TOP 10 GOLF DESTINATIONS FOR 2015
#10 Sand Hills Golf Club - Nebraska
Nestled among the cowboys and grazing cattle of the Sandhills region of Nebraska lies a magnificent plot of golfing grounds. Based on the philosophy that traditional, strategic golf is the most rewarding, Sand Hills opened for play in 1995.
Sand Hills is a big course, on a big scale and you either need to be a very good golfer to navigate the crater like bunkers, or a very lucky one indeed.
#9 Muirfield - Scotland
One of the world's oldest golf clubs, Murfield has rightly earned the status of one of the best golf clubs in the world. Renowned for its unusual layout of its time, it was the first to be designed with two concentric rings of nine holes. The outward nine holes run clockwise around the edge, and the inner nine run anti-clockwise. The layout ensures the wind hits you from all directions, but it is said that playing Murfield both downwind and upwind is tricky.
#8 Royal Melbourne Golf Club - Australia
The Royal Melbourne consists of a West Course, an East Course and a Composite Course, but it is the West Course that is recognised as one of the world's finest golf courses due to a combination of great design and construction. It is "full of dramatic undulation, fertile sandy soil and a natural rugged appearance". The greens are meticulously maintained and for decades have produced the finest putting surfaces in Australia.
#7 National Golf Links of America - Long Island, New York
This private 18 hole course covering 285 acres is located on Peconic Bay in the Town of Southampton, New York. First opening for play in 1909 to a rapturous standing ovation. Among the famous holes represented at the National are the Road Hole and Eden from St Andrews, Alps from Prestwick, Redan from North Berwick and Sahara from Sandwich. The National has inspired a number of golf architects who have made frequent visits to study some of its challenging and enduring features.
#6 Augusta National Golf Club - Georgia USA
Home of the Masters, the Augusta is one of the world's most exclusive clubs. The concept of the design was that the course should be a true test of championship golf, but, more than that, it should be a pleasure for all classes of golfer to play. Every year one or two of the holes are changed to increase their playing value.
The Masters is the only Major to be played every year on the same course and meaning anyone remotely interested in golf is familiar with the course thanks to the extensive media coverage. Billions of people may feel they know the course, but only a lucky few will be fortunate to actually play it.
#5 Shinnecock Hills Golf Club - New York, USA
An old club, with old traditions not only was Shinnecock Hills Golf Club one of the five founding members of the USGA but it is home of the one of the first purpose built clubhouses was erected.
Known for utilising the outstanding features within which it lies, such as the prevailing winds off the Atlantic to the southwest, the rolling sandy terrain and the thick reed-like grasses that border the fairways, Shinnecocks ambience has been described as evoking feelings of the British seaside links.
#4 St Andrews - Scotland
Often referred to as the spiritual home of golf, St Andrews boasts a very special links course, designed by Mother Nature. It's likely that golf was played at St Andrews way back in the 12th century, but what is certain is that the Old course is one of the oldest golf courses in the world.
However, the Old course at St Andrews isn't always an instant hit with those that play it for the first time. Indeed, first timers may be disappointed. It is talked about as a course that you have to get to know and love. media pictures often don't do it justice, making the ground look very flat. You need to get out there and experience the humps, hollows and ripples in the fairways for yourself as they are more undulating than you think.
It is said that every true golfer should play this course at least once. Dr Alister MacKenzie wrote in his book, The Spirit of St Andrews: "A good golf course is like good music or anything else: it is not necessarily a course which appeals the first time one plays over it; but one which grows on a player the more frequently he visits it."
#3 Royal County Down Golf Club - Ireland
Royal County Down is located in one of the world’s most naturally beautiful links settings in the Murlough Nature Reserve. Against the magnificent backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne, the links stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay, zigzagging back and forth to provide a different vista from virtually every hole.
The ‘bearded’ bunkers are world famous and feature overhanging lips of marram, red fescue and heather. The greens are fast and many are domed, rejecting any shot lacking conviction. This is a true test of any player’s command of the traditional bump and run, the preferred way to play any links.
The ninth hole is one of the most photographed holes in world golf. A 486 yard par 4, it is played from one side of a huge mound down to a fairway some 60 ft below and 260 yards from the tee. From the bottom of the slope the second shot is played over two bunkers to a raised green.
The site at Royal County Down covers 320 acres but only 17% is intensively managed and the rest remains in a near-natural state. Within the managed areas the club has pursued several specific policies that have had significant positive effects.
#2 Cypress Point Club - California, USA
Cypress Point Club is a notoriously exclusive club and unless you are rubbing shoulders with one of the restricted 250 members, you may never get the chance to tee up. Rumours have it that even J.F. Kennedy was once refused entry to the restaurant.
Often described as "The best 17-hole course in the world" Cypress Point Club is set on the very tip of the Monterey Peninsula and the cliff top terrain is challenging and thrilling.
#1 Pine Valley Golf Club - New Jersey, USA
Pine Valley officially opened in 1919, taking seven years to complete. It took a further three years from opening for anybody to get round in 70 strokes and it quickly became renowned worldwide as the ultimate test of golf.
Robert Trench Jones describes Pine Valley in his book, Complete Golfer, as: "Pine Valley fills you with dread and delight...it takes your breath away...it's a monster, but it's beautiful. It is frequently alluded to as the most difficult course in the world, and this reputation is justified. To my way of thinking, it also possesses more classic holes than any other course in the world - ten of the eighteen. Of the remaining holes, five are outstanding, two are good, and one, the 12th, is ordinary, which, at Pine Valley, is tantamount to being a misfit."