first public golf course in America. There were other golf courses in the U.S. by that time - perhaps 100 or more - but Van Courtlandt was the first built for the masses. And Van Courtlandt Golf Course is still in operation today, the centerpiece of Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx. The park also boasts a lake and two nature trails. In Van Courtlandt Park you'll also find the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The aqueduct, built during the 1830s and 1840s, was New York City's first major water supply project.
The World's Best Golf Courses
Each of the golf courses that made the top ten did so on the bases of both their architectural structure and the beauty of their surroundings. You'll find all of these courses to be visually soothing, which could come in handy when you shank your drive into the woods.
10. Nordcenter, Aminnefors, Finland
It's no secret that Finland is home to vodka and saunas, but not many would peg it as a golfing country. Given that it's one of Europe's northernmost countries, you wouldn't guess that Finland's climate is conducive to outdoor sports, and there's no doubt that winters here can be drawn-out and particularly painful. Yet Finland also enjoys long summers with plenty of daylight, enabling a golf season that extends from May to September, and days on the links that can play out past midnight.
Of the more than 70 golf courses spread throughout Finland, Nordcenter is perhaps the country's most internationally renowned and exclusive. Located in the south near the sailing town of Tammisaari (and approximately an hour drive from Helsinki), Nordcenter boasts 18 holes designed by Ronald Fream. Its unusual contours -- the links meander through woods, short hills and along the sea make for a course that is both challenging and a delight to play on.
9. Cabo del Sol, Los Cabos, Mexico
Overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the Cabo del Sol golf course ranks among the most challenging in the world. Traps and other obstacles are scattered throughout its holes, and the coastal winds ensure consistently unpredictable playability. Jack Nicklaus has declared Cabo del Sol's final three holes to be the greatest finishing holes in the world -- but then again, he did design the place back in 1993.
However biased Nicklaus may be, there's certainly an objective basis for his opinion. Cabo del Sol is a stunning example of harmony between man-made and natural beauty; Nicklaus' Ocean Course is complemented by a second set of links that constitute the Desert Course, and a third Mountain Course is currently in the works. Upon its completion, Cabo del Sol will boast three full championship courses.
8. Hirono, Kobe, Japan
Designed by Charles Alison in 1932, the Hirono golf course is widely touted as the best that Japan has to offer, and deservedly so. Set on a backdrop of pine trees and massive ravines, Hirono is definitely easy on the eyes -- but don't be fooled into thinking that it'll be equally easy on your nerves. Among its more challenging holes is a 550-yard par 5 12th that goes over both water and rough, and a 15th characterized by huge cross-bunkers (to date, Jack Nicklaus is apparently the only one to have reached its green in two shots). Along with the stunning landscape and the complete mental breakdown of your playing partners, you'll also be able to witness some interesting Eastern golf customs here; for instance, motorized golf carts are a popular substitute for caddies at Hirono.
7. El Saler, Valencia, Spain
If you've never played at El Saler before, be sure to relish the surroundings on your first visit. Your recollections of the landscape are bound to be clouded by the more aggravating memories that a course with nearly one hundred bunkers, broad fairways and few out of bounds areas often gives rise to. It's a shame really, because El Saler truly is a beautiful course. Positioned between the Mediterranean sea and marshy woods, the holes of El Saler move through sand dunes, coastline and pine groves. Buy a few postcards beforehand just in case you go into a blind rage.
6. Pine Valley, Clementon, New Jersey
Pine Valley ranks among the most revered golf courses in the United States. Dozens of tournaments have been played out on its 18 holes since its establishment in 1912, and nearly every personality in the history of the game has made an appearance at this site. Further reinforcing the mythic appeal of Pine Valley is the sheer beauty of the locale. The swampy terrain is covered in sand and tall evergreens, so be sure to bring your camera -- as well as a handful of extra balls.
5. Tierra Del Sol, Aruba, Caribbean
Situated on the northwest point of the island, Tierra del Sol is the only 18-hole championship golf course to be found in Aruba. Designed by Robert Trent Jones II to be suitable for golfers of all skill levels, the result is a slew of multiple approach angles that allows each hole to be played in a variety of ways. Established in January 1995, Tierra del Sol is the first course in the Caribbean to equip each golf cart with a satellite and a 10-inch color screen to enhance the golfing experience. In addition to its user-friendliness, Tierra del Sol is located in the Caribbean. So you'll find yourself surrounded by sand dunes, rock formations and the ocean -- a pleasant environment, to say the least.
4. Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, England
Woodhall Spa's Championship Course, The Hotchkin, is reputed among Britons to be the best inland course in the country. Characterized by narrow fairways and difficult bunkers, The Hothckin encapsulates the beauty of the rolling English countryside. The view from the 11th hole alone makes the trip worthwhile.
While the first set of links presents the challenges that are expected of a championship course, you don't have to be a pro to play here. In fact, Woodhall Spa advertises itself as the "spiritual home of amateur golf in England." There's a golf academy on the grounds and a second course, The Bracken, is geared toward beginners. First-timers who feel that golf just isn't their game will be happy to discover that facilities for lawn bowling, tennis and cricket can all also be found at Woodhall Spa.
3. Paraparaumu Beach, Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand
The championship course at Paraparaumu Beach has been around since 1949, although most people didn't know about until January of 2002, when Tiger Woods showed up for the New Zealand Open. Now you'll have to book at least a week in advance to play there. Paraparaumu is located on the southern tip of New Zealand's northern island, which means that the course is pretty windy. Combine that with fast greens and some particularly nasty bunkers, and you're left with a pretty challenging day on the links -- even Tiger fell victim to the notorious second hole.
2. Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic
Once little more than jagged Dominican coastline, the oceanfront at La Romana was transformed into a lush course by Pete Dye in 1971. Casa de Campo now consistently ranks among the world's top golf destinations, and the nearby Casa de Campo resort -- which offers horseback riding, polo and tennis -- isn't too shoddy either. The gem of this site is the Teeth of the Dog, which includes seven holes on the water and two holes that require a drive to the nearby La Romana International Airport runway. The seventh hole on the Teeth of the Dog is arguably one of the most famous in the world.
1. Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Established in 1889, Royal County Down stands as one of the oldest golf clubs in Ireland. Two courses are found here: the Annesley Links and the Championship Links. The Championship Links present a challenging series of holes, including numerous blind tee shots and several obscured approach shots. To get some playing time at the Royal County Down you'll have to book well in advance, but it'll prove worth the wait. The backdrop to this locale is both visually magnificent and steeped in history. Along with a five-mile long beach and the Mountains of Mourne (a range which includes Ireland's highest peak, Slieve Donard), the Strangford Lough Harbor, forms part of the panorama.