Great Golfing Destinations

Nth Berwick GC- hole 16

Nth Berwick GC- hole 16 (East Lothian)

 Keen golfers the world over aspire to play the world’s best courses and see the world

But the world is large and there are so many golf courses..

A recent study calculated that there are over 34000 golf courses in the world- 15,000 or more being in the United States alone!

Inevitably the good courses are spread far and wide: from Nova Scotia, to Tasmania, to Norway and the island of Jura and so many places in between

 

The trick in designing a good golfing trip is to achieve easy access to a number of great golf courses in one region

For pure golfing trips you need a cluster of these courses in close proximity

Ideally you can settle into some suitable accommodation and not have to move from day to day

Of course golf and sightseeing trips need to address the non golfing experiences in the same light.

 

So what are The Great Golfing Destinations?

 

From a pure golfing point of view The London Heathlands, New York’s Long Island, Pinehurst & The Sandhills of North Carolina, The Monterey Peninsula, Bandon Dunes, The Melbourne Sandbelt, East Lothian in Scotland, Northern Ireland… all stack up 

On the other hand where golf, culture & sightseeing are the focus perhaps Canada’s Rocky Mountains, The Garden Route in Sth Africa, or the island of Kauai in Hawaii would fit the bill

 

In this series of articles and in no particular order, we explore some of those ‘must see’ destinations:

 

1. The Melbourne Sandbelt

2. The London Heathlands

3. East Lothian, Scotland

4. Bandon Dunes Resort, Oregon, USA

5. South West Ireland

6. Pinehurst & The Sandhills of North Carolina

 

  1. The Melbourne Sandbelt

 

Yarra Yarra GC- hole 15Yarra Yarra GC- hole 15 (The Melbourne Sandbelt)

 

If one studies the world golf course rankings (we use Golf magazine US, Top 100 courses UK & Golf Digest USA as our references here) Australian & New Zealand courses feature prominently.

In fact 17 courses  are listed in one or more of the rankings- 5 from New Zealand and an incredible 13 from Australia

See : https://www.thetravellinggolfer.com.au/australia-and-new-zealand/play-17-world-top-100-courses-in-3-weeks

 

Melbourne has 10 top 100 courses within an hour's flight. This includes King Island & Barnbougle

The Mornington Peninsula is an hour by car from Melbourne making a total of 7 world top 100 ranked courses in easy reach. This includes St Andrews Beach & The Moonah course at The National Golf Club

 

The Melbourne Sandbelt is comprised of 8 clubs all in near proximity and most have at some stage have held a world top 100 ranking or hosted National championships. 

The courses include: Royal Melbourne West, Royal Melbourne East, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, Yarra Yarra, Commonwealth, Huntingdale & Woodlands. The two courses at Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan & Victoria all feature in world top 100 calculations

 

Victoria GC- hole 14Victoria GC- hole 14

Metropolitan GC- 10th holeMetropolitan GC- 10th hole

Commonwealth GC- hole 18Commonwealth GC- hole 18

 

Kingston Heath GC- hole 10Kingston Heath GC- hole 10

Royal Melbourne- West Course- hole 5Royal Melbourne- West Course- hole 5

 

 

Melbourne has so much to offer other than golf- world famous wine regions on it’s doorstep (Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula) iconic sightseeing ( The Great Ocean Road, The Fairy Penguins) , and a lively multi cultural dining offering comparable to the world’s great cities.

And Melbourne claims to be the sporting capital of the world! Come and experience AFL football, The Australian Open Tennis, Test cricket…

There is so much to do in Melbourne!

 

Vineyards on The Monrington PeninsulaVineyards on The Mornington Peninsula

 See also:

Escorted Tour: Sydney & Melbourne

The Melbourne Sandbelt Tour

The Melbourne Sandbelt & The Mornington Peninsula

 

2. The London Heathlands

Sunningdale Golf Club- hole 7Sunningdale Golf Club- hole 7

 The Heathland courses of London are one of the great golfing destinations in the world and rate with Melbourne's Sandbelt & Long Island for the quality and number of courses in close proximity. Heathlands courses are sited in gently rolling sandy terrain that inevitably drains well.

Like links courses, heathland courses boast firm playing surfaces perfect for golf.

However being inland most of the courses are routed through forests of Scotch Fir and Pine trees, often with heather and gorse lining the fairways.

 

Heather in the heathland at St Georges HillHeather in the heathland at St Georges Hill

 

The courses are inevitably more protected from the elements, and can look spectacularly beautiful when the heather and gorse is in bloom.

Heathland courses are a meeting point between the traditional links and parkland courses with playing surfaces reminscent of links play but a setting more like a parkland course. Most of the finest heathland courses in the world  are located in England, although continental Europe has a number of quality courses , and the best course in the world- Pine Valley- is a heathland course in New Jersey, USA.

 

Think heathland golf and London comes to mind with a variety of wonderful varied heathland course recognised as world class courses.

Sunningdale, Wentworth, Swinley Forest, Walton Heath, St Georges Hill, The Berkshire, Woking... there is no shortage of quality golf!

