No. 10 ' Royal Dornoch, Scotland
The third-oldest golf links in Scotland, Royal Dornoch was the home course of renowned golf architect, Donald Ross before he emigrated to the United States. Located in the remote Highlands of Scotland, Dornoch has never hosted a British Open but is widely considered one of the great links in golf. Tom Watson described his experience playing Royal Dornoch for the first time in 1980 as, The most fun Ive ever had on a golf course.
Mike Johnson, Golf Digest: When people think about playing golf in Scotland, they always think about going to the British Open courses. You have to have a little bit of adventure in you to want to go up and play Royal Dornoch but, boy, is it worth every mile of the trip.
Jeff Babineau, Golfweek: Alan Grant, whos a greeter at the Skibo castle down the road, says you really havent played golf until youve putted out under a full moon at 3:00 a.m. At Royal Dornoch. And I think hes right. If you havent been there, you ought to get there if golfs in your heart.
Rex Hoggard, GolfChannel.com: Every single shot has a wow factor to it. You step to it and you think, Well, thats neat, I could go there and here. its a very, very good golf course in a great setting, so its the best of both worlds.
No. 9 ' Old Head, Ireland
Situated on a promontory in southern County Cork, Ireland, Old Head rises several hundred feet above the Atlantic Ocean, making it one of the most stunning venues in all of golf. The cliffside links will remind many people of Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point. It features five par-5s and nine of its holes play along the cliff tops, providing an equally spectacular and intimidating challenge for golfers.
Jeff Babineau: Theyve literally had people hit balls over those cliffs and drop to their knees clinging the ground out there. Its a spectacular setting for a golf course and its really breathtaking to watch golf and nature dovetail like that.
Rex Hoggard: It looks like someone just plopped some land in the middle of the Irish Sea. I spent all day trying to walk away from the cliffs because I would get dizzy every time I walked over there next to them. Im not afraid of heights, but I got vertigo playing that golf course because youre literally walking on cliffs and it must be 300 feet down to the water.
No. 8 ' Ballybunion, Ireland
Founded in 1893, this magnificent, nearly treeless links design has attracted many acclaimed golfers to southwestern Ireland, including five-time British Open champion Tom Watson, as a well as Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino. Rolling fairways, giant dunes and heavily-contoured greens put a premium on shotmaking and accuracy, and give the course a wild yet dramatic look.
Mike Johnson: As people become more familiar with Irish golf over the years, Ballybunion has become the beacon of golf for people going there. The graveyard sitting off to the right of the first tee gives new meaning to Youre dead if you go right. They also have an amazing caddy program, which really adds when youre playing golf overseas.
Brian Hewitt, GolfChannel.com: I covered an Irish Open here and was hugely disappointed because the wind didnt blow all four days and the best players in Europe were all there. Sergio, Olazabal, all these guys that had every shot in the book. And I was there all four days and you never got to see them hit those shots because the wind wasnt blowing.
Jeff Babineau: I dont think Ive ever played Ballybunion when it hasnt been raining sideways and every hole is into the wind. And I remember just being soaking wet, not having Waterproofs last time we played. Its funny, so many of these great courses are on trailer parks and Ballybunion is no exception. I remember playing in the pouring rain and this old-timer raises a pint to me from inside the trailer and I wanted to be inside that trailer so bad.
No. 7 ' Tralee Golf Club, Ireland
The first European course designed by Arnold Palmer, this seaside links along the Kerry coastline is a must-play for those golfers making the journey to southwest Ireland. Nearly every hole offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the white sandy beaches below, prompting Palmer to declare, I designed the first nine but surely God designed the back nine.
Arnold Palmer: Well, we started in the town of Tralee in Ireland and they had a golf course in the town. They wanted to build another golf course on the same location. We told them that we would help them do whatever they wanted to do as far as building a golf course is concerned, but that they needed to find more land. Well, they did and called us back and the land was on the ocean and it was -- well, it was beautiful.
I suppose the back nine is one of the most interesting nine holes. It has some great par-5s and a couple par-3s that are very exciting. It goes right along the ocean and it requires some pretty good shot-making to play the golf course.
Matt Ginella, Golf Digest: I think the 12th hole at Tralee is one of the best holes in golf. The approach shot that you have to hit over a canyon right before you have to hit over a canyon on the 13th hole, those back-to-back holes are a real indication that youre on a championship golf course. Its fantastic.
No. 6 ' Cypress Point, California
Designed by Alister MacKenzie and opened in 1928, Cypress Point Club is widely regarded as one of the most exclusive clubs in all of golf. MacKenzie's design is considered a masterful blend of course architecture and natural beauty; holes 15, 16 and 17 make up one of the most picturesque three-hole stretches in the world. Up until 1991, it was part of the rotation of courses which hosted the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Mark Soltau: Theres a mystique about it. Its almost hard to put into words. Sandy Tatum, the former USGA president once called it the Sistine Chapel of golf, and thats not a stretch.
