The International Link
Our readers’ international picks, on the other hand, are heavily laden with links courses, including the mother of them all, once again the top international vote-getter, the Old Course at St Andrews links.
Perhaps the biggest news at the Old Course is that in January of 2012, players who haven’t booked in advance can enter the daily ballot 48 hours ahead instead of 24, which should ease planning.
The seven other links courses include two from Ireland (Doonbeg golf club and the Old Course at Ballybunion) and five from Scotland (Carnoustie golf links, Dundonald links, Muirfield, Cruden Bay golf club, Kingsbarns golf links).
Carnoustie will host the Ricoh Women’s British Open this year, and by August visitors can enjoy the new Welcome Reception building, including the pro shop, locker rooms, and an upstairs viewing gallery with views over the links and out to the sea.
The only non-links Scottish track is the challenging King’s Course at the Gleneagles Hotel, named late last year as the new home of the PGA National Academy for Scotland.
the Fairmont Banff Springs golf course in the Canadian Rockies jumped to the runner-up position, a timely surge, since 100 years of organized golf in Banff National Park is being observed throughout the 2011 golf season with special events and golf packages at the resort.
The “Golf for Free” program at Banff (no greens fee beyond the hotel rate) is also being offered at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, whose Robert Trent Jones Jr. course also moved up a notch in the voting.
In warmer climes, Jack Nicklaus has revamped three holes at the ocean course at cabo del Sol, particularly the back-to-back seaside par-threes at six and seven. In a departure from normal practice these days, the Golden Bear actually shortened the holes and edged them closer to the roiling shoreline of the Sea of Cortes.
The new south wales golf club in Sydney joins two other Southern Hemisphere courses: Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand.
The latter two have a common owner and stay-and-play packages in their on-site luxury offerings.
One of our International Editors’ Mentions this year is Royal St George’s golf club in Sandwich, where the first Open Championship outside of Scotland was held in 1894. This year’s tilt, the 14th at the course, will be held there July 14 to 17.
Another Editors’ Mention is the venerable Royal Dornoch golf club, and there’s an added benefit to a golf outing there: A trip to Royal Dornoch is also a good excuse to play nearby Castle Stuart Golf Links, a course we fully expect to see making its way up the rankings in years to come.