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Oldest Golf Courses in the World

from the Experts in Golf Holidays

✍️ Sam Brooks | ⏰ 12 min read

Oldest Golf Courses in the World

The World's Earliest Golf Courses

It’s amazing to me that golf courses that are hundreds of years old can still lay down a world-class challenge to the golfers of today.

As a group, golfers tend to geek out on all the tradition and history that comes with the game too, so let’s take a look at the oldest golf courses in the world.

They’re not all on the list, but here’s a handful that you might fancy ticking off your list when the time comes to tee it up once again...

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to one of our Golf Experts about playing the courses below on your next golf holiday.

St Andrews Old Course

St Andrews Old Course needs little introduction and is widely regarded as the spiritual home of golf. The Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world.

Golf was being played at St Andrews throughout the 1400s but the first documented proof is when Archbishop Hamilton signed an official charter in 1552 recognising the right of the people of St Andrews to play golf on the land. Since then the course has become the most famous golf course in the world and an absolute must for any golf fan.

The Old Course is the standard-bearer for all modern golf courses as this is where the 18-hole format of the game we play today was born. A round on the Old Course will see you walk in the footsteps of the greats of the game from centuries past and more recent champions including Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods.

Musselburgh Links - The Old Course

The Old Links at Musselburgh has been officially recognised by Guinness as the oldest golf course in the world; a fact that should immediately place Musselburgh atop any avid golfer's wishlist. The Old Links may have lost some of its lustre in a tournament sense but the history behind the course should persuade any golf aficionado to make the pilgrimage to Scotland.

Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have played the links here as far back as 1567 and the official measurement for the width of a hole stemmed from a piece of equipment used to cut the holes at Musselburgh all those years ago.

An official record of golf at Musselburgh can be found in the Account Book of Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, amongst the pages is an entry relating to golf dated 2nd March 1672.

Musselburgh Links, The Old Golf Course,

Scotscraig Golf Club

Scotscraig Golf Club was founded in 1817 by a few members of the St. Andrews Society of Golfers, they would later become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The course is situated in the northern region of the Fife in Tayport, just ten miles from St Andrews.

James Braid redesigned the layout in 1923 and it retains much of his traditional features today with large undulating greens protected by well-placed bunkers. Scotscraig does not sit right beside the coastline so is not regarded as a true links layout, with abundant heather & gorse throughout golfers often describe the course as an interesting combination of links and heathland.

Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Links

Fortrose & Rosemarkie is located just 20 minutes from Inverness on the Chanonry Peninsula overlooking the Moray Firth. The first documented evidence of golf being played here was in 1702 with the club being founded in 1793.

James Braid re-designed the layout in 1932, deceptive greens, tight fairways and strategically placed bunkers are a trademark of the Five-time Open Champion.

The course has received many notable awards including being ranked in the Top 50 Golf Courses in Scotland whilst also playing host to a number of Scottish amateur championships.

Montrose Golf Links

Considered to be the 5th oldest course in the world, Montrose is also the 3rd oldest royal golf club in the world; making it more than welcome on this list.

Golf has been played here since 1562, the club was formed in 1810, and in 1845, Prince Albert granted the club its royal patronage. Like most classic links courses, Montrose very much follows the lay of the land, designed by Mother Nature you could say, but throughout its history, it has also been lucky enough to have the notable trio of Old Tom Morris, Willie Park Jnr, and finally, Harry Colt, sprinkle their magic dust over the springy links turf.

Golf history buffs clearly have a lot to discover and enjoy at Montrose, but perhaps its greatest strength, along with the world-class layout of the course, is its location on the Angus coastline. Montrose is within easy driving distance of the world-famous Carnoustie, as well as the likes of Panmure and Monifieth. In short, this neck of the woods is a golf historian’s paradise, and definitely should be on the hit list if you fall into that category!

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

The Championship Links at Royal Aberdeen is an established tournament host that has been worked on over the years by golf design greats including James Braid and Donald Steel. This is raw links golf at its best. Nine holes take you away from the clubhouse before your journey home is completed over the back nine.

Boasting views over the city of Aberdeen this course also features everything a classic links should including punishing rough, monstrous sand dunes and of course exposure to the elements. The Balgownie Links is a must on any Scottish golf break.

For information on Scottish golf breaks to play Royal Aberdeen please call 0800 043 6644

Oldest Golf Courses in England

Founded in 1864, Royal North Devon is officially the oldest golf course in England and it’s still using its original fairways! Royal North Devon is a fast-running links so the natural undulations and the prevailing wind are the main considerations for the golfer looking for a solid score.

