The UK And Ireland's Best Golfing Destination
Check out our favourite golfing locations
Here is my pick of 18 of the finest domestic courses you can play, featuring a mix of those that regularly top rankings and some personal favourites. But you can’t cross the Irish Sea to play in Northern Ireland without heading south to seek out some of Ireland’s other gems, so I have included those as well.
St Andrews Old Course 18th hole –image courtesy of Peter Ellegard
History abounds on Scotland’s fairways, none more so than at the Old Course, St Andrews. Known as the “Home of Golf”, golf has been played here since the 1400s and nowhere matches the excitement of teeing off in front of golf’s HQ, the Royal & Ancient Club. It takes no prisoners with gargantuan double greens, deep sand traps including the aptly-named Hell bunker and the notorious Road Hole 17th, doglegging around the Old Course Hotel. But don’t forget to smile for the obligatory photo stop at the 18th hole’s famous Swilcan, or Swilken, Bridge.
Just along the coast is Kingsbarns, an upstart at just 15 years old by American designer Kyle Phillips that is regarded as a must-play modern classic.
The Open Championship has produced many legendary moments, but who can forget the unfortunate Jean van der Velde’s disastrous final round at Carnoustie in 1999? Having landed in the Barry Burn on the 18th hole, he took his shoes and socks off to play the shot and blew his lead, losing the subsequent playoff to Paul Lawrie. Avoiding the snaking burn is tricky, but don’t be tempted to do the same.
Alisa course, Turnberry – image courtesy of Starwood Hotels and Resorts
Now owned by Donald Trump and renamed the Trump Turnberry, its Ailsa Course is where Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus in the 1977 “Duel in the Sun” Open but agonisingly missed an eight-foot putt to claim the Claret Jug again in 2009. The course closed at the end of September for a revamp that will turn its iconic Lighthouse hole, the 9th, into a spectacular par 3 when it reopens in June, 2016.
Relive the excitement of Europe beating the USA in the Ryder Cup for the third time consecutively at Gleneagles by playing its PGA Centenary Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus. Purists might prefer its more traditional Kings and Queens courses.
Royal Lytham 18th hole – image courtesy of England’s Golf Coast
The rain-swept links of Kent’s Royal St George’s produced a home winner in Darren Clark at the 2011 Open. Elements aside, the biggest scorecard wrecker for many golfers is the towering Himalaya bunker on the 4th hole.
Lancashire’s Royal Lytham & St Anne’s is another Open venue that’s a joy to play. Veteran Ernie Els rolled back the years to win there in 2012, and Great Britain’s amateurs have just triumphed over the USA on it in the Walker Cup.
Follow in the spike marks of legends at The Belfry, the North Warwickshire golf club that has hosted more Ryder Cup matches than anywhere else. Its Brabazon course reeks of magical moments, while the PGA National is England’s only PGA-branded course.
West Course, Wentworth – image courtesy of Peter Ellegard
Two-time Ryder Cup venue Wentworth is perhaps as famous