You don’t have to be a premium club member to access the best golf courses all over the world.
Think lush greenery, scattered ponds, and subtle hills – all of which make these clubs and resorts the best golf courses in the world. If you’re ever visiting a country, pop by these public places for a few holes.
Here are 9 countries which have the best public golf courses in the world.
1. St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland
The town of St. Andrews in Scotland is regarded as the “Home of Golf”. While there are actually 11 public golf courses spread over the seaside area called St. Andrews Links, the granddaddy is the Old Course, where the game’s been played since the 15th century. Despite its iconic status, the Old Course remains a public golf course, open to all. But there are strict handicap restrictions of 36 for both men and women, and you must provide a current handicap card or certificate at the time of play. You also can’t pre-book tee times for Saturdays, and the Old Course is closed on Sundays. If this all sounds too difficult, you can join guided tours of the Old Course at St. Andrews, or take a long walk along nearby West Sands Beach – this was a favourite date activity for Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge. Did you know they met at St. Andrews University?
The Finder Tip: When it comes to “19th holes” (a.k.a., bars), the Prince and now-Princess were seen enjoying a drink at the traditional Jigger Inn Pub at the Old Course Hotel restaurant.
Address: West Sands Rd., KY16 9XL, St Andrews, UK
Opening hours: See website
2. Fremantle Public Golf Course, Western Australia
If you’re a history buff, Fremantle is said to the best-preserved Victorian town in the world, with streets and streets of photogenic gold-rush era architecture. It’s also got excellent cafes, bars and restaurants, quirky shopping – and a small but special public golf course, right in the centre of town. Fremantle Public Golf Course has only nine holes, but with narrow fairways, small greens and a gusty wind called the Freo Doctor to contend with, its par-32 layout can be a challenge. The golf course and the driving range are open from dawn to dusk every day, except Christmas Day.
The Finder Tip: Golf in Australia is a game for everyone, and locals love teaching beginners. So you can hire everything, including clubs and a motorised cart. Prices are reasonable, especially if you buy a bucket of secondhand golf balls. As for dress code, just wear a polo shirt and covered shoes. No flip-flops, slippers or “thongs”, as these shoes are called in Australia.
Fremantle Public Golf Course
Address: 20 Montreal St., Fremantle WA 6160, Australia
Opening hours: 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (daily)
3. Howth Golf Course, Dublin, Ireland
Only 20 minutes by car from Dublin City centre, Howth Golf Course consistently gets rave reviews from golfers, because it was designed in the 1920s by the famous golfer and course architect James Braid, a Scot and five-time winner of The Open Championship (the British Open). The golf course is on a peninsula that juts out into Dublin Bay, so every tee has spectacular views – you can gaze south towards Wicklow and north as far as the Mourne Mountains. Take a sweater. Howth is a “Heathland Links” style of golf course. Translation: It’s by the ocean, very windy and the rough is really rough, with thick heather and prickly Irish gorse bush.
The Finder Tip: Book online to get a discount on green fees. The Weekday green fee is €75, weekend is €85. If you need to hire clubs or a buggy, you have to pay and book online. Actually, it’s not a bad idea to hire a buggy so you can take along a giant golf umbrella – being Ireland it will probably rain during your game.
Howth Golf Course
Address: Carrickbrack Rd., Dublin 13, Ireland D13 F3C1
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
4. Pebble Beach Golf Links, California, USA
Pebble Beach isn’t just the No. 1 public golf course in the USA, it’s the No. 1 Golf Resort in America, with greens that hug the rugged coastline and tees that give you views of Carmel Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It’s so famous, it’s even included in many golf video games, such as the Links series as well as the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series. The downside of all this once-in-a-lifetime beauty is once-in-a-lifetime prices. When we checked, green fees were around $575 USD a person, with another $45 USD to use a cart, or $95 USD to hire a caddie.
Visitors who stay at a Pebble Beach property get priority for green bookings, which adds accommodation fees of around $1,000 USD a night. But if there are only one or two people in your party – and you’re able to play in the next one or two days – you can sometimes get discounted green fees. Pebble Beach doesn’t usually advertise these last-minute deals, because priority goes to guests staying at the resort. You just have to call to check, and hope.
The Finder Tip: For access and affordability, the best time to go is November through to February. Pebble Beach is never exactly empty, but the greens are less crowded between Christmas and the start of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournament in early February. Nearby Pebble Beach has affordable accommodation options.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Address: 1700 17-Mile Dr., The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Pebble Beach, CA 93953
5. Kharghar Valley Golf Course, Mumbai, India
Public golf courses can be hard to find in India, but for sheer drama, it’s hard to beat the Kharghar Valley Golf Course. It’s set in the booming and family-friendly Kharghar valley district, about an hour’s drive outside Mumbai city. You play golf in what feels like a giant green bowl, surrounded by a ring of mountains and a massive natural waterfall. The course is only 11 holes, but the greens are a good distance apart, so you’re playing a long 3,665 yards in total. Visitors also rave about the cooked breakfasts, the driving range and well-maintained and lush greens.
The Finder Tip: If you’re buying a golfing package, pay for a car transfer from the Kharghar train station, 5 kilometres away. Or hire a car and driver to take you to the course and back. For one thing, Mumbai’s traffic is legendary. For another, foreigners and Non-Resident Indians (NRI) cannot use their home or resident country license to drive on Indian roads. An international driving license is valid in India, but only for one year. After that, you must apply for an Indian driving license.
