10 of the Most Underrated Golf Courses in the World
These days there are no shortage of people sharing their opinions on golf courses.
And personally, I love it.
Golf is such a subjective thing, that it’s always interesting to me to see what types of course people like, don’t like – and why.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of fantastic golf courses.
And every once in awhile I come across a course that surprises the hell out of me.
One of those courses that makes me say “how is this place not talked about more.”
Or maybe it’s a course that is well known, but makes me think “I knew it’d be good, but I didn’t know it would be this good.”
I get asked a lot about some of my favorite hidden gems, or courses I think should get more love than they do.
So I figured I’d put together a little list of my top 10 most underrated golf courses in the world.
It was actually a surprisingly tough list to create. I had a long list of honorable mentions, like my sentimental favorite Tokatee Golf Club, the wonderful Creek Club on Long Island, or the Philly gem Rolling Green.
But I did the hard work of narrowing it down. Keep in mind, as with most of the lists on our site, these are only based on the courses I’ve actually played. Also, these aren’t listed in order of “best” courses, but rather how underrated they are based on the recognition they already get.
10 of the Most Underrated Golf Courses in the World
10) Castle Stuart Golf Club
I remember on my first trip to Scotland we drove right by the turn off for Castle Stuart – but it wasn’t on the itinerary as we headed towards Aberdeen.
Two years later I’d make it there, and after the round be bummed that this wasn’t the second time I’d experienced it.
It’s usually in the 2nd half of many top 100 lists, but personally? It’s in my top 10. Fun, scenery, strategy. It’s got it all.
9) Punta Espada Golf Club
I played Punta Espada this past year, and before I played it, I honestly didn’t know anything about it. When it came to the Dominican Republic, Teeth of the Dog was the only course I knew anything about.
I have no idea how this place flies so under the radar. It’s a “Caribbean Pebble Beach,” and even that may be an understatement.
The course is dramatic. Weaving out (and over) the water no less than 4 times throughout the round.
You always have something to look forward to, and the inland holes were unique and memorable as well.
Jack Nicklaus may not always get a ton of design praise from the architecture snobs, but this one is very worthy of being included among the world’s best.
Check out my recap of Punta Espada Golf Club
8) Rustic Canyon Golf Course
I’ve always been a big fan of Gil Hanse’s work. Whether it’s the adventure that is Boston Golf Club, or his restoration work at the likes of Waverley CC, his courses have intrigued and entertained me.
Rustic Canyon is no exception.
When I played it, it was in *rough* shape (understatement). But the course itself?
Fun, and full of risk/reward decisions that might make it the very best value in golf.
At the time, we played it for $24.
And by the time we got to the club house to celebrate my friend Ben’s hole in one on #8? They were already closed.
Check out my recap of Rustic Canyon and my LA Trip.
7) Atlanta Country Club
I didn’t know anything about Atlanta Country Club when I played it before the Masters a few years back.
I had a fantastic Atlanta Swing with Eighty Club members at a few different courses like Hawks Ridge and Atlanta Athletic Club – but I honestly wasn’t super familiar with ACC.
But I’d heard it was worth playing, and I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange a round.
What. A. Course.
Atlanta Country Club is one of those places that I just kept saying “how is no one talking about this place?”
It had some of the most scenic and interesting holes I’ve played as it winds through a canyon after dipping down from the clubhouse perched on a hill.
It’s one I sincerely hope I’m able to play again on the next trip.
6) Colorado Golf Club
I’ve always been a fan of Coore and Crenshaw courses, so when I had the chance to tee it up at Colorado Golf Club on the way to Ballyneal, it was a no brainer.
CGC may be the best match play course I’ve ever played. It gives so many opportunities for risk/reward, and it forces you to make a decision on pretty much every hole.
It’s more scenic than I expected as well, and to be honest, for as amazing as Ballyneal is, I may just like the lesser known Colorado Golf Club better.
See more of the best golf courses in Colorado.
5) Kings Course at Gleneagles
When I think of underrated courses, the Kings Course at Gleneagles is one of the very first to come to mind.
Part of it was how my round there came to be. We literally were driving through Scotland on our way to Castle Stuart, had a free day, and said “where can we play?”
Two hours later, we’re deciding between the Centenary Course and the Kings course, and I couldn’t be happier we chose the Kings.
While you may scoff at the idea of playing a non-links course in Scotland, trust me, you shouldn’t.
James Braid’s phenomenal design takes you up, down, left, right – it felt like I was playing an old school Macdonald course.
It’s one of my favorites not just in Scotland, but in the world, and it deserves more cred than it gets.
And the hotel? It’s one of the all time great, golf hotels. Hell, it’s one of the all time great hotels. Period.
4) Aspen Lakes Golf Course
Aspen Lakes is the least well-known course on this list. It’s not some architectural masterpiece, and aside from teetering on the outside of Golf Digest’s Best in Oregon list, you won’t see it on many top 100 lists.
But I love this course. I’ve played it at least 25 times, and I honestly never get sick of it.
None of the holes are repetitive, it’s in a spectacular setting perched below the Three Sisters mountains, and the red sand cinder cone bunkers are unlike anything I’ve seen.
Add the extra pop you get due to the elevation, and you’ve got what I believe is one of the most underrated courses in the Pacific Northwest.
