All golfers, whether it be the casual player who dusts off the clubs but a handful of times a year, right the way through to the hardcore fairway fanatic who, unless asleep or at the office, is most likely on the course, have a golfing bucketlist.
Now...that bucketlist might include things like hitting a 300 yard drive, getting a hole in one or simply breaking 80 for the 1st time. Of course, like anything in life, it’s different strokes for different folks when it comes to golf but one thing that is guaranteed to be on all golfers bucketlists is a course or two that fall into the “must play before you die” category.
Whether you’re a lover of the game and its history and your golfing Holy Grail is a course such as the St Andrews Old Course, or spectacular scenery is more your thing and you're desperate to have a crack at the likes of the mind-boggling beautiful Thracian Cliffs, there is an endless list of bucketlist courses that you, the average Joe, really can play.
It’s an impossible task to name them all – beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all – but we’d bet that the following golf courses, all of which promise magical moments and will make you feel like a pro even if you don't swing like one, would be of the bucketlist variety for any keen golfer.
Of course, there are a handful of "golfing experiences" that don't involve playing which would also qualify for many people's bucketlist...attending a major champioship or the Ryder Cup for example.
How many of these have you ticked off your bucketlist? Let’s take a look...
The Bucket List - The Greatest Golf Experiences in The World
From the World's Most Expensive Golf Course to a round at The Home of Golf
All golfers, whether it be the casual player who dusts off the clubs but a handful of times a year, right the way through to the hardcore fairway fanatic who, unless asleep or at the office, is most likely on the course, have a golfing bucketlist.
Want to talk about your bucketlist? Call us now on 0800 043 6644
Attend The Masters
Augusta National - Georgia, USA
Ask any golfer which course they’d most like to play and Augusta National would be atop many a list. Too bad most of us will never get that chance but being there in person to attend the US Masters isn’t a bad consolation.
The Masters is arguably the greatest show in golf and it offers one of the very best spectator experiences money can buy. Pluck a Masters Chair from the gift shop on your way in and you’ll be guaranteed a front row seat to watch the world’s best golfers to battle for the famous Green Jacket.
Throw in the famous Southern hospitality, beautiful weather and maybe the odd Pimento Cheese sandwiches and golf fans will be in heaven.
The margin of victory for Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters. Finishing at -18, Woods also set a record for lowest total score at The Masters at 270; a mark that was matched by Jordan Spieth at the 2015 tournament.
The Masters was the very 1st tournament to use the "over or under" scoring method in relation to par; a system that has become the standard at other golf events around the world.
Percent of the time The Masters comes down to a sudden-death playoff. Masters Sunday has become known as one of the most gripping days on the sporting calendar and a playoff is always exciting isn't it? Imagine being one of the patrons at Augusta when Adam Scott dramatically birdied the 72nd hole in 2013, only for Angel Cabrera to follow his lead and birdie the hole to force a playoff?
Play at "The Home of Golf"
St Andrews Old Course, Scotland
Is the St Andrews Old Course the ultimate bucketlist golf course? Many would say yes it is and it’s easy to see why.
It is after all The Home of Golf and the Old Course served as a blueprint for countless courses that followed in its footsteps...there are few courses in the world that haven’t taken some sort of inspiration from the design principles used to lay out the world’s most famous links course.
Tee off in the shadow of the famous R&A Clubhouse and follow in the footsteps of the game’s great champions including the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, while soaking up the history in the world’s most golf-mad town.
Are played on the Old Course each and every year, with a total of around 230,000 being played across all seven courses on the links.
Time in years that golf has been played on the St Andrews Links. In 1552 Archbishop Hamilton’s Charter recognised the right of the people of St Andrews to play golf at the Links.
Size in square feet of the shared green at holes number 5 & 13. Average green sizes on the PGA Tour are about 6,000 square feet which putts (sorry couldn't resist) the size of the shared greens at St Andrews into perspective. Ever have a 120 yard putt? You could do here...
Play Pinehurst No.2
North Carolina, USA
Often referred to as “The St Andrews of America”, Pinehurst is the spiritual home of golf in the USA and like St Andrews, this charming corner of North Carolina simply lives and breathes golf.
