Pay Top Dollar to Play Priciest Golf Courses

For golf aficionados, there are a number of top-notch courses scattered across the globe with reputations so glowing that money is no object. And it's a good thing, because playing them is not cheap.

These sites promise fairways where golf's masters have walked, seaside putting greens and sand traps crafted by master course architects, as well as the lure of luxury to accompany 18 holes.

According to Chad Ritterbusch, chief administrator of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the pricey courses offer players more than a round of golf, including resort amenities and a "professional golf" experience.

"These venues are more than just golf courses -- they're true destinations -- they offer resort settings, fine dining, famous golf courses that have played host to the most famous major championships," Ritterbusch said. "Certainly, it enables the golfer to experience what the pros have experienced."

Golfers are no longer just interested in early tee times, he added. They want to understand and appreciate the cultural and historical significance of the golf courses they play.

"Today, there are thousands of golfers around the globe who are not just golfers, but are very much interested in the golf course design, how that golf course came to be, how it's assembled in a strategic way, how the golf course interacts with the environment," Ritterbusch said.

The following 11 golf courses have the world's highest green fees, or cost, for those who are not members, guests or residents, to play 18 holes of golf.

1. Shadow Creek Golf Course -- Shadow Creek Golf Club, Las Vegas, Nev.

To play at Las Vegas' exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Club, golfers not only have to be guests at an MGM-Mirage property, but they also have to fork over the course's $500 green fee. Rooms at MGM properties can cost from around $100 to over $1,200 a night, according to the resorts' online reservation systems.

Golfers willing to dish out the money, don't worry -- the green fee includes transportation to and from your hotel. Those who can afford all that can play a course that cost almost $2.7 billion to build. And the course's designer, famous golf course architect Tom Fazio, imported flora and fauna, such as small, kangaroo-like Australian wallabies, to make the course's 18 holes a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

2. Pebble Beach Golf Links -- Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, Calif.

Pebble Beach Golf Links has been listed by Golf Digest as the No. 1 golf course in America, and was the site of the 100th U.S. Open in 2000. Perfection comes at a price, though, and this course commands another of the highest green fees in the United States. Non-resort guests pay $495, in addition to golf cart fees, for the opportunity to play on the resort's most prestigious greens.

3. Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Ireland

At Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, Ireland, a round of golf costs nearly 295 euros. In July, that'd cost visitors a whopping $461 to tackle the course's 18 holes. The iconic course juts out more than two miles into the Atlantic Ocean. According to the course's Web site, the constantly changing sea breezes make the course a challenge for amateur and pro golfers alike.

4. Pinehurst No. 2 -- Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C.

Pinehurst No. 2 is one of eight courses at the Pinehurst Resort, which have been named some of the top golf courses in the world by Golf Digest and Golf magazine. The green fees at Pinehurst No. 2 golf course run $410 seven days a week. The rate includes use of a golf cart, but not a caddy.

5. The Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England

A round of 18 holes here will cost golfers £165 to £195 per round, depending on when you go -- that's $327 to $386. Royal Birkdale plays host to this year's British Open from July 13 to July 20. According to its Web site, Royal Birkdale prides itself on the plants and animals that dot the course, and has even partnered with environmental and conservation agencies to maintain its varied wildlife.

6. Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, Calif.

The Trump Organization operates several golf resort properties under the Trump name, including locations in Florida, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and New York. But the California spot takes the prize. According to the club's Web site, the course challenges golfers to "take risks and rewards well-placed shots" along its white sand bunkers and "expansive" lakes. The clubhouse includes two locations for fine dining that boast world-class cuisine and extensive wine lists. The green fees for Donald Trump's public club can run up to $375 on weekends.

7. The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Melbourne, Australia

The historic and celebrated Royal Melbourne Golf Club is rather exclusive, compared to some of the other clubs on the "most expensive" list. Visitors who wish to play must be from another "recognized" golf club from around the world. The club requires guests to show a current membership card and a letter of introduction written from their home club, according to the Royal Melbourne Web site. The green fee for 18 holes at this prestigious Australian club is $275 or $375 in Australian dollars -- $264 U.S., for interstate visitors and $360 for overseas visitors.

8. Old Course -- Sunningdale Golf Club, Berkshire, England

According to golf author James W. Finegan in his book "All Courses Great and Small," Sunningdale's Old Course offers golfers a dramatic and nuanced golf experience, and "virtually every hole is played in splendid -- and beautiful -- isolation, and in harmony with nature." Like many of the courses on the "most expensive" list, Sunningdale places a strong emphasis on proper golf club etiquette, and follows a strict dress code. Visitors to Sunningdale Golf Club's Old Course pay up to £180 for a round there -- that's $356.

9. The Ocean Course -- Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C.

Golf Digest recently named The Ocean Course the "No. 1 golf course in South Carolina." According to the Web site, the course's green fee tops out at $350. For your pricey green fee, you pay for more than just 18 holes of golf. The Ocean Course is also known for the beauty of the native species that call it home; it was named a "Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" by the Audubon Sanctuary System.

10. Spyglass Hill Golf Course -- Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, Calif.

The Pebble Beach Resort's second-most expensive golf course, the Spyglass Hill course, comes at a relative bargain in comparison to its sister course. The golf course was designed by the late Robert Trent Jones Sr., who is known for creating courses that encourage golfers to take chances with their swings. According to the Spyglass Web site, the course features two kinds of terrain: five holes through seaside dunes and 13 holes through majestic pines with challenging greens, bunkers and lakes. The costs: $330, including golf cart fees for non-guests.

What makes these sites so appealing to golfers? Experts weigh in:

Golf course architect Doug Carrick said American golfers are drawn to lavish overseas courses.

"The draw on some of the courses overseas is that they're world famous -- they've become a destination-type of golf course that people want to play once in their life, or if they have the opportunity, more than once," he said.

Bruce Charlton, golf course architect and president of the ASGCA, said what makes a course so desirable is the idea of the "once-in-a-lifetime" golf opportunity.

"I think the draw is making the people feel special with the golf experience, to make the golf course so special, and so memorable, and so beautiful, that people hear about it, they see pictures of it, they see articles written in golf magazines about it, and it becomes a must-play opportunity," he said.

What makes a particular course a world-class golf course is more than beautiful surroundings, Charlton added. Golfers want a variety of ways to play a course that make it worth another swing.

"You've got to have a lot of cool golf strategy -- many ways to play a hole and still be successful. You're basically trying to create fun golf," he said. "You want to create places where, once you get done playing 10 holes, you can't wait to play again."