Combine your golf trip with a day of Test Cricket, a visit to Wimbledon or perhaps time at The Open Championship?

Or soak in the history of London Town!

 

The Travelling Golfer can tailor a tour to London to suit your group- see Golf Tours- The London Heathlands

 

3. East Lothian, Scotland

 

The East Lothian region in Scotland provides one of the great clusters of quality links courses in the world, many of which are world renowned. And it is all conveniently located an hour from Edinburgh airport allowing relatively easy access from all over the globe.

There are charming accommodation opitons in Aberlady and Nth Berwick, and a legion of pubs to provide sustenance and entertainment.

All of the courses are in close proximity and only minutes away...

 

Great links courses, charming accommodation, and pubs and entertainment at every turn. Is this not a perfect golf trip destination?

 

Those interested in the history of the game can visit Musselburgh Links ( 1672 ) where Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have played...

Here you can hire hickory clubs and play the ancient links.

 

Musselburgh Old LinksMusselburgh Old Links

 

Muirfield is famous for hosting the Open Championship, and is generally regarded as one of the ten best courses on the planet.

 

Muirfield- 18th hole clubhouseMuirfield- 18th hole clubhouse

 

Nth Berwick's West Links is one of my favourite courses anywhere and Gullane No 1 recently hosted the Scottish championship...

 

Nth Berwick Golf Links- hole 13 "The Pit"Nth Berwick Golf Links- hole 13 "The Pit"

Nth Berwick Golf Links- hole 6Nth Berwick Golf Links- hole 6

 

 

The Renaissance Club, adjacent to Muirfield, is new- but is a championship course in waiting, and Luffness New, Kilspindie, and Gullane no 2 & 3 are real quality links courses.

 

Gullane GC No 2 courseGullane GC No 2 course

Kilspindie GCKilspindie GC

 

 

 

Revetted pot bunkers at GullaneRevetted pot bunkers at Gullane

Luffness New GC, ScotlandLuffness New GC, Scotland

 

 

The Travelling Golfer can assist with a variety of accommodation options to meet any style or budget, and East Lothian has a number of great spots to eat out if you are in the know..

All in all, East Lothian is a world class golfing destination- ideal for independant groups or a small group hosted tour

 

See also: Golf Tours- East Lothian 

 

4. Bandon Dunes Resort

Bandon Dunes Resort- Pacific Dunes 

The story of Mike Keiser and Bandon Dunes is now legend- how he searched America far and wide for true linksland by the sea- and how he eventually came to develop Bandon Dunes Resort near North Bend on the Oregon Coast

Over the years the resort has grown from one wonderful links course to a multiple course complex.

I consider it to be without question 'the best golf resort in the world'. 

 

Bandon Dunes Resort is now home to 6 world class links courses, and a variety of quality accommodation & dining options.

Throw in wonderful practice facilities, some pretty punky practice putting greens, and some of the best pro shops anywhere- and you have the recipe for a very successful golfing holiday

No surprise- after all, it is ‘the best golf resort in the world’

 

The courses are: 

 

 

Bandon Dunes (1999) by David Kidd

Pacific Dunes (2001) by Tom Doak

Bandon Trails (2005) by Coore Crenshaw

Old Macdonald (2010) by Tom Doak

Bandon Preserve- a 13 hole par 3 course (2012) by Coore Crenshaw

Sheep Ranch (2020) by Coore Crenshaw

 

How good are these courses?

 

At the time of writing the Sheep ranch has not officially opened and has not been rated- and as good as the par 3 course is, it is not rated with the 18 hole courses

The original four full courses however are very well regarded.

All four being ranked amongst the top 42 in the USA, and top 100 in the world according to top100golfcourses.com

That’s an incredible result!

 

Bandon TrailsBandon Trails

 

Here is a little bit more information on each of the courses:

 

Bandon Dunes- rated no 30 in the USA, and 68 in the world

 

 

The original course gave David Kidd the opportunity of routing a bunch of golf holes on the clifftops.

The course and the gorse have a scottish links feel- but it is the dramatic coastline holes that will stay with you

 

 

Pacific Dunes- rated no 15 in the USA, 23 in the world

 

 

 

Pacific Dunes is the course that announced Tom Doak to the world

History now records him as one of the greats of golf architecture

Pacific Dunes is simply one of the best courses in the world!

The combination of picturesque clifftop holes and remarkable inland holes in the dunes is compelling

 

 

Bandon Trails- rated no 42 in the USA, 99 in the world

 

 

 

Bandon Trails is given less exposure to the coast and the big dunes than it’s sister courses

After the starting holes explore some beautiful unescapes, the course turns inland and up into the hills, before returning to the sandhills at the finish

The Course has a different feel to the clifftop courses and with many fairways being tree lined is less exposed to the conditions than  the others

 

 

Old Macdonald was named after C.B. Macdonald who was crucial in the development of golf and golf architecture in America

 

 

 

Macdonald studied the great UK links courses and consequently used this knowledge to incorporate ‘template’ holes in his American course designs. These templates employed the strategies and look of the famous links holes without being direct replicas

The Old Macdonald course at Bandon Dunes is based on the same design principles, so the more astute golfer might be able to identify famous holes like The Road hole, Double Plateau or Short as they progress through their round

 

Bandon Preserve- the par 3 course

 

 

 

 

Bandon Preserve is an inspired piece of planning!