With more than 100 years of history and no less than eight amazing golf courses, the Pinehurst Resort, with its infinitely luxurious accommodation options and endless amenities, is without doubt one of the best golf resorts in the world. The real reason most golfers visit this pocket of Carolina though, is the famous Pinehurst No. 2 Course.
This gem of a course has hosted more championships than any other in the USA, including the Ryder Cup and the US Open on three occasions, and is unlike any other in America. With noticeable Scottish influences, most apparent on and around the upturned greens, blended seamlessly with more classically American design influences, this is a haven for the hard core golfer.
Number of championship courses at the Pinehurst Resort. No wonder Pinehust is considered the Home of American Golf!
The year in which the design duo of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore finished work on their extensive resoration project on the Pinehurst No. 2 Course. Based on old aerial photographs, the resoration work was aimed at restoring the original look and feel of the famous No. 2 Course and the results are spectacular.
Shots required by Martin Kaymer to win the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst. This is the second lowest total in US Open history.
Play the Xtreme 19th
Legend Golf & Safari Resort, South Africa
The likes of Fancourt and Sun City are seen to fly the flag for South African golf but the country is also home to one of the most unique and exciting golfing experiences on the planet.
Head to the Legend Golf & Safari Resort in the Limpopo Province and you’ll be in the heart of safari country. You’ll also have access to a fantastic championship course, each hole on which has been designed by one of golf’s leading stars such as Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington...but wait...we haven’t got to the good part yet.
The resort is also home to the Xtreme 19th Hole which features an enormous green shaped like the continent of Africa itself as well as a tee perched some 430 meters above the level of the green, perched high up on the stunning Hanglip Mountain. The tee is only accessible by helicopter and if this amazing heart-in-the-mouth experience is not enough, a hole-in-one prize of $1million is sure to set the pulse racing!
Feet above the Africa-shaped green that the tee is perched, on the edge of the imposing Hanglip Mountain.
Dollars on offer for anyone getting a hole-in-one on the Extreme 19th. That should cover the bar bill at the very least!
Yards from the goot of Hanglip Mountain to the the green, making the Extreme 19th the longest par 3 hole in the world.
Play at Valderrama
Mainland Europe is home to endless top class golfing opportunities but many in the know regard Spain’s Valderrama as the finest of the lot.
Referred to by many as “The Augusta of Europe”, Valderrama had humble origins but since Jaime Ortiz-Patino took over in 1985, ploughing endless cash into the development of the course, it has become a phenomenal golf course.
Host of the 1997 Seve-inspired Ryder Cup, Valderrama is tough as nails so don’t expect to play to your handicap. What should you expect? Near perfect conditioning from the 1st tee to the 18th green, service of the very highest level and an outstanding layout.
The year in which Valderrama hosted The Ryder Cup. With seve Ballesteros pulling the strings on home soil as Captain of Team Europe, the USA were defeated by a solitary point.
The year when Valderrama was bought by Jaime Ortiz-Patino, an industrialist billionaire who is largely credited with transforming Valderrama into one of the greatest golf courses in Europe.
The year in which His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed Royal Patronige on the club. "Thou shalt rise, Real Valderrama!"
Tour Northern Ireland's famous Coastline
North Coast, Northern Ireland
A perennial debate that has rumbled on for decades is still regularly contested in many a 19th hole; which is better...Royal County Down or Royal Portrush?
To be honest it doesn’t really matter which side of the argument you tend to favour because, by most accounts, both courses are firmly entrenched within world’s 10 best golf courses and including either one on a Northern Ireland Golf Tour would guarantee a good trip.
Royal Portrush is back on the Open rota and is the home club of our very own Darren Clarke and while you’re on your way around the famous Dunluce Links, just try to imagine how a 16 year-old Rory McIlroy shot 61 from the back tees. We still can’t figure it out...
The year in which Royal Portrush hosted The Open Championship. Portrush has recently been reinstated to the Open Rota and remains the only course outside of England or Scotland to have hosted golf's oldest major.
