The Best Links Courses in the World

1 of 30 No. 2 at Royal Porthcawl (David Cannon / Getty Images)
Here are the 30 greatest links courses in the world, as voted by Golf Magazine’s Top 100 course ranking panel.30. Royal Porthcawl, Porthcawl, Wales: Bob Hope competed in the 1951 British Amateur here, but Tiger Woods found little humor in his Day 1 singles loss at the 1995 Walker Cup. Ranked 95th in the world, this rumpled H.S. Colt redesign opens with three stout par-4s along the beach, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel. Porthcawl then turns inland, traversing higher ground, but never lets up.
2 of 30 No. 1 at Machrihanish / Eric Hepworth
29. Machrihanish, Machrihanish, Scotland: This remote Old Tom Morris design ranks 91st in the world and entrances more for its ambience than for its challenge. Known for its enchanting opening hole that demands a drive over the beach, Machrihanish provides a gleeful romp through shaggy sandhills on the front nine. The closing stretch is a letdown, yet the Kintyre Peninsula wind and scenery makes for a complete test overall.
3 of 30 No. 14 at Bandon Dunes (Old Macdonald) / Wood Sabold
28. Old Macdonald, Bandon, Oregon, U.S.: Ranked Number 88 in the world, this 2010 Tom Doak/Jim Urbina collaboration features turnpike-wide landing areas and gigantic, heaving greens that are hard to miss. To get the ball into the hole, however, you’ll need to master angles, strategy, trajectory and the ground game, making for an Old World links experience second to none in the U.S.
4 of 30 No. 8 at European Club / Larry Lambrecht
27. European Club, Brittas Bay, Ireland: Johnny Miller once stated that he’d “love to see the British Open played here.” For years, Padraig Harrington tuned up his pre-Open links game here -- and twice won Opens a week later. From the tips, the world’s 86th ranked course is a rugged test, but the aesthetics match the challenge, thanks to holes that twist through amphitheaters of giant dunes and others that edge the Irish Sea.
5 of 30 No. 14 at Cabot Links / Ben Cower-Dewar
26. Cabot Links, Inverness, Canada: Developers Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser handed over a rolling plot of coastal Nova Scotia terrain to architect Rod Whitman and the result is Canada’s first authentic links -- and a world ranking of 82. Firm, rumpled, fescue fairways, coastal breezes and endless views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence make it abundantly clear why Nova Scotia is the Latin name for “New Scotland.”
6 of 30 No. 10 at Cruden Bay / Matt Ginella
25. Cruden Bay, Cruden Bay, Scotland: Drenched in quirky charm, this certified cult classic is a personal favorite of both Pete Dye and Tom Doak. Situated 23 miles north of Aberdeen and ranked 79th in the world, Cruden Bay offers one wild seaside hole after the next.
7 of 30 No. 7 at Waterville (David Cannon / Getty Images)
24. Waterville, Waterville, Ireland: Sam Snead called 76th ranked Waterville a “magnificent monster.” Raymond Floyd had a softer assessment, stating that Waterville is “one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.” They’re both right.
8 of 30 No. 5 at Barnbougle (Lost Farm) / Gary Lisbon
23. Barnbougle Lost Farm, Bridport, Australia: Ranked 72 in the world, the companion to Barnbougle Dunes yields a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design that differs from its Tasmanian sibling in that its huge dunes run both parallel and perpendicular to the ocean, so holes play up and over the dunes, as well as between them.
9 of 30 No. 12 at Royal Liverpool (David Cannon / Getty Images)
22. Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, England: “Hoylake,” as it’s popularly known, will host its 12th Open Championship in 2014. Ranked 69th in the world, Royal Liverpool is not a pretty course. There are no lighthouses, or mountains or wild majestic undulations. Its fairways are flat, its vistas bleak. There’s internal out-of-bounds all over the lot. Yet, when the wind is up, it’s one of earth’s fiercest links, one that requires supreme shotmaking.
