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Golf - A Global Game

Spanning the globe: where the best golf is played, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe
Golf Digest,  May, 2005  by John Barton

HAVE CLUBS, WILL TRAVEL. You can anyway, now that you're armed with Planet Golf, our biennial look at places to play around the globe.

For the first time we've compiled a ranking of the top 100 courses outside the U.S., a list that encompasses 25 countries (Canada and Scotland are represented the most, with 13 courses apiece). In past years we also published rankings for 100 countries. This year we expanded our coverage to include practically every place where golf is played, 184 nations and territories in all. In short, this is the biggest survey of our planet's golf courses ever undertaken. These listings appear in "The World's Greatest Golf" booklet that came with subscriber copies of this issue. (You can view the list at To order a copy of the complete booklet, please visit
We made plenty of fascinating discoveries along the way. Like how great it must be to live on Christmas Island, which has only one golf course but a total population of just 396, most of whom don't play. Or Bermuda, which has nine courses packed into just 20 square miles. Some other findings:

* Approximate number of golf courses in the world: 31,857.
* Proportion of humans who are golfers: 0.94 percent.
* Countries with the most courses per capita (minimum 500,000 population): Scotland (9,379 people per course), New Zealand (10,374), Australia (11,063), Republic of Ireland (14,127), Northern Ireland (14,353), Canada (15,480), Wales 18,321), United States (18,514), Sweden 21,295), England (27,725).

* Countries with the highest density of courses (minimum 500,000 population): Singapore (one course every 10 square miles), England (27), Northern Ireland 40), Wales (50), Scotland (56), Japan (59), Netherlands (75), Mauritius (87), Republic of Ireland (95), Denmark (117).
* Most populous countries where we could find no evidence of golf: Ukraine population 47,732,079), Sudan 39,148,162), Yemen (20,024,867), Mali 11,956,788), Belarus (10,310,520).

* Most northerly course: Sondie Arctic Desert G. Cse., Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
* Most southerly: Ushuaia G.C., Argentina.
* Most easterly: Tonga G.C., Nukualofa, Tonga.
* Most westerly: Faleata C.C., Apia, Samoa.
* Ratio of courses in the U.S. to courses in the African continent: 20 to 1.
* Ratio of number of courses in U.S. to combined number in the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Argentina, China, Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, India, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Indonesia, Austria, Finland, Brazil, Switzerland, Myanmar, Philippines, Taiwan, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, Chile, Iceland, Colombia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Pakistan, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Namibia, Morocco, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Uganda, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Poland, Peru, Ghana, Malawi, Hong Kong, Bahamas, Fiji, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Botswana, Turkey, Uruguay, Slovenia, Mauritius, Bermuda, Guatemala, Ecuador, Paraguay, Guam, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Northern Mariana Islands, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Bolivia, Honduras, Slovakia and Luxembourg: 1 to 1.

* Amount of earth's land mass devoted to golf courses: 0.014 percent. Perhaps what we discovered most of all is that it really is a small world. Although not if you have to mow it.

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