The ranking given to Royal County Down by Golf Digest when listing the 'World's Top 100 Golf Courses'. County Down is the highest ranked course from outside of the USA.
Duration in hours of the drive between Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, both of which simply have to be included on any bucketlist golf tour of Northern Ireland.
Play TPC Sawgrass
Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, Florida
Arguably the most famous hole in the world, playing the island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass is surely atop many a golfer’s bucketlist. And did you know...
The TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course was designed by Pete Dye, one of the foremost course architects in the world, but it was actually his wife who came up with the idea for the island green 17th. It’s also estimated that over 150,000 golf balls are lost in the water on that one hole each and every year...will yours make it to dry land??
Don’t worry if not...one unlucky golfer once took 66 shots to finish the hole (more on that below) so we’re pretty sure you’ll beat that!
Cubic yards of earth was moved from the site of the 17th hole at Sawgrass to allow for the construction of the lake, which by the way, was all down to Pete Dye's wife who came up with the idea while Dye and his design team pondered what to do with the hole.
Shots taken by Angelo Spagnolo to complete the 17th hole on June 19, 1985. Taking part in Golf Digest's "America's Worst Avid Golfer" programme, Spagnolo hit a total of 27 balls into the wat, some from the tee and others from the drop zone. Rules officials finally urged him to putt his ball around the hazard, down the narrow walkway and onto the green. Spagnolo’s total score for 18 holes? 257!
The number of golf balls that find a watery grave at Sawgrass' 17th hole each and every year. An estimated 45,000 rounds are played on the Sawgrass Stadium Course every year and it's estimated that, with each player having multiple goes at the tee shot (whether that be for fun or just out of necessity!), 3 balls are dunked into the drink per player.
Stay & Play at Kiawah Island
South Carolina, USA
Scene of the infamous War on The Shore at the 1991 Ryder Cup, as well as Rory McIlroy’s runaway victory at the 2012 PGA Championships, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is without doubt one of the best in the world and its stunning setting on the South Carolina coastline means it’s also one of the most beautiful in the game.
It’s also devilishly difficult according to most who have played it...can you tame the beast?
If not don’t’ worry...there are 4 other championship courses at Kiawah Island and the famous Southern hospitality that comes part and parcel with any golf trip to this region will ensure your time away from the fairways will be equally as memorable as it is on it.
Rory McIlroy's winning margin at the 2012 PGA Championship which was contested over Kiawah's fearsome Ocean Course, one of the most difficult on the planet. This was Rory's 2nd major championship at the time...and he won his 1st by 8 shots too!
The year The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island opened for play. The Kiawah Island Ocean Course is the most famous at the resort, thanks in large part to its hosting of the Ryder Cup in 1991, as well as other top class golf tournaments such as the 2012 PGA Championship. Constantly ranked among the best courses in the world, the Ocean Course is also one of the toughest in the USA.
The full-time population size of Kiawah Island. Tourism pushes these numbers upwards towards 10,000 people per day during busy summer periods.
The Open Championship
England, Scotland & Northern Ireland
The Open Championship obviously holds a very special place within the game of golf. As golf’s oldest major championship, it’s the one all the top players want to win and as Open fever sweeps whichever course and town it’s being held in on that particular year, the atmosphere is like no other event.
Of course the great thing about The Open is that we mere mortals can play the very same courses this great championship is contested on so whether your preference is to be outside of the ropes looking in at the world’s most famous tournament, or actually walking in the footsteps of golfing legends while playing Open Championship courses such as Turnberry, Royal Birkdale or the St Andrews Old Course, an Open Championship experience is a must for any golf aficionado.
Book your Open Championship ticket and hospitality package or take your pick from the courses on the Open Rota and tee it up in a golf tour; the choice is yours!
Golf Courses currently on the Open Championship Rota. For many years there were only 9 including St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St Anne's, Royal Liverpool and Royal St George's.
Royal Portrush was added to the rotation in 2014 and is set to welcome golf's oldest major back to its fairways in the near future for the 1st time since 1951.
