ever-changing wind directions, and swap tales in the excellent restaurant after your game.
Fun fact: Royal County Down has never hosted an Open! The practicalities are just not feasible because the club is too far from enough accommodation venues. With thousands of people converging on major events, the Royal County Down simply doesn’t have enough beds in the vicinity.
Nearby perks: The Slieve Donard Hotel is a 180-room resort and spa set in a majestic Victorian castle overlooking the windswept County Down coastline. Indulge in a Ladies’ Retreat package with facial, eye lift, manicure and light lunch or the gentleman may prefer a fitness massage, deep cleanse facial, scalp massage and light lunch.
No. 2 Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Scotland
At the Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Dornoch, Scotland, you have the choice of not one but two 18-hole courses. Perched along the seashore and exposed to the wind, the course predominantly comprises plateaus and would test even a highly skilled player’s patience, if not for the glorious panoramas.
With the help of a Royal Dornoch caddy, you will be shown what to avoid and where best to aim your shot and also receive a quick education on the prevailing winds. More experienced players will appreciate some of the par 4 holes which sit at over four hundred metres.
The game of golf was originally played at Dornoch along the seashore itself more than four centuries ago. In 1877, the Dornoch Golf Club was formed by Alexander McHardy, considered the pioneer of golf in Scotland’s north, and Dr Hugh Gunn, a Dornoch native. It began as a 9-hole course and in 1906, was awarded the title of ‘Royal’ from King Edward VII.
Nearby perks: Whet your whistle with a wee drop of whisky at the Carnegie Whisky Cellars. Scotch enthusiasts will relish a visit which can include a blind whisky tasting. Compare two single malts and one blended whisky and guess their origins for just ten pounds.
No. 3 Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Black Rock, Australia
Number three on Golf Digest’s list is the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. It is a private Members’ club so unless you are the guest of a Member, you’ll need to look elsewhere for a world-class game.
No. 11 Barnbougle Dunes, Bridport, Australia
Number 11 on the list of the top 100 golf courses in the world is Barnbougle Dunes. Tasmania already lays claims to some of the world’s most magical scenery. When it is the setting for an 18-hole golf course co-designed by golf icons Tom Doak and Michael Clayton, it is even more compelling for passionate destination golfers.
Located on the wild and woolly north-eastern coast of the island state, Barnbougle is far from major cities but therein lies part of its charm. Stay in a magnificent Ocean Villa onsite, with uninterrupted views of Bass Strait.
Nearby perks: For something a bit more adrenaline-pumping to balance out the golf, check out Kookaburra Ridge Quad Bike Tours, also in Bridport. It’s exhilarating fun and suitable for kids and adults of all ages.
No. 23 The Club at Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, South Korea
At number 23, The Club at Nine Bridges was founded by the grandson of the man behind Samsung. It was named after the eight stone bridges dotted over the course, providing crossings for the lakes and creeks. The ‘ninth bridge’ refers to the link between the club itself, its members and the game.
Designed by Ronald Fream and opened in 2001, the emphasis is on beautifully manicured bentgrass playing surfaces. Each of the 9-hole courses has its own personality, the front with a British feel and the back, more American.
The country club at Nine Bridges is renowned for its award-winning architecture.
Nearby perks: If golf is not your cup of tea and you’re left behind while your Significant Other plays a few rounds, then a visit to the O’Sulloc Museum will be just what the tea lady ordered! Shaped like a tea cup, the museum is divided into six exhibitions.
Educational and illuminating, the tour ends with a hot pot of tea (of course). The views of the green tea fields are the perfect scenery for quiet contemplation.
Destination golf courses deserve planning
With a particular golf course in mind for your next overseas trip, it’s wise to do a little research to make sure you bring your A-game. Check if non-Members are allowed to play, enquire about the fees and whether you have to book the course, caddies and carts in advance.
If you are taking your own set of golf clubs, make sure you will be allowed to use them.