With crashing waves in the background links golf doesn’t come much better than at Royal North Devon where you will be walking in the footsteps of some of the game’s pioneers including the likes of J.H. Taylor.

The original Forest Course at Bramshaw Golf Club was built by local resident and landowner Philip de Crespigny in 1865. The deer emerging from the trees as well as roaming ponies and cattle on the fairways gives the impression that golf on the Forest Course has not changed in over 100 years.

Royal Liverpool, or Hoylake to many, was the second English course to hold the Open Championship and has seen many more since originally conceived by George Morris, brother of Old Tom, and Robert Chambers. The club was founded in 1869 making it the second oldest seaside links course in England.

Oldest Golf Courses in Wales

There are a few golf courses in Wales that claim to be the oldest but evidence shows that golf was played at Tenby Golf Club from around 1875. Tenby is just one of many classic golf courses in the design portfolio of the great James Braid and like many of Braid's courses it is an absolute classic. Measuring just 6,300 yards Tenby isn’t long by modern standards but it still remains a truer test of links golf.

Pontnewydd golf course, located just north of Newport, claims to have been established in 1875 but there is no clear evidence to prove this. The course certainly dates back to the 19th century and is a nice meadowland course overlooking the Cwmbran valley. Borth and Ynsylas is set on the stunning estuary of the River Rovey providing perfect views of Cardigan Bay and dates back to 1885.

Conwy Golf Club, located on the Caernarvonshire coastline, was officially formed on June 30th 1890. The layout was transformed during the course of two World Wars and was almost lost but restoration work from Frank Pennink plus updates from Brian Hugget and Neil Coles have produced the rugged seaside gem you can play today.

Golf at Royal Porthcawl dates back to 1891 but the original 9 holes were scrapped in 1895 with a new championship layout opening a few years later. Harry Colt, Fred Hawtree, John H. Taylor & Tom Simpson have since made adjustments to produce the majestic course you see today.

Oldest Golf Courses in Ireland

Royal Curragh Golf Club can claim to be the oldest golf course in Ireland. Research has proven that golf was played in this region of County Kildare as far back as 1852. Over in Northern Ireland, Royal Belfast Golf Club, which was founded in 1881, is one of only four on the Island of Ireland to be honoured with the ‘Royal' title. The layout played today is the result of the 1925 amendments by Harry Colt, offering scenic views of Belfast Lough and the Antrim plateau above.

Founded in 1885, Royal Dublin can claim the title of the third oldest golf course in Ireland. The links is located on Bull Island and was originally designed by Harry Colt but has since been extended by Martin Hawtree to the championship layout of today.

Dooks Golf Club is located in County Kerry and golf was first played on this magnificent layout in 1886. The course was updated by Martin Hawtree recently and is now a challenging, exciting and enjoyable test that stands in comparison with nearby Waterville and Ballybunion.

Oldest Golf Courses in Europe

Located in southwestern France, against the backdrop of the majestic Pyrenees mountain range, sits Pau Golf Club. Opening in 1856 it is regarded as the oldest golf course in mainland Europe. Fontainebleau Golf Course is regarded as one of the most beautiful in France and also happens to be one of the oldest. Julien Chantepie designed the layout in 1909 with Tom Simpson applying updates around 10 years later and in the 1950s Fred Hawtree was employed to make further modifications.

Dinard Golf Club is France's second-oldest course, being established in 1887 by a group of British settlers. North Berwick professional Tom Dunn designed the course amongst the gorse and broom on a 125-acre seaside parcel of land which was formerly occupied by only sheep and cattle.

A little further south, in Portugal, golf was originally enjoyed by just a select few who were members of the British expatriate community. Oporto Golf Club was founded in 1890, originally called Oporto Niblicks, the course started out as a 9-hole layout and was expanded in 1934 to become Portugal's first 18-hole golf course.

Some would argue that golf arrived in the Algarve in 1937 with 9 holes being built in Praia da Rocha which consisted of sand fairways & "browns" (greens made of oil). Golfers would have to wait until 1966 for the first 18-hole grass layout, Penina's Championship Course, designed by Sir Henry Cotton.

The first golf course in Spain was actually founded on the island of Gran Canaria in 1891 by British traders residing there. The current layout of Real Club De Golf De Las Palmas lies in the crater of an extinct volcano and is the work of Philip Mackenzie Ross.

Real Club Puerta de Hierro, Real Club de Zarauz and Club de Golf de San Sebastian were to follow before Real Club de Golf de El Prat became the first golf club in the city of Barcelona.

