Ranking the 25 Most Scenic Golf Holes on Earth

Mike DudurichContributor IMarch 15, 2013

Ranking the 25 Most Scenic Golf Holes on Earth

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    This must be what a judge in a beauty pageant feels like.

    Ranking the 25 most scenic golf holes in the world has to be the equivalent of watching 50 of the most beautiful women in the world on stage.

    It's a very subjective thing, beauty, so there may be holes that you think are better than some on this list.

    But hey, when you're looking at a list of 25 scenic golf holes, chances are they're pretty good.

    Check out these 25 beauties.

25. The Belfry, No. 10

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    There is no rule that says for a golf hole to be great it has to be long. And the 10th at the Belfry’s Brabazon Course is a perfect example.

    Even from the back tees, the hole only plays to 311 yards. But it’s carved out of a stand of trees, with bunkers on either side of the landing area.

    There’s a pond off the right side of the fairway and it fronts the right side off the green, and a stream from it guards the rest of the putting surface.

    The Belfry has hosted more Ryder Cups than any other course and the 10th is a perfect Ryder Cup risk/reward hole.

    If you get the opportunity to play there and plan to go for the green, don’t forget to pack your fade.

24. Muirfield Village, No. 14

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    Of all the beauty that makes up Muirfield Village Golf Club, it shines brightest on the 14th hole, a shortish par four of 363 yards.

    Immaculately groomed like the rest of the course, the hole begins from an elevated tee to a beautiful fairway that is dissected by a creek about 245 yards out.

    The creek meanders the rest of the way to the green and is a hazard in play all the way.

    Bailing out to the left is not much of an option, with big bunkers guarding that side.

    Go there and you’ll be left with a fun-filled chip or bunker shot toward a green that slopes toward that water.

23. Old Course, St. Andrews, No. 17

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    In terms of sheer beauty, the Road Hole at St. Andrews won’t come in as the most spectacular.

    This par four, a healthy 436 yards for the average player, starts with a tee shot that requires a 180-yard carry over some sheds while staring at a black shiny sign that says Old Course Hotel.

    Getting that much accomplished leaves the player with a difficult second shot to one of the most demanding greens on the course.

    Approach shots must steer clear of the stone road that runs along the right side of the green as well as a very deep greenside bunker on the left.

    There’s no water, no palm trees but because of it’s historic place in the game, it is a beautiful hole.

22. Turnberry Golf Club, No. 9

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    I’m sure television doesn’t do this beauty justice, but since that’s all many golfers have, it will have to do.

    This is Turnberry’s trademark and features a landmark lighthouse, the 13th century ruins of Bruce’s Castle and the Irish Sea.

    Bruce, by the way, is Scotland’s king Robert the Bruce.

    Oh, don’t forget the 200-yard carry over rocks, water and beach if you choose to go back to where the pros tee it up, and good luck finding the fairway.

21. Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Ireland, No. 4

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    How have the unknown numbers of golfers managed to step onto the tee of the fourth hole at the Old Head Golf Links and actually play golf?

    Off in the distance is an awe-inspiring lighthouse.

    Down the entire left side are cliffs that measure as much as 300 feet high and the waves of the Celtic Sea.

    You can play it safe by aiming your tee shot down the right side or play big-boy golf and take on the corner of the dropoff.

    But even if you find the fairway, the approach shot is uphill and with a very small window.

    Either way, making par on this 407-yard par four will feel every bit as good as being able to play.

20. TPC Sawgrass, No. 17

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    Its merits have been debated since this Pete Dye creation debuted back in 1982. And, no doubt, it will continue to be debated.

    Standing on the tee 140 yards from this oasis in the middle of a lake, the view is amazing.

    Off in the distance to the right is the 16th green, all that water everywhere, tall trees around the back of the green, and a large hill on the left that is filled with humanity when the Players Championships is contested there in May.

19. Old Course, St. Andrews, No. 18

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    Another hole that doesn’t feature water, but the beauty of this one comes from the history involved.

    The finishing hole on the course noted as being the birthplace of golf is a plain looking, drivable par four, measuring 357 yards.

    But with the firm turf and a helping wind, reaching the green is definitely a possibility.

    After teeing off, golfers cross a creek by going over the historic Swilcan Bridge.

    After that, it’s a walk down a wide fairway with the “Auld Grey Toon” snuggled close along the right side and the world-reknowned R&A Clubhouse in the background.

    Just thinking about the golfing greats who have walked this hole makes it scenic in a very special way.

18. Merion, No. 16

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    You wouldn’t necessarily think a hole that’s known as the “Quarry Hole” would qualify as one of the most scenic holes in the world, but it does.

    A par four of 407 yards from the members' tees is a mind-boggler in the middle of one of the world’s great golf courses.

    The quarry in question is an obstacle that must be overcome on the second shot.