Times the Open Championship has been contested. Willie Park Senior won the very 1st Open in 1860 back when the tournament was hosted at Prestwick.
Score in relation to par that Tiger Woods achieved at The Open at St Andrews during his historic 2000 season. This was an all-time major championship record at the time.
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
When it comes to spectacular locations for a golf course, few can match the breathtaking spot in which Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand is perched.
To give an insight into the seclusion and privacy at the Cape, the drive from the gates to the clubhouse takes a full twenty minutes! Once you’re on the course, its location perched on the cliffs hundreds of feet above the waves that crash into Hawke’s Bay is sure to thrill one and all.
If there is a more spectacular golf course in the world we are yet to see it so be sure to pack a camera as you’ll be taking as many shots with that as you will with your clubs!
For the Ultimate New Zealand golfing experience why not check out Cape Kidnappers sister property Kauri Cliffs, which is a relatively quick helicopter ride away...or a casual 9 hour drive!
Time in minutes it takes to drive from the gated entrance where you leave the public road, to the clubhouse...the longest drive at Cape Kidnappers! The course's secluded location simply adds to its mystique.
Drop in feet from the 15th hole, known affectionately as "Pirate's Plank", to the waves rolling into Hawke's Bay below.
Net worth in billions of Cape Kidnappers owner, Julian Robertson, one of the most famous men on Wall Street The Farm at Cape Kidnappers took Robertson over 6 years to build...if only more billionaires ploughed their money into stunning golf courses than the Premier League!
Stay at the World's Largest Golf Resort
Mission Hills, China
Only in the most populated super-power of a country could you find a resort like Mission Hills; a project of millions of acres, dozens of golf courses, as well as countless shops, restaurants and hotels.
According the Guinness World Records, Mission Hills is the world’s largest golf resort and with no less than 12 18-hole golf courses, they might just be right!
“On any day, the complex logistics chain, to transport 3,000 golf bags on a fleet of 1,700 golf carts matched with a team of 4,000 caddies, has got to be seamless so that each player, cart, and caddie is at the right 1st tee at the right tee time” says Ken Chu, CEO of the Mission Hills Group.
Once you are at the “right 1st tee at the right tee time”, you’ll be guaranteed a top class golf experience, with the likes of Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam just a few of the names to have designed courses at this titanic golfing haven.
Estimated size in acres of the entire Mission Hills complex. To put that into perspective, you could fit about 3,500,000 footall pitches in the same space.
Pounds reportedly paid to Rory McIlroy to play against Tiger Woods in “The Match at Mission Hills” in 2013. Tiger supposedly earned much more...but Rory won...so there.
Size in m2 of the HOPSCA project at Mission Hills. HOSPA stands for Hotel, Offices, Parks, Shopping, Convention and Apartment complex and it features a 700 room 5 star hotel, IMAX theatre, exhibition halls, 200 retailers, around 1,000 apartments and even an international school!
Play "True Links" Golf in the USA
Bandon Dunes Resort, Oregon
If you were blindfolded on your way to Bandon Dunes, you’d find it hard to believe you were in America when you first lay eyes on the golf courses at this amazing resort.
Perched on the dramatic Pacific coastline of Oregon, Bandon Dunes is home to several unbelievably beautiful golf courses, many of which fall under the category of links. Designers Tom Doak and David McLay Kidd, as well as the formidable duo of Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore are responsible for the courses at Bandon and if we’re going for the perfect blend of quality and quantity, the Bandon Dunes Resort might just be the best in the USA.
There's certainly nothing else like it in America and with four stunning championship courses to choose from, as well as Bandon Preserve, a 13 hole par 3 course, and The Punchbowl, a putting course designed by Tom Doak & Jim Urbina; even the most restless of golfers will be hard pressed to grow tired of the golf at Bandon.
The cost for an additional round of golf at Bandon Dunes...if you've already played 36 holes that is! How many holes have you got in the tank?
Size in square-feet of 'The Punchbowl' Putting Course - There are 18 holes on the course and "some are long and some are short"...the total length of the course changes from day to day and there's no charge to play it. "Anyone for a "friendly" putting match after dinner?"