Jaime Diaz, Golf World: Theres a great feeling of the ocean. You feel like youre in this wonderful little alcove with the spray of the ocean, the Pacific kind of hugging you the whole time. Its really cool.
Kay Cockerill, Golf Channel: If you could die and go to heaven and play golf every day, youd play a place like Cypress.
Mike Johnson: Cypress No. 15 and 16 as a pair are pretty cool, but theyre very different golf holes. I mean, 15 is this short little par-3 that is about as scenic a hole as you are ever going to want to play.
Hal Sutton: Ive never stood on the 16th tee that I didnt take a deep breath, both because it was such a hard shot and second because it was so beautiful.
Gary Van Sickle, Sports Illustrated: Probably the most famous shot ever hit here was when Jack Lemmon was playing with Clint Eastwood, Greg Norman and Peter Jacobsen. Lemmon hit a ball down on the ice plant on the edge of a cliff and they formed a human chain. They all could have been seriously injured but, you know, anything for Jack Lemmon. He was a great guy. What you didnt see was on Lemmons next shot he goes out in the fairway, he shanks his next shot right back into the ocean. It was great.
No. 5 ' Kiawah Island Ocean Course, South Carolina
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort was designed by Pete and Alice Dye, and opened in 1991. Later that year it hosted the Ryder Cup, in which the US defeated Europe, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. The Ocean course also hosted the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, and in 2012 the PGA Championship will be held here. It is considered by many to be one of the most difficult courses in the world, particularly when the wind blows.
Carol Mann, LPGA Tour: My first exposure to the Kiawah Ocean course was the 91 Ryder Cup. Ill never forget Mark Calcavecchia, Colin Montgomerie, Ill never forget those players going through the 17th hole and coming out with ego stains and ego bruises.
Take a video tour of Kiawah Resort
Take a video tour of Kiawah Resort
Pete Dye: Normally with a southeast breeze 17 is a pretty simple par-3, but with the wind out of the northwest it was an entirely different golf course [during the Ryder Cup]. It really changed the whole atmosphere of that tournament.
Nick Faldo: Kiawah, when we went for the Ryder Cup was so wild and rugged. It was a really difficult golf course. The bunkers were all overgrown, we had waste areas which were true waste areas, literally 20 feet from the pin. Thats the hardest thing, when youre looking at the pin right there and you cant get up and down.
Pete Dye: I think it could be just as hard as any golf course in the world, then the next day somebody will play it when the winds very docile and they say, Pete, I had a good time out there. But, boy, when the wind shows up out at Kiawah, why, it shows its head.
Nick Faldo: That started out as natural land and Pete literally bulldozed it flat and then started all again because he wanted every green and every tee to see the ocean. So that was a recreated links, which is pretty clever to do.
Pete Dye: One of the main things of any golf course is the ambiance, what you can see around the golf course. And when youve got the Atlantic Ocean and the next thing out-of-bounds is Spain that does something for you. I mean, you cant do that too often.
Guy Yocum, Golf Digest: Ive been stunned that the Ryder Cup has not gone back to Kiawah Island. Theres just trouble everywhere on that golf course. The wind always blows. Its the best course for drama that Ive ever seen. Theyve got to go back there.
No. 4 ' Bandon Dunes, Oregon
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is located on the southern coast of Oregon and consists of four courses: Bandon Dunes (1999), Pacific Dunes (2001), Bandon Trails (2005) and Old MacDonald (2010). Bandon Dunes was designed by David McLay Kidd, who at the time was a relative newcomer to the course design business. Pacific Dunes was designed by Tom Doak and is widely considered to be the best course at the resort. Old MacDonald is set to open in 2010, though it's opening in 2009 for preview rounds. Read more
Matt Ginella: You almost need a Sherpa to get to Bandon Dunes. A GPS is no match for the roads you have to take to get to Bandon Dunes.
Alex Miceli, Golf Channel: If you were dropped down blindfolded on these golf courses, youd have no idea you were on the North American continent.
Val Skinner, Golf Channel: Its like a Royal Dornoch or a Ballybunion, but its in Oregon.
Beth Ann Baldry, Golfweek: The best thing about Bandon is even when youve hit your ball and its bounced once on the green and gone off into the Pacific over the cliff, by the time you get up there and you realize your ball is off the face of the planet, you cant even get upset because its so beautiful.
Brian Hewitt: The thing about Bandon Dunes is that was the first course there. But the other course, Pacific Dunes, designed by Tom Doak, may be my favorite golf course in the entire world.
Ryan Herrington, Golf Digest: What Pacific Dunes has going for it when you get there is you cant believe its something thats been designed over the last ten years; you would think it had been there since golf started. You think it would be older than Pebble Beach. Youve got the water along the Pacific Ocean that just creates the ambiance that this is the perfect place to play golf.
