Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

10 courses every golfer should play

By Tony Smart, for CNN
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Carnoustie is where Ben Hogan won the only Open Championship he ever played in. The par-five sixth hole "Hogan's Alley" was named after him because of the tight driving line he took in all four rounds on it. Carnoustie is where Ben Hogan won the only Open Championship he ever played in. The par-five sixth hole "Hogan's Alley" was named after him because of the tight driving line he took in all four rounds on it.
HIDE CAPTION
Carnoustie Golf Links (Scotland)
Carnoustie Golf Links (Scotland)
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island (S.C.)
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island (S.C.)
Old Course, St. Andrews Links (Scotland)
Old Course, St. Andrews Links (Scotland)
Pebble Beach Golf Links (California)
Pebble Beach Golf Links (California)
Pinehurst No. 2 (North Carolina)
Pinehurst No. 2 (North Carolina)
Royal County Down Golf Club (Northern Ireland)
Royal County Down Golf Club (Northern Ireland)
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club (England)
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club (England)
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (Wales)
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (Wales)
Royal St George's Golf Club (England)
Royal St George's Golf Club (England)
Royal Troon Golf Club (Scotland)
Royal Troon Golf Club (Scotland)
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Masters tees off on one of the world's most beautiful courses -- Augusta
  • Ocean Course on Kiwah Island in South Carolina hosted the notorious "War on The Shore" at the 1991 Ryder Cup
  • Spectacular Pebble Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean appears on many golfers' bucket list
  • Royal Porthcawl and Royal County Down are the only two courses on this list that have never hosted a professional Major

(CNN) -- The weekend of the 2014 Masters -- the first major golf tournament of the year -- invariably acts as a siren call to anyone who owns a set of clubs.

If you love the game and its history, the following list of courses will make you feel like a pro, even if you don't swing like one.

I've limited this list to 10 courses, in alphabetical order, that the average golfer can play.

Carnoustie Golf Links (Scotland)

Carnoustie is where the great Ben Hogan won the only Open Championship he ever played and had the par-five, sixth hole named after him ("Hogan's Alley") because of the tight driving line he took at this hole in all four rounds.

Other Open winners on what has been called the world's toughest links course include Henry Cotton, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Ambitious (and perhaps overconfident) swingers can try to emulate Hogan's drives at the sixth hole, aiming between the fairway bunkers and the out-of-bounds fence.

Carnoustie can be played at its Open length of 7,421 yards, par 71 or from the yellow tees at a more modest 6,595 yards.

Try not to follow in the footsteps of Jean van de Velde, who took seven at the 18th hole in 1999 when a six would have won him the Open.

Green fees from £154 ($260); must have current handicap certificates, 28 or better for men, 36 for women and juniors (14-18); under 14s not allowed on Championship course.

Carnoustie Golf Links, Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland; +44 1241 80 2270

MORE: World's 18 most beautiful golf holes

A tough but beautiful challenge.
A tough but beautiful challenge.

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island Golf Resort (South Carolina)

From the toughest links course in the world to possibly the toughest course in the world, which also happens to be by the ocean.

The Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course at Kiawah Island was the stage for the 1991 Ryder Cup, the notorious "War On The Shore," in which Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and the rest of the European team lost by the narrowest of margins to a U.S. team that included the late Payne Stewart, Fred Couples and Ray Floyd.

The Ocean course was also the venue for Rory McIlroy's PGA Championship victory in 2012.

In that event the course played to a monster 7,676 yards, par 72, but you can play it from a variety of tees that go as low as 6,202 yards.

Even at that shortened length it's a challenge, but whichever tees you choose a round on the Ocean Course is a heavenly experience.

No carts; handicap required; packages from $200-450 depending on season.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort, One Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, South Carolina; +1 800 654 2924

Old Course, St. Andrews Links (Scotland)

This is known as the Home of Golf and is probably the most famous course in the world.

It's one that all serious golfers want to play.

The Old Course at St. Andrews has hosted 28 Open Championships, with another due in 2015.

The list of champions here is a mighty one, including Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus (twice), Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods (twice).

When you play this magnificent links you can't fail to be inspired by the history -- the Swilcan Burn, Hell Bunker, the Road Hole, the Old Course Hotel and the huge double greens on 14 holes that can leave you with putts of more than 100 feet.

You can play the Old Course at its Open Championship length of 7,305 yards, par 72, or 6,721 yards from the white tees, or 6,387 yards from the yellows.

Official Handicap card/certificate required, 24 or better for men, 36 for women and juniors; from £160 ($270) April 14-October 19 (ballot booking), £112 ($190) October 20-31, £80 ($135) November-March 2015

St. Andrews Links, Old, New & Jubilee courses, West Sands, St. Andrews; +44 (0)1334 466 718

MORE: World's 10 toughest golf courses

Jack Nicklaus said: \
Jack Nicklaus said: "If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach."

Pebble Beach Golf Links (California)

This iconic course overlooking the Pacific Ocean is one every golfer should play before they're too old to enjoy it.

Jack Nicklaus said: "If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach."

It's hosted five U.S. Opens and will host its next one in 2019.

Past winners include Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell.

A round at Pebble costs $495 plus cart cost.

Various tees can stretch the course length from 6,116 yards to 7,040 yards, par 72.

Pebble Beach Resorts, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, 1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, California; +1 831 624 3811

Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst Resort (North Carolina)

Known as America's St. Andrews, Pinehurst is steeped in history.

The resort has eight courses, four designed by Donald Ross, including Pinehurst's legendary No. 2 course, which has hosted one Ryder Cup, one PGA Championship and two U.S. Opens.

In 2014, the No. 2 course will make history by becoming the first course to hold the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Opens in successive weeks.

In 1999, the course's 18th green was the scene of one of golf's most enduring images when Payne Stewart punched the air after holing a 15-foot putt to win his second U.S. Open -- a statue of Stewart in the pose is situated behind the 18th green.

Pinehurst can be played from a variety of tees ranging from 7,495 yards, par 72, from the U.S. Open tees to 5,822 yards from the green tees.

Every golfer should play at least one Donald Ross course before they die and this is the best.

Caddies recommended: $55 per bag; fees from $360, non-resort guests must call +1 910 235 8141.

Pinehurst, 80 Carolina Vista Drive, Pinehurst, North Carolina; +1 855 235 8507

MORE: World's 10 best golf resorts

The Royal County Down Golf Club (Northern Ireland)

One of only two courses on this list that has never hosted a professional Major, Royal County Down has been the venue for major amateur events including the Walker Cup in 2007, the Curtis Cup in 1968 and two Amateur Championships.

But it's really on my list because Royal County Down is a magical links course that's perennially voted one of the best golf courses in the world, most recently by Golf Digest (the world's biggest selling golf magazine), which placed it fourth in its list of the world's 100 greatest courses.

Royal County Down is a par 71 that measures 7,186 yards from the championship tees, 6,878 yards from the medal tees, or 6,675 yards from the stableford tees.

Green fees from £50-185 ($85-310); between May and mid-October, blue, white and yellow tees require handicaps of 4 or better while red tees are open to all; buggies not allowed.

The Royal County Down Golf Club, 36 Golf Links Road, Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland; +44 28 4372 3314 for tee time reservation

The 1969 Open here was the first Major won by Tony Jacklin.
The 1969 Open here was the first Major won by Tony Jacklin.

Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club (England)

Royal Lytham has hosted 11 Open Championships, many of them historic.

The first Open at Lytham in 1926 was the first Open won by Bobby Jones.

The 1969 Open here was the first Major won by Tony Jacklin, ending an 18-year drought without a British victory in their own Open and signaling the beginning of the rise of European golf.

Seve Ballesteros won two of his Opens at Lytham (1979, 1988), the former his first Major victory.

In 2012, Ernie Els won his first Major in 10 years when Adam Scott dropped four shots in the last four holes.

Other golfing legends to win the Open at Lytham include Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Sir Bob Charles, and Gary Player.

The Women's British Open has been held at Lytham four times -- winners include Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew.

It's a tremendous links course, though one where you never actually see the sea.

It can be played at its Open length of 7,086 yards par 70 or from several other tees right down to 6,360 yards from the green tees.

Weekday rate for 18 holes is £180 ($300) and £270 ($450) for 36 holes; weekend rate (18 holes only) starts from £180 ($300); handicap certificates must be provided -- 21 for men and 30 for women.

Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, Links Gate, Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, England; +44 1253 72 4206

MORE: 10 tips for getting the most from your golf holiday

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (Wales)

Royal Porthcawl has never hosted a Major championship, but it has hosted Tiger Woods when he played for the American team in the 1995 Walker Cup.

And it's been the venue for six Amateur championships, the most prestigious tournament in amateur golf.

Royal Porthcawl also hosted the Coral Welsh Classic tournament on the European Tour from 1980-1982, including the likes of Sandy Lyle, Sir Nick Faldo, Brian Barnes and Greg Norman.

This year Royal Porthcawl will host Wales' first Major when the the Senior Open Championship, a Major on the Seniors Tour, is played there.

It's a magnificent links course, where the sea is visible from every hole, that can be played at various lengths from 7,065 yards par 72 from the black tees down to 6,303 yards from the yellow tees.

It was 44th in Golf Digest's list of the world's 100 greatest courses and it's rumored to be a possible future Open venue.

Single round tickets start from £120 ($200); all-day tickets start from £170 ($285); club handicap certificates required -- 20 for men and 30 for women; caddies must be ordered 72 hours in advance; not suitable for novice golfers or beginners

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, Rest Bay, Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan, Wales; +44 1656 78 2251

Also the setting for James Bond\'s golf match against Goldfinger.
Also the setting for James Bond's golf match against Goldfinger.

The Royal St George's Golf Club (England)

At 66th in Golf Digest's list is Royal St George's, the first course outside Scotland to hold the Open.

It's hosted 14 Open championships in all, the last in 2011, which brought a sentimental victory for Darren Clarke.

Previous winners at St. George's include Harry Vardon (twice), Walter Hagen (twice), Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Sandy Lyle and Greg Norman, so you'll be golfing in the footsteps of some truly legendary golfers.

St. George's has also hosted the Amateur Championship 13 times, the Walker Cup in 1930 and 1967, and the British PGA Championship in 1975 which was won by Arnold Palmer.

This wonderful course was also the setting, under the name "Royal St Marks," for James Bond's golf match against Goldfinger in Ian Fleming's novel "Goldfinger."

It can be played at its Open length of 7,204 yards, par 70, or at various other lengths down to 6,340 yards from the white tees.

Green fees from £80 ($135) in winter and £170 ($285) in summer; handicap certificate of 18 or better must be provided for both men and women.

The Royal St Geroge's Golf Club, Sandwich, Kent, England; +44 1304 61 3090

MORE: Mission Hills Haikou: Rehab for golfers

Royal Troon Golf Club (Scotland)

Royal Troon is another course with a great roster of winners among its eight Open champions, including Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson.

Its next Open will be in 2016 and a great trip would be to attend the 2016 Open and then play the course the week after in exactly the same condition as the stars played it.

The club has also hosted six Amateur championships.

Troon's most famous hole is the short par three eighth, known as "the Postage Stamp," which measures just 123 yards from the back tees.

It gets its name from the tiny green, surrounded by deep bunkers -- many top golfers have come to grief here at what is the shortest hole at any Open Championship venue.

However, the legendary Gene Sarazen famously holed in one here in the first round of the 1973 Open at the age of 71.

Troon is a par 71 that can be played from a variety of tees starting at 7,175 yards from the Championship tees down to 6,201 yards from the yellows.

Green fees from £140 ($235), bookings available Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from late April to October; current certificate of handicap must be produced, maximum handicaps are 20 for men and 30 for women; golfers under 16 not permitted on the Old Course or in the Clubhouse.

Royal Troon, Craigend Road, Troon, Scotland; +44 1292 31 1555

Tony Smart is a longtime golf journalist who has written for many publications including Golf Digest Ireland, Golf World, Golf Monthly, Golf International, The Robb Report and Asian Golf Monthly.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 10:26 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
updated 9:17 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
updated 3:10 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
updated 3:11 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
updated 3:49 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
updated 11:39 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.
ADVERTISEMENT