The ranking given to the Pacific Dunes Course by Golf Digest in their list of 'America's 100 Greatest Public Courses'.
Drive the Wild Atlantic Way
West Coast, Ireland
While the links courses of England and Scotland are perhaps more widely celebrated, the west coast of Ireland, known as the Wild Atlantic Way, is home to some of the very best golf courses on the planet.
The Wild Atlantic Way is actually the longest coastal driving route in the world, not something that sounds feasible given Ireland’s diminutive size compared with many other countries, so the journey you embark on could be an absolute epic.
However long you wish to explore this amazing coastline for though, there is no shortage of world class golfing options from which to choose. The route stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, and the roll call of courses between Ballyliffin in the North to the spectacular Old Head of Kinsale in the South, includes famous names in Irish golf including the likes of Waterville, Tralee, Doonbeg, Lahinch and Ireland’s most famous course, Ballybunion.
If you have the time (and the resources!), driving the whole route and playing every course along the way might just qualify as the greatest self-drive golf tour in the world!
Miles over which the Wild Atlantic Way stretches, making it longer than California’s Pacific Coast Highway and South Africa’s Garden Route. There are fewer tourists too!
The number of Irish counties the Wild Atlantic Way passes through, including Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.
Number of ‘Signature Discovery Points’ along the Wild Atlantic Way. From Mizen Head and Dursey Island in County Cork, to the Slieve League Cliffs and Fanad Head all the way up in County Donegal, be sure to try and tick a few of these off the list while driving to your next tee time!
Stay & Play in Paradise
Mauritius, Indian Ocean
Mauritius is one of the world’s ultimate island paradise destinations, where the spectacular volcanic formations are covered with tropical rainforests, and are framed by white sandy beaches of unfathomable beauty whose shores are caressed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
With plenty of tourist attractions away from the fairways, there is always plenty to do and see in this amazing place and as far as the golf goes, there are plenty of amazing courses to choose from.
Belle Mare Plage, with its two awe-inspiring championship courses, is arguably the most established golfing destination in Mauritius but the likes of Anahita, Tamarina and the Heritage Golf Club also offer top class golf.
Of course, for the ultimate island golf experience, you have to have a round at Le Touessrok, a Bernhard Langer designed beauty that sits on the Ile Aux Cerfs and is only accessible by speedboat!
Number of golf courses on the island – almost all of which are of the 18-hole championship variety.
The year in which golf was first played in Mauritius, making it the country with the 4th longest history of golf in the world! The sport was played on the grounds of a British Military Base, which is today the Gymkhana Club.
Hours flight time from London to Mauritius, one of the most easily accessible islands in the Indian Ocean.
Play the World's Most Expensive Course
Shadow Creek, Las Vegas
Shadow Creek offers championship golf, Las Vegas style. It may not be the best holiday option for the golfing purist, but then, golfing purists will not be at home in Las Vegas anyway...so why not embrace the Vegas atmosphere?!
The desert to the north of the City of Sin formed the basis for casino guru Steve Wynn to commission Tom Fazio to sculpt a golfing marvel, and a marvel he did create, with countless holes of the “signature” variety. While the amazing design laid down by Fazio is reason enough to want to have a crack at Shadow Creek, it’s the souped-up, vegas-crazy, over-the-top experience that comes as part and parcel of the considerable green fee that makes a round here so memorable.
The golf course is only available to guests of the MGM Mirage Resort, and those fortunate enough to qualify for a round will enjoy the ultimate luxury golf experience. After a hearty breakfast at the resort, golfers are transported to the course in a stretch limo, naturally, and on arrival, your caddy for the day will whisk your clubs away to the first tee or the driving range...whichever is your preference.
No expense is spared at Shadow Creek, so expect sublime course conditioning and unrivalled customer service. Over the top from the word go, Shadow Creek offers a day out that would be hard to come by anywhere else in the world. Just remember: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...no need to report back on your topped ball off the 1st tee then!
