Stunning golf courses

Golf courses are cropping up all over the world, in India especially. So, when it came to picking the five most stunning courses in the world, it wasn’t easy. From a course spanning six centuries in Scotland to one nestled on the coast of the Pacific, these are the five most stunning to our eyes.

Anumeha Chaturvedi        Print Edition: November 16, 2008

Consider a world without golf courses. Imagine suggesting the idea for the first time—what a ridiculous and extravagant suggestion that would be. To take a vast stretch of countryside, and at great cost and great labour create an other-worldly perfection out of it, an undulating dream of baize and bunker, fairway and rough, simply so that a few men, for want of anything better to do, could try to hit a tiny little ball into a tiny little hole.

Of all the propositions in the world, this one actually flew. And flew and flew. Golf courses are cropping up all over the world, in India especially. So, when it came to picking the five most stunning courses in the world, it wasn’t easy. There’s simply no such thing as an ugly golf course. Even the concept is beautiful—a celebration of both nature and man’s influence upon it, for a game so maddeningly difficult that it requires a certain Zen to even have a go.

But after an infinity of greens, a few courses stood out—so breathtaking we could only stand and gasp. From a course spanning six centuries in Scotland to one nestled on the coast of the Pacific, these are the five most stunning to our eyes.

The Old Course at St Andrews Links, Fife, Scotland

The Old Course at St Andrews Links
The Old Course at St Andrews Links
Tiger Woods rates it as the best in the world, and Jack Nicklaus fell in love with it the first day he played it. For years, amateurs and professionals the world over have considered The Old Course, at St Andrews Links, to be the Mecca of golf, the place where it all began.

It’s the oldest course in the world. Literally golf’s birthplace. The first-ever games were played on the Links at St Andrews around 600 years ago, which at that time was a simple track, built around bushes and heather. The course’s design has now evolved, thanks to architects like Old Tom Morris, who created a separate green for the first hole, thus making it possible to play the course in an anti-clockwise direction.

And the course also boasts unique physical features like the 112 bunkers, the most notable among them being the Road Hole Bunker, one of the most formidable bunkers of all time. The Road Hole played a stellar role in British Open history—Jose Maria Olazabal putted into the bunker in 1990, and David Duval took four shots to get out in 2000.

To win the Open Championship is a feather in every golfer’s cap, but to win at St Andrews, that’s the pinnacle. For the rest of us mortals, there’s the thrill of following in the footsteps of giants, in the shadows of history. All you need is a valid handicap certificate of 24 or less for men or 36 or less for women.

Getting there: St Andrews is a one-hour drive from Edinburgh.
Stay: Through an exclusive contract with St Andrews Links Trust, the "Old Course experience" offers packages that include tee-off times on the Old Course, accommodation at The Old Course Hotel, and a visit to the British Museum and the driving range.
Also visit: The British Golf Museum and pubs like The Vic at Market Street and Cellar Bar at Bell Street.

West Course at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Victoria, Australia

West Course
West Course
A private golf course, The Royal Melbourne Golf Club is regarded as one of the oldest in Australia. The club’s two courses, especially the West Course, are considered by many as the best in the world. There are reasons aplenty. The greens at the West Course are simply brilliant and have served as the finest putting surfaces for decades now. Tea tree scrubs line wide fairways, and cavernous bunkers are placed strategically to catch errant shots and wayward drives.

Designed in 1926 by Scottish golf architect Dr Alister Mackenzie, the West Course is a strategic mix of a stunning landscape, intelligent design and some careful construction. The course dramatically unfolds fresh challenges and yet maintains its simple and timeless charm. The sixth hole on the West Course is exciting for both amateurs and professionals. A long band of heath encapsulates it, making it visually striking and challenging for most players.

The Royal Melbourne Golf Club also has a composite circuit that takes 12 holes from the West Course and 6 from the East and plays host to many prestigious tournaments every year. Visitors should be from recognised golf clubs, with a current membership identification card and a letter of introduction written from the home club. A valid handicap certificate of 26 or less for men and 32 or less for the ladies is required to play the West Course.

Getting there:
The club is a 30-minute drive from Melbourne.
Stay: The Grand Hyatt, Melbourne
Also visit: St Anne's Vineyard, art galleries like Freya and Funaki, when in Melbourne.

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