The World’s Most Challenging Golf Courses

For many, golf is a casual sport; a pastime and a light-hearted way to enjoy company and competition alike. But while golf can quite literally amount to a walk in the park for some, for others mastery is part of the fun. For those with a view to challenging their skills, there are formidable courses that do not compromise on difficulty – and what follow are five of the best.

Carnoustie Golf Links – Dundee, Scotland

Carnoustie Golf Links is a notoriously difficult course with a global reputation; its inclusion in rotation for hosting the Open has led to it gaining the moniker “car-nasty” from US players. It has a particular predilection for pot bunkers, meaning you’ll need your best golf wedges to navigate each hole’s tricksy nature. The course becomes significantly more difficult by virtue of the wind conditions native to the North Sea coast and is not a visit to be taken lightly by any means.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain – Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China

This mountainside course is world-renowned for a number of reasons. Not only is its mountainside location a unique draw of its own, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is also the world’s longest golf course at more than 8,500 yards. The distance alone provides challenges to even the most seasoned of golfers, but the altitude and reduced air pressure add new elements of difficulty, from re-calibrating your distance judgment to moderating your energy levels.

Cape Kidnappers – Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

New Zealand is an up-and-comer when it comes to golf, and its modern courses are pushing the envelope for what’s possible in course design. Cape Kidnappers is situated in Hawke’s Bay, a beautiful enclave at the eastern tip of the North Island, and as picturesque a place as any for a golf course. Cape Kidnappers’ cliffside holes are arrestingly beautiful, and difficult to boot; play follows geography, and many a ball has been lost to this course’s cliffs and ravines.

Championship Links – Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

The Royal County Down Golf Club plays host to the Championship Links, set in a nature reserve and party to some of the most stunning views in the sport. The course is rife with uncompromising holes, where misplaced or sloppy drives can cost dearly. The course also pioneered and popularised the ‘bearded bunker’, presenting a unique challenge to players old and new.

Whistling Straits – Kohler, Wisconsin, United States of America

Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits course lies along the coast of Lake Michigan, and was designed by course designer legend Pete Dye. It is heavily inspired by the courses of the UK and of Ireland, making use of the Lake’s bespoke shoreline to present courses with challenging topography and additional complications from coastal wind.



Jeff Campbell