Oldest Golf Courses in Asia

The oldest golf course in Asia just happens to be the first outside of the British Isles. Royal Calcutta Golf Club in Kolkata, India, was established in 1829 with King George V & Queen Mary bestowing the Royal title to the Club to commemorate their visit to Calcutta in 1911.

Dago Endah Golf & Country Club, in Indonesia, was established in 1917 on 50 hectares of land north of Bandung. The course started life as a 9-hole layout and was finally extended to a full 18 holes in 1994 by Japanese golf course architect Chohei Miyazawa. Being set in the foothills the course offers huge changes in altitude during a round whilst also serving up scenic views over the city.

Japan's first golf course is situated on Mount Rokko, Arthur Hasketh Groom designed the 9-hole Kobe Golf Course in 1903 with the layout being extended to a full 18 holes the following year. Being carved out of a mountain and with golf buggies prohibited a round at the Kobe Golf Club can be quite demanding.

Golf in Malaysia began in 1893 with The Royal Selangor Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur. Established in 1893 it is one of the oldest golf clubs in Asia, offering two 18-hole championship courses as well as a 9-hole layout. Dalat Golf Club, in Vietnam was initially planned in 1922 but it wasn't until the 1930s that the course was finally built. Starting life as a 6-hole layout with a small clubhouse the course grew to it's current 7,009 yards championship standard in the early 1990s after a multi-million dollar restoration project by the co-founder of DHL, Larry Hillblom.

Neighbouring Thailand saw the first golf course built in the country in 1919 during the reign of King Rama VI. Royal Hua Hin Golf Course is steeped in history and offers outstanding views of the Gulf of Thailand. In 1924 King Rama VII ordered the Scottish railway engineer A.O. Robin to build a further 9 holes and the full 18 holes course was opened in 1924.

Oldest Golf Courses in America

The Savannah Golf Club, in Georgia, holds the claim for the oldest golf course in America. The club can trace its origins back to 1794 with documented evidence of its second anniversary in 1796 but the current course there dates back to 1899.

Another claim for the oldest course comes from Oakhurst Links, in West Virginia, the layout was designed in 1884 by a man named Russell Montegue. He built the course right next to his home, which served as the Oakhurst Links Clubhouse for many years. Although Oakhurst claims to be the oldest golf course, it has not been in continuous operation, the land was reverted to pasture in 1912 and the golf course was not restored until 1994.

Dorest Field Golf Club in Vermont lays claim to being the oldest continuously operating golf course in America. A 9-hole layout was created by Arvin Harrington, Frank Holley and William Kent in 1886 and golf has been played there ever since with the course being lengthened to 18 holes in 1999.

Meanwhile in Foxburg, Pennsylvania, Joseph Mickle Fox, who learnt how to play golf in Scotland, laid out a makeshift 8-hole course in 1887. Foxburg Country Club remains a 9-hole course today and is home to the American Golf Hall of Fame, containing an extensive collection of extremely old and valuable golfing artefacts from many different eras.

Willie Davis built the original 12 holes at Shinnecock Hills in 1891 with the course being extended to 18 holes in 1895. William Flynn and Dick Wilson are responsible for the current layout and Shinnecock can claim to be the first golf club in America to admit female members with women playing there since it was founded.

The Country Club at Brookline has hosted many tournaments over the years, including the 1999 Ryder Cup. Golf was introduced there in 1893 with a 6-hole course and later extended to 18 holes in 1895. It is probably English golfer Matt Fitzpatrick's favourite course as he won the U.S. Amateur there in 2013 as well as the U.S. Open 9 years later.

Rhode Island is the location for yet another founding member of the USGA, Newport Country Club. The original 9-hole layout was built by William Davies in 1894 then extended to 18 in 1899. Newport has the honour of hosting the very first U.S. Amateur tournament as well as the first U.S. Open in 1895.

The first course was not built at the historic Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina until 1898 with the famous No. 2 layout by Donald Ross opening in 1907. Over on the west coast in California, Charles E. Maud designed the 9-hole Del Monte Golf Course in 1897, expanding it to an 18-hole layout in 1902.

It would be another 17 years before Jack Neville would create what is regarded as one of the most beautiful courses in the world, Pebble Beach Golf Links, just a few miles from Del Monte.

More About Sam

Handicap: 4
Favourite Course: Old Head
My 'Expert' areas: St Andrews or Dublin
Best trip I've done: St Andrews Old Course, Kingsbarns & Dumbarnie Links
Where my next trip is to: Augusta to watch The Masters with my Dad

Give Sam a call on 0800 043 6644 to arrange your next golf break.

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