20 of the Best Public Golf Courses in the World

Golf is about enjoying the open fields and fresh air with people you care about. Unfortunately, many prestigious private golf clubs are only open to members, which may exclude some of your friends.

Still, if you try hard enough, you can find amazing public golf courses all over the world to play on with your friends. This post is a compilation of 20 of the very best public golf courses in the world.

Although not all of the courses below are “open to the public,” there are ways to get on them without having to pay an annual due. Some of the courses on this list have a straight daily fee structure, while others require you to purchase a golf package (or overnight stay package) to play. Regardless, if you want it bad enough, you'll be able to enjoy these 20 golf courses without a membership.

The Best Public Golf Courses in the World

From Canada to New Zealand, the golf courses on this list are from all over the world. However, they are by no means exhaustive. They are mainly compiled from Golf.com's list of top 100 courses to play, (with a few other additions).

Regardless, you're sure to find a course on this list that you'll enjoy.

Cabot Cliffs, Canada

  • Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Year Built: 2016
  • Architect: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw
  • Yardage and Par: 6835 yards, par 72

Masterfully carved out of the Cape Breton landscape, Cabot Cliffs is undoubtedly one of the best golf courses in Canada (and perhaps even the world). Cabot Cliffs is links-style golf at its best with picturesque views and beautiful rolling fairway after fairway.

Cabot Cliffs is a walking-only course, connecting players with the landscape and inviting creativity on every shot. On top of that, if you so wish, you can also opt for an experienced caddy to be by your side so you don't have to do battle against Cabot alone. Players experiencing Cabot Cliffs will find that they'll want to return to play again, and often.

Pinehurst (No. 2), USA

  • Location: North Carolina, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 1907
  • Architect: Donald Ross
  • Yardage and Par: 7588 yards, par 72

Designed by famed golf architect Donald Ross, Pinehurst (No. 2) has been home to many U.S. Opens, and it isn't hard to see why. With legendary inverted saucer greens, rolling fairways through tall pines, and native areas brought back by the restoration, Pinehurst No. 2 is a golf course that will make you use every single one of your golf clubs in the bag. If you're to pay a visit here, be sure bring your best mental game (Pinehurst is known for being notoriously tough).

Pebble Beach, U.S.A.

  • Location: California, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 1919
  • Architect: Jack Neville and Douglas Grant
  • Yardage and Par: 6817 yards, par 72

As one of the original oceanside courses in America, Pebble Beach more than lives up to its famed name. The course stretches along the ocean's edge, then brings players up much higher, before delivering two final dramatic holes near the cliffs. Whatever expectations you have about Pebble Beach, it's sure to deliver on them and then some when you first visit.

Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand

  • Location: Matauri Bay, New Zealand
  • Year Built: 2001
  • Architect: David Harman
  • Yardage and Par: 7139 yards, par 72

Laid out close to the ocean, Kauri Cliffs offers golfers a cliff-top golfing experience that plays both to the physical senses and to the emotions. The stunning sea views and enormous land gives golfers the feel of a nice resort course, but the tall long grass threatens to capture stray balls and keep them forever. If you're planning on paying Kauri Cliffs a visit, be sure to select an appropriate tee set to play from right from the get-go.

Mission Hills (World Cup), China

  • Location: Shenzhen, China
  • Year Built: 1994
  • Architect: Jack Nicklaus
  • Yardage and Par: 7218 yards, par 72

Designed by Jack Nicklaus and ushering in a new era of golf in China, the World Cup course at Mission Hills was named one of the most influential golf courses in the world in 2008. The course is extremely long at almost 7300 yards and over a flat terrain which affords players views from tee to green. Don't let it's lack of altitude fool you though. Mission Hills is a course that rewards good shots, but punishes bad shots severely.

Bethpage Black, U.S.A.

  • Location: New York, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 1935
  • Architect: A.W. Tillinghast
  • Yardage and Par: 7465 yards, par 71

With a sign at the first tee that reads “only for highly skilled golfers,” Bethpage Black is one of the hardest courses in the world, teeing up a championship course experience that's tough to beat. Arguably the best golfer of our time, Tiger Woods was the only one able to break par over 72 holes on this rugged track in the 2002 U.S. Open. Home to many more professional golf tournaments, golfers of every skill level are challenged by Bethpage. It may feel the size of the golf hole is smaller here, it really is that hard.

