Announced: The Top 12 Most Historic Golf Courses in The World

Historic Hotels Worldwide collection of resorts offers golfers and tourists a unique group of hotel destinations. These hotels are also the sites with the world’s most historic golf courses in countries like Canada, Ireland, Scotland, France, Norway, and South Africa.

Four historic hotels featured in the 2022 Top 12 Historic Hotels Worldwide Most Historic Golf Courses list have golf courses designed by Stanley Thompson, who is considered a “founding father” of modern American golf. Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Peter Nordwall are also represented.

“A personal dream is to play golf on courses where the game was first created and on courses where champions have played and won,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide.

So what are you waiting for? Book a bucket list trip to one of these iconic hotels and play the golf course of your dreams!

The Top 12 Most Historic Golf Courses in The World

Each course has earned its reputation for its beautiful landscapes and views and for the many famous people who have played them: world leaders, golf champions, artists, and celebrities. Today, travelers around the world can make their own history as they stay and play where champions have played.

1. The K Club (550) Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland

Originally part of the Straffan Estate, The K Club was once a simple country manor in the heart of County Kildare. The estate dates to the 6th century, and the beautiful Straffan House manor dates to 1832. In the 1980s, investors heavily renovated the grounds to create a luxurious resort called “The K Club.” Among the renovations was the development of two massive, championship-caliber golf courses designed by legendary U.S. golfer Arnold Palmer.

The golf courses are simply known as Palmer North and Palmer South. The Palmer North Course regularly ranks in the top three parkland golf courses in Ireland. It is considered one of Ireland’s bucket-list courses and has hosted some of the world’s top golf championships.

The Palmer South Course is an inland links course with dramatic dune-style mounding. This assists in making the course into a true Championship Golf Course with many vantage points for spectators to view golf professionals at work. This course has hosted some of golf’s most exciting moments. Who could forget the excitement of the 2007 Smurfit European Open? Colin Montgomerie ended his 18-month losing streak at The K Club, going on the 18th to win the 2007 European Open by just one shot. Magical moments are created and forever remembered on The K Club’s Palmer courses.

2. Dromoland Castle Hotel (1014) Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland

The historic Dromoland Castle Hotel’s Golf & Country Club is the stuff of which golfers’ dreams are made: an impressive 18-hole, par 72 championship course set on a magnificent 450-acre Irish estate where gentle hills, ancient trees, and unexpected water hazards present challenges and thrills.

Dromoland Castle Hotel in County Clare, Ireland, dates to the 11th century, and it was only in 1961 that the first golf course was established on its grounds. That year, U.S. golf architect Brook L. Wigginton designed a nine-hole course. In 2003, the mid-20th century course was revitalized and restored as a championship golf course for the 21st century by golf course architect Ron Kirby and Irish golfing legend J.B. Carr.

They bestowed upon Dromoland Castle Hotel one of the finest Irish parkland courses open today. The signature hole, the 7th hole from an elevated tee, overlooks Dromoland Lake with the castle in the background to create a setting for the ages. Deer often venture towards the lakeshore for a drink, different breeds of pheasant can be seen in the hundreds all over the course, while the whole surrounding woodland is rich in a chorus of birdsong.

3. Kilkea Castle (1180) Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland

Kilkea Castle in County Kildare, Ireland, blends its historic past with contemporary elegance in a 180-acre setting of a romantic Irish castle, bucolic woodland, formal gardens, and championship golf course. The estate was established in 1180, and The Kilkea Golf Course (18-hole, par 70) was developed in the 1990s. In this magnificent setting, in the shade of the 12th-century castle—the longest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland.

It is a parkland course designed by architects Jack McDaid and Jim Cassidy. It was designed so that the castle’s splendor can be viewed from every fairway. In constructing this championship course, the designers cleverly used the River Griese as a natural hazard flowing through the castle grounds and estate. The combination of this waterway and various other hazards and interesting greens ensures the golfer playing this 18-hole, par 70 course has a considerable challenge on his or her hands.

Players encounter the river at almost every hole. Two lakes have also been included in the course design, adding to the overall difficulty of the challenge of this royal and ancient game. Irish professional Damien McGrane set the course’s record, who shot an incredible 64. The Clubhouse at Kilkea Castle overlooks the 9th hole with occasional glimpses of the historic 12th-century castle.

4. Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa (1666) Cape Town, South Africa

Designed by Gary Player, the Erinvale Golf Course opened as part of the hotel estate in 1995 and immediately prepared to host the 1996 World Cup of Golf, where thirty-two participating nations competed. The international golfers found the course both a golfing challenge and a visual delight. In 2005, Erinvale hosted the SAA Open, highlighting South African golfing talent.

The 18-hole Erinvale Golf Course quickly became renowned throughout the golf world. The first nine holes run through beautiful estates, and the second nine are set among mountains and beautiful views of False Bay. The clubhouse offers golf cart rentals and an outstanding Pro Shop for visitors. The hotel operates separately from the golf course, holds memberships at Erinvale Golf Club, and offers its guests preferential rates.

5. Losby Gods (1744) Finstadjordet, Akershus, Norway

Situated a short drive from Oslo city center, the historic Losby Gods hotel offers a refreshing respite with beautiful scenery and lush green hills that includes tucked away golf courses: Østmork, an 18-hole championship course, and Vestmork, a nine-hole course, both designed by Peter Nordwall, a renowned Nordic golf professional and golf course architect.

The championship course is perfectly integrated alongside the meandering path of the Losby River that runs through the valley. This intentional and playful design, combined with the size and quality of the greens, makes Østmork one of the finest in Norway. Compact and challenging, Vestmork balances the championship course as a worthy alternative for a quick game. The two courses are complemented by a 72-bay, floodlit driving range, two putting greens, and a short game area. The driving range is open to all players, but the greens and short game areas are reserved for the club members and their guests.

Indoors, golf simulators allow guests to explore and experience amazing and challenging golf courses worldwide. Venturing out, guests discover the majesty of the surrounding Østmarka Nature Preserve. This verdant preserve extends for some 7.7 sq miles and is among the best places around Oslo to see the country’s unique native wildlife.

6. Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa (1852) St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom

The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa is among the best destinations to visit in northern Scotland and a must for serious fans of the Scottish game. Located in downtown St Andrews, this fantastic historic hotel sits just steps away from the renowned Old Course St Andrews Links— the world’s oldest golf course, first established in the 15th century.

The most famous golf course in the world, which is on public land, is managed by the St Andrews Links Trust. Guests of the Old Course Hotel can purchase Suite Golf packages for a guaranteed tee time or look at the alternative options outlined on the St Andrews Links Trust website. The resort hotel also provides access to its own championship course: The Duke’s Golf Course, established in 1995 and designed by Peter Thomson. He was a five-time Open Championship winner and the only golfer to win a modern major three times in succession.

Tim Liddy revised and renovated it in 2006 to complement the five classic links courses along the coastline and enhance St Andrews as the leading destination for golfers. The 18-hole course is set up as two loops of nine holes – enabling the resort’s golf professionals to change the course’s layout to suit multiple formats and competitions. It was home to the 2014 European Amateur Championship.

7. Fairmont Banff Springs (1888) Banff, Alberta, Canada

Fairmont Banff Springs is the luxury stop in the heart of Canada’s Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. One of its historic amenities is its public golf course, which features a captivating and challenging layout that offers a breathtaking view in every direction. Golf course architect Stanley Thompson was hired to design the Banff Springs course in 1928. Thompson gifted golfers at Fairmont Banff Springs with an 18-hole course and a thrilling game of optical illusions created by the surrounding mountains.

The Stanley Thompson Course winds along the Bow River under the snow-capped peaks of Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle. In 1989, Fairmont Banff Springs’ Thompson Course was complemented with the construction of the Tunnel Mountain Course, an adjoining nine-hole, par 36 course designed by Cornish and Robinson.

When booking this once-in-a-lifetime trip, ask the golf pro shop about the club’s heritage golf experience. In addition, the resort occasionally facilitates a unique opportunity for any golfer wishing to take a step back in time and experience golf like it was in the late 1930s, assigning caddies and forecaddies dressed in period clothing, the opportunity to rent hickory golf clubs, and education on the history of golf in Banff.

8. Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (1899) Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada

The Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in Quebec, Canada, overlooks the picturesque St. Lawrence River on top of Pointe-au-Pic, an area known for its hospitality and inspiring landscapes. The historic hotel was established in 1899 to accommodate the travelers who wanted to see the stunning geography for themselves. In the early 1920s, the hotel owners commissioned a famous British golf course architect and a founding member of the American PGA, Herbert Strong, to build a new course.