Kharghar Valley Golf Course
Address: Kharaghar Valley Golf Course, Sector-22 , opposite Central Park shahid sukhdev Singh Marg Khaghar Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India 410210
Opening hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Tue. to Sun.)
6. Fuji Golf Course, Fujigoko, Japan
Did you know there are 2,200 golf courses in Japan – and many are open to the public? The Fuji Golf Course is particularly special because you have a view of Mount Fuji as you play. You can see how it looks in this virtual walking tour. You can also book tee times online on its website, which is conveniently in English.
Fuji Golf Course is in the famous “Fujigoko” or Fuji Five Lakes area. Lying at the northern base of Mount Fuji, it’s one of the best places to view Mount Fuji… or play a game of golf while viewing Fujiyama. Fuji Golf Course is about 6400 yards long with broad, flat fairways separated by trees. The fairways may be wide, but they can still be challenging because one of the quirks of golf in Japan is that many courses have two greens for each hole. Japanese take their putting greens seriously, so the greens you use rotate depending on the day, to give the grass a rest. This means you can play this course several times and get a different experience each time. Add the hot springs, restaurants and sightseeing around Mt. Fuji and you have the perfect weekend away. When we checked, playing 18 holes costs from 11,800 to 26,800 yen depending on the day and time of year.
The Finder Tip: You can find more about how to get to Fujigoko here. From the megalopolis of Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama the train trip is about eight hours, plus you have to change between underground and over ground trains. Depending on what train you get, you get off at Otsuki, Fujisan, or Gotemba stations. There are free shuttlebuses to the golf course – but you have to book a seat three days ahead. All this travelling means it’s a good idea to do as Japanese do, and ship your clubs directly to and from the clubhouse. Shoes, clubs and golf carts are also available to rent in most public courses. Caddies are available in Japan, but not mandatory.
Fuji Golf Course
Address: 262-1 Yamanaka, Yamanakako-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0501
7. Multiple courses at Toronto, Ontario, Canada
You’re spoilt for choice here! There are 13 golf courses in Toronto, and 6 are public There are also another 87 golf courses within 20 miles of Toronto, including 37 public courses. Osprey Valley is a one-of-a-kind destination just north of the city, with three distinctive courses (including a links course), all ranked in the Top 100 Courses in Canada by the PGA or Professional Golfers Association.
Angus Glen Golf Club looks like a country club and has two 18-hole public golf courses. It’s the only local club to have hosted a major PGA event on all of its courses. The South Course is especially challenging, and even pro golfers have learned to fear the par-4 Hole 1.
Fun fact: Did you know superstar rapper Drake is a big golf fan? Born and bred in Toronto, he secretly uses the abbreviation for one of his hit songs, HYFR, as his golden golf rule: Hit Your Fairways Right.
The Finder Tip: If you’re more of a beginner, Silver Lakes Golf & Country Club is ideal for golfers of all levels. Rated as one of the top courses in Canada, it’s a four-star championship golf course surrounded by breath-taking views of forest and countryside.
Address: 18821 Main St., Caledon, Ontario, Canada
Angus Glen Golf Club
Address: 10080 Kennedy Rd., Markham, Ontario, Canada
Opening hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (daily)
8. Multiple courses at Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa
Sun City Resort is the only surf-and-safari destination within a two-hour drive of landlocked Johannesburg. It has strict security, so while you don’t need to be a member to play their courses, you do need to be staying at the resort.
The Lost City Golf Course is an 18-hole desert-style golf course surrounded by spectacular views across the bushveld. Beginners love the wide fairways, and scenic lakes and water features. More experienced golfers prefer The Gary Player Country Club, a world-class 18-hole golf course. No carts are allowed, it’s for walking only – or running, because the course includes a 5km running trail. If you’re planning a long weekend at Sun City, be aware the golf course is closed on Mondays for routine maintenance. Prices for a game at Lost City and Gary Player start at RM700 each.
The Finder Tips: The 3rd hole of The Lost City Course has a fenced water feature that includes live 2-metre long crocodiles. And the green is in the shape of the African continent. Definitely worth a snapshot for your social media
The Gary Player Country Club
Address: Sun City Resort, Sun City, 0316, South Africa
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Tues. to Sun.)
9. Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort, Marrakech, Morocco
El Jadida is a quiet but fun beach town midway between the cities of Marrakech and Casablanca. In between taking camel rides and eating tagine, you can golf at Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort. One of the most luxurious resorts in Morocco, the 18-hole course overlooks the ocean. Natural features such as sand dunes (and ocean wind!) are cleverly included as hazards. The course is open to members of the public, hotel guests and members. When we checked, green fees at Mazagan were MAD 550 per round for day visitors and MAD 450 for resort guests. Even closer to Marrakech are several excellent golf courses, including the luxurious Al Maaden Golf Resort, which has an 18-hole course with amazing views of the Atlas Mountains.
The Finder Tips: Morocco is a great place to learn the game of golf. All the golf resorts have driving ranges, you can hire clubs and shoes, and pay for lessons. Mazagan Morocco Golf Academy is ideal for beginners or anyone who wants to improve their technique.
Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort
Address: 10km, Route de Casablanca، El Jadida 24000, Morocco
Al Maaden Golf Resort
Address: Al Maaden Golf Resort, Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, BP 3282, Dyour Chouhada, 40000, Marrakesh, Morocco
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (daily)
Originally by Tara Barker, July 2021