The top 12 international golf destinations, from New Zealand to Argentina

The 2015 Presidents Cup took place in the faraway land of South Korea at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club.

During each event, the International Team, composed of the top golfers based outside Europe and the U.S., come from such countries as Japan, Thailand, India and South Korea. South Africa and Australia usually send the top players, including Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els.

In honor of the tourney, we have selected a team of the 12 best international golf destinations. (That is, outside Ryder Cup-contending countries.)

We've seeded them from 1-12, but there are certainly plenty of match-up debates to be had, from proximity, to a preference for warm weather, to mountain golf, to resort vibes, to exotic locales.

As you'll see, from an American perspective, you can travel near (Canada and Mexico) or far (Thailand or New Zealand) to sample the best golf in the world. Here are our picks. If you have a favorite exotic location to visit for golf, let us know in the comments below.

New Zealand

New Zealand's two most famous five-star resorts -- the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs and the Farm at Cape Kidnappers -- are so far apart on the North Island that Google maps refuses to spit out driving directions. The linksy Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club and a new private Tom Doak design named Tara Iti Golf Club are far flung as well.

The Lake Taupo region, known for its geothermal springs, offers two centrally located inland gems: Wairakei International Golf Course and the Kinloch Club by Jack Nicklaus. Jack's Point, the best of the South Island, clings to the shores of Lake Wakatipu surrounded by the aptly named Remarkables Mountains. -- J.S.D.

Melbourne, Australia

Ultimate Itinerary - Melbourne, Australia
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Ultimate Itinerary - Melbourne, Australia

Courses that play like links litter Melbourne's famous Sandbelt near Victoria. The 36-hole Royal Melbourne Golf Course, host of the 2011 President's Cup, touts its historic ties to Dr. Alister MacKenzie. A strong supporting cast is considered nearly as good, namely Kingston Heath Golf Course, the Moonah Course Old Course at National Golf Club, the Victoria Golf Club and Metropolitan Golf Club. Tom Doak's St. Andrews Beach added more timeless architecture to the Morningstar Peninsula in 2004. -- J.S.D.

Alberta's Canadian Rockies

Every avid golfer must experience a Stanley Thompson-designed course, and two of the best are separated by a three-hour drive on the Icefields Parkway in Alberta's Canadian Rockies. Fairmont Jasper Park and Fairmont Banff Springs are two national parks courses that are among the most enjoyable and surreal rounds in North America. Tack on modern complements Silvertip Golf Course and Stewart Creek Golf Resort and enjoy the game in some of its most magnificent environs. -- B.T.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Not even Hurricane Odile could halt Cabo's rapid growth as Mexico's premier golf destination. The stunning Quivira Golf Club by Jack Nicklaus and Diamante's El Cardonal by Tiger Woods debuted at the tip of the Baja peninsula in December 2014, just four months after the September storm damaged more than a dozen of the region's best resorts. More new courses are already in the works by Woods (18 more holes at Diamante), Nicklaus (nine more holes at Puerto Los Cabos) and Greg Norman (18 new holes at East Cape Vidanta and at Rancho San Lucas) -- not to mention last year's opening of Tom Fazio's private Chileno Bay Club. Cabo's must-play list is already long, headlined by the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol and the Dunes Course at Diamante.

Dominican Republic

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Trip Dispatch to Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic

The island is small, but it has some of the best golf in the world, starting with Casa de Campo, home of Pete Dye's famous Teeth of the Dog Course, regarded universally as the best course in the Caribbean. Add in the Links Course and newer Dye Fore Courses, and you'd have plenty of golf vacation if you just stayed at the one resort. But if you head over to nearby Punta Cana -- which has nine courses and counting, including spectacular layouts by Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, P.B. Dye and Tom Fazio -- you could easily spend a week or more in the D.R. and never get bored.

FROM $277 (USD)
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Enjoy 4 nights' accommodations at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas and 3 rounds of golf at Casa de Campo - Teeth of The Dog, Dye Fore & The Links Courses.

Cape Breton Highlands, Canada

It's certainly not Canada's largest golf destination (that'd be the Okanagan or Vancouver Island or around Toronto), but where else can you pack in three Top 100-worthy courses within a three-hour drive? That's just what you get at Nova Scotia's Cape Breton, home to Cabot Links and the new Cabot Cliffs. Make the spectacular drive on the Cabot Trail to Thompson's Highlands Links Golf Club, a one-of-a-kind round every bit as interesting as his designs at Jasper Park and Banff Springs.