Dollars it costs to tee it up at Shadow Creek.That cost includes your golf buggy and your ride in a stretch limo to and from the Las Vegas Strip...but little else!
Is it worth it? In almost any context, $500 is A LOT of money to pay for a round of golf. But it's also what you might spend in an unlucky hour at the blackjack tables. Besides...this is Vegas!
Dollars it cost Steve Wynn to construct Shadow Creek...$3.3 million per hole!
Cubic yards of earth was dug up from the desert floor and shifted to the perimeter of the property, creating a berm that stopped outsiders looking in. Shadow Creek are serious about their privacy!
Play at Thracian Cliffs
Of all the golfing developments that have arrived on the scene in recent years, Thracian Cliffs is arguably the most exciting.
Now you might not typically associate Bulgaria with golf, but when you cast eyes on Gary Player’s creation set along the north Black Sea coastline, you’ll never forget it.
No words do this golf course justice so we thought we’d leave it to the course’s creator, the legendary Gary Player to have a crack...
“I have to say, without a question of doubt, that I have never before played on a golf course where you can see the ocean on every single hole. When people come here, they are going to say Thracian Cliffs is the best golf course they have ever played in their life. I have been playing for 56 years and I never knew there was ground like this on the planet for a golf course.”
The number of meters below the level of the tee that the 6th green sits. Perched on the edge of a cliff, the hole offers golf on the edge of the world and anything long of the green will surely plunge to a watery grave.
The year Thracian Cliffs hosted the Volvo World Matchplay Championship on the European Tour. The course only opened for play in 2011, and this highlights just how good Gary Player’s design is.
The number of holes from which you enjoy amazing sea views on your way around the course. Player’s Signature Course at Thracian Cliffs is routed hole after hole along the cliffs on a stunning patch of land once of the powerful Thracian Kingdoms.
Experience the Monterey Peninsula
There are a handful of locations around the world that are heaven-sent for golfers, with a number of world class golf courses sprinkled across a relatively small patch of land and while there are plenty of examples of such places, few can rival the stunning Monterey Peninsula in California.
Here lie a few of the best and most breathtakingly beautiful golf courses in the world, which sit perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Pebble Beach of course takes the biscuit for most golfers looking at a golf holiday in this part of the world, but Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and the exclusive Cypress Point are arguably as good and certainly equally as beautiful.
This might just be the ultimate golf holiday destination...
Paid by 20th Century Fox when they purchased the Pebble Beach Resort in 1979 – most of the money was profit from Star Wars.
Rounds per year are played at Pebble Beach.
The course record at Pebble Beach, shared by David Duval and Tom Kite, is actually not officially recognised due to “lift- clean and place” rules being in effect. The official course record is 63 and is held by Davis Love III.
Attend The Ryder Cup
Europe or USA
As much as well love watching The Masters at Augusta or The Open at St Andrews, in golf, there’s nothing quite like The Ryder Cup.
Fanatical isolationists by nature, the cream of the professional golfing crop from Europe and the USA sink themselves into a common cause once every two years to represent Team Europe or Team USA...and the resulting fireworks are pure sporting drama, hard to come by in any other event...in any other sport.
The sudden team dynamic imposed on these elite players provides a fascinating storyline and an intoxicating atmosphere, especially when you factor the infinitely exuberant spectators into the equation.
Who could forget moments such as ‘The Miracle at Medinah’ where Europe produced one of the greatest comebacks, maybe the greatest comeback, in sport? We won’t forget it...and that’s why being there, live at The Ryder Cup, is a must for any true golf nut...you never know what will happen next!
The year “the rest of Europe” was invited to the Ryder Cup party. Previously a team from Great Britain and Ireland would turn up to face the might of the USA. The results were usually one-sided...very one-sided but Jack Nicklaus of all people moved for Continental Europe to be included in an attempt to make the matches more competitive.
Players on each team contest a series of fourball and foursomes matches throughout the opening two days, with all 12 being involved on Singles Sunday, often the most dramatic and exciting of Ryder Cup days.
Number of matches won by Sir Nick Faldo – More than any other player in Ryder Cup history.