Amazing Bucket List Golf Courses Around the World


The greens of your dreams. (Photo: Thinkstock)

If you love the game of golf, teeing up is always a thrill. That one little act is the start to hours of excitement, strategy, and in most cases, meditative relaxation. But the more times a golfer plays, the more he or she longs to play courses that provide a serious challenge, visually thrill, or have historic significance within the sport. It becomes a bit of, well, an obsession. We scanned the globe for the most special, standout courses. These links offer up once-in-a-lifetime experiences and memories that golf enthusiasts should try to swing before they hit the bucket.

The Stadium Course, PGA Catalunya Resort, Girona, Spain


Don’t you feel relaxed just looking at the picture? (Photo: PGA Catalunya Resort)

The PGA Catalunya Resort features two courses on its property — the Stadium Course and the Tour Course. Of the two, The Stadium is considered the number one course in all of Spain. Created to rival the PGA Tour’s TPC Sawgrass in Florida, it took the European Tour — headed by Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles — over a decade to design and build this 72-par course. But it was worth the wait. Golfers consider it a technical masterpiece that is both exhilarating and challenging to play. Obstacles like undulated bunkers, encroaching oak trees, and large lakes that act as semi-island greens require golfers put strategy and negotiation behind every swing — making this course a great physical and mental workout. Access is granted to members only.

Related: Tee Time! The Top 10 Golf Courses for Dad

The Champion Course, Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland


If you can’t get a tee time, just take in the beauty. (Photo: Royal County Down)

The oldest course in Ireland saw the first golfers step foot onto its greens on March 23, 1889. Since then, golfers from all over the world have traveled to play on one of its two courses: The Championship Course or Annesley Links. The fourth and ninth holes of the Championship Course — added in 1925 by Harry Colt — are the most photographed and written-about holes in golf. The ninth, a long par 4, requires swinging to an unseen green 80 feet below and can be a real card-wrecker for those who don’t know how to position their ball off the tee. Of course, the rest of the course is also pretty spectacular. The opening holes run side-by-side with the Irish Sea while the Mountains of Mourne serve as an imposing backdrop. Ironically, this public course has never hosted an Open. Regardless, it’s where the pros like Tiger Woods head when they want to play for fun. Green fees run from £50 (about $79, off season) to £100 (about $150, in high season).

Port Royal Golf Course, Southhampton, Bermuda


Is that Bermudian blue? (Port Royal Golf Course)

In 2008, when this Robert Trent Jones Sr. course was named the home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, it underwent a $14.5 million renovation to get back up to par (no pun intended). Located on the southern shore of the island, the 30-year-old greens had deteriorated because of weather, wind, and irrigation issues. Boston-based architect Roger Rulewich, who worked with Jones on the original design, rebunkered the greens, changed the layout of several holes, added ponds and lakes and trees, expanded the irrigation system, and re-grassed the entire course. It reopened in 2011, and today, the 16th hole — played from a tee on a cliff edge — is considered one of the greatest holes in golf. Greens fees run $109 for 18 holes.

Hirono Golf Club, Miki, Japan


You’ve never seen a golf course like this before. (Photo: Hirono Golf Club)

One of the most elite private golf clubs in Japan — if not the world — was founded and designed in 1932 by the Englishman, Charles Alison. The 72-par course, which stretches 7,055 yards, is known for its tricky routing, strategic bunkering, elevated greens, double dog legs, and forced-carries over ravines. The stretch from the 12th to the 15th is considered one of the finest in the world for these reasons. And did we mention how meticulous the fairways and greens are? Every tree is perfectly manicured like a Japanese Bonsai. But good luck getting on the greens — you have to be invited to be a member or play with one. A golfer can dream. …

Four Seasons Papagayo, Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica


Pretty nice view from the sixth hole. (Photo: Four Seasons)