South Africa Garden Route

A journey along the Garden Route of South Africa is truly a bucket-list trip. Fancourt Resort, where the 2003 Presidents Cup was played on the Gary Player-designed Links Course, is in the middle of it. This all-walking, highly manicured, scenic course is on the difficult side, but is a joy to play, and so are the other two courses at the resort. What's more, Fancourt is hardly the only "game" along the route. Pinnacle Peak Golf Club, on Mossel Bay, sports incredible views of the Indian Ocean from all 18 holes, and Arabella Hotel & Spa doesn't lack in the scenery department either. Throw in a couple safaris and tours of South Africa's famous wineries, and you've got an unforgettable trip.

Riviera Nayarit/Punta Mita, Mexico

Mexico's West Coast trumps Cancun and the Riviera Maya on the East Coast with a wealth of ocean holes at the swanky Punta Mita, home to Four Seasons and St. Regis resorts and 36 holes by Jack Nicklaus, and Litibu, a largely undiscovered Greg Norman design nearby. The highly regarded Nicklaus Course and Tom Weiskopf Course at Vista Vallarta Golf Club sit hidden in lush jungles high above Puerto Vallarta. The Greg Norman Course at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta should open by December to give golfers another option.


The little, colorful island of Bermuda has a huge golf presence, and ocean views abound. It also knows how to take care of a luxurious clientele of travelers. You'll be in good hands. Course architecture buffs should begin at C.B. Macdonald's Mid Ocean Club, which blends Golden Era design with a colorful, island backdrop.

Add on Port Royal Golf Course, which hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, plus Tucker's Point Club and a fun, 18-hole, par-3 course at the Fairmont Turtle Hill, and you've got a luxurious ocean golf escape just a couple hour's flight from the eastern seaboard.


You might be surprised at the quality of golf in Thailand, from the Bangkok area to the beach resort area of Phuket to Pattaya and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Courses run the gamut, such as Thai Country Club, Laem Chabang International Country Club, the lighted Summit Windmill Residence Course and Chiang Mai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort, respectively, designed by the likes of Dennis Griffiths, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, just to name a few.

What really makes it unique, though, is the level of service, from the all-female caddies (who are surprisingly quite good, and mandatory) to the country club conditions at all courses and, of course, the endless massages. (You can get a foot massage after every round for next to nothing, for example). It's the definition of an exotic golf vacation.

Mission Hills Golf Resort, China

Mission Hills Golf Resort, located between the cities of Shenzhen and Dongguan in southeastern China about an hour from Hong Kong International Airport, is the largest golf facility in the world with a dozen 18-hole courses (including a par-3 course) all designed by different architects such as Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, Annika Sorenstam, Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Jose Marie Olazabal, David Duval, Jumbo Ozaki and David Leadbetter. This five-star resort, where service doesn't take a back seat to the golf, also has three clubhouses, 3,000 caddies, three teaching academies, a dozen restaurants and six full-service spas.


A lot of focus has been put on the brand new Olympic Course in Rio. But don't think golf is a new thing in South America. Alister MacKenzie designed two courses at the Jockey Club. Also, Buenos Aires Golf Club and Olivos are picks for Golf Digest's Top 100 Courses outside the U.S. Factor it in with the legendary Buenos Aires cuisine and nightlife, and you've got yourself a pretty unique trip.

Updated 12/12/19, 10:36 AM: Updated in 2019 for Presidents Cup and packages and videos added.
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I am a frequent traveler to Thailand and have played plenty of golf there. Unfortunately the courses you have named are nowhere near the top courses of Thailand. The best course is Amata Spring in Bangkok. Absolutely superb in everything. Greens are very fast. Nothing less than a 12 on the stimpmeter. Another course in Bangkok which you should not miss is Alpine. One of my favourite course the is Siam Country Club in Pattaya. This course is used for the Honda LPGA tournament. Should not be missed. Sorry to say your recommendations are nowhere compared to the clubs I have just mentioned.

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The top 12 international golf destinations, from New Zealand to Argentina