Top 10 New International Golf Courses 2010

December 21, 2010

1. Diamante (Dunes)
Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico
7,300 yards, par 72

Davis Love III’s greatest win — at the 1997 PGA Championship — concluded with a final putt backdropped by a rainbow. Diamante’s aptly named Dunes course is his pot of gold. Situated six miles north of downtown Cabo San Lucas, on the Baja Peninsula’s western coast, this striking Love design not only fronts the Pacific Ocean, but also features fairways and greens etched into colossal, brilliant white sand dunes. Most distinctive is the 588-yard, par-5 17th that heads away from the beach. It dishes out multiple landing areas and a green elevated by 50 feet. More accessible, if nearly as compelling is the 154-yard, par-3 16th, its target obscured by sand and scrub, a la Pine Valley, with the ocean beyond. Purists may pout about the lake that affects play at the 12th and 13th, and the 146 slope from the tips may as well be 166 when the wind howls, which is often, but for its relentless shot demands, sheer variety and stunning beauty, Diamante is our pick for the best course to open outside the U.S. in 2010.

2. Mission Hills Haikou (Blackstone)
Haikou, Hainan Island, China
7,800 yards, par 73
86 898 6868 3888

Host to the recent Mission Hills Star Trophy event, won by Lorena Ochoa, this vast Brian Curley core design for Mission Hills’ newest mega-resort is carved into black lava rock and features striking, tattered-edge bunkers and dense vegetation. Thrilling forced carries over lava gorges and superb variety throughout are highlights.

3. The Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula (West)
Hainan Island, China
7,484 yards, par 72
86 898 6213 8800

This gently contoured Tom Weiskopf design is built entirely on natural sand. Among the enticements are artfully sculpted bunkers and transition areas, boulder outcroppings and several memorable holes along the South China Sea, including the drivable par-4 15th and the rugged par-4 16th which hugs a wide, empty beach, with waves loudly lapping at the right side.

4. Bahia de los Suenos
La Paz, BCS, Mexico
7,010 yards, par 72

Tom Doak’s firm, fast layout two and a half hours of mountain switchbacks northeast of Cabo San Lucas hews seamlessly to the naturally tumbling terrain. Tees and greens melt into the surrounds, bunkers bleed into the thick native desert and the sheer variety is overwhelming, from holes framed by giant Cardon cacti to others that touch the sea, giant white dunes or mountain slopes.

5. Yas Links Abu Dhabi
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
7,394 yards, par 72
971 2810 7777

Architect Kyle Phillips has concocted what one prominent course critic calls a “a game-changer in the Middle East.” Phillips manufactured an entire coastline, in the process providing the first firm, fast links experience in the region, one that’s sprinkled with more than 100 bunkers and which closes with a trio of daunting, dynamic holes along the Arabian Gulf.

6. Verdura Golf & Spa Resort (Composite)
Sciacca, Sicily
7,458 yards, par 72

Sicily’s first championship venue is actually comprised of two strong Kyle Phillips 18-hole designs, the East and the West, with the Mediterranean Sea in view from every hole. The Composite 18 features six holes that abut the Sea, as well as pot bunkers and rippled fairways, amid a backdrop of hills dotted with olive and orange groves.

7. Corales at Punta Cana Resort & Club
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
7,555 yards, par 72

Pair Tom Fazio’s unbeatable shaping skills and flair for dramatic aesthetics with a rocky island setting jabbed into the Caribbean Sea and you’ve got the recipe for a winner. Ample fairways, massive sand expanses and a closing trio of holes where you can feel the see spray make this one beautiful brute.

8. The Scandinavian (Old)
Farum, Denmark

Situated roughly 30 minutes from downtown Copenhagen, this Danish modern masterpiece is the handiwork of Bruce Charlton from the Robert Trent Jones II firm, who crafted our 2008 winner in this category, Lubker, a few hours away. Built on a former military base, the Scandinavian is a strategy-laced march through artfully placed lakes, bunkers and risk/reward doglegs.

9. Elea Golf Club
Paphos, Cyprus
6,775 yards, par 71
357 26 202004

Sir Nick Faldo sculpted this shotmaker’s special from stands of carob and olive trees on a parcel in Western Cyprus overlooking the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Between the colors of the sea, the deep green of the seashore paspalum fairways and the pale beauty of the weathered limestone outcroppings on site, the palette is a memorable as the superb strategic interest.

10. Rowallan Castle Golf Club
Kilmaurs, Ayrshire, Scotland
6,882 yards, par 71
44 1563 530550

Situated a half-hour of Glasgow Airport, this rolling, farmland layout tinged with woods and wetlands is a design by native son Colin Montgomerie, along with Ross McMurray of European Golf Design, who crafted the Celtic Manor Ryder Cup course. Monty’s shotmaking emphasis is revealed in a trio of terrific par-3s on the front, but the attraction of the place stems from views of the Firth of Clyde and such holes as the meaty par-4 18th, which heads straight for gorgeous Rowallan Castle.

Honorable Mentions

Barnbougle Dunes (Lost Farm)
Bridport, Tasmania, Australia

This stunning Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw seaside design won’t officially open until December 6, but it’s the leading contender for 2011 “Top New” honors.

Baker’s Bay
Abaco Islands, The Bahamas

This tropical tour de force from Tom Fazio won’t experience their first official season until 2011, but early reviews are glowing, thanks to holes that edge both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Danang Golf Club
Danang, Vietnam

Following its April 2010 opening, Greg Norman’s Dunes course has already been called the best course in Vietnam and one of the greatest links experiences in Asia, but we couldn’t generate quite enough feedback to place it among the Top 10.

Haesley Golf Club
Seoul, Korea

A remarkable clubhouse and acclaimed layout — by the same team that brought us Nine Bridges, ranked in our Top 60 in the World — but again, we lacked enough visits to catapult it to Top 10 status.

Costa Navarino (Dunes Course)
Messinia, Greece

Views of the Ionian Sea, olive and citrus groves and massive sand dunes define this creation by Bernhard Langer, with European Golf Design that sets a new standard for golf in Greece.