The Best Countries Where You Can Play Golf
From its origins in eastern Scotland, the modern game of golf has gradually spread and grown from the Lothians and the Kingdom of Fife to reach more or less every corner of the planet.
Admittedly, we've yet to see a proper 18-hole layout open in Antarctica - but the sport has travelled remarkably well since the likes of Tom Morris and Willie Park were demonstrating their skills on the links of St Andrews and Musselburgh.
Naturally, commerce, alongside local demand, has resulted in significant growth spurts in various countries throughout passing generations. Once readily available air travel made it easier for everyone to spread their wings, the burgeoning industry of golf tourism was born.
But where are the best places that you can play golf? It's an impossible question to answer definitively as it depends purely on the factors you most value. Whether it be the pursuit of heritage and tradition, the magnificence of seaside golf, or the warmer climates and breathtaking scenery offered by more contemporary hotbeds.
It's a big old world out there - and that is reflected in a golfing sense too. Here are some countries that we reckon you should aim to experience during your lifetime.
We have to start in the nation that gave birth to the game as we know it today. And you could spend years uncovering all of Scotland's secrets. From historic St Andrews and its surrounding area, to the storied coastlines of East Lothian and Ayrshire, you have within your grasp a collection of the finest and most celebrated golf courses on Earth.
Beyond these famed regions, you cannot overlook the mesmerising Highlands, Aberdeenshire, the tranquility of Perthshire and Angus, or indeed the spectacular venues dotted around the many Scottish islands that appeal to more adventurous types among you.
There are so many treasures to find - and there is a reason why playing golf in Scotland always feels like a pilgrimage.
The Island of Ireland
Combining both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the golf found on the Emerald Isle is arguably unbeatable. From the likes of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush that are reachable from Belfast, to Portmarnock and The K Club near Dublin, the ultimate city golf breaks can be sampled here.
More than that, the west of Ireland is renowned for being home to the most extraordinary of links creations in the form of places like Ballybunion, Waterville, Lahinch and Carne. Each of these courses would create memories to last a lifetime - and that's without even mentioning the local culture and atmosphere.
Scotland and Ireland draw extraordinary levels of traffic from international visitors - and for good reason - but we personally are of the belief that the sheer depth of quality that is available across England is truly underrated.
Many will know about the championship coastline of the north west - where you'll come across Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Hillside, etc - and the equivalent coastline down in Kent that is home to other luminary venues like Royal St George's, Prince's and Royal Cinque Ports.
However, wherever you visit, there is much to love. From Yorkshire to the Midlands, to Cornwall, Norfolk and Hampshire, (just name a county, really), England's 2,200 golf courses have so much to offer.
Much like England, Wales is too often overlooked by golfers coming to the UK & Ireland. Which is crazy when you consider what's available here - and often within close proximity to the cities of Cardiff and Swansea.
What about former Ryder Cup venue Celtic Manor, or regular Senior Open host Royal Porthcawl, which is one of the most fabulous links courses you'll find anywhere. That's without even considering the likes of Royal St David's, Pennard, Aberdovey, Conwy or Ashburnham.
Golf in Wales is special and is just waiting for you to see why.
Like most other areas in life, golf in America is just bigger. There are over 15,000 courses located in the United States - almost half of the entire number on the planet. We're sure that there are some bad ones among that group, but there are also some truly incredible layouts that offer variety and quality in equal measure.
Unfortunately, a significant proportion of the most famous are exclusively private, but America also boasts some fantastic resort and public courses, ranging from the iconic to the less reputed.
Whether you experience the likes of Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Bethpage, or luxuriate in the paradises of Florida, you will relish that time spent, but you may also be surprised by what's available in quieter corners of the nation - such as this place in Nebraska!
For British and European golfers, Spain has become a common destination to visit for golf and sunshine, serving as an accessible location that provides welcome respite from the more dispiriting climate back home. That's not to say that the weather is the only appeal to Spanish golf - far from it - as here you will have the choice of a diverse range of outstanding resorts and championship layouts that will test and inspire even the most seasoned of golfers.
City golf breaks can be experienced in the likes of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Murcia, while coastlines such as the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa de la Luz, Costa Brava and Costa Dorada offer the ultimate golf holidays.
Likewise, since the game first properly emerged on these shores during the 1960s, Portugal (and the Algarve in particular) has developed into one of the most popular locations for golfers to visit. Much of this is due to the reliable climate and local cuisine, but the courses here offer a depth of quality that is difficult to look beyond.
Whether you base yourself in the likes of Vilamoura, Albufeira, and Lagos as a gateway for a tour around the highly regarded layouts in the area, or focus solely on a city such as Lisbon or Porto, golfers who venture to Portugal will frequently return for more simply due to the standard of the golf courses and to satisfy the desire to play even more of them.
Few nations possess a greater sense of golfing heritage than Australia, which can boasts several of the undisputedly greatest courses on the planet.
The sandbelt located around Melbourne is among the most celebrated of golfing landscapes internationally - and here you will discover the likes of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, The Metropolitan, Victoria and Woodlands.
Gazing beyond this region, the area around Sydney is home to layouts such as New South Wales, The Lakes, The Australian and Royal Sydney Golf Club.
And what about rugged Tasmania - where golfers can travel for the opportunity to marvel at Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes!
You might be shocked to discover that New Zealand has almost the same number of golf courses as Ireland - and they are among the most visually spectacular you will ever play!
This is a country that is celebrated for its otherworldly landscapes and scenery - with its layouts being a reflection of that. From Tara Iti to Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs and Arrowtown, the aesthetics to golf in New Zealand will take your breath away, but the standard of the courses themselves will resonate even more deeply.
There is no doubt that many of the countries featured in this piece are fairly obvious inclusions - but we desired to introduce a wildcard in the form of Italy. The Ryder Cup was recently played on the outskirts of Rome at Marco Simone, but it's the adventures of Golfshake Travel Editor Andy Waple that has inspired us to include Italy.
You just have to see what's on offer for those who visit Sicily - including the stunning Verdura Resort - but what also stands out is the unique quality that you can choose from in the northern mainland near Milan and Turin.
The experience available for golfers in Italy is certainly a developing one, but it already looks pretty special to us.
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