The most challenging, the most extreme and the most unusual golf courses in the world
compiled by Catherine Marien
Alice Springs Golf Club, Northern Territory, Australia
The toughest part is the climate here. Alice Springs Golf Club is known as the hottest golf course on earth. The temperature can rise to 122 °f (50° C) and hot winds whistle across the fairways. Accuracy is a must, as menacing rocky outcrops lurk at the edges of several of the fairways. More about other extreme golf courses on our Awesome Eight Golf Challenge page.
Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
A difficult opening hole is a prelude of things to come: gullies, cross bunkers, deep fairway bunkers and a 70ft drop on the right and a 500ft cliff on the left at hole 15.
Cypress Point Golf Club, Pebble Beach, California
Cypress Point’s 15th, 16th and 17th holes are among the most spectacular and strategically challenging in the world. The course record is 63.
Doral Blue Monster, Florida
A challenging and spectacular golf course, featuring long fairways, undulating green, a deep Bermuda rough and a unique assortment of water hazards and strategically placed bunkers, where both length and finesse are needed to score well. This historic course, originally designed by Dick Wilson, and later restored by Raymond Floyd, has hosted the prestigious PGA Tour event for the past 40 years.
The famous 18th hole, with its signature fountain, was ranked by GOLF Magazine as one of the Top 100 Holes in the World and by Today’s Golfer as one of the 18 hardest holes in the world.
Dubai Country Club
A grassless course in the Arabian Desert that looks like one giant bunker. Players are allowed to hit off a plastic grass mat they carry round with them, if the ball winds up in a marked area. The “browns”, the course’s equivalent of greens, are smoother than grass and consist of a mixture of sand and oil raised above the desert floor. They putt slower but truer than most greens. The club has even passed a local rule offering a free drop for buried lies in the sandy bunkers.
Hans Merensky Country Club, North Province, South Africa
The holes run alongside the Kruger National Park and the chief attraction of this golf course is the danger to play around all kinds of wild animals.
The Himalayan Club, Pokhara, Nepal
Possibly one of the world’s most hidden courses, set in the foothills of the Annapuras and designed by an ex-British Army officer, Major Ram Gurung MBE. This nine-hole course measures just 3,360 yards (3,072m) but takes more than three hours to complete because of the unusual terrain and playing conditions. The grass is tick and wiry, reminding the original, rustic links of Scotland centuries ago.
Kiawah Island, Ocean Course, South Carolina
Part of the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance was filmed here. Named America’s toughest resort course by Golf Digest magazine The biggest enemy on this course is the wind, blowing from all sides during a round. The raised fairways expose the holes even more. The course was deliberately laid out to offer a side where the player can afford to miss and a side where he/she can’t. Only good course management skills can help you tell which side is which.
Ko’olau Golf Club, Oahu, Hawaii
Considered by most to be THE hardest golf course in the world. Carved through the thick rainforest on the lower slopes of the windward side of the mountains, winding between ravines and waterfalls, leaving no chances of playing a recovery shot. If you miss the fairways, consider your ball lost. The course record is 67. Also see our extreme golf courses page.
La Paz Golf Club, Bolivia
Described as the loftiest golf course in the world, as its height point is 10,650 feet (3,246m) above sea level. At this altitude the air is so thin that most of your shots will reach much farther than expected. The ball even seems to fly straighter. However, the course has been cleverly designed to cancel any advantage a player could get from this high-altitude ball flight. Trees and doglegs reward accuracy, rather than power.
But the course’s most striking feature is its lunar landscape with deep canyons and pinnacles sculpted in the soft sandstone that surrounds the city of La Paz.
The best thing to do to avoid problems of breathlessness due to the low oxygen level is to arrive a few days early to acclimatize before playing, and to drink plenty of water during the round.
Lost City Course, Sun City, Pilanesberg, South Africa
To be successful on this course, you must be able to clear your mind of the two dozen crocodiles roaming in a deep pit at hole 13.
Monte Mayor, Benhavis, Spain
Probably one of the toughest courses in Europe. There are impassable ravines and massive trees all along the round.
Punta Mita, Bahía de Banderas, Mexico
Amphibious buggies get you from the mainland to hole 3B, situated on a tiny island, the only natural island green in the world.
Rotorua Golf Club, North Island, New Zealand
Described as a “unique geothermal golfing experience”, the ‘Arikikapakapa’ Rotorua Golf Club in Whakarewarewa, Rotorua is a challenging golf course where many holes are played over and around both dormant and active thermal areas. Hazards include puddles of bubbling mud and steaming sulfuric pits on this thermal golf course built on quick-draining purnice. Arikikapakapa means the gentle sound of plopping mud!
Stone Canyon Club, Arizona
Desert golf at its best. Spectacular, but no second chances if you miss the fairway. The surroundings host scorpions, rattlesnakes, tarantulas and heavily barded plants.
St Andrews, Old Course, Scotland
The oldest, and probably also the weirdest course in the world.
TPC at Sawgrass, Stadium Course, Florida
Contrary to most golf courses, which make use of the natural features of the terrain, the course’s hazards and terrain characteristics were artificially created by golf architect Pete Dye.
Volcano Golf and Country Club, Waikoloa, Hawaii
Located east of Waikoloa between earth’s most massive and most active volcanoes. The Volcano course itself looks Scottish lush and green. Very impressive, but probably not that dangerous after all, because the course is 4,000 feet (1,219m) about sea level, just a bit higher than the main crater.