From cactus-clad courses in Los Cabos to the volcanic backdrops of Fiji, the world’s best golf courses offer thoroughly transportive excursions for enthusiasts. Far more than a place to merely tee off, these 8 golf courses are immersive worlds filled with unique landscaping, challenges and unparalleled amenities and on-site experiences, from wineries to submarine rides. These are the top spots to golf this year around the world.
1. El Camaleon Golf Club, Mayakoba
Home to the world-famous PGA Tour’s OHL Classic in picturesque Mayakoba, Mexico, El Camaleon Golf Club is a spectacle to behold for golf enthusiasts. With four resorts in Mayakoba—Andaz Mayakoba, Fairmont Mayakoba, Banyan Tree Mayakoba and Rosewood Mayakoba—this is undoubtedly a hot spot for quality golfing in Mexico. The 18-hole course boasts a par 72 and beautifully landscaped terrain weaving around lush trees, across limestone canals, through mangroves and alongside the ocean. Water plays a big role here, with oceanfront and waterways that help give Mayakoba the nickname, “Venice of the Riviera Maya.” Golf carts are also quite snazzy, equipped with GPS and programming that allows golfers to keep score digitally and order food.
2. Laucala Island, Fiji
Volcanoes and submarines aren’t typical sights at golf courses, but Fiji’s Laucala Island is far from typical in many ways. This prestigious private island resort is paradise for ardent golfers, with its 18-hole championship course designed by David McLay Kidd. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and a backdrop of volcanoes, the course is splayed across an old coconut plantation with ample views and a pleasant sense of solitude. There are only 25 villas on the island, with the highest guest-to-staff ratio of any resort on the planet, and the golf course is easily one of the most elite of its kind. Don’t be timid about getting your feet wet either; the par-five 12th hole has a green extending onto the beach, which means high tide can make things interesting. The 5th and 11th holes also provide some awe-inspiring Pacific views. It’s also the only golf course to offer a submarine ride as a post-game excursion. A trip aboard the DeepFlight Super Falcon makes for a fitting grand finale.
3. Cabot Cliffs, Nova Scotia
One of the newest premiere golf resorts to make its debut, Cabot Links is a breathtaking adventure at Cabot Cliffs in Northeastern Nova Scotia, a picturesque three-hour drive from Halifax. Surrounded by crashing ocean waves, Cape Breton cliffs and sand dunes, the 18-holer is pastoral in its powerful connection to nature. The course is the masterwork of designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who smartly let Mother Nature take the lead on landscaping. Cabot Links pays homage to golf’s origin days, when carts were non-existent and walking golfers could interact more with their natural surroundings. The course also employs some of the best caddies anywhere, expertly informed on the area and specifics regarding distances, club selections and everything in between.
4. Palmilla Golf Club, Los Cabos
Los Cabos is the only golf market in Mexico that continues to grow, making it a great place to be if you’re an enthusiast. With numerous courses to choose from, one good bet is Palmilla Golf Club, routinely ranked among the best in the country and the world at large. The first Jack Nicklaus Signature design in Latin America, the property boasts 27 holes with fantastic views of the Sea of Cortez from just about every vantage point. Try to keep your eyes on the ball though, because this course isn’t easy. Palm trees and cacti dot the grounds, with rolling hills along the horizon. Palmilla also features a nicely appointed clubhouse, golf shop and a highly attuned staff.
5. The Breakers Palm Beach, Florida
With a nickname like “Florida’s Golf Capital” in a state famed for its myriad golf courses, that’s really saying something about The Palm Beaches. More than 60 professional golfers call the area home, including Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, with more than 160 courses to choose from. One particular stunner is The Breakers Palm Beach, the oldest course in the state. It’s actually a two-in-one combination, with both an 18-hole Ocean Course (though ocean isn’t the only water here, considering the abundance of lakes throughout the course) and the nearby Breakers Rees Jones Course. Easily accessible from The Breakers Palm Beach resort by a free shuttle, the contemporary course was designed to pay homage to its architect, Rees Jones. This means sprawling fairways, 10 lakes and a sea of palm trees.
6. Camelback Golf Club, Scottsdale
In the U.S. if there’s one state that can hold a candle to Florida’s golf scene, it’s Arizona. The Western state is home to a variety of world-class golf resorts, chief among them Camelback Golf Club at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn. There are actually two courses, adding up to 36 incredible holes weaving through the Sonoran Desert. The Ambiente Course is the more challenging of the two, requiring golfers to hone in on accuracy and strategy with every shot. It’s got quite the terrain, too, as elevation bobs up and down throughout the course. Nearby, Padre Course is known for its soaring trees and water holes, including its 18th hole, which was named the best water hole in the state by Arizona Golf Magazine.
7. Rosewood CordeValle, California
The best part about golfing in San Martin, California, is that you’re never far from a glass of wine. In fact, this course nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is part of a 45-room resort with an on-site winery, Clos La Chance. So when it’s time to celebrate your victory on the 7,169-yard championship course (or drink away your sorrows), you’ll be at the perfect place. The course itself, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., is illustrious with its majestic green hills and fairways, its craggy trees and its mountaintop backdrop.
8. Adare Manor, Ireland
One of the biggest new golf courses to keep an eye on this summer is the one taking shape at Adare Manor in Limerick, Ireland. The property is already home to one of the country’s most distinguished and lavish hotels, which is currently polishing up a massive refurbishment that’ll see the addition of a brand new golf course. The championship-quality course, slated to debut in August, is the handiwork of revered golf course designer Tom Fazio, who’s completely re-imagining the existing course and adding a driving range, caddy program and clubhouse. When it’s all done, golfers can expect a high-class course that’s just as manicured and grand as the Manor House itself. Each hole will feature its own intricate playability options and immaculate character befitting a property that looks like something out of a medieval fairy tale. Fazio is also incorporating thoughtful eco-elements including underground installations to foster optimal drainage and sand capping all fairways for dryer conditions.
Written by Matt Kirouac
Read more posts by Matt Kirouac