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
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
- 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
Melbourne has 10 top 100 courses within an hour's flight. This includes King Island & Barnbougle
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
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!
2. The London Heathlands
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.
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.
Muirfield is famous for hosting the Open Championship, and is generally regarded as one of the ten best courses on the planet.
Nth Berwick's West Links is one of my favourite courses anywhere and Gullane No 1 recently hosted the Scottish championship...
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.
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
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:
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!
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
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!
For more information see:
5. Ireland's South West
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
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.
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 Ireland
6. Pinehurst & The Sandhills of North Carolina
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!
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
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