The game of golf has managed to acquire some pretty impressive real estate throughout the centuries. Whether it is a manicured pine forest, exposed sand dune or stunning cliff edge some golf courses not only offer a great opportunity to bash a golf ball around but also provide some rather impressive visual satisfaction.
Right, firstly I’ll admit that I am a golfing geek. Even my desktop is adorned with a picture of me playing golf and although I may not have experienced all of the courses first hand in the list I’ve certainly researched them well enough! So to quote the well known pop artist and no doubt huge golf fan P!nk “let’s get this party started”.
1) 14th hole at Cape Kidnappers, Napier, New Zealand
In late 2008 (yes that does rhyme), I was fortunate enough to be invited to play this golfing masterpiece. Despite its relative youth Cape Kidnappers has received critical acclaim for its fantastic design and use of the natural land. Dramatic vistas are offered on the par-3 6th hole with steep cliff faces awaiting any shot landing just left of the green, it is however from the 11th onwards where golfers are given their real visual treat as the course fits perfectly across the fingers which stretch out into the Pacific ocean.
2) 12th hole at Kingsbarns, near St. Andrews, Scotland
Located just a 20 minute drive from the Home of Golf and the auld grey toon of St. Andrews, Kingsbarns only officially opened in 2000 but as you can see from the photo it is easy to see why it has blended in perfectly amongst the very best that Fife has to offer. The hole on show is the par-5 12th hole which runs alongside a rather large water hazard imaginatively called the North Sea. With the wind whistling in this is a rather tricky proposition and with a green running more than 60 yards in length an overhit or slightly ambitious approach can easily run off into the sea. All in all this is an absolute belter of a course and well recommended if visiting this popular part of Scotland.
3) 13th, 14th & 15th holes at Nefyn & District Golf Club, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales
Often referred to as the closest thing to Pebble Beach outside of errr, Pebble Beach, Nefyn & District is an amazing stretch of land including this stunning peninsula which frames the 13th, 14th & 15th holes. As you can hopefully see in the photo, the 13th trundles along the cliff edge with the 14th a short par-3 where you’ll hit directly out into the sea and hope your golf ball lands safely on the green. Needless to say thousands of golf balls are lost along this stretch every year with mis-hit shots travelling falling victim to the wilds of the sea. Although with such scenery all around I can’t think of a better place to lose a golf ball!
4) 18th hole at Pinnacle Point, George, Garden Route, South Africa
There is nothing quite like finishing on a great hole like this and you’d have to go a long way to try and improve on this. Located along the Garden Route, the course stretches across more than 4 kilometres of dramatic coastline with plenty of risk and reward holes along the way. Designed by Peter Matkovich, he has created a course which has utilised its surroundings to spectacular effect. Measuring more than 7,100 yards from the back tees, this par-72 layout has been given the big thumbs up by Ryder Cup hero Darren Clarke who described it very simply as “the best golf course on the planet”. Quite frankly you can’t argue with that!
5) 16th hole at Pennard Golf Club, Swansea, South Wales
Often referred to as the ‘Links in the Sky’ due to its spectacular cliff top setting, Pennard has welcomed golfers since 1896 with James Braid and C.K. Cotton contributing to the layout which we enjoy today. Although the course will always take the visual accolades, Pennard can also boast a castle which is now a ruin that is believed to date back to the 13th Century.
6) 14th hole at Kauri Cliffs, Kerikeri, New Zealand
Yes, I know what you are thinking, two courses from New Zealand already…well it has to be said that this hole is pretty impressive. A par-3 at the far end of the course, named Waiaua Bay, offers unrivalled views of the Cavalli Islands. The stunning natural landscape which Kauri Cliffs is built upon would be equally suited to a National Park, it’s just lucky that for the golfers out there that Julian Robertson (owner and Wall Street guru) built what is believed to be one of the best golf courses in the world.
7) 8th hole at the Kintyre Course at Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland
Having previously played host to one of the most famous battles in Open Championship history with the Duel in the Sun between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, Turnberry and its Ailsa course are well known in golfing circles. However those making a trip to Turnberry may not be aware of its second course which enjoys some unbeatable cliff top golf with the 8th and 9th holes. The 8th in particular is unlike any other I’ve played, despite only measuring 306 yards as a par-4, the tee shot is a very tricky proposition given that you can’t see the green and only the sea as a reference point! Once within about 30 yards of the green it then becomes visible with the green set down within a gully with just the sea to protect any shots going long of the flag.
8 ) 15th hole at Lemuria Resort, Praslin, Seychelles
Hitting from an elevated tee position is always a great feeling, although if you are like me it’ll focus your mind on all the hazards which surround it rather the target itself! The 15th is Lemuria’s signature hole featuring a 50 metre drop towards the green. Despite only measuring 175 yards, the elevation change can make a huge impact on club selection with the bravest of golfers finding themselves taking a penalty from the Indian Ocean!
9) 16th hole at Vale do Lobo Royal Course, Algarve, Portugal
One of the most photographed holes in the world of golf, perched upon the red cliffs with the white sands of the Algarve beneath it there are few places I’d rather swing a club. Measuring a rather stiff 235 yards from the back tees, this par-3 offers golfers the almost unique opportunity to post a cricket score on their scorecard with consummate ease. With the green so close to the cliff, even a firmly struck putt could end up down on the beach. Although I don’t have the scorecard to hand to check the local rules I think anyone finding the beach is considered out of bounds but still it would provide an interesting second shot!
