10 Of The World’s Most Extreme Golf Courses

From lowest to highest, hottest to coldest and even one that involves a helicopter ride, we take a look at some of the most extreme golf courses around the world...

Legend Golf Course Extreme 19th hole pictured
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We golfers are an intrepid bunch, prepared to play in all sorts of testing conditions. Wind, rain, cold-snap or heatwave – we’ll battle out onto the links determined to meet with the challenge. We also enjoy a challenge when it comes to the golf courses we play and there are some beauties out there around the globe that push golf to its extremes.

Here we tour 10 of the world’s most extreme golf courses – From lowest to highest, hottest to coldest, in striking settings, on clifftops, aboard helicopters… we even take in a couple of tracks with no grass on them. If you get a kick out of extreme golf, this fabulous selection of tracks should provide the necessary adrenaline hit.

Thracian Cliffs, Bulgaria

Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria pictured

The striking terrain of the Black Sea coastline lends itself perfectly to golf and at Thracian Cliffs, Gary Player has created one of the most uniquely memorable golf courses anywhere in the world. Opened for play in 2011, the course welcomed the Volvo World Matchplay in 2013, it’s a bucket list course you have to play.

With no fewer than eight holes set along the cliff-tops above the Black Sea, the layout can be a touch daunting, but if you just focus on enjoying the setting and the challenge, rather than playing to handicap, you’ll walk off this course feeling you’ve just experienced something rather sensational.

The par-3 6th epitomises the task the player faces at Thracian Cliffs. It stretches to over 230 yards and plays from a tee set high on a cliff to a green some 130 feet below.

Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand

Cape Kidnappers pictured from above

Renowned course architect Tom Doak was responsible for the incredible layout at Cape Kidnappers. The course was completed in 2004 and has earned a reputation, not only as one of the world’s most extreme golf courses but also as one of the best golf courses in New Zealand. The interest levels seriously ramp up after the turn.

With fairways set some 400 feet above the sea with sheer cliff drops off many of their edges, it’s an extremely dramatic stretch of golf. Combine this with the secluded feel one has on the course and the level of hospitality on offer, Cape Kidnappers is definitely a bucket list golf course.

Wolf Creek, Nevada

Wolf Creek in Las Vegas photographed from above

An hour’s drive from Las Vegas, in Mesquite, Wolf Creek is a pay and play facility where you’ll need some sort of chin strap to support your jaw as it repeatedly drops as you make your way round 18 holes.

The course has to be seen to be believed, although you might recognise it as it has appeared in numerous computer games – lending itself perfectly to that format. With holes carved into the gaping desert canyons, huge changes in elevation and sprawling water hazards, it’s one of the most spectacular tracks you’ll find anywhere on earth and a great course to make your friends jealous.

At times, as you look down on yet another lush fairway sweeping between the rocky outcrops, you have to blink to remind yourself it’s really there. You may not fancy playing at Wolf Creek for your handicap but, as a one-off golfing experience, it’s tough to beat.

Uummannaq, Greenland

The snowy Uummannaq Golf course pictured

Uummannaq Golf

The frozen course at Uummannaq, some 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle takes playing in colder conditions to another level. Home to the annual World Ice Golf Championship, temperatures can drop to –45 degrees Celsius and players are given tips on how to spot the early stages of frostbite before teeing off.

The course changes each year owing to the shifting ice and, although there may be no bunkers to contend with at Uummannaq, there are hazards to be avoided: seal dens, crevasses and polar bears amongst them.

Furnace Creek, California

Furnace Creek pictured with blue sky and mountains beyond

Furnace Creek

Out of the freezer and into the frying pan for this next extreme course. You’re guaranteed to shoot low at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California. The reason for that is the course is set 214 feet below sea level.

Re-designed by Pete Dye in the late 1990s, it’s a great layout but it makes it onto our rundown of the world’s most extreme golf courses because of its height, or depth… and the searing heat you might have to deal with on the fairways. Death Valley has seen the hottest temperatures recorded on earth – up to 56 degrees Celsius. Even on the coldest days, temperatures will be in the mid 30s!

Coober Pedy Opal Fields, Australia

Coober Pedy Opal Fields pictured

Coober Pedy Opal Fields

It tends to be pretty hot at Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Course as well. Another extreme feature of this course is that there’s no grass; the fairways are white sand and the greens are black. This is because of the motor oil that’s applied to create a smoother playing surface and to prevent the sand blowing away.

You take a patch of astro turf to playoff and you’re advised to have plenty of balls in your bag. Given the rocky terrain, you’re liable to suffer some pretty dodgy bounces and balls often ricochet off never to be seen again.

Visitors are welcome but are made aware that many members choose to play at night to escape the oppressive heat!

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz in Bolivia pictured

We’ve had the lowest course on the planet – now for the highest and a true bucket list course. At up to 10,650 feet above sea level, La Paz Golf Club takes this lofty title.

The club in La Paz was founded in 1912 and the course established at the current site in the 1940s. Luther Kuntz, an American associate of the great Dr Alister MacKenzie was responsible for the design and it’s a pretty memorable one.

The terrain is quite incredible with canyons and cliffs to negotiate. The island tee on the 12th is reached by two separate bridges.

Legend Golf Course - Extreme 19th pictured from atop the mountain

Legend Golf Course - Extreme 19th

The course at Legend Golf and Safari Links is pretty cool, featuring 18 holes each designed by a legend of the game. It's one of the best golf courses in South Africa. Famous golfers including Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh are among the contributors.

But the standout hole is actually an 'extra' hole. The resort’s incredible “Extreme 19th” has gained worldwide fame. The tee can only be accessed by helicopter, it’s 400m up Hanglip Mountain! Those lucky enough to take the ride up fire down to a distant green shaped like the continent of Africa. Playing that shot is quite an experience – One for the golfing bucket list.

Furry Creek, Canada

Furry Creek 9th hole pictured

Furry Creek 9th hole

On the road from Vancouver to Whistler, the famous Sea to Sky Highway, is the curiously named copper mining outpost of Furry Creek. The copper mine is a thing of the past and the village is now best known for its incredible golf course.

A wonder of golfing architecture this 6,000 yard lay-out has been literally carved into the hillside with a vertical drop of 600 feet from the course’s highest point to sea-level. The massive change in elevation gives an idea of the type of holes on offer. Each one is unique.

From the high terraces on the front nine, where leaving the fairway means a guaranteed lost ball to the spectacular signature par-3 14th, jutting out into the sea leaving the fairway means a guaranteed lost ball. Golf at Furry Creek is not the game as we know it. More like a roller coaster ride. You might recognise the course as the setting for Happy Gilmore’s comical scrap with Bob Barker.

The stunning 4th hole at Old Head pictured with the lighthouse beyond

Towards the south west tip of Ireland, in County Cork, Old Head Golf Links provides an incredibly dramatic setting for a golf course. It's one of the very best golf courses in Ireland and placed 33rd in our most recent top 100 courses ranking.

Designed by a star team of course architects and agronomists, the layout makes superb use of the stunning promontory upon which it sits, raised some 150 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. This is a course that will challenge even the best players in testing conditions and one that will make your golfing friends jealous if you get a chance to play.

Nine of the holes follow the clifftops and an errant ball fired seawards can be forgotten. Look out for the incredible 12th hole – it alone is one that earns Old Head a place on the list of the world’s most extreme golf courses. The tee is cut into the cliffs and the approach narrows to a green perched precariously on the cliffs. This most striking course will live long in the memory.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?