When Arnold Palmer designed this premier course in 2004, he created it for the vacationing golfer. The 18-hole, 72-par course is challenging but not overwhelming, allowing players to stay in vacation mode for however long it takes to finish a game. And it’s understandable that most take their time to do so. The 6,788 yards of the course wind their way through 125 acres of mixed terrain with awe-inspiring views (and an occasional visit from some white-faced monkeys). Our favorite was hole number 6, “El Bajo.” The 446-yard, par-4 hole features a tee that is 200 feet above the green, which is perched on a cliff with the ocean as the backdrop. In total, there are 14 ocean-view holes — it may spoil a player’s concentration a little bit, but in the best way, reminding you you’re far from the office. Greens fees are $230 per round.

Hamilton Island Golf Club, Queensland, Australia


Playing waterside. (Photo: Hamilton Island Golf Club)

Legendary Australian golfer Peter Thomson designed this 18-hold, 71-par course, and he certainly knew what he was doing. Located on Dent Island — a secluded private island just west of Hamilton Island and accessible by ferry — it offers a game that is about as unique and unforgettable as it gets. The broad fairways, flanked by hilly landscapes, sandy beaches, and coves, offer 360-degree views of the famously scenic Whitsunday Islands and the Coral Sea. Greens fees are $100 AU ($81 U.S.) for nine holes and $150 AU ($121 U.S.) for 18 holes, and prices include ferry fees.

Teeth of the Dog, Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic


A location like this makes you want to go for a swim mid-swing. (Photo: Casa de Campo)

Designed by the renowned golf architect and World Golf Hall of Fame member Pete Dye and his architect wife, Alice Dye, this majestic course took two years to build and opened in 1972. Among the highlights are seven opening holes that hug the shoreline. They are memorable not only for the views but also for the challenging play created by the tricky trade winds. Golf fees range from $140 (low season) to $180 (in high season).

The Links, Fancourt Resort, George, South Africa


Majestic and moutainside. (Photo: Fancourt Resort)

Located in the Western Cape of South Africa with the Outeniqua Mountains set as the backdrop, this golf gem has been dubbed the number one course in the country. Gary Player, one of the world’s leading golf architects, spent months studying classic courses in Ireland and Scotland and then recreated some of the finest on this patch of land that was once an airfield. As soon as it opened in 2000, the course became a go-to for championship games, including the 2003 President’s Cup, where Tiger Woods and Ernie Els faced off in a historic — and dramatic — tie. Player has dubbed the private course his greatest achievement. Golfers must stay at the resort to play. An 18-hole round costs 1,800 rand (about $152) for an adult and 500 ($42) for a youth.

The Old Course, St. Andrews Links, St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland


So Scottish! (Photo: St. Andrews Links)

While it is believed townies hit balls on these greens as early as 1123, The Old Course at St. Andrews officially opened to the public in 1552. It is the oldest course in the world and considered “the spiritual home of golf.” It was originally a 22-hole course, which was played backward (and each April, it still is). However, in 1764, it was shortened to 18 holes — establishing the number as the game standard. While the land itself is mostly flat, ribbon-like links hide much trickery. Pros, including Jack Nicklaus and Ernie Els, have stated that it requires multiple rounds before one can even begin to get a true sense of how to play the course. To date, it has hosted more British Opens than any other. The 17th half-par hole — the Road Hole — is the most famous hole in golf. Greens fees run from £80 ($126, low season) to £170 ($268, high season).

Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand


Very Lord of the Rings-esque. (Photo: Cape Kidnappers)

Designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, this 71-par course is in a league all its own. Completed in 2004, the course features back nine holes that stretch along several fingers of land, separated by deep gullies that dip down to the sea. There are some breathtaking cliff-to-ocean views, which include rocky bluffs and a wide expanse of Hawkes Bay, with deco-designed town Napier across the way. Playing the course is brag-worthy for even for the most accomplished pros. Greens fees are $313 (NZ, low season) and $475 (NZ, high season).

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