Left with a small parcel of coastal land ideal for golf, the idea of a classic links par 3 course by Coore Crenshaw was always going to be a winner

Bandon Preserve is amongst the best, if not the premier par 3 course in the world. It is an ideal way to spend an hour or so after the main game of the day

 

Sheep Ranch

 

 

 

 

The clifftop land adjacent to Pacific Dunes has been an intriguing proposition for a long time

Originally Tom Doak was employed to develop The Sheep Ranch- a series of greens and tees along the coast with mown fairways seemingly heading off in all directions. It was a fun concept for matchplay- the winner of each hole could choose which hole to head to next…

But commercial reality eventually kicked in. Coore Crenshaw were invited to design a new course along the coastal cliffs as the next Bandon Dunes offering. The resultant course has 9 absolute clifftop greens and no bunkering whatsoever!

 

Bandon Dunes is a Travelling Golfer must play destination!

 

Golf Tours

 

For more information see: 

Bandon Dunes Resort

Bandon Dunes Resort & Central Oregon

Pebble Beach & Bandon Dunes Resort

   

 5. Ireland's South West

Ballybunion GC: Old Course- hole 17Ballybunion GC: Old Course- hole 17

 

Ireland may well be every travelling golfer's favourite golfing destination.

A trip to Ireland playing the links courses is outrageous fun!

But there are so many world class links on offer, that most opt to tackle one region on each trip.

 

There is much to be said for golf in Northern Ireland with Royal County Down & Royal Portrush major drawcards, and golfers should also consider the Wild Atlantic Way in the north west where the links are routed through huge wild dunes on the coast.

Both these options will be covered later in this series

 

The south west of Ireland includes some of our favourite golf courses- links with character and beauty

Lahinch, Doonbeg, Ballybunion, Tralee, Waterville, Old Head- that's a pretty impressive line up!

 

                               Lahinch GC- The Dell

Tralee Golf Links- hole 14Tralee Golf Links- hole 14

 

 

Killarney is our favourite Irish town- the music, the pubs, the sightseeing- it's so Irish!

The gardens, castles, The Ring of Kerry, Skellig Michael..

There is so much to see and do.

 

Ireland's south west provides wonderful golf, but matches it with an all round Irish experience that you will not forget.

 

DCIM\100MEDIA\DJI_0017.JPGDoonbeg GC- hole 18 & clubhouse

Old Head hole 17Old Head- hole 17

 

South West Ireland is a 'Travelling Golfer must play destination!'

 

The Travelling Golfer can assist with tailored group and escorted group tours on a regular basis

See: Golf Tours: South West Ireland

See: Golf Tours Ireland

 

6. Pinehurst & The Sandhills of North Carolina

Pinehurst ResortPinehurst Resort

Pinehurst Resort is located in the Sandhills of North Carolina is known as 'the home of golf in the USA'.

It is home to nine championship golf courses, a magical par 3 course and the famous Pinehurst village.

It is also home to the famous Pinehurst no 2 course designed by Donald Ross and site of some of the more famous U.S Opens in history.

Every golfer aspires to stay and play at Pinehurst!

 

Pinehurst Resort- TheCradlePinehurst Resort- TheCradle

Pinehurst no 2- hole 18Pinehurst no 2- hole 18

 

 

Pinehurst no 5- hole 14Pinehurst no 5- hole 14 

Pinehurst no 4Pinehurst no 4

Pinehurst no 8- hole 18Pinehurst no 8- hole 18

 

 

But the Sandhills of North Carolina have so much more to offer!

 

Keen golfers should also visit nearby courses such as:

 

- Pine Needles, host of multiple US Womens Opens

- Tobacco Road, one of the coolest designs and most fun courses to play on the planet

- Dormie Club, designed by legendary golf architects Coore & Crenshaw

- CCNC- Dogwood course, a most enjoyable all round golfing experience (but a private members course with limited access)

- Legacy GC, a challenging Nicklaus design 

 

Tobacco Road- hole 11Tobacco Road- hole 11 

Pine Needles- hole 4Pine Needles- hole 4

Dormie Club- hole 3 greenDormie Club- hole 3 green

Legacy Golf Links- hole 18Legacy Golf Links- hole 18

 

 

CCNC- Dogwood- hole 18CCNC- Dogwood- hole 18 

Pinehurst & The Sandhills of North Carolina is a "Travelling Golfer must play destination!" 

 

The Travelling Golfer can assist with tailored group tours and annual escorted group tours 

 

see Golf Tours- Pinehurst Resort & The Sandhills of North Carolina

see- Golf Tours- The Masters

 

7. 

 

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