The historic golf course is located on a mountainside at an altitude of 300 meters (about 984.25 ft). Between 2002 and 2004, $14 million was invested in the development of a new nine-hole golf course (the St. Lawrence Course), the modernization of the existing eighteen-hole course (the Richelieu and Tadoussac Courses), and the construction of a new clubhouse – which is accessible only by golf cart.

Renowned golf architect Darrell Huxham designed the renovated links in 2004, paying homage to the 1925 Herbert Strong original. Today, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is home to 27 holes of world-class golf. At every point, golfers may admire the landscape and views of the St. Lawrence River. The panorama is breathtaking. President Taft said of the region’s beauty, “it is intoxicating as champagne, yet without the hangover.”

9. Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa – MGallery (1907) Biarritz, France

For more than a century, Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa – MGallery has been one of France’s most renowned holiday destinations. Since its opening, the hotel has maintained a partnership with the Golf du Phare golf course. The course was built in 1888 by the architect Willy Dunn, initially to serve British tourists and local ex-pats.

Golf du Phare’s 18-hole, par 69 course offers players a game within the town center and close to the hotel while never straying far from a glimpse of the ocean. The course has a challenging, technical nature: its 70 bunkers are strategically placed, greens are fast, and the rough is very discreet.

10. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (1922) Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Situated in Alberta’s magnificent Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge opened in June 1922, with the golf course opening soon after. Stanley Thompson, Canada’s master golf course architect, displayed some of the finest work of his career with the design.

Their efforts paid off: since 1925, this jewel set deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies has been the setting of unforgettable memories for all of those who come to play. The 18-hole layout offers elevated tee boxes, dramatic bunkering, and holes aligned with distant mountain vistas. Thompson designed wide fairways that carve through thick forest, and maintain a partnership with the environment’s natural contours, blending beautiful landscapes with challenging terrain.

Today, this award-winning Alberta golf course remains one of the “must play” courses in Canada and is open to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge guests. While on the course, keep an eye out for wildlife: elk and bear sightings are common for players.

11. Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello (1930) Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

The historic Fairmont Le Château Montebello Golf Course winds tightly through Quebec’s graceful forests and features dramatic elevation changes – captivating the imagination of golfers worldwide. Designed by U.S. golf course architect Stanley Thompson in 1929, the golf course has been a jewel in the crown of Fairmont Le Château Montebello since the historic resort opened in 1930.

This golf course remained the private domain of the prestigious Seigniory Club until 1970, and today the Fairmont Le Château Montebello golf club is among the best public courses in Quebec, open to hotel guests.

Golfers are invited to discover how Thompson’s expertise in designing wilderness golf is apparent at each hole. Players are secluded and held by the woods as if their group was the only one playing. The forest of fragrant pine, spruce, and balsam encroach on all sides. Some of its elevated tees provide lovely views of the gentle rolls of the surrounding mountains. Thompson carved out undulating fairways and emerald-like greens, traversing ravines and valleys out of a wilderness of rocks, trees, and shrubs. The panoramic views from the elevated tee at the 4th hole are a highlight on the front nine, while, on the inward half, one of the more memorable holes is played at the 14th, where a tributary of the Ottawa River protects the front green.

12. Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa (1940) Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada

The Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa and the Cape Breton Highlands Links golf course was established at the same time on the edges of Canada’s beautiful Cape Breton National Park in 1940. The Canadian National Park Service hired golf course architect Stanley Thompson in 1939 to design and build a stunning 18-hole, par 72 golf course that would take advantage of its setting in one of the country’s most scenic and awe-inspiring national parks. Thompson, the well-established course architect, was eager to place a golf course on the wild peninsula where the Atlantic emptied into the Cabot Strait.

He designed the course to follow the Clyburn River between the mountains and the sea. As a result, many have referred to Cape Breton Highlands Links as Thompson’s homage to golf’s Scottish roots and St. Andrews in particular. Holes have names like “Heich O’ Fash” (“Heap of Trouble”), and the seventh hole, Killiecrankie, resembles the long narrow pass of Killiecrankie in the Highlands of Scotland.

Images and List Courtesy of Historic Hotels Worldwide