Kingsbarns Golf Links, Scotland

  • Location: Fife, Scotland
  • Year Built: 2000
  • Architect: Kyle Phillips
  • Yardage and Par: 7212 yards, par 72

Though hundreds of thousands of tonnes of earth had been moved to create Kingsbarns Golf Links, the way the course flows through the terrain is so natural that you'd have thought it had been there for hundreds of years. One of the amazing parts of Kingsbarns is that you can see the North Sea from almost every part of the course. Named as one of the best courses in Scotland, Kingsbarns Golf Links is somewhere you'll want to visit for a golf outing if you're ever in the area.

Casa De Campo (Teeth of the Dog), Dominican Republic

  • Location: La Romana, Dominican Republic
  • Year Built: 1971
  • Architect: Pete Dye
  • Yardage and Par: 7263 yards, par 72

One of Pete Dye's best works, Casa De Campo is an elegant course that snakes along the coastline and works to challenge amateur and pro golfers alike. Here you'll find stunning views, beautiful rolling fairways, and shots over water that will have your heart up in your throat. Though Casa De Campo is extremely low-profile, it's definitely someplace you'll want to pay a visit if you're in the Dominican Republic.

Bandon Trails, U.S.A.

  • Location: Oregon, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 2005
  • Architect: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw
  • Yardage and Par: 6788 yards, par 71

Regardless of public or private, Bandon Trails is one of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's best works. The course takes you through a weaving forest that somehow also doesn't stray too far from the coast at any given point in time. Also, don't let the fact that the course is public fool you. Bandon Trails has been likened to formidable courses like Spyglass Hill and Formby.

Banff Springs, Canada

  • Location: Alberta, Canada
  • Year Built: 1928
  • Architect: Stanley Thompson
  • Yardage and Par: 6938 yards, par 71

With towering mountains in the background of almost every shot, Banff Springs showcases the work of one of Canada's greatest golf architects of all time. Every single hole has something unique about it but perhaps none is as famous as Devil's Cauldron, a downhill par 3 over a lake and onto a tiny green at the base of a mountain. If you are visiting Alberta, it would be a crime to not stop by Banff Springs.

Sheep Ranch, U.S.A.

  • Location: Oregon, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 2020
  • Architect: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
  • Yardage and Par: 6636 yards, par 72

Sheep Ranch (Golf-Club) may be the newest addition to Bandon Dunes' repertoire of public courses, but it boasts the most holes on the coast (with nine golf course greens right on the seaside). Also, don't let its lack of bunkers fool you. Sheep Ranch has tons of gorse, native grasses, and dead trees that gladly suck up any shots that go awry. To play golf here is to experience something different from the usual Bandon Dunes tracks.

Jasper Park Lodge, Canada

  • Location: Alberta, Canada
  • Year Built: 2015
  • Architect: Stanley Thompson
  • Yardage and Par: 6663 yards, par 71

Arriving at the clubhouse of Jasper Park Lodge, the first thing that golfers will notice is how in tune with nature the course seems to be. Located directly in a national park (of the same name), Jasper Park Lodge offers beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies and close encounters with Lake Beauvert. Here you'll find some breathtaking picture spots, tough greens, and some of the most unparalleled par 3s in all of Canada.

Mid Ocean Club, Bermuda

  • Location: St. George's, Bermuda
  • Year Built: 1921
  • Architect: C.B. Macdonald and Robert Trent Jones Sr.
  • Yardage and Par: 6530 yards, par 71

Located on what feels like a tiny island, Mid Ocean Club offers an 18-hole championship golf experience unlike any other. With tees that hover over 50 feet from Mangrove Lake and angled greens framed by bright blue water, Mid Ocean Club is a golf course that you'll never forget playing. Ranked by Golf Digest as one of the best golf courses in Bermuda, Mid Ocean Club certainly lives up to its name.

Wine Valley, U.S.A.

  • Location: Washington, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 2009
  • Architect: Dan Hixson
  • Yardage and Par: 7600 yards, par 72

Not only is this part of Washington a premier wine-producing region, but it also has one of the most formidable golf courses in the U.S.A. situated near downtown Walla Walla. Though you'll be playing in the heart of Washington, Wine Valley gives off a vibe that much better resembles courses in Ireland or Scotland. With wide-open fairways you could putt on, and a clear backdrop of mountains, the real challenge on Wine Valley is dealing with the harsh winds that can sweep through the plains (you might need to get some golf instruction on how to punch the ball lower). Bonus: the green fees for Wine Valley are very reasonable.

Cove Club at Cabo del Sol, Mexico

  • Location: B.C.S., Mexico
  • Year Built: 1994
  • Architect: Jack Nicklaus
  • Yardage and Par: 7111 yards, par 72

Almost right when it first opened, Cove Club at Cabo del Sol gained global recognition as one of the finest courses anywhere. Cove Club is known for having some of the best finishing holes in all of golf. Situated beside the sea, gorgeous views abound throughout the course. If you go, expect some jaw-dropping shots with seaside salt spray.

