(The following article first appeared in the September 2012 edition of Golf Canada Magazine)
Every golfer has had the daydream at least once. You pack your bags and clubs and you head to the airport with no return ticket for the vacation of a lifetime, finally off to explore all the most beautiful, historic, and fantastic golf courses the world has to offer. But which must-do courses should you check off your bucket list? When it comes to golf travel, there is always more to a great trip than just a ranking. A well-rounded stop considers a place’s culture, atmosphere, and heritage on the green, along with family-friendly activity and adventure off the course. We explore the best of the best the world has to offer us.
The Old Course at St. Andrews Links - Scotland
Any course located in the birthplace of the sport may be saddled with the principal challenge of living up to the expectations of players can any one course embody all the majesty and history of six centuries without becoming a museum? The Old Course at St Andrews Links manages to go beyond preconceptions to provide a riveting, world-class golf experience and aptly dubs itself the home of golf. A public course managed, along with its six sister courses, through a charitable trust set up by the government, the Old Course is a popular tourist destination.
Playing a round on the famous Links is a one of a kind experience seemingly torn from the pages of history. Tee times are up for grabs the first Wednesday in September the year before you expect to play, so the wise golfer would do well to plan far in advance before setting up a trip to this destination. If you find yourself in Scotland without a tee time you aren¹t completely out of luck as half of the tee times are set aside and reserved in the ballot, a lottery-style draw the results of which are posted 48 hours before the day in question. The ballot is the most popular way to get a tee-time, however single golfers can also turn up on the morning they wish to play and join in with another group providing there is space. While this process may require a bit more thought than booking a tee-time on a regular course, this is the home of golf. And it goes without saying that no golf traveller’s checklist will be complete until they have played a round on this ancient green. Quick Facts... The Old Course is closed to golfers every Sunday however, the walking paths that wind throughout it are open for anyone interested in a scenic stroll. ...The Old Course sees about 45,000 rounds pllayed every year. ...The town of St. Andrews was so named after the saint's relics were brought to this place in Scotland in the 8th century. ...Golf has been played here since at least the 1,400s. ...Although the course has evolved over centuries, it was course custodian Tom Morris and his assistant David Honeyman who are credited with giving the Old Course its current look in the late 1,800s.
The Links at Fancourt - George, Western Cape
On the opposite side of the globe from the birthplace of golf is a place that proudly carries in offering a traditional Scottish experience. The lush rolling greens of The Links at Fancourt are the best on the continent. The 1,500 acres spread across a South African countryside provide what golfer Johan Moolman simply describes as "golfing heaven." Visitors can marvel at designer Gary Player’s keen vision when recreating golf on the moors as the rolling hills of the green beneath your feet were in fact constructed on what was once a flattened airport, and he has referred to The Links as "perhaps my greatest achievement as a golf course designer." While the club is private, they do offer some times to those staying at the resort to experience the tip-top in African golf. Quick Facts... The Links at Fancourt is nestled in an area known as the Garden Route, or Tuinroete, remarkable for its picturesque plant life, scenery and wildly diverse ecosystem of animals to admire. ...The warm climate of the Garden Route is noted for being the second mildest in the world, after Hawaii. ...Those with nerves of steel can jump from the record high bungee bridge and the nearby Bloukrans Bridge.
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