Best golf course designs by pro golfers

Modern day greats like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sir Nick Faldo and Annika Sorenstam have proved they can tame the world’s greatest golf courses, but how successful are they designing them? We take a look at their signature works.

Tiger Woods

Bluejack National

Tiger’s first US-based course, Bluejack National was laid out across the rolling hills and pine woods of Montgomery, Texas. It provides a wide set of challenges, especially around the greens and is extremely playable with a lack of rough. Visually reminiscent of Augusta National, it’s an improvement on El Cardonal.

Diamante Cabo San Lucas – El Cardonal

El Cardonal near Cabo in Mexico was Tiger’s first design when it opened in 2014. The 15-times Major winner created a course that requires strategy and a great variety of shot making. A solid debut but overshadowed by Davis Love III’s lauded Dunes course at the same Diamante resort.

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson National Golf Club

Located in Calgary, Canada, Phil’s most recent design opens this year and looks like a highly entertaining course, with water features, valleys and hills to keep you on your toes. With forgiving fairways, treacherous fescue rough, ‘blowout’ bunkers and Rocky Mountain views, early reviews have been positive. 

Whisper Rock – Lower Course

Phil’s debut design opened in the Scottsdale desert in Arizona in 2001. A good short game and driver accuracy are required, while elevation changes and what he called ‘Pinehurst greens’ make Lower Course unique from its desert neighbours. A good start for ‘Lefty’, but possibly edged out by Tom Fazio‘s neighbouring Upper Course

Colin Montgomerie

Carton House Golf ClubMontgomerie Course

Monty’s eponymous course at Carton House near Dublin is perhaps his best design to date. An inland links course, its clever bunkering, elevated greens and rolling fairways provide a test of great variety. Host of the Irish Opens in 2005 and 06, it is regarded as superior to the Mark O’Meara course at the same resort. 

Montgomerie Maxx Royal

Located on Turkey‘s Mediterranean coastline, in the golfing region of Belek, Monty’s design opened for play in 2008 and in 2013 staged the Turkish Open, the first ever European Tour event to be held in Turkey. Montgomerie Maxx Royal has stunning mountain views, but its difficulty, particularly its slanting greens, may not be suited to local players.

Sir Nick Faldo

Laguna Lang Co

Located along Lang Co Bay in North East Vietnam, Sir Nick’s design successfully presents a challenge for players of all levels. Laguna Lang Co trails between trees, streams, rice paddies and impressive rock features, and in keeping with its links-like location, provides a host of varied shot-making opportunities along the way.

Lough ErneThe Faldo Course

Located at one of Ireland’s top golf resorts, The Faldo Course, with its links-like fairways, perfectly true greens and spectacular Fermanagh Lakelands setting, is a visually stunning course. There are spectacular views from every vantage point and the waters of the Lough come into play on 11 of the 18 holes. 

Annika Sorenstam

Annika Course at Mission Hills

Annika’s first design, in Dongguan, China, is a tree-lined parkland course with fantastic mountain views. Dramatic elevations changes provide tee shots down on to wide fairways that meander through valleys. While the Norman and Olazabal courses at Dongguan may be more highly rated, Annika Course is a successful debut from the Swede.

Ernie Els

The Els Club Teluk Datai

Located on the island of Langkawi off the coast of West Malaysia, The Els Club Teluk Datai opened in 2014 to great acclaim. There’s no bunkers here due to concerns over monsoon rains eroding the sand, so grass swales and slopes protect the greens. The hilly layout weaves through rainforest, while shoreline holes offer incredible ocean views.

Els Club Dubai

Ernie’s immaculate ‘desert links’ features dunes, sandy waste areas and native grasses between wide and undulating fairways. Water comes into play at 7 and 15 and there’s classic style bunkering. The four-times major winner has successfully built a challenging championship course, but one that appeals to higher handicaps, aided by four tee boxes at each hole.  

Jose Maria Olazabal

Costa Ballena

Jose Maria’s 18-hole parkland/links course forms part of this excellent 27-hole resort on the Andalucian coast near Cadiz. Costa Ballena successfully appeals to all levels with the reasonably flat terrain encouraging players to unleash the driver. The coastline holes provide the highlights, with the 12th and 13th perhaps the best. 

Qatar Educational City Golf Club

This club in Doha, Qatar features 18-hole and 6-hole championship courses and a 9-hole par-3 course – all designed by Jose Maria. The desert-style main course, built to USGA standards, opened in 2018 and hosted the 2020 Qatar Masters on the European Tour. Educational City Golf Club was designed with youngsters and non-golfers in mind, hoping to encourage both to take up the sport. But the course still manages to offer a world-class playing experience. 

Jose Maria is also building two new 18-hole courses at Costa Navarino, Greece‘s leading golf resort. Its two current golf courses, The Dunes and The Bay, are considered the country’s top two layouts.

Bernhard Langer

Ile aux Cerfs

Bernhard’s 18-hole layout opened in 2003 and was built across an old sugar plantation on Ile aux Cerfs, a small resort island off the coast of Mauritius. White sandy beaches hug the fairways, and several holes take players on a tropical quest through mangroves and lava outcrops. It’s picture-perfect, but accuracy from the tee is required.

The Dunes Course at Costa Navarino

Opened in 2010, the Dunes Course at Greece‘s leading golf resort is set in diverse natural scenery with spectacular sea views. Undulating large greens, wide fairways and strategic pot bunkers provide a links feel set in a typical Greek landscape of olive trees and citrus groves. A superb course with a great variety of memorable holes.

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