We're highlighting some of the best golf courses around the world for National Golf Month. Each course offers different experiences for every golf enthusiast, from the beginner to the seasoned player. Here are a few of our favorite golfing hot spots.
South Africa is one of the world’s ‘golfing hot spots.' Indeed, it gains much of its reputation from the success of its native golfers. Since the 1940s, South African golfers have won more golfing majors than any country in the world, other than the United States. The golf staff at Ker & Downey has been fortunate enough to play all the ‘top ranked’ courses and it’s hard to do better than a round at the country’s #1, Leopard Creek. Leopard Creek Golf Course and Country Club is situated near Malelane in the heart of Mpumalanga, on the southern border of the Kruger National Park. Typical bushveld koppies overlook the course from the east, providing an ideal backdrop for a magnificent course. Johann Rupert created Leopard Creek, and with Gary Player, designed a championship 18-hole golf course as its center piece. Small streams and lakes extend throughout the development, creating challenging play to the golfer. Golfing hazards take on a new dimension at Leopard Creek: hippos and crocodiles reside in the waters.
Other golfing hot spots in South Africa include the beautiful Pearl Valley, surrounded by the Simonsberg and Drakenstein Mountains and bordered by vineyards outside of Cape Town, and the challenging Fancourt Links, an awe-inspiring example of magnificent design and golf-course construction where Gary Player’s team have drawn from the best of the classic links courses in Scotland and Ireland. There is also Arabella, a classic parkland course named the top course on the Western Cape by Compleat Golfer magazine.
But for a real treat, try Simola. The course offers challenging and rewarding golf amidst spectacular scenery. Set below the high ridges above the Indian Ocean not far from Knysna, it’s free from the wind that so often plagues coastal courses. Fairways flow with the natural undulating contours of the terrain and the unusual configuration of five Par 5's and five Par 3's adds a new dimension to the game. Keeping your head down at Simola can be a challenge simply because the views around the course are awe inspiring, and with this it is clear to see why Simola takes its place as one of South Africa's premier golfing destinations.
For those who love and play the game of golf, a trip to Scotland -- its ancestral home -- is a pilgrimage like no other. A Swilcan Bridge here, a postage stamp there, or, perhaps even a Duel in the Sun... they all have a special meaning to the avid golfer. Indeed, few countries offer more Top 100 courses than this country. Outside of Edinburgh rests North Berwick, consistently ranked in the top 100 best golf courses in the world and the top 10 courses in the UK, as well as Gullane No. 1. Golf Magazine (USA) recognized this course as having one of the best holes in the world in the form of the spectacular par five 3rd, and PGA.com rated it as the world's 5th most picturesque golf spot.
Always on a golfer’s bucket list, a trip to St. Andrews with a chance to play one of the 7 courses including the world-famous Old Course is one not to be missed. Just down the road find Kingsbarns, the only course to be built on links land in 70 years where each hole embraces the sea. Or, travel north to Carnoustie, an iconic, world-leading golf destination in Scotland and home to ‘Golf’s Greatest Test’. Golf has been played at the Links since the 16th century and it was Carnoustie natives who went on to establish the Professional Golfer’s Associations of America and Australia. Then there is Dunbarnie Links, a rare piece of land boasting a mile and a half of sea frontage with panoramic views over the Firth of Forth. Other than Pebble Beach, there are few world-class courses able to offer such an expanse of beach and water frontage. Further south, half of the holes at Muirfield run clockwise and the other nine run counterclockwise (meaning the wind is always an issue). Or, head inland to Gleneagles, where three courses of unique challenge and experience await. Jack Nicklaus described its PGA Centenary course as the “finest parcel of land in the world I’ve been given to work with,” and he’s certainly done it proud. Host to both the Ryder Cup 2014 and Solheim Cup 2019, this masterpiece of a course offers a stern challenge in a fabulous setting.
Along the west coast of Scotland, however, reside some of the most exclusive and best golf courses in the country -- many of which are best accessed by helicopter. A heligolf adventure can bring you to such greats as the Royal Troon, home to one of the longest and the shortest holes in Open Championship golf, the magnificent Machrihanish and its famous opening hole - described by Jack Nicklaus as “The best opening hole of golf in the world” -- and The Machrie on the Isle of Islay, ranked inside the top 50 UK&I and top 20 best golf courses in Scotland. Finally, for a real treat, try the "modern masterpiece" of Ardfin, a private estate located on the Island of Jura. It opened to the public in 2020, and only residents of the Estate can play. Originally designed as a private course for the Ardfin Estate’s owner, the course is now a Top 25 World Ranked Course and a must on any golfing bucket list.
Ireland possesses many of the world’s greatest courses and is home to over a quarter of the world’s links. Whilst Scotland may be ‘The Home of Golf’, Ireland has depth, quality, and beauty to match. Add to this their legendary hospitality and their love for the craic; a quiet post-round drink can suddenly turn in to an all-night party.
If Dublin is your home base, you’re but 20 to 30 minutes from courses with names you know. There’s The K Club, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup and two very different layouts to test your skills. The Arnold Palmer designed Palmer North is renowned as one of Europe’s most spectacular courses. There’s also The European with sweeping sea views from nineteen of its twenty holes. The Royal Dublin, too, presents a stern golfing examination on a truly magnificent links course and is widely accepted as one of the greatest links courses in the world. For a fun twist, the 203-acre Portmarnock Links is set on the grounds of the old Jameson Estate of St. Marnocks. But then there’s a hidden gem just minutes from Dublin City Center, The Island Club. The tallest dunes in Ireland, a qualifying course for The Open Championship, and as quintessentially an Irish links course as you’ll ever find.
For a real treat, head inland. Lahinch rates within the top five best golf courses in Ireland. Many of the world’s greatest golfers play the course in preparation for the Open Championship. The host venue for the 2027 Ryder Cup, Adare Manor, features the very latest technology and course innovations, creating a challenging, characterful, and profoundly satisfying playing experience for golfers of every level.
Along the West Coast, venture to tranquil Waterville, flanked by the Wild Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Inny river to the north, and the Inny Estuary to the east. The stunning setting of Tralee, too, makes it one of the finest golf courses in the world. In the words of Arnold Palmer: "I may have designed the first nine, but surely God designed the back nine." Furthermore, try a round at the unique world-class course at Co. Kerry's Ballybunion – the Old Course. Every hole, every hazard, and every shot is defined by nature’s infinite presence. One of the finest parkland courses in Ireland, Dromoland Castle also boasts superb practice facilities and a welcoming club house experience.
As with Scotland, you can heligolf anywhere around the Island of Ireland with Ker & Downey. We especially recommend it to reach Old Head. Jutting over two miles out into the Atlantic, this is a piece of golf real estate like no other. Nine holes play along the cliff tops with all eighteen holes providing unsurpassed ocean views. With the ever-changing sea breezes, the course provides a stern but fair test to the touring pro and the high handicapper alike.