Compiling a list of the best ten golf courses in the world is no easy task, and when you consider the number of top-notch courses worldwide, the task becomes almost impossible. Will some golf aficionados agree with the list? Probably not, but that’s what makes life interesting, right? It would be a pretty boring world if we all agreed on everything.
There is a wide variety of golf courses to consider, from the epic resort-style courses in the US, the wide-open expanses of the Scottish links, and the majestic visuals of the Australian sandbelt. Then you have countries like Japan with dozens of beautifully manicured golf courses that hold genuine top-ten status.
When it comes to ranking the top ten courses, there are no distinct criteria that need to be followed, and as with any “ranking list,” it’s partly subjective. That being said, we have taken into account factors like the cult following of the course, the history, the architecture, and the layout. Some courses on the list will surprise you, and some wont.
Again not everyone will agree, but here at GolfMonster we encourage open debate and discussion; after all, healthy debate can only help the game move in a positive direction; so without further adieu, let’s get into it.
If you are interested in courses in Europe, check out our guide to those here.
10. Pebble Beach
- 1 10. Pebble Beach
- 2 9. Winged Foot G.C. West Course
- 3 8. Pinehurst Number Two
- 4 7. Muirfield
- 5 6. Royal Melbourne G.C. East Course
- 6 5. Oakmont
- 7 4. Shinnecock Hills G. C.
- 8 3. Cypress Point Golf Club
- 9 2. Augusta National
- 10 1.St Andrews, The Old Course
Originally designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant in 1919, Pebble Beach measures 6,828 yards with a par of 72. Pebble Beach is located on the Monterey Penisula in California, USA.
Forget the golf courses; if you haven’t been to the Monterey Penisula, you don’t know what you’re missing. The majestic sea top cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean are utterly mesmerizing. The Monterey Penisula is home to several world-class courses, but in my opinion, Pebble Beach is the pick of the bunch.
The tournament was initially hosted by my favorite singer of all time, Bing Crossby, back in 1937. After Crosby’s death in 1977, Bing’s family hosted the event for several years until it became the tournament we know today, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Pebble Beach has also hosted the US Open on five occasions, making for riveting viewing for fans on the course and those at home. Nine holes line the ocean top cliffs of the Pacific, and the scenery is simply breathtaking. Grant and Neville had their work cut out for them, but they created a timeless masterpiece on property that is now worth billions.
Would you believe me if I told you that anyone can tee it up at Pebble Beach? Yep, Pebble Beach is a public course, but it will set you back $500 for 18. Coupled with the location, names like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and the fact it’s an annual venue on Tour, Pebble Beach has charm no other golf course can match.
9. Winged Foot G.C. West Course
Famed architect A.W. Tillinghurst first designed Winged Foot back in 1923. The course measures 7,264 yards and has a par of 72. Winged Foot is located in New York, USA.
Winged Foot Golf Club was the host of one of the most memorable US Opens in the modern era, with sports journalist Dick Shapp coining the phrase “the massacre at Winged Foot.” Remarkably not a single player broke par in the first round. Winged Foot has hosted five US Opens in total, it’s most recent being the 2020 US Open.
The Aussie Geoff Oglivy’s victory in 2006 will also leave lasting memories for golf fans, as will the epic meltdown of Phil Mickelson.
Winged Foot is notoriously challenging even for the best golfers in the world, with many of them regularly struggling to shoot par. Strategically placed bunkers cause golfers havoc, and some bunkers are so deep you can’t see the putting surface when playing out them.
Even with the advent of modern technology that allows players to hit further and spin the ball, it’s still no match for this age-old classically designed course. Restoration of the greens is also currently taking place under the watchful eye of course superintendent Gil Hanse.
8. Pinehurst Number Two
Pinehurst Golf Club was designed in 1907 by one of the most well-regarded architects of his time, Donald Ross. Pinehurst measures a lengthy 7,560 yards and has a par of 70.
Most golfing experts widely regard Pinehurst Number Two to be Donald Ross’s best work. In 2014 Pinehurst held both the men’s and women’s US Opens and cemented its place as one of the truly great golf courses.
In 2008 Pinehurst also held the US Amateur Championship and has hosted a total of three US Opens. Pinehurst will also go down in golfing folklore as the site where the legendary Ben Hogan captured his first tournament victory. Donald Ross was famed for his greens, and the greens and Pinehurst are considered to en amongst his best.
Pinehurst underwent a dramatic redesign and transformation overseen by the two-time major winner turned architect Ben Crenshaw. The design team wanted to return the course back to its former glory and redesigned the fairways, paying particular attention to the rough areas that Ross believed should be native.
