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10 Golf Destinations Designed by the World’s Top Pros

Article by Ellen Ranta Olson 07.01.2017

Imagined by giants like Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Fazio, these expert-designed courses give you access to some of the best golf in the world. From the coast of Maui to the Arizona desert, here’s where to go.

1. Lake Oconee, Georgia

Tucked away among towering Georgia oaks, fragrant magnolias and peek-a-boo views of the water are five courses designed by four of the game’s best-known architects: Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp. With 99 holes of golf, custom club-fitting and private instruction available, Lake Oconee is a must for golfers of all levels.

Highlight: The Jack Nicklaus-designed course, Great Waters, has been named one of the best courses in Georgia, second only to Augusta National.

2. Half Moon Bay, California

Set atop the cliffs of Northern California’s coast, Half Moon Bay is home to two stunning courses — and two unique links experiences. The Old Course, which was originally designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane, offers traditional parkland play, while the more challenging Ocean Course serves up firm and fast fairways paired with ocean views on every hole.

Highlight: The 18th green on the Old Course juts out over the Pacific, providing views that rival Pebble Beach.
 

3. Mission Hills in Hainan Island, China

Mission Hills is of the largest golf complexes in the world and has helped Hainan Island become the golf mecca of China. Designed by famed course architect Brian Curley, Mission Hills’ 10 courses are difficult and long — and oh so worth it.

Highlight: The crown jewel Blackstone Course weaves through a striking landscape of wetlands, lakes and lush greenery.
 

A bagpiper stands on a hill looking toward a large building

4. Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida

Designed by two-time British Open Champion Greg Norman, this Orlando-area course is reminiscent of a private club — a variety of hazards keeps even the most avid golfers on their toes. Set amid a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, Grande Lakes blends seamlessly into Florida’s landscape.

Highlight: Wide fairways and generous landing areas offer a bit of balance to the strategically placed hazards, making for a challenging but fair test to your handicap.
 

5.  Abama in Tenerife, Spain

Often dubbed the Augusta of Europe, Abama’s 18 holes have helped to make Tenerife a major golf destination. Designed by Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas, the course is often described as one of the toughest in Europe, but a double bogey doesn’t seem so bad when paired with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Highlight: Pair your pars with Michelin stars at one of the resort’s two restaurants that have earned the coveted dining distinction.
 

6.  Dove Mountain, Arizona

Originally designed by Jack Nicklaus for the Match Play Championship, Dove Mountain is home to 27 holes of unique challenges that blend seamlessly into the surrounding Sonoran Desert.

Highlight: The aptly named Saguaro Course boasts breathtaking views of desert landscape set against the backdrop of the Tortolita Mountains.
 

7.  Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida

With two 18-hole courses consistently rated among the best in Florida, the Greg Norman-designed Tiburon Golf Club deserves a spot on every golfer’s bucket list.

Highlight: The short, 359-yard par 4 on the Black Course’s 11th hole offers an opportunity for birdie.

8.  Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii

With two courses designed by four of the industry’s best, it’s no surprise that Kapalua is a top destination for golfers from around the world. The Plantation Course, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, is home to the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions, while the Arnold Palmer- and Francis Duane-designed Bay Course features ocean views on 16 of its 18 holes.

Highlight: The Bay Course is home to Maui’s only oceanside hole, giving golfers a chance to line up their putt with the sounds of crashing waves in the background.

 

9. Penha Longa Resort, Portugal

Designed by the famed Robert Trent Jones Jr., the 27-hole course at Penha Longa Resort features bold drives, courageous approaches and artful greens, making for an exhilarating round of golf set amid Portugal’s lush landscapes.

Highlight: The green on the sixth hole sits against a backdrop of a medieval wall and castle tower, providing a welcome visual distraction from a challenging par 5.

 

10. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

With 470-yard-hole play that feels like 600, this Greg Norman-designed nine-hole course is perfect for golfers who want to play multiple rounds in a day, all amid the breathtaking beauty that Grand Cayman is known for.

Highlight: The short par 4 on hole six offers a shot at birdie — just beware of the water hazard near the green.

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Plan Your Stay in These Destinations


  • Reynolds, Lake Oconee

    Location Lake Oconee, Georgia

    Experience Enjoy fishing, waterskiing, jet skiing, paddle boarding & more

    • 75 miles from Atlanta on 30 acres of shoreline
    • Lakeside cottages, championship golf, locally inspired cuisine
    • Recently renovated infinity pool and spa
  • Half Moon Bay

    Location Half Moon Bay, California

    Experience The tranquility of the California coast.

    • Outdoor fire pits overlook the Pacific
    • Dining with floor-to-ceiling ocean views
    • Legendary championship golf courses
  • Haikou

    Location Haikou, China

    Experience THE WORLD-CLASS GOLF RESORT OF MISSION HILLS.

    • Ten 18-hole championship courses
    • Ideally located on the island of Hainan
    • Year-round temperate climate
  • Orlando

    Location Orlando, Florida

    Experience A magical destination within 500 acres of natural Florida beauty.

    • Bordered by the Florida Everglades
    • 18-hole Greg Norman-signature golf course
    • Easy access to world-famous attractions
  • Abama

    Location Tenerife, Spain

    Experience A beachside retreat where sea, land and resort blend seamlessly.

    • Overlooks the brilliantly blue Atlantic
    • 13 restaurants and bars to experience
    • A 72-par, Dave Thomas golf course
  • Dove Mountain

    Location Marana, Arizona

    Experience A luxury wellness resort that heals through eco-holistic remedies.

    • World-class hiking and mountain biking
    • Spa therapies honed by ancient remedies
    • #1 Spa in Arizona by readers of Condé Nast 
  • Kapalua

    Location Maui, Hawaii

    Experience A resort rich in cultural traditions and a warm Aloha spirit.

    • Unique ocean activities for everyone
    • Three distinctive beachside cabana offerings
    • Snorkeling & underwater photography
  • Penha Longa Resort

    Location Sintra, Portugal

    Experience A quintessential retreat among rolling hills and mountain lakes.

    • A palazzo estate steeped in history
    • Unlimited championship golf experiences
    • Set within a 1355 monastery
  • Grand Cayman

    Location Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

    Experience The natural beauty and soft sands of Seven Mile Beach.

    • Turquoise waters blend with a cerulean sky
    • Decadent seafood at Blue by Eric Ripert
    • Greg Norman-designed Ritz-Carlton Golf Club