10 of 30 No. 4 at North Berwick (David Cannon / Getty Images)
21. North Berwick (West Links), North Berwick, Scotland: East of Edinburgh sits this fabled links -- at least in architectural circles. In terms of original holes and pure fun, 68th-ranked North Berwick has few peers.
11 of 30 No. 6 at Bandon Dunes / Larry Lambrecht
20. Bandon Dunes, Bandon, Oregon, U.S.: Ranked 63rd in the world, Bandon’s original course is a David McLay Kidd design draped atop craggy headlands above the Pacific. Ocean views stun the senses, along with bluff-top sand dunes sprinkled with Scotch broom and gorse bushes, coastal pines, crashing surf, wind-whipped tall native grasses, and stacked sod bunkers.
12 of 30 No. 4 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes (David Cannon / Getty Images)
19. Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Lytham St. Annes, England: Roughly 200 bunkers menace this rugged links that ranks as the 59th best course in the world. One of those bunkers in particular, in the left-center of the 18th fairway, cost Adam Scott the 2012 Open. There are no views of the sea here, but the wind and vegetation shout “seaside.” Best of all at Lytham was Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, who won here in 1979 and 1988.
13 of 30 No. 11 at Castle Stuart (David Cannon / Getty Images)
18. Castle Stuart, Inverness, Scotland: GOLF Magazine’s Top New International Course of 2009 is ranked 56 in the world, thanks to a brilliant Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen design that was effusively praised by Phil Mickelson -- and that was before he won the 2013 Scottish Open here. Wide fairways, wild and woolly bunkers and eye candy panoramas of Moray Firth and the Scottish Highlands are highlights.
14 of 30 No. 3 at Kingsbarns / Matt Ginella
17. Kingsbarns, St. Andrews, Scotland: Co-host of the PGA European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, this 1999 Kyle Phillips design 15 miles from the Old Course boasts a World Ranking of 55 and the respect of links fans everywhere.
15 of 30 No. 6 at Portmarnock (Old) / Aidan Bradley
16. Portmarnock (Old), Portmarnock, Ireland: Ranked 54th in the world, this low-profile but character-filled Dublin-area links played host to the 1991 Walker Cup, where Phil Mickelson and the Yanks prevailed, despite strong efforts from Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam are among those who captured Irish Opens here.
16 of 30 No. 3 at Trump International Golf Links / Larry Lambrecht
15. Trump International Golf Links, Aberdeen, Scotland: Blend the towering dunes of Ballybunion, the relentless challenge of Carnoustie and the legendary bombast of Donald Trump and you’d have a British Open for the ages. Ranked Number 50 in its first year of eligibility, Trump Scotland serves up a superb collection of par-3s and a set of fully exposed back tees perched atop sandhills.
17 of 30 No. 8 at Royal Troon (Old) (David Cannon / Getty Images)
14. Royal Troon (Old), Troon, Scotland: Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson are among the Americans who have won at Troon, yet the most memorable shot was struck by a non-winner, 71-year-old Gene Sarazen, who aced the 123-yard, “Postage Stamp” 8th during the 1973 Open -- with a 5-iron! While some argue that the closing stretch is flattish and dull, it is undeniably tough, earning Troon its No. 44 ranking.
18 of 30 No. 7 at Lahinch (Old) / Evan Schiller
13. Lahinch (Old), Lahinch, Ireland: Cracking the Top 40 in our most recent rankings, Lahinch charms with titanic sandhills and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and of the Cliffs of Moher. Old Tom Morris’ 1893 design, coupled with Alister MacKenzie’s 1927 renovation and Martin Hawtree’s 2003 restoration form a seamless fit on ideal terrain.
19 of 30 No. 6 at Barnbougle Dunes / Gary Lisbon
12. Barnbougle Dunes, Bridport, Australia: Australia’s greatest links finished 34th in our most recent world rankings, due in large part to the sophisticated Tom Doak/Mike Clayton design and partly due to the stirring seaside setting in Tasmania, with holes nestled down in the large dunes that run parallel to the ocean.
20 of 30 No. 3 at Royal Birkdale (Mark Newcombe / Visions In Golf)
11. Royal Birkdale, Southport, England: Ranked No. 31 in the world, this nine-time British Open site rolls through the Lancashire coast with valley-type holes that ramble between the dunes, rather than up and over them.