Undoubtedly the fact that Pinehurst hosted two majors in the same year further planted its place in the annals of golfing history. Germany’s Martin Kaymer won the men’s 2014 US Open, while U.S. golfing phenom Michelle Wie captured the women’s event.
Similar to Pebble Beach, Pinehurst Number Two is open to the public. In 2016 I was fortunate enough to be invited by a club member to play a round. Apart from shooting a respectable 81 off the blue tees, the club sandwich after the round will go down as the most delicious “post-round club sandwich” of all time.
Muirfield was designed by famed architect Old Tom Morris in 1891 and later again in 1925 by Colt. Muirfield is located in Scotland and measures 7,245 yards with a par of 71.
Muirfield has held the Britsh Open Championships on 16 occasions; yes, you heard me right, one-six. The club has not been without controversy but avoided any significant dent in its prominent stature. After years of debate and discussion, the club ultimately voted in favor of allowing women to become members, and it’s this design that helped Muirfield bridge the gap from days gone by to the modern era.
It’s also the scene of Phil Mickelson’s heartwarming win at the 2013 British Open, which spectators and golf fans alike will remember for years to come. Mickelson shot a superb final round to leapfrog the previous day’s leaders as the loveable lefty ran away with the title.
Muirfield is known for its unique front nine, which is played clockwise while the back nine is played counter-clockwise. Colt introduced this feature when he redesigned the course in 1925, and the attribute has gone on to become one of the most striking characteristics of any golf course in the world.
Apart from the course’s features and history, Muirfield is also known for its undulating fairways and treacherous bunkers, all of which have helped the course become a regular on the Open calendar.
With so many distinguished links courses in Scotland, it’s hard to single out Muirfled, but quite frankly, when you’ve hosted 16 British Opens, you probably deserve to be at the top of the list.
6. Royal Melbourne G.C. East Course
Royal Melbourne was first designed by famed Scottish golf course architect Dr Alister Mackenzie, in 1926. Royal Melbourne is a relatively short course by today’s standards and measures 6,579 yards with a par of 71.
Many Australian golfing experts view royal Melbourne as the creme of the crop; although coming from South Australia, I would give that title to Royal Adelaide; nonetheless, Royal Melbourne is simply one of the most picturesque and challenging golf courses on the planet.
Royal Melbourne has been host to 16 Australian Open Championships and numerous Amateur Championships. Mackenzie used the lie of the land to influence the design and prioritized being able to hit pinpoint accurate irons to hold the greens.
The sandbelt courses are renowned globally for their majestic landscapes, which can literally vary from hole to hole. One hole might be lined with eucalypt trees, while the next is a wide-open expanse filled with strategically placed bunkers.
Ask any of the top professionals, and they’ll tell you that the greens at Royal Melbourne are some of the most demanding to hit in the world. The course is known for its undulating and ever-changing landscape, which emphasizes being able to hit a variety of approach shots.
Overall, Royal Melbourne is the perfect blend of old-school golf design that sits perfectly nestled in the world-famous sandbelt landscape of southeast Australia.
Oakmont was first designed in 1903 by American golf designer and architect Henry Fownes. Oakmont Golf Course measures in at 7,245 yards with a par of 71 and is located in Pennsylvania, USA.
In recent years Oakmont has seen its fair share of controversy, although it wasn’t the club to blame rather PGA tour officials. In 2016 Dustin Johnson won his first long-awaited major championship, but it wasn’t until after a contentious ruling by PGA Tour officials.
In recent years Tom Fazio and his design team have looked to bring Oakmnot back to its glory days of wide-open fairways and natural undulating lands. The team has removed hundreds of trees, and the course has taken on somewhat of a renewed image, although the redesign has caused heated debate amongst golf writers and journalists.
Oakmont has some of the slickest greens in the world, which many players describe as like “putting on glass.” The greens are enormous, and some of the most undulating and challenging you’ll ever putt on. Oakmont says that it intentionally slows down the greens for the Majors; if that’s the case, I’d hate to see how quick they really are.
An excellent course and testament to its designer, Fownes, who was an architect but did not have the same reputation and prestige as other well-known designers at the time, such as Tillinghaust or Robert Trent Jones.
4. Shinnecock Hills G. C.
Shinnecock was foremost designed in 1931 by preeminent golf architect William Flynn. The iconic course is located in Southampton, New York, USA, and measures just shy of 7,000 yards at 6,996. Shinnecock Hills has a par of 70.
In recent years Shinnecock Hills has hosted the 2004 and 2018 US Opens and is mainly remembered for the 2004 event won by South African Retief Goosen. That year the greens were so fast that even on relatively flat greens, the balls were moving; this led greenskeepers to water down the greens between each group.
Shinnecock Hills is known as one of the first links-style courses in America, and it has largely remained untouched since it was originally laid to plan.
