You know you are a fan of the game when you start planning your holidays around the best courses in the world; when that one perfect shot makes up for all the slices and the lost balls. Throw in a beautiful setting and you have a perfectly packaged holiday. Even if your golf game is more mulligans than birdies, these golf courses will leave you with wonderful memories - or at least an improved game.
10. Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand
Where: Hawke's Bay | Par: 71 | Length: 7,119 yards
Cape Kidnappers on the Hawke's Bay coast is a minimalistic masterpiece, built entirely around the lie of the land. There are no contrived bunkers or misplaced palm trees here. Natural features are incorporated into the design of the course, minimising any change to the natural bumps and creases of the landscape. Instead these elements have been converted into an authentic natural hazard, making it twice as beautiful but very challenging. The crevices between the wrinkles are now graveyards for wayward shots and lost balls.
A natural overhang has been turned into one of the more memorable holes. The par-5 15th hole - aptly named 'Pirate's Plank' - is flanked by a 150m cliff on one side and a 20m drop on the other. Keeping your ball on the fairway requires steely focus and zen-like calm, not to mention the ability to ignore the dizzying heights.
For more information, see capekidnappers.com
9. Banff Springs, Canada
Where: Banff | Par: 71 | Length: 6,938 yards
Situated inside Banff National Park, the course is in close communion with nature. With the Canadian Rocky Mountains and tree-lined fairways as a backdrop, it makes for a postcard worthy location. Bring a camera and enjoy these sights later, because the course will punish you for daydreaming. Be especially wary of 'Devil's Cauldron': the par-3 fourth hole is a heavenly sight, but as the name suggests it's devilishly difficult to play. Mount Rundle looms ahead and across a clear glacial lake, a well-guarded green awaits. The task requires a steady hand and a cool head. If you have neither, then at least you have a view to enjoy.
For more information, see fairmontgolf.com
8. TPC at Sawgrass, USA
Where: Florida | Par: 72 | Length: 7,215 yards
Some courses are defined by one iconic hole. All 36 holes of Sawgrass are a golfer's delight but the seventeeth hole lingers in dreams (and nightmares). The 'Island Green" is on a tiny sloping peninsula surrounded by a deceptively calm lake. A lake that swallows up a few tournament leads and about 120 000 balls a year. The smart golfers carry at least six extra balls just for this hole. If you can get beyond that mammoth task, the equally intimidating 18th hole - at 447 yards from tee to hole - concludes the sweat-inducing experience. The course, designed by Pete Dye, has been described as a 'Star Wars course, built by Darth Vader'. You will definitely need the Force to conquer this course.
For more information, see tpc.com
7. Leopard Creek, South Africa
Where: Mpumalanga | Par: 72 | Length: 7,252 yards
On the doorstep of the Kruger National Park is a Gary Player designed course with an African flavour. It is situated alongside the Crocodile River which is more than just a cool name for a pretty place - there are actual crocodiles in the river. On the plus side, think of it as extra motivation to keep your ball dry. If that's not enough, the snakes known to lurk in the rough will keep you on the fairway and focused. The 18th hole is a fitting end to this incomparable golf safari: a par-5 at 541.3 yards from tee to island green hole. Long but not leisurely - it requires both power and accuracy. Once the golf is done, hit the clubhouse and have a well-earned drink (or three). As the day slips by, enjoy goose-bump-inducing views of the African sunset.
For more information, see leopardcreek.co.za
6. Valderrama, Spain
Where: Sotogrande | Par: 71 | Length: 6,951 yards
Valderrama played host to an exciting Ryder Cup in 1997. It was the first continental course to host the event and it's easy to see why: the strategically-placed holes force you to balance risk and reward. The course will have you standing at the tee for a good while thinking up your approach. Throw caution to the wind and get a legendary score or find yourself digging around the rough, hole after hole. The penultimate hole is a typical gamble. You can either carry the second shot over the mini lake and get a handsome birdie or play defensively around the hazard. Despite these challenges, the course is still accessible. The thoughtful tee placements make it quite playable for those of us with cringe-worthy handicaps.
For more information, see valderrama.com
5. Coeur d'Alene, USA
Where: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho | Par: 71 | Length: 6,803 yards
Purists may disagree, but this Idaho course is undeniably a unique golf experience. Its top attraction is the world's only floating island green. Unlike TPC Sawgrass, the island green is an island on the move. The 14th hole is computer controlled and its placement changes everyday. No matter how many times you play there, it will always be different. Playing the putting green requires a short trip on a boat, which takes the meaning of the term 'water hazard' to a new level. To complement the course, there is a stunning resort to boot - which debuted as No. 1 in Beauty and Aesthetics in a ranking of golf resorts by GolfWorld magazine.
For more information, see cdaresort.com
4. Majlis, Dubai
Where: Dubai | Par: 72 | Length: 7,301 yards
Bring an extra lofty wedge or two to play Majlis. The flagship course of the Emirates Golf Club was the first 18 hole green course in the Middle East - a place where there is an overwhelming abundance of natural bunkers. This course is now a permanent fixture on lists of the top golf courses. The local touches distinguish it from other cookie cutter American-style courses. The local flora, the Bedouin style clubhouse and the ever present sand, give it a Middle Eastern feel while maintaining international standards. The name 'Majlis' means 'place of sitting' in Arabic, but this course is no place to relax. The last hole tempts you into playing a wild shot and the par-5 hole has a sharp bend that lures you into cutting the corner. The safe option is just as tricky with a large water hazard to keep you on your toes.
For more information, see dubaigolf.com
3. Bro Hof Slott, Sweden
Where: Upplands-Bro | Par: 72 | Length: 8,045 yards
Bro Hof Slott is rumoured to be a hot favourite to host Ryder Cup 2022. It is built around the baroque style Bro Hoff castle - formerly owned by the Swedish royal family. There are two challenging 18 hole courses to choose from, but the Stadium course is a cut above the rest. Such was the hype around it that it was named the top Swedish golf course in its first year open. The ultra-green fairway seems out of place in a Scandinavian setting, but the hardy grass is designed to withstand sharp temperature fluctuations. This attention to detail is evident from the moment you enter the regal gates to the last hole.
For more information, see brohoffslott.se
2. Ballybunion, Ireland
Where: Count Kerry | Par: 71 | Length: 6,802 yards
Often overlooked, this remote golf club on the south west coast of Ireland is a hidden gem. It is considered one of the world's best links by those in the know. The club has two 18-hole courses, but the Old Course is the one that the pros rave about. The first hole is named 'Tombstones' and has an actual graveyard to the left of the fairway. Overall, the course is wild and unpolished in a way that will appeal to the golf connoisseur: the land presents a challenge to golfers used to carpet straight courses. Large dunes and the uneven landscape make judging your shots especially tricky and coupled with tiny greens, you'll find yourself wishing for Irish luck.
For more information, see ballybuniongolfclub.ie
1. Augusta National, USA
Where: Augusta | Par: 72 | Length: 7,435 yards
The home of the Masters is the definition of exclusivity, spoken of only in hushed tones with downcast eyes. Most golfers only know a distant friend of a friend, who knows a guy that knows another guy on the waiting list. If the golf gods should smile upon you and you somehow get a tee time, marvel at the golf landmarks, but don't forget your game! The most popular hole is 'Golden Bell.' The short 12th hole is deceptively difficult to play due to the strong winds that carry away weak shots. Overshoot and you will have to play your next shot in the bushes. This hole is part of the feared 'Amen corner' trio of holes - four leaf clovers and wearing your lucky socks are recommended. Surviving is the challenge. A good score is a bonus.
For more information, see augusta.com
Last Updated: June 2011