21 of 30 No. 6 at Royal St. George's / Eric Hepworth
10. Royal St. George’s, Sandwich, England: This 14-time British Open host dates to 1887. Ranked 29th in the world, “Sandwich” as it is known colloquially serves up blind shots and supremely interesting contours in equal measure. Boasting the biggest sandhills of all Open venues, Royal St. George’s heaving, dune-studded linksland also sports some of the rota’s most fearsome bunkers.
22 of 30 No. 18 at Carnoustie (Championship) (Andrew Redington / Getty Images)
9. Carnoustie (Championship), Carnoustie, Scotland: Dubbed “Car-Nasty” for its head-scratchingly hard setup for the 1999 British Open, the 23rd ranked course in the world has hosted seven Opens in all. Heather, gorse, jungle-like fescue rough, steep-faced revetted bunkers and the sinuous Barry Burn create havoc in the wind.
23 of 30 No. 13 at Pacific Dunes / Wood Sabold
8. Pacific Dunes, Bandon, Ore., U.S.: The highest ranking American links, a 2001 Tom Doak design, checks in as the 20th ranked course in the world. It fits so majestically into its billowing terrain, it looks like it’s been there 100 years. Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens and Pacific panoramas are headliners.
24 of 30 No. 10 at Turnberry (Ailsa) (David Cannon / Getty Images)
7. Turnberry (Ailsa), Turnberry, Scotland: Rebuilt following its use for RAF airfields in World War II, the 18th ranked course in the world is most noted for its Tom Watson “Duel in the Sun” 1977 British Open victory over Jack Nicklaus, but also for individual holes with a lighthouse and castle remains nearby.
25 of 30 No. 15 at Ballybunion (Old) / Evan Schiller
6. Ballybunion (Old), Ballybunion, Ireland: Ranked No. 17 in the world, this Southwest Ireland gem is wedged between huge sandhills and the Atlantic Ocean.
26 of 30 No. 8 at Royal Portrush (Dunluce) / Kevin Murray
5. Royal Portrush (Dunluce), Portrush, Northern Ireland: The only Irish course ever to host an Open is perennially ranked in the world’s Top 15 courses, thanks to a superior 1929 H.S. Colt design that maximizes its setting in the high dunes along the Irish Sea.
27 of 30 No. 8 at Royal Dornoch (Championship) / Matt Ginella
4. Royal Dornoch (Championship), Dornoch, Scotland: Labeled for years as “too remote,” this 14th-ranked Old Tom Morris classic is worth the journey. After Tom Watson played here prior to his Open defense in 1981, he remarked that the experience was “the most fun I’ve ever had a on a golf course.” Donald Ross grew up here and you can see his affinity for Dornoch’s raised plateau greens on his American masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2.
28 of 30 No. 8 at Muirfield (David Cannon / Getty Images)
3. Muirfield, Gullane, Scotland: The 10th ranked course in golf is a 16-time Open venue, none more memorable than 2013, when Phil Mickelson rode his 3-wood to victory. Its current course is a 1925 H.S. Colt creation that so impressed Jack Nicklaus in his 1966 win that he named his own major-worthy course in Ohio after it.
29 of 30 No. 12 at Royal County Down (David Cannon / Getty Images)
2. Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland: Ranked No. 6 in the world, this 1889 Old Tom Morris creation is one of the most beautiful tests in the world, and one of the most brutal if the wind is up. Deep, bewhiskered bunkers, prickly gorse bushes and views of the Irish Sea are highlights.
30 of 30 No. 14 at St. Andrews (Old Course) (David Cannon / Getty Images)
1. St. Andrews (Old Course), St. Andrews, Scotland: Ranked No. 4 in the world and home to 28 British Opens starting with the 1873 edition, earth’s oldest course has witnessed legends from Old Tom Morris to Tiger Woods. Its flattish terrain is counterbalanced by its genius placement of bunkers and green contouring, making it an unforgettable test.