If you go to Bend and play the names (Pronghorn, Crosswater, Tetherow) do yourself a favor and pop over to Sisters to experience Aspen Lakes for yourself.
3) Bandon Trails
Again while it’s hard to say a course in the top 100 world rankings is underrated, in the case of Bandon Trails – I think it is.
Trails is my personal favorite course at Bandon (and it was my favorite even before it became the first course I broke 80 on.)
While most people visiting Bandon come for the water views, they’d be missing out on such a unique routing (dunes to meadow to forest and back), and one of the best golf experiences you can find.
2) Pasatiempo Golf Club
Pasatiempo is special for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is because it’s one of the easiest Alistair Mackenzie courses the public can access (not to mention one of his best!).
I knew Pasa would be good. I wasn’t prepared for just how good, and how difficult it would be.
From the opening tee shot you know you’re in for something special.
Whether it’s while you’re cursing your ball rolling all the way back off the green on 5 or shaking on the short, but knee knocking par 3, 15th hole – the one thing that will never change is the smile on your face throughout it all.
Next to Pebble I think it’s likely the 2nd best public course in California and is worth going out of your way to play (as I have…twice).
1) Yale Golf Course
There really was no other course that was close for me in this list.
Quite simply, I believe Yale is the most underrated course in the world.
It’s an original Seth Raynor with excellent template holes (including what might be the best biarritz in the world).
As far as I can tell Yale doesn’t get the love it deserves for one simple reason (ok maybe two).
But the main one being is the conditioning is usually pretty rough. The course hasn’t been in great shape (by traditional standards) either of the times I’ve played it.
If Yale were maintained to the same level that many private courses are these days, I’d bet you would find it consistently listed among the best courses in the world.
The only other knock is the highly questionable 18th hole, which feels like it plays up over the top of a mountain and back down again.
But when it comes to courses that should get more praise than they do? Yale is it for me.
What do you think? What do you think the most underrated golf courses in the world are? Leave a comment and let me know!
Want another list? Check out my personal top 100 golf courses in the world.
Also check out 10 of the best golf resorts you’ve never heard of.
My vote goes to Lahinch. The links course designed by Old Tom Morris and Alister McKenzie. The course plays like hardly a shovel was used it it’s construction as it winds it way through the tall sand hills. Leave the Klondike and Dells in place and play blindly over them. It’s the most natural course I’ve played and the goats add an extra charm and reminds one of how golf was first played.
Still haven’t played it, but hope to make it back out for a trip soon!
Totally agree with Castle Stuart and Rustic Canyon in this list. They are both overshadowed by their more famous neighbors. Playing Pasatiempo in early May, and this article has me even more juiced.
You’re in for a treat. Doesn’t get much better than a day there.
Totally agree about Yale (and both knocks on it). Amazing course. I’ll throw out another CT course, Stanwich. William Gordon designed with a lot of William Flynn feels. New (flatter) greens by Fazio are hit or miss but still a great and underrated golf course.
I must agree with you on Castle Stuart…one of my favorites in Scotland! Have you been to Chambers Bay?
Yep, played it a few times now! https://breakingeighty.com/salish-cliffs-and-chambers-bay
Really fun course.
If you’re ever this side of the pond, try Saunton and Royal North Devon Golf clubs, Saunton has 36 of the best links holes anywhere and it’s often said if the infrastructure was better, a composite course could easily hold the Open – it’s that good!
RND is one of the oldest courses in the world – the club house is like a museum, complete with photographs of when Tom Watson strolled through the doors, pegged it up and knocked it around in 5 under! He thought it was fantastic.
Both course available to visitors for approx $85 a round.
Sounds amazing! I’ve done a lot of Scotland, but have so much more to do in Europe outside of that.
I get the same feel at Yale that I do at Rolling Green. They both engage your senses and your game with the land.
Couldn’t agree more! And thanks for introducing to me to a place I might not had seen otherwise.
Yale is as has been described and (agreed to be) the Best 17 hole course’ in America.
18 unfortunately puts a sour taste as if Raynor has to compromise for some in
But the first 4 holes make for a terrific start!
I would agree on Lahinch as well, I played it in 25 mph winds and it was tough. I played Rustic Caynon last October and loved it as well. Another great one was Moorpark Country Club for cheap money. Great value golf outside LA.
I’ve played 1,2,3,8 and 9 and now I look forward to getting to the rest! Wonderful piece, Sean! Be in touch if you are anywhere near Quechee VT, we have two courses here you need to play.
I heartily agree with you about Pasatiempo. I was in love with it from the first time I played it in the 80’s. I actually played 63 holes on a June 21 when the green fee was about $33 to play ALL DAY, including cart!
In February, 2015 I played Quivira in Cabo san Lucas and fell in love again. This Nicklaus course is located on the western edge of the peninsular with spectacular views. Whales breaching was one. Also, the three rest stops along the course provide free food and drinks ranging from tacos to margaritas. The rest stop just before the 5th hole has the best view and it is hard not to stay too long. In spite of the setting, the sights and the amenities, the course is like no other. Every hole is unique with its own risk reward. I have a hard time choosing between Pasatiempo and Quivira.
If you like Yale you have to play Lookout Mt golf club. It’s Seth Raynor’s last design before he died and it’s the only Raynor on a Mountian. It’s everything you like about Yale but in better condition and with better views.