The great game of golf may have been born in Scotland, but there are breathtakingly beautiful, wonderfully challenging courses all over the world—particularly in the U.S., home to 50 percent of the world’s courses. Whether you're looking for a links-style course or a parkland design, these resorts feature some of the world's best fairways, with stunning scenery to take in while you work on lowering your handicap. From California to South Carolina, and Nova Scotia to South Africa, here’s where you’ll find the world’s best golf resorts.
by Abbey Chase
WHERE: Fife, Scotland
Any conversation about golf has to begin with St Andrews. This town of 17,000 on the east coast of Scotland is widely considered the “home of golf,” and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, founded in 1754, has hosted The Open Championship more than any other club. Nearby, the 600-year-old St Andrews Links operates seven different courses, including the famous Old Course. The area features stunning beaches, gentle rolling hills, and notoriously biting Scottish weather, though braving the elements is part of the St Andrews experience. True enthusiasts can stay at the Old Course Hotel for luxury alongside the links.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's St. Andrews Guide
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
WHERE: South Carolina
Boasting 90 championship holes, this small barrier island 45 minutes from Charleston is a golfer's seaside paradise. Kiawah Island Golf Resort features courses designed by Gary Player, Peter Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, and Clyde Johnston, and The Ocean Course is consistently ranked as one of the top courses in the world. Holes that don't afford sweeping views of the Atlantic take players through wooded groves of magnolia trees and alongside saltwater marshes—you'll almost certainly see alligators while you play. There are countless accommodation options on Kiawah Island, ranging from resorts to condos to private home rentals, while extensive tennis offerings, spa treatments, pools, and a stunning beach will all keep you occupied off the fairway.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's South Carolina Guide
Pebble Beach Resorts
It's impossible to highlight just one set of 18 holes at Pebble Beach without shortchanging some of the best courses in the country. Pebble Beach Golf Links, set atop the jagged coastline cliffs, is perhaps the most famous, with jaw-dropping ocean views, particularly at the eighth hole. Spyglass Hill, with holes named after Treasure Island, is another can't-miss course, while The Links at Spanish Bay aims to recreate a traditional Scottish course. For the ultimate in luxury, stay at The Lodge of Pebble Beach, or for a more laidback atmosphere, head to the Mediterranean-style Casa Palmero.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's California Guide
The American Club
WHERE: Kohler, Wisconsin
Though not a year-round golf destination like many of the spots on our list, The American Club just outside Sheboygan is one of the most scenic places in the country to practice your short game. The Pete Dye–designed Whistling Straits features two rugged landscapes with undulating fairways, while The Straits course hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Nearby, Blackwolf Run offers up two more equally stunning courses nestled in a river basin. The lodging at The American Club is a five-star, five-diamond experience, complete with an on-site pub, bowling alley, and barbershop, as well as the resort's famous gardens.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Wisconsin Guide
K Club Resort
WHERE: Kildare, Ireland
Drive 30 minutes west of Dublin and you'll come upon two of the world's best golf courses in the postcard-perfect Irish countryside. Straffan House, which dates back to the 1830s and was designed after a French chateau, offers the ultimate in luxury lodging, with just 10 bedrooms and a private staff. More “modest” accommodations can be found in the main house, overlooking the stunning hotel gardens. As for the golf, K Club has two courses both designed by Arnold Palmer; the parkland-style Palmer Course played host to the 2006 Ryder Cup.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Ireland Guide
WHERE: North Carolina
The self-proclaimed “Cradle of American Golf” can be found in the North Carolina Sandhills and offers no fewer than nine courses. Course No. 1 dates back to 1898 and the famed Course No. 2, considered designer Donald Ross's masterpiece, hosted the U.S. Open in June. Famed architect Frederick Olmsted was the mastermind behind the resort, and Pinehurst offers guests four different accommodations options, including condos. Thickly clustered pine trees give way to expansive fairways dotted with vibrant blossoms and water features as you make your way through the stunning courses.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Pinehurst Guide
WHERE: George, South Africa
If you're willing to make the trek to the tip of South Africa to work on your swing, the courses at Fancourt will not disappoint. Gary Player designed all three courses—the Links, Montagu, and Outeniqua—that are frequently ranked as some of the best in the world. Designed with an eye toward the George winds, the holes blend in seamlessly with their surroundings, with mountains rising dramatically in the background. Stay at either the Fancourt Hotel or the 150-year-old Manor House, and if you can tear yourself away from the course, the Garden Route tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the best of South Africa's wildlife.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's South Africa Guide
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
WHERE: Bandon, Oregon
The jagged, windy coast of Oregon in many ways calls to mind the blustery conditions in Scotland, the game's birthplace; thus, the courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort are built in the true links style, a rarity despite the liberalness with which the term is applied. A true links course is built along the coast, has a very open design, and features few water hazards—a perfect summary of these courses, all five of which, including one par-3, are all relatively new (Bandon Dunes, the oldest, opened in 1999), yet still considered some of the best in the world. You won't find the most luxe accommodations at Bandon Dunes, but the cozy, modest rooms are fitting of the pleasantly rural environs.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Bandon Guide
WHERE: Colorado Springs, Colorado
At an elevation of 6,200 feet, you'll be pleased to see your drive sail a few yards farther at The Broadmoor, a five-star, five-diamond historic hotel an hour outside of Denver. The resort houses three courses, and the East Course features holes designed by both Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The Mountain Course offers the most stunning vistas, as the Jack Nicklaus–designed par-72 runs right up against the Rocky Mountains. Those not looking to tee off will find a host of hiking trails in the area, as well as an excellent on-site spa and expansive tennis facilities. Of note: Tennis Magazine ranked the Broadmoor one of the 10 best tennis resorts in the country.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Colorado Springs Guide
WHERE: Inverness, Nova Scotia
Tucked away in the northern tip of Nova Scotia, Cabot Links lives up to its name with an authentic links-style course that runs alongside Cape Breton. Calling on one of Bandon Dunes' developers, Cabot Links affords stunning coastal views with the accompanying wind to make the game more challenging. The 12th and 16th holes in particular make the most of the seaside location, but the entire course is visually stunning. The Lodge, drawing heavily on local materials, features cedar and heavy timber prominently. After your round, head for a drink at the Cabot Bar, overlooking the 18th hole, and when you've had your fill of golf, check out Inverness Beach for kayaking, paddleboarding, and whale watching.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Nova Scotia Guide