Golf is a sport like no other. A game for all ages, its handicapping system makes the meeting of complete beginners and professionals a fair contest.
With spring just around the corner and summer fast approaching, now is a great opportunity to get out on the fairway and get practising your golf skills. We've looked into some of the best golf courses in the UK, including golf courses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to get you ready and eager to tee off this spring and summer.
St Andrews (Old)
Known as the 'Home of Golf' (golf has been played here since the 1400s!), St Andrews is one of the world's oldest golf courses and has hosted more Opens than any other.
All keen golfers should play this course at least once. It's 17th hole, sharply bending around the Old Course Hotel, is probably the most famous in the world. But this course takes no prisoners. Although it looks straightforward, the fairway's undulations are much deeper than you expect, as are the sand traps (including the aptly named Hell bunker!).
You catch only rare glimpses of the sea at Carnoustie, but what this course lacks in scenery it makes up for in difficulty. It is widely considered one of the world's most difficult courses.
It is also renowned for John Van de Velde's disastrous paddle in the Barry Burn on the 18th hole in 1999. But it's not just the water you need to watch out for. The course hosts a score of formidable bunkers.
Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)
Arguably the most scenic of the Open Championship courses, this course sits atop a rocky headland overlooking the small island of Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde and offers stunning views across the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran.
It is the most recent addition to the Open Championship rotation, and was the setting for the famous battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson -- the 18th hole has been renamed 'Duel in the Sun' to pay homage to this memorable tussle.
Situated on the north-east Highlands coastline, it's likely to be a fair journey for most to reach Royal Dornoch, but it's well worth the effort. It is wild, isolated and spellbindingly beautiful.
Although a fairly straightforward course, many of the greens are built on natural raised ground. These domed greens became the trademark of Donald Ross, born in Dornoch, who became one of the greatest golf course architects of all time.
Royal St George's
Blending beautifully into its coastal Kent surroundings, playing this course gives superb views over Pegwell Bay and the white cliffs of Dover. Each hole is different and memorable in its own way.
Of particular note is the Himalaya bunker of the 4th. Living up to its name, it's cut into a huge dune and is the UK's tallest and deepest bunker -- a scorecard wrecker if ever you've seen one! It was also the first English course to host the Open Championship.
One of the few inland courses we've included in our list, this tree-lined course is set in the superb Surrey countryside, with a huge oak standing beside the 18th hole. Its memorable elevated 10th tee is a fabulous driving hole, and the halfway hut sitting behind the 10th green offers much-welcomed refreshments.
Royal Lytham & St Anne's
With a quirky layout, starting with a par three (the only course to do this in the Open Championship circuit), this course only improves as you progress. Although definitely a links course, it no longer has sea views, lying half a mile inland. But it is an extremely tough course, with only Carnoustie considered tougher on the British Open circuit.
Image Credit: http://www.royalcountydown.org/
Royal County Down
Just 30 miles south of Belfast, this must be another of the UK's most scenic courses. Sitting at the foot of majestic mountains, with the Irish Sea sweeping beneath it, it is characterised by rugged sand dunes, a palette of purple heather and yellow gorse, and naturally rippling fairways.
This course's dramatic entrance lives up to its intimidating nature. Although it has few bunkers, many natural hazards create problems for even the most seasoned golfers. Take the appropriately named 14th hole, Calamity, for example, which is played uphill over a huge ravine.
But with magnificent sea views, this classic seaside links offers plenty to ease your golfing woes. From the third tee, you can even see the island of Islay on a clear day!
Royal Portrush is set to host The 148th Open in 2019, so now is the perfect opportunity to test your skills. The ever-changing wind here provides as tough a test as any Open venue.
The only Northern Ireland course to have hosted the Open, in 1951, it will return to the Open rotation in 2019.
Image Credit: https://www.royalporthcawl.com/
Just 20 miles from Swansea, this course borders the Bristol Channel. Its lack of trees and dunes leaves you exposed to Atlantic gales. And with pot bunkers lurking throughout, you'll be pushed to find a tougher golfing challenge in Wales.
Nefyn & District
A couple of years ago, Peter Ellegard outlined for us some of the best golf courses in the UK. As per his recommendation, Nefyn & District remains in the list; still boasting of sheer drama it's laid out in part on the clifftop of a rocky peninsula. Make sure you stop off for a pint at the beachside Ty Coch pub below the 12th hole.