As a solitary pursuit requiring ample time outdoors—alone or in pods and well-distanced from others—the sport of golf has seen a spike in popularity as of late. Here’s a look at the newest golf courses that have serious duffers pining to make travel plans for 2021 and beyond. Come for the serious sporting challenge, and stay for the jaw-dropping scenery and luxe amenities.
Since its debut in early 2020, the Greg Norman Signature course at Rancho San Lucas has lured serious golfers to its oceanfront locale, just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Cabo San Lucas. For his first 18-hole design in Baja California, the legendary golfer and his team created a multi-themed layout with sweeping ocean views from every hole. Spanning three different ecosystems, the course starts through windswept dunes, progresses through a thick cactus forest creased by meandering arroyos, and returns players to the beach on the back nine. Highlights of the 7,210-yard layout include the par-3 third, which parallels the sea and gives players fine views of breaching whales during winter months.
Two comfort stations are spaced around the course, serving smooth margaritas to numb the pain of missed putts. Norman Signature is part of the new Rancho San Lucas development, which is home to resort accommodations and residences including the Norman Estates, designed by the golfer’s Norman Design Group.
One of the golf world’s contemporary holy grails can be found at the opposite corner of the continent at a luxury resort on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Located on more than a mile of sandy beach, Cabot Links Golf Resort is already home to two world-renowned 18-hole courses—Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs—and the resort’s new The Nest at Cabot Cape Breton is a 10-hole short course built by the revered golf architects Rod Whitman and Dave Axland. The inland layout features all of the hallmarks of links golf found at Cabot’s full-length courses, with firm, fast conditions that invite creativity, accompanied by extraordinary ocean views. The swifter pace of play is meant to be more inclusive and appealing to a variety of players, including families and beginners.
Mickelson National, one of Canada’s biggest golf openings in recent years, has attracted enthusiasts to its rugged home in rolling foothills just west of Calgary. The golfing great Phil Mickelson spent more than four years working on the layout with design partner Rick Smith, and the end result, which opened last summer, features a raw natural aesthetic. Creative use of routing, water features, and elevation provides both challenge and amusement; this is a course made for thrill seekers.
One of the U.K.’s most anticipated openings, Dumbarnie Links recently debuted along the north shore of Scotland’s Firth of Forth, 20 minutes from the sport’s spiritual home of St. Andrews. A true links course, Dumbarnie was designed by Ryder Cup veteran Clive Clark. The new-build course was constructed on former farmland; around 500,000 cubic yards of earth were moved to create a striking dunescape that moves golfers up and down 80 feet between the clubhouse and the course’s lower holes, which sit among natural, protected dunes.
As the largest and oldest golf complex in Ireland, Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort sprawls across 1,100 acres in the sleepy fishing village of Downings, County Donegal. In addition to the lauded existing courses of Old Tom Morris (opened in 1893) and Sandy Hills (2003), the family owned and operated resort has opened a third 18-hole championship links course, the St. Patrick’s Links. The course was designed by the famed American architect Tom Doak. The rugged Irish dunescape would normally be off-limits to new development, but because a golf course existed before the European Union was established, the site is fair game.
Wisconsin’s Destination Kohler, a leading golf destination that’s home to four Pete Dye courses, also introduced its newest course, The Baths of Blackwolf Run, this spring. The 10-hole par-3 course, designed by longtime Dye collaborator Chris Lutzke, features distances ranging from 60 to 160 yards. A two-acre putting course offers 18- or 27-hole configurations, as well. The glacier-carved terrain of Blackwolf Run provides a stunning backdrop, with four strategic water features, or “baths,” on the course, the name of which pays homage to the Kohler Co.’s 128-year history of bathing design excellence.
The Pacific Northwest’s ultimate golfing experience can be found on a remote stretch of the Oregon coast, at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. In June 2020, the resort introduced its newest course, the Sheep Ranch, an oceanfront marvel that for years was only experienced by a select few. Now, the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have rebuilt the course, which is available for full public use. Sheep Ranch occupies the smallest plot of the property’s five 18-hole courses but boasts the longest stretch of coastline; every hole features Pacific Ocean views, and nine greens sit right along the water.
Payne’s Valley—named in honor of Missouri’s own Payne Stewart, the champion golfer who perished in a 1999 plane accident—has opened as the third 18-hole course at Big Cedar Lodge, an upscale, 4,600-acre wilderness-themed resort in the Ozarks. Big Cedar enlisted Tiger Woods, who designed Payne’s Valley—his first public-access golf course—along with his firm, TGR Design. Golfers take great delight in finishing off at the “Big Rock,” the par-3 19th hole (known as a bonus or “bye” hole) that features a massive rock face and waterfall behind the green. Once golfers complete the hole, they can tackle the Cliffhanger Trail, a nearly one-mile nature trail that travels through a natural spring-fed cavern system, alongside 250-foot cliffs, across a handcrafted metal bridge that spans a 100-foot-deep gorge, and through ancient waterfalls.
In addition to its work in Missouri, Woods’ TGR Design firm has partnered with Pebble Beach Co. to create The Hay, a new short course on the former site of Peter Hay Golf Course. The new facility includes a short course of nine par-3 holes ranging in length from 47 to 106 yards, a 20,000-square-foot putting course, a full kitchen and bar, and the resort’s largest outdoor patio featuring expansive views.
With the short course, Woods and his team are angling to draw new players to the game with a fun golf experience for all ages and abilities, while still offering a challenge for skilled players.