The course is generally regarded as one of the best examples of links-style courses in North America. It is exquisite in its beauty, with wide-open expanses of undulating land and an infinite number of bunkers dotted throughout the course.
In an area with several top-notch courses, Shinnecock Hills is the true standout, evidenced by its hosting of two recent major championships. County Down G.C. is another superlative links-style course yet doesn’t have the X-factor of a Shinnecock Hills or Pebble Beach.
Shinnecock Hills exudes prestige, tradition, class, and unparalleled beauty within North America; it’s an architectural masterpiece that has stood the test of time
3. Cypress Point Golf Club
Cypress Point is another magnificent masterwork from Dr. Alister Mackenzie, the celebrated course designer out of Scotland. Cypress Point measures a mediocre 6,542 yards and has a par of 72. The course is located in Pebble Beach, California, USA.
At one point in time, Cypress Point was included in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but after the club denied membership to a person of color, the course was immediately dropped from the tournament and hasn’t returned to the roster since.
All controversy aside, Cypress Point sits on the glorious Monterey Peninsula and has the same breathtaking views as its famed Pebble Beach counterpart. Alister Mackenzie designed a gem, and the course just nestles into the surroundings like it’s been part of the landscape since the beginning of time.
Cypress Point is relatively short in today’s golfing world, measuring 6,542 yards. To many experts’ amazement, the club has decided against lengthening the course to mitigate the advancement of golf ball and club technology. To me, that’s a testament to the timeless design and architectural genius of Dr. Alister Mackenzie
If you were to place courses like Shinnecock Hills, Cypress Point, and Royal Melbourne side by side, many would say Cypress Point is quite simply unapparelled in its superb views and irresistible allure.
Whether you’re an avid golfer or a lover of nature, Cypress Point represents much more than a golf course; Panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and formidable undulating greens its easy to understand the appeal of Cypress Point.
2. Augusta National
Augusta National was designed in 1933 by Bobby Jones and legendary Scottish architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie. Augusta National measures 7,435 yards and has a par of 72. It is located in Augusta, Georgia, USA.
Where does one start when trying to boil down the endless and extraordinary history that Augusta National holds in golf folklore. Authors and historians far more eloquent than me have documented Augusta’s history and stories that have played out there.
Augusta National is home to the Masters’ tournament held every April and, in my opinion, is the most stunning, breathtakingly beautiful course in the world. The fairways look like carpet instead of grass, and the vast array of flowers and shrubs surrounding the greens is simply gorgeous.
Since its original design by Mackenzie and Jones, the course has undergone several significant redesigns and bears little resemblance to the initially designed outlay.
No other golf course apart from St Andrews has the aura and pizzazz of Augusta National; the club allows no marketing or sponsorship to be displayed while holding the Masters, with even paper cups from the bar being painted in their traditional green.
Augusta National has some of the most famous, celebrated, and wealthy members of any club in the world, and not just any golf club; any club altogether. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Condoleeza Rice, and Dirk Ziff are just some of the members lucky enough to grace the fairways of Augusta National.
Their deep pockets are why Augusta National is at the leading edge of golf course design and technology. The Masters is the home of golf in North America, and if it weren’t for St Andrews, Augusta National would probably be considered the home of golf, period.
No other tournament has the appeal of the Masters, evidenced by a waiting list to watch the tournament ranging anywhere from 7 to 10 years.
1.St Andrews, The Old Course
Amazingly no single designer or architect was responsible for designing St Andrews. However, Old Tom Morris does get the majority of the credit for his work designing the 1st and 18th holes between 1865 and 1908. St Andrews measures 6,721 yards and has a par of 72. The course is located in St Andrews, Scotland.
It’s tough for historians to pinpoint the exact time, but it’s believed golf has been played on this piece of land since the 1600s. Like Augusta, St Andrew’s has had volumes of writings published on its history and contribution to the game of golf. It’s also the headquarters for R&A or Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the games governing body.
St Andrews has played host to the British Open on 29 occasions, with its most recent championship held in 2015 won by Americas Zach Johnson in a four-hole playoff.
The course itself is laid out over the expanses of the Scottish plains and is characterized by undulating fairways, massive greens, and nightmarish bunkers. In recent championships, the wind was another major factor when measured at 60mph, delaying play in 2015.
Whether people like it or not, St Andrews is the home of golf; the history, the pedigree, and the tradition are unmatched by any other course, with only Augusta coming close. The fact St Andrews was never truly designed, except for a brief period when Old Tom Morris designed the 1st and 18th holes, is a testament to the wonders of mother nature.
There are so many aspects and characteristics that place St Andrews on top of the golfing pyramid. St Andrews has hosted 29 British Opens, has stunning scenery, natural landscapes, and has been host to some of the most remarkable stories in all of golf.