A popular saying goes, “A bad day golfing is always better than a good day at work.” While that statement absolutely rings true for the vast majority of avid golfers, there is no denying that playing on a world–class course can elevate an ordinary round to an unforgettable one. We decided to compile a list of 25 of the most iconic courses in the world that golf enthusiasts should add to their bucket list. Here’s what we came up with (in no particular order).
1. Augusta National Golf Club
Location: Augusta, Georgia
Distance: 7,435 yards
Simply put: Augusta National is the most iconic and exclusive golf course on the planet. Home to the PGA Tour’s most prestigious tournament (The Masters), this course is rich in tradition and history. It has some of the most beautiful landscaping you will ever see on a golf course. Unfortunately the club’s strict rules and limited memberships prohibit the vast majority of the public from ever experiencing the thrill of playing a round at Augusta National.
2. TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Distance: 7,215 yards
TPC Sawgrass is home to one of the most iconic holes in the world. The par-three 17th on Sawgrass’s Stadium Course is short (it usually plays at 125–150 yards), but thanks to its “Island Green,” the hole has the potential to ruin a solid round or drastically alter the leaderboard during tournament play. Sawgrass is more than just one iconic signature hole, though. It annually hosts The Players Championship (a PGA Tour event), and features pristine landscaping where alligators occasionally wander across the course.
3. Harbour Town Golf Links
Location: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Distance: : 7,101 yards
Multiple sources rank Harbour Town among the top public golf courses in the country on a yearly basis. The course annually hosts the RBC Heritage (a PGA Tour event) in mid-April, and it’s renowned for its narrow fairways, thick tree lines, ocean views, and multiple lagoons.
4. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Distance: 6,828 yards
In terms of pure beauty, it’s hard to top Pebble Beach. The iconic northern California course runs along the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean and Carmel Bay and boasts unparalleled views. Pebble Beach has hosted the U.S. Open five times, the PGA Championship once, and has been home to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since 1947.
5. Torrey Pines Golf Course
Location: La Jolla, California
Distance: 7,698 yards
Torrey Pines is home to two of the best public golf courses in the United States. Both of their courses (the South and the North) run along the coastal cliffs of La Jolla, California and offer scenic views of the Pacific Ocean from start to finish. Torrey Pines hosted the U.S. Open in 2008. It’s the annual site of the Farmers Insurance Open (a PGA Tour event).
6. Royal County Down Golf Club
Location: Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland
Distance: 7,204 yards
Royal Country Down is one of the oldest golf courses in Ireland and the entire world. Not only is this course rich in history, it also offers some of the most gorgeous scenery Northern Ireland has to offer. This course has yet to host The Open Championship, but there is no doubting that Royal County Down is one of the greatest golf courses in all of Europe.
7. Oakmont Golf Club
Location: Plum, Pennsylvania
Distance: 7,254 yards
For every year of the magazine’s existence, Golf Digest has ranked this links-style course located just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the top-10 courses in the United States. Famous for its slopes and Church Pew bunker, Oakmont has hosted the U.S. Open nine times (and is scheduled to host again in 2025) and the PGA Championship three times.
8. Pinehurst No. 2
Location: Pinehurst, North Carolina
Distance: 7,565 yards
The Pinehurst Golf Resort is one of the largest golf resorts in the world. It is home to nine golf courses, three hotels, a world-class spa, multiple swimming pools, a wide variety of shopping options, and Lake Pinehurst. The resort is famous in large part because of its No. 2 course. The 7,565-yard track is one of the most historic courses in America. It’s hosted three U.S. Opens (with another scheduled for 2024), one PGA Championship, one Women’s U.S. Open, and one Ryder Cup.
9. Coeur d’Alene Golf Course
Location: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Distance: 6,803 yards
The Coeur d’Alene Golf Course is home to one of the most well–known holes in the world. The par three 14th hole is nicknamed The Floating Green for an obvious reason. The course’s signature hole features a green that literally floats (while being anchored) in the water off the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene and is only accessible by boat.
10. Old Course at St. Andrews
Location: St. Andrews, Scotland
Distance: 6,721 yards
The Old Course at St. Andrews is widely considered to be the home of golf. The course was established in 1552, and played a large role in shaping the game as we all know it today. The Old Course is known for the Swilcan Bridge, its double greens shared between two holes, and its brutally tough bunkers. In total, St. Andrews has hosted The Open Championship a whopping 29 times.
11. Muirfield Village Golf Club
Location: Dublin, Ohio
Distance: 7,337 yards
Muirfield Village is one of the wealthiest communities in Ohio. The crown jewel of the community is the Muirfield Village Golf Club, a private course designed by the great Jack Nicklaus. Muirfield Village was named after Muirfield in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland, which is the site of Nicklaus’ first victory in The Open Championship. The course has also hosted a slew of professional events, including the Memorial Tournament (an annual PGA Tour event), the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, and the Presidents Cup.
12. Bethpage State Park – Black Course
Location: Farmingdale, New York
Bethpage Black is hands down one of the most difficult public courses in the U.S. If the warning sign located on the tee box of the first hole weren’t enough, players are also often required to verify their handicap before they can start a round. The course is located in tiny Farmingdale, New York (an incorporated village on Long Island). It’s hosted the U.S. Open twice, The Barclays twice, and is scheduled to host the PGA Championship (2019), The Barclays (2021 and 2027), and the Ryder Cup (2024).
13. Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Spyglass Hill often gets overlooked due to its proximity to a couple of other iconic golf courses (Pebble Beach and Cypress Point). But make no mistake, it’s one of the best public courses in the world. Golf Digest once described Spyglass Hill as a combination of Augusta National and Pine Valley. With part of the course offering views of the Pacific Ocean and other areas sporting thick forestry, it’s easy to see why they made such a lofty comparison.
14. Pine Valley Golf Club
Location: Pine Valley, New Jersey
Distance: 6,999 yards
Golf Digest recently ranked Pine Valley as the No. 1 course in America, pushing the highly exclusive, male-only southern New Jersey club ahead of Augusta National. This honor was just the latest in a long line of awards that Pine Valley has won over the years. On top of being one of the most difficult courses in the world, Pine Valley is also an architectural masterpiece; it’s beautiful from start to finish.
15. Cypress Point Golf Club
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Distance: 6,524 yards
Cypress Point may be one of the shorter courses on this list, but at the same time, it may be the most beautiful course on our list as well. The private course offers several holes surrounded by the Del Monte forest and several holes that play along the Pacific Ocean coastline (with a couple of holes requiring shots to travel over the Pacific). Like so many others on this list, landing a tee time is extremely difficult without having a personal relationship with one of Cypress Point’s members.
16. Cherry Hills Country Club
Location: Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
Distance: 7,348 yards
Cherry Hills is a private country club located just south of Denver, Colorado. The club features a major championship-caliber 18-hole course as well as a nine-hole par-three course. Their 18-hole course is known for the way it increases in difficulty from start to finish and for being one of the few courses with an island green on a par-five hole. Despite its length, Cherry Hills, which has hosted three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, plays much shorter due to its elevation of 5,300 feet above sea level.
17. Oak Hill Country Club – East Course
Location: Pittsford, New York
Distance: 7,145 yards
Oak Hill Country Club is home to two 18-hole courses (the East and the West), but it is the East Course that makes the club great. The course is appropriately difficult and has landscaping that perfectly embodies upstate New York. Oak Hill has hosted three U.S. Opens, one Ryder Cup, one Senior U.S. Open, one Senior PGA Championship, and three PGA Championships (with another scheduled for 2023).
18. The Olympic Club – Lake Course
Location: San Francisco, California
Distance: 7,170 yards
All three courses (yes, even the nine-hole, par three Cliffs Course) at the Olympic Club should be on every avid golfer’s bucket list. However, this club’s masterpiece is undoubtedly the Lake Course. The Lake Course has it all: history and tradition, beauty, difficulty, and stunning views of the Bay Area.
19. Baltusrol Golf Club – Lower Course
Location: Springfield, New Jersey
Distance: 7,400 yards
Baltusrol Golf Club is now officially considered a National Historic Landmark. It boasts two championship–caliber courses, but the Lower Course is the club’s more iconic track. Baltusrol’s Lower Course has hosted four U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, and is located only 20 miles from New York City.
20. Winged Foot Golf Club – West Course
Location: Mamaroneck, New York
Distance: 7,264 yards
Many experts consider Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course to be one of the best course designs in golf history. The greens are complex, but playable; the bunkers are vast and unique; the tree lines are thick, but open enough to make the course playable; and there is opportunity to score well on every hole. In total, Winged Foot West has hosted the U.S. Open five times and the PGA Championship once (and it’s set to host again in 2020).
21. Chambers Bay
Location: University Place, Washington
Distance: 7,585 yards
Chambers Bay has emerged as one of the most popular golf courses in America in just 10 years of existence, thanks in large part to the challenging Pacific Northwest course hosting the 2015 U.S. Open. Speaking of the 2015 Open, Chambers Bay received quite a bit of criticism for the condition of the course at the time, but the course’s issues have since been addressed. Today, Chambers Bay is a sprawling links-style course that offers challenges to players of all abilities and skill sets.
22. Congressional Country Club – Blue Course
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Distance: 7,574 yards
Congressional Country Club’s Blue Course is one of the most prestigious courses in the U.S. It’s known for its luscious forestry and extremely difficult greens. Congressional has hosted three U.S. Opens and one PGA Championship. Its list of former members includes (among others) Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, John Rockefeller, Vince Lombardi, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Charlie Chaplin, Walter Chrysler, and Andrew Carnegie.
23. Whistling Straits – Straits Course
Location: Haven, Wisconsin
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits is a true throwback. Course designers, Pete and Alice Dye, constructed it in such a way that it closely resembles the oceanfront courses of Scotland and the United Kingdom. The challenging links-style course runs along Lake Michigan and has hosted three PGA Championships (with a Ryder Cup scheduled for 2020).
24. Hazeltine National Golf Club
Location: Chaska, Minnesota
Distance: 7,678 yards
Hazeltine National is a private club located in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thanks to narrow fairways, several hills, smaller than average greens, and multiple water hazards, the course is difficult from start to finish. The club has a lengthy history that includes hosting two U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, and one Ryder Cup.
25. Royal Dornoch Golf Club – Championship Course
Location: Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland
Distance: 6,722 yards
The Championship Course at Royal Dornoch is one of the most iconic golf destinations in the world despite the fact that the club has never hosted a major pro tournament. The links course runs along the North Sea shoreline and offers some of the most beautiful golf course scenery on the planet.