Whether they’re looking for lush hilly terrain in Ireland or stunning oceanside courses in California, golfers travel the world to play at elite courses.
Some of these golf courses are famous for their rich history, while others offer breathtaking views and unique locations.
From Scotland’s historic Muirfield to the Dominican Republic’s challenging Teeth of the Dog, here are 40 golf courses every golfer should play in his or her lifetime.
An earlier version of this post was written by Anmargaret Warner.
Located on the west coast of Ireland, The Old Course at Ballybunion is naturally beautiful with grassy dunes set alongside the ocean. Nearly every hole here is excellent.
The stunning Ocean course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, offers incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean at every hole. It has hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup and the 2012 PGA U.S. Championship.
The West course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock is regarded as the finest in Australia. Alister MacKenzie designed it on a huge scale, and the greens are some of the fastest in the world.
Located in Girona, the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort is considered the number one golf course in Spain. The European Tour spent more than a decade planning and designing the course, aiming to rival the PGA Tour's Sawgrass course.
The Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York, is one of the best public courses in the world. Every hole here is challenging, such as the 4th hole -- a par five with three levels of elevation. The 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens were hosted here.
Instead of ocean views or high dunes, Carnoustie in Scotland wows its players with one of the toughest course layouts in the world. The 15th, 16th, and 17th holes are some of the best holes in golf, though it's hard to find a weak hole on the course.
Though Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kansas, isn't set by the ocean, it resembles a classic seaside course: The land rolls beautifully, the holes are strategically designed, there's plenty of sand, and the Kansas breeze always blows.
Port Royal in Southampton, Bermuda, is one of the world's best public courses, complete with unrivalled views of Bermuda's stunning bright aquamarine water. The 16th hole -- played from a tee on a cliff edge -- is one of the greatest holes in golf.
Blending right into the rugged yet scenic east coast of the US, Fishers Island Club in Fishers Island, New York, lets golfers play while breathing in the fresh ocean air. Golfers rave about the views but warn that the course requires near perfect aim.
The most exclusive golf club in Japan, Hirono Golf Club has hosted several major Japanese tournaments. The stretch of holes from 12 to 15 is touted by many as one of the finest in the world.
With views over the Pacific Ocean and challenging holes, California's Pebble Beach Golf Links is consistently ranked the best public course in the U.S. Jack Nicklaus once said if he had to choose only one more round to play, it would be here.
Teeth of The Dog in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic, is consistently ranked the number one course in the Caribbean. Designed by Pete Dye, the course has seven ocean holes.
The Royal Portrush Golf Club in Coleraine, Ireland, includes two links courses: Dunluce Links (home to unbelievably rough and testing greens) and the lesser-known Valley Links. Portrush is the only club in Ireland to have hosted the British Open.
The Outeniqua Mountains serve as the backdrop for Fancourt (The Links) on the Western Cape of South Africa, which has been ranked the No. 1 course in South Africa.
Pine Valley in Clementon, New Jersey, has been ranked number one in the world by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. Robert Trent Jones wrote that it has more classic holes than any other course in the world.
Formed in 1744, Muirfield in East Lothian, Scotland, is the world's oldest golf club. The host of the 2013 British Open, it's more exclusive than Augusta National -- women can only play if accompanied by a man.
Dotted with swaying palm trees, the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida, has hosted many prestigious guests including JFK and Bing Crosby. The course's ocean side location makes for challenging winds, which is why the front nine runs mainly counterclockwise and the back nine runs clockwise.
The course at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, has stunning cliff-to-ocean views on holes 12 to 16 and a rugged yet laid-back atmosphere.
The East course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, was designed by Hugh Wilson in 1912. The host of the 2013 U.S. Open, the inland course has contoured fairways and angled greens.
One of the world's most naturally beautiful courses, Royal County Down in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, stretches along the Irish Sea with the Mountains of Mourne as a backdrop. The 4th and 9th holes are world renowned.
Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, sits on the Arabian Gulf. It opened in 2010 and was the first links course in the Middle East.
A links-style public course, Chambers Bay in Seattle, Washington, will host the 2015 U.S. Open in June. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the course has jaw-dropping views of Puget Sound and undulating greens that make for challenging play.
The Old Course at Lahinch in the north of Ireland is famed for its world-class terrain. Rolling dunes occasionally block views from the holes, making for a challenging but memorable game.
The course at Sand Hills in Mullen, Nebraska, is set over the biggest expanse of sand dunes in the U.S., and is said to be the most natural golf course in the country.
The Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, requires a good amount of strategic thinking, with many holes framed around the lake. It's also known for its infamous 17th hole, set on an island.
A club that's been in existence for over 100 years, the Royal Dornoch in Scotland's Sutherland County borders the North Sea. Although the course layout is straightforward, many greens are built on naturally raised plateaus, giving golfers a challenge.
The course at Querencia in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, features contoured fairways, uniquely shaped bunker stations, and ocean and desert views from every hole, making it a great course for players at any skill level.
The Lake Course at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California, has hosted five U.S. Opens. Lightning fast greens and sloping fairways make the course a challenge, and the 18th hole is one of the best short par four in the world.
North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland, has amazing views and an excellent collection of holes. A relatively short rough aims to keep rounds at no more than three hours. The 15th hole 'Redan,' a par-three measuring 190 yards, is the most copied hole in golf.
The course at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York, dates back to 1891, making it one of the oldest links courses in the U.S. The club will host the 2018 U.S. Open.
Nine Bridges is located on the volcanic Jeju Island in South Korea. The course was endowed by Jay Lee, grandson of the man who founded Samsung in South Korea. Completed in 2001, the course has great views and the look and feel of a course in the Canadian Rockies.
There are eight courses at Pinehurst in North Carolina, but Pinehurst No. 2 is the centrepiece. Donald Ross designed the course, which is great for a short game. It hosted the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in 2014.
The Old Course at St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, is the oldest course in the world. The 'spiritual home of golf' has hosted more British Opens than any other course, and the 17th hole -- the Road hole -- is arguably the most famous hole in golf. Despite its fame, the course is public and open to all.
Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, has hosted more major Championships than any other U.S. course, aside from Augusta National. Designed by Henry Fownes, the course features some of the fastest greens and most strategic bunkering you can find. The 2016 U.S. Open will be hosted here.
Public Highland Links in Nova Scotia is sometimes called the Cypress Point of Canada. The course has a traditional out-and-back routing over a beautiful rugged terrain. Stanley Thompson designed the course and named each hole in the Scottish tradition, like the 6th hole 'Mucklemouth Meg.'
Located on the Southern Oregon Coast, Pacific Dunes is regarded as the best at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and one of the finest in the world. The 16th hole is a real gem, with its short par four and sloping green.
The Old course at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England, winds through pine, birch, and oak trees. The variety of elevation, direction, and shots make it a top-notch inland course.
Designed in 1923 by American golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast, The Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, is referred to as a 'player's club;' its flowing greens and deep bunkers have long served as the practice grounds for many professional golfers.
Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia is home to the Masters. Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones did the original routing, but since then the course has been altered by the likes of Perry Maxwell, Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Fazi. In 2012 the exclusive course let in its first women members, Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore.
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