Twin Dolphin, Mexico

  • Location: B.C.S., Mexico
  • Year Built: 2018
  • Architect: Fred Couples and Todd Eckenrode
  • Yardage and Par: 7156 yards, par 72

If you're looking to enjoy yourself to the fullest while in Mexico, you'll want to book a tee time at Twin Dolphin. Also in B.C.S., Mexico, Twin Dolphin is a decidedly different type of golf course than Cove Club. The wide fairways make it tough to lose a golf ball, the turf is bouncy, and there are few forced carries around the course.

Royal Blue at Baha Mar, The Bahamas

  • Location: Nassau, The Bahamas
  • Year Built: 2017
  • Architect: Jack Nicklaus
  • Yardage and Par: 7068 yards, par 72

Something players will realize when playing Royal Blue (that won't be noticeable on the driving range) is just how distinct each of the nines are. The front nine demands accuracy as it serves you with bunker after bunker and forces you to avoid ponds left and right. The back nine, on the other hand, has wide forgiving fairways and greens that will leave you wondering if you've been playing the same course all along. Depending on when you book tee times, the course could look very different.

Chileno Bay, Mexico

  • Location: B.C.S., Mexico
  • Year Built: 2014
  • Architect: Tom Fazio
  • Yardage and Par: 6652 yards, par 72

Offering direct views of the Sea of Cortez, this formerly private course still looks and plays like one. Stepping up to the golf shop, players might feel as though they've entered any regular country club. With wide fairways and not a lot of rough, this feeling might even have been confirmed if it weren't for the strategic decisions players will need to make and 145 slopes from the tips (challenging even the best of golfers).

Puntacana (Corales), Dominican Republic

  • Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Year Built: 2010
  • Architect: Tom Fazio
  • Yardage and Par: 7650 yards, par 72

Home of many P.G.A. Tour events, Puntacana is situated right on the Bay of Corales and offers a tough round for golfers of all skill levels with a finishing few holes that are hard to forget. With natural cliffs, bays, coralina quarries, and inland lakes framing the golf course, Puntacana is a golf resort at its finest providing the perfect outing for you and your family if you decide to visit the Dominican Republic.

Whistling Straits (Straits), U.S.A.

  • Location: Wisconsin, U.S.A.
  • Year Built: 1998
  • Architect: Pete Dye
  • Yardage and Par: 7201 yards, par 72

Home of three P.G.A. Championships, the Straits course at Whistling Straits was originally the site of a toxic waste dump. It was Pete Dye and owner of the course Herb Dohler that orchestrated a massive cleanup and relocated the bluffs off the shore. Whistling Straits has come a long way since its humble beginning and, as illustrated by the 2021 Ryder Cup, offers an intense field for matchplay as well as strokeplay. Playing Whistling Straits, you're likely to forget that you're in Wisconsin and instead feel transported to a European country like Ireland.

20 of the Best Public Golf Courses in the World

So there you have it: 20 of the best public golf courses in the world. Golf is an activity that's better enjoyed with company, and private golf courses partly prevent that from happening. That's why this list was compiled.

From award-winning links-style courses that you'll need to get a few golf lessons before tackling to beautiful resort courses you can enjoy with your friends and family to picturesque courses that you could consider doing a wedding on, there's something on this list for everyone.

As a quick recap, the 20 courses on this list are:

  • Cabot Cliffs, Canada
  • Pinehurst (No. 2), USA
  • Pebble Beach, U.S.A.
  • Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand
  • Mission Hills, China
  • Bethpage Black, U.S.A.
  • Kingsbarns, Scotland
  • Casa De Campo (Teeth of the Dog), Dominican Republic
  • Bandon Trails, U.S.A.
  • Banff Springs, Canada
  • Sheep Ranch, U.S.A.
  • Jasper Park Lodge, Canada
  • Mid Ocean Club, Bermuda
  • Wine Valley, U.S.A.
  • Cove Club at Cabo del Sol, Mexico
  • Twin Dolphin, Mexico
  • Royal Blue at Baha Mar, The Bahamas
  • Chileno Bay, Mexico
  • Puntacana (Corales), Dominican Republic
  • Whistling Straits (Straits), U.S.A.

So what are you waiting for? None of the courses on this list require memberships, any kind of annual due, or a handicap qualification to play and all of them are gems. Get out there and enjoy a game of golf on a public golf course from this list! I promise you will not regret it.

This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.

Jeff is a current Harvard student and author of the blog Financial Pupil who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.