    A good drive affords the opportunity to carry the quarry and reach the green, but if that carry proves too daunting, a thin strip of fairway wraps around the quarry, leading up to the green.

    Beauty can be judged in a number of ways and staying out of that quarry makes this one as scenic as they come.

17. Royal Portrush, Dunluce, No. 14

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    For better or worse, par threes are getting longer and longer, but the 14th hole on Royal Portrush's Dunluce Course was long before it became fashionable to be long.

    There’s nothing but a deep gorge between tee and green on this 210-yard beast.

    It’s 75 feet deep and not very ball-finding friendly.

    The tee shot can’t go right and if you can find the green, it’s even tricky there.

    The putting surface, which sits on the edge of a deep dropoff, seems relatively flat.

    The view from the green across the Irish countryside even avails the golfer a glimpse of the ocean.


16. Pacific Dunes, No. 13

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    Golf course architect Tom Doan takes great pride in how he and his company routed the holes at Pacfic Dunes to take as much advantage as they could to take advantage of what was already there.

    The 13th is a perfect example of that with the fairway hugging the cliffs on the left that aren’t far from the Pacific Ocean.

    On the other side of the fairway, Doan had nothing to do because of the monstrous natural dunes already in place.

    This 444-yard brute is quickly becoming mentioned among the great holes in the world and has been one of the most scenic from the day it opened.

15. Augusta National Golf Club, No. 12

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    On a golf course known as much for its beauty as its difficulty, the par three 12th has it all.

    Stand on the tee and what you see is a very shallow green surrounded by majestic trees and spectacular flowers.

    Don’t forget the bunker short of the green and the two behind.

    Many dreams of a green jacket have disappeared here, just like tee shots on the middle hole of Amen Corner that come up a little short and end with a splash into Rae’s Creek.

14. Coeur D'Alene, No. 14

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    There’s the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass and then there’s the 14th at Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

    Stand on the tee here and you’re looking at Lake Coeur d’Alene. Against the background of a hilly piece of earth is the floating 14th green, but the green doesn’t just float, it moves.

    The length of the hole can be adjusted from 100 to 270 yards. The coolness doesn’t end there.

    To get to the tee shot, if it’s lucky enough to hit the green, a water taxi transports golfers to and from the floating green.

    And if you hit the green, you get a certificate verifying that.

13. Augusta National Golf Club, No. 13

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    This hole is another great risk-reward hole and is regarded as one of the best in the history of golf.

    The dogleg left plays to 480 yards for the Masters and winds through trees on both sides of the fairway.

    It also features the club’s most popular shrub, the azalea.

    The shrub lines the length of the hole from tee to green on the left side. It’s plenty colorful around the back of the green and the view the patrons get from behind the ropes on the right side of the fairway is stunning.

    It’s one of the places where the famous “Augusta roars” come from when birdies and eagles are made.

12. Pebble Beach, No. 8

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    If you knew nothing about this hole and were still basking in having just played the seventh hole, you might reach for your driver for the uphill tee shot and let it fly.

    Conditions, as always, dictate decisions, but most times the way to go is pull whatever club you hit around 240 yards, line up with the aiming rock at the top of the hill and let it fly.

    And when you get to the ball, you’ll be amazed at what you see.

    Straight ahead in the distance is well protected but before you get there, you’ll have to carry a gorge that is very deep and bottoms out on the beach.

    Oh yeah, look to your right and enjoy the ocean.

11. Royal County Down, No. 9

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    How can something that borders on a bit bizarre from an architectural standpoint make a scenic list?

    Well, first of all, it’s a beastly par four at 486 yards.

    But it’s located so that behind the green is the Slieve Donard Hotel and behind that are the mountains of Mourne.

    If you like a little water with your golf course, to your left is Dundrum Bay and the Irish Sea.

    A beautiful setting for a golf hole.

    It becomes a bit bizarre in this way: From the back tees, if you hammer your drive, when it gets about 200 yards off, the fairway suddenly drops about 60 feet.

    A strange and intimidating hole, but one that gives the drive a big, wide fairway to land on.

10. Pebble Beach Golf Links, No. 6

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    It's not the seventh or the 18th at Pebble Beach, but the sixth is spectacular in its own right.

    The tee is up on the hill, somewhat obstructing scenery you don't find elsewhere. Get to the bottom of the hill and the Pacific Ocean is to your right.

    Look straight ahead and you'll find a big elevation change upward that must be navigated to get to the green.

    It's a blind shot all the way to the hole, but once you get to the top of the hill, it looks as though the green is set in the middle of the ocean.

    The hole measures 487 yards, meaning that two good shots gives the golfer a chance to a birdie or par.

    The scenery, however, is always a double eagle.

9. Kingsbarns Golf Links, No. 12

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    Kingsbarns Golf Links is another of the youngsters on this list but looks as though it’s been on the coast of Scotland for a long, long time.