10) 17th hole at Fairmont St. Andrews Kittocks Course, Fife, Scotland
The Kittocks Course isn’t necessarily the first name to spring to mind when golfing in Fife but as you can see from this photo a trip here is well worth it. The par-4 17th hole used to form part of the Torrance course, however since some significant redesign and investment in the resort, it now features as the penultimate hole on the Kittocks. Measuring over 500 yards from the Championship markers could mean as much as 3 wood being needed for a second shot which is guarded by the an inlet about 50 yards short of the green and the raging North Sea to the right!
11) 15th hole at Royal St. Davids, Harlech, Gwynedd, North Wales
On paper with a par of 69 and a yardage of 6,500 Royal St. Davids doesn’t look like a particularly intimidating prospect. However with even the gentlest of breezes whistling in this immediately becomes one of the toughest scoring golf courses within the British Isles. Sculpted beautifully through impressive sand dunes the course provides as natural a setting for a game of golf possible. The 15th is a special hole providing a spectacular frame for the hole in the way of dunes either side of the green and the Irish sea as it’s back drop.
12) 9th hole at Pine Cliffs, Algarve, Portugal
To be frank when a golf hole is named “The Devil’s Parlour” you would expect it to be a rather tricky proposition. Thankfully this rather testing par-3 at Pine Cliffs lives up to its name and offers any golfer straying short or left of the green a rather embarrassing trip down some escalators to the beach while avoiding any sunbathers who may have taken up their spot for the day. Although Pine Cliffs is only a 9 hole course it is a really enjoyable treat to include within an Algarve golf holiday.
13) 17th hole at the Castle Course, St. Andrews, Scotland
Although it is the newest golf course within the St. Andrews stable, golf has been played along this stretch of coast for centuries so the course itself feels very much Old Tom Morris rather than a new brand new out of the box layout. The 17th is a particularly daunting prospect measuring 184 yards with anything right of the flag finding the less than welcoming rocks and North Sea.
14) 7th hole at Pebble Beach, Monterrey Peninsula, California, United States
You couldn’t have a list like this and not include one of golf’s most picturesque golf courses. Having visited this fantastic course as a Nick Faldo wannabe at a mere 8 years old, my walking the course with my Dad is one of my earliest golfing memories and given the 7th short distance, it was one of the few holes at that age I would’ve fancied conquering. Almost all of the cliff top courses in the world will all be referenced back to as the Pebble Beach of this and that which is testament to how the course is regarded in the world of golf.
15) 5th hole at Royal Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
As the only golf course outside of England and Scotland to hold the Open Championship, Royal Portrush is a very special golf course. Modern greats of the game such as Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell have all had associations with the course, a recommendation from the likes of these illustrious golfers is one which reflects the impressive course which has been created across this breathtaking coastal piece of land. The par-4 5th hole measures 411 yards and is one which always sticks in the memory after playing the course, from the elevated tee position the hole doglegs towards the Ocean with just the beach and some rocks to stop your ball at the back of the green.
16) 14th hole at Doonbeg Golf Club, County Clare, Ireland
With Greg Norman at the helm of this impressive design, Doonbeg has been created using the knowledge which has won 88 Professional victories including Open Championship victories at Turnberry & Royal St. Georges. The 14th hole is a par-3 measuring not much over 100 yards but given the spectacular frame from within the green sits, it’s easy to let your mind wonder!
17) 16th hole at Castle Stuart, Inverness, Scotland
Although in this photo the course and the Moray Firth which provides its backdrop look sensationally calm, I can assure you when the wind is blowing and golfers have only the prospect of hitting straight into the sea it isn’t the easiest place to play golf! Having received acclaim in the same fashion as Kingsbarns has since its inception, Castle Stuart has quickly become a welcome addition to anyone seeking to play some links golf in Scotland.
18) 7th hole at Casa de Campo Teeth of the Dog, La Romana, Dominican Republic
Designed one of the modern greats of golf course architecture, Pete Dye, the rather imaginatively named Teeth of the Dog has claimed many golf balls since opening in 1971. Although he clearly had an impressive bit of land to work with, Dye created a golf course which catapulted the Dominican Republic into the forefront of golf holiday destinations. Now forming the centrepiece of a luxury five-star resort, Dye has left a legacy which will stand the test of time (obviously provided the sea doesn’t claim the course back!)
19) 17th hole at Old Head, Kinsale, Ireland
Named simply Lighthouse, the 17th hole at Old Head is one of golf’s most photographed holes. Providing the focal point of the peninsula where the golf course is based, the Lighthouse is the final point before golfers turn back to play their final hole which is aptly named Sanctuary. As a big fan of the 19th hole, I can’t think of a better name for a finishing hole!
20) 7th hole at Kauri Cliffs, Kerikeri, New Zealand
Hmmm, I know you are thinking this might be a little unfair to feature two holes from the same course but I don’t think you can find a better visual golfing experience than that found at Kauri Cliffs. The 7th hole is named Cavalli due to the islands which sit in the Ocean behind the hole. At just over 220 yards, this is a stiff test with anything short or right of the putting surface needing armbands to survive. If you have the chance head over to the North Island in New Zealand, grab your clubs and a camera!
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