No. 3 ' Turnberry, Scotland
Turnberry will host the 2009 Open Championship for what will be the fourth time (1977, 1986, 1994). One of the most dramatic Opens of all time occurred in 1977 at Turnberry, where Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson dueled. Watson eventually prevailed by one shot. Turnberry is home to a full-service five-star resort, and offers scenic views of the Alisa Craig.
Matt Ginella: Ive played a lot of ocean courses in 13 years of covering golf. But my favorite is Turnberry. It feels a lot less commercial than a Pebble Beach. Ive played it in all forms of weather with wind, with rain, and perfect sun. Turnberrys the greatest golf course Ive ever played. Its got the history.
Alex Miceli: After you get through the 2nd or 3rd hole, its just pure, absolute links. And the other thing is theres so much wind on the west side of Scotland. Its amazing how difficult that golf course can be. At any time it can rear up and bite you. And I think its much more difficult than most of the links courses on the Rota.
Matt Ginella: I played it in the worst weather conditions. We teed off in a driving rain. By the 5th hole we had shed the rain gear and the sun came out. And then the last six holes we played in a pretty good wind, so we essentially had everything Mother Nature could throw at us.
Gary Van Sickle: My favorite spot is standing up by the green on number six. Its like on a headland. You just feel like youre standing on top of the world. To me thats the greatest spot on earth in golf.
No. 2 ' St. Andrews, Scotland
The Home of Golf has hosted 27 Open Championships dating back to 1873, more than any other venue. Jack Nicklaus described winning at St. Andrews as my greatest dream come true, while Tiger Woods said of the Old Course, Its my favorite course in the world. Originally 22 holes, the course starts and finishes in the town of St Andrews, the 18th fairway turning toward the famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Clubhouse. More than 100 bunkers dot the 600-year-old links, with 14 holes sharing very large double-greens.
Doug Sanders: St. Andrews is one of the great golf courses. It cannot change just in a week or a day. It can change within hours. One day I hit a driver and I think a 2-iron to the 1st hole and put it in the water. Next day I hit a driver and sand wedge and knocked it over the green. So thats how much the wind can blow and play the difference.
And, you know, it brings back a little memory of that old putt I missed there at the last hole to win the British Open. But I dont think about that much anymore. Sometimes I go as high as five minutes without even thinking about it.
Ryan Herrington: The history and tradition thats there, you can almost feel the ghosts coming through off the water when the wind blows. Weve seen so many iconic things happen there in the past. Watching Jack Nicklaus actually retire there to me is as amazing a thing as anything.
Mike Johnson: You stand on that green and the R&A building is in the background and you feel these 500 years of accumulated history kind of wearing down on you.
Jerry Foltz, Golf Channel: Dont really consider your career complete if you dont win a British open at St. Andrews. That was Tigers first British. It completed the career grand slam. Those who doubted him before I think all of a sudden thought, Well, we might be watching the greatest player ever.
Alex Miceli: Theres not a place, a venue in the entire world where the experience of going up the 18th fairway is the same as it is at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
No. 1 ' Pebble Beach, California
Opened in 1919 as part of a real-estate development, Pebble Beach is widely regarded as the best golf course in the world. Jack Nicklaus once said, 'If I only had one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach.' It is set amidst the dramatic coastline of the Monterey Peninsula, which is home to diverse wildlife species, including whales, dolphins and sea otters. It has hosted four US Opens, including Tiger Woods' record-setting 15-shot victory of 2000, in which he broke or tied nine US Open records. It will once again host the US Open in 2010.
Brian Hewitt: Its the most visually distracting golf course in the world. Something might be going on with a sea lion or somebody may be walking along on the beach or just the colors may overwhelm you.
Take a video tour of Pebble Beach
Take a video tour of Pebble Beach
Gary Van Sickle: My favorite spot is standing up by the green on number six. Its on a headland. The 7th green is right to your side. Theres water on three sides. You just feel like youre standing on top of the world. To me, thats the greatest spot on earth in golf.
Martin Davis, The American Golfer: 8, which Nicklaus called the greatest par-4 in golf, and it might be. A second shot thats pure terror over the cliffs to the green.
Mark Soltau: I remember the 2000 U.S. Open when Tiger was playing and he hit his tee shot into the ocean [on 18]. Little did we know he only had one golf ball left. So had he hit another shot in the water, he easily could have been disqualified. And of course, he then went on to win by 15 shots.
Andy Bean: Normally its a three-shot hole. With the right conditions you can always knock it on. If its calm, you can knock it on in two. But when the weathers bad, when the winds coming from the north, youre wanting to get it there in three.
Ryan Herrington: Say what you will about how difficult a golf course it is. Theres no setting thats as picturesque and as worthwhile to be at as Pebble Beach.