    And one of the holes that has become world-reknowned already is the par five, 606-yard 12th.

    If you’re looking for something to compare it to, try the 18th at Pebble Beach.

    While that one hugs Carmel Bay, this one has plenty of proximity to the North Sea. The 12th hugs the coast from tee to green on the left.

    On the right, say hello to some large dunes. Another hole that radiates natural beauty.

8. Doonberg, No. 1

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    The first hole at Doonberg Golf Club is routinely described as the best beginning hole in Ireland.

    Considering the kind of golf courses in that historic country, that’s a pretty tall statement.

    The Greg Norman design, which opened in July 2002, has been criticized in some circles, but there’s no denying the beauty and difficulty of this hole, which measures 567 yards from the back tees.

    If your eyes wander on the tee, you can see beach and water to the left.

    Get the tee ball onto the fairway and your second shot will travel down the fairway almost in a tunnel of natural dunes on either side.

    It gets better on the approach shot to the green. Behind the putting surface is a huge dune, creating an ampitheater-like setting.

7. Riviera Country Club, No. 10

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    A great example of a short hole being a spectacular one.

    Golfers begin their back nine up the hill in front of the clubhouse and look down on a sea of sand.

    The hole measures just 315 yards from the back tees but those 315 yards are filled with trouble.

    The hole is a beautiful look, no water, just green grass and those bunkers.

    Pictures taken from above the hole give the impression there is no place for a player to hit the ball where it won’t land in a bunker.

6. Cape Kidnappers Golf Club, No. 10

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    From above, the 15th at Cape Kidnappers Golf Club in New Zealand looks spectacular.

    On the ground, it looks like it might be downright unplayable.

    But this Tom Doak masterpiece, located on the Pirates Plank, is a beautiful piece of work.

    Sitting on top of a series of promontories (a prominent mass of land that overlooks lower-lying land or a body of water), the fairway narrows all the way to the green.

    Believe it or not, the hole measures 650 yards, which has to be barrels of fun when the wind blows as it does a lot in New Zealand.

    Miss the fairway on the left and you better be able to cliff dive into the Pacific Ocean to retrieve the ball.

    On the right it falls off to a deep cavern. A very difficult, but strikingly spectacular hole. 

5. Legend Golf & Safari Resort, Xtreme 19th

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    Here’s one that is unique in a number of ways, including riding a helicopter to the tee, which is situated 400 meters (437 yards) up on the side of Hanglip Mountain.

    The yardage on the scorecard says it measures 395 yards.

    Never heard of it? Well that might be because the Legend Golf & Safari Resort is located in the Big Five Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

    Did I mention that if you happen to record a hole-in-one there you win a million dollars?

    Scenic, spectacular, unbelievable are all applicable for this one.

     

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links, No. 7

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    How does it get any better than a par three built on an outcropping of rocks hard against the Pacific Ocean, with waves lapping at three sides and a downhill tee shot of little more than 100 yards for most golfers?

    On a calm day, it’s a terrifying wedge shot.

    When the wind blows, it can be as much as a heart-throbbing mid-iron.

    Scenic doesn’t even begin to describe the hole, even on its worst day.

No. 3 Punta Mita, No. 3B

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    If, like me, you had never heard of Punta Mita, shame on both of us.

    On the Pacifico Course at the Punta Mita Resort, less than an hour from Puerto Vallarta, hole 3B is one of the most unique holes in the world.

    It’s actually a second third hole, one that sits on a black lava island in the Pacific Ocean about 200 yards from the shore.

    The tee is on the beach and if the tide is out, you can take your cart to the green.

    If it’s in, an amphibious vehicle will transport you to the green.

    The hole is called “the tail of the whale” because that’s what it’s shaped liked.

    Unlike TPC Sawgrass and Coeur d’Alene, 3B is the only natural island green in the world.

    Did I mention the Pacfic Ocean?

    Imagine trying to hit a shot to that green with waves lapping at the shore around you.

2. Augusta National Golf Club, No. 18

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    It certainly helps that the 18th hole at Augusta National Golf Club is the final hole in regulation of the Masters each year. It's hard, as you might expect of a 467-yard uphill par four that requires a long shot through a chute of trees off the tee. Then that shot must avoid a large bunker on the corner of the fairway. It also requires a precise second shot into one of the most difficult holes on the course. All of that with the pressure of trying to win a green jacket. No doubt, it's one of the scenic walks in golf each year.

1. Pebble Beach, No. 18

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    I’m not really sure how a hole could be more scenic than the 18th at Pebble Beach.

    The hole opens up in front of you from the tee, a strip of fairway to hit, Carmel Bay lapping at the shoreline on your left and some bunkers and a few trees down the right side.

    It really is a measure of the greatness of the PGA Tour players who can concentrate on hitting great shots there every year in the Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am and not be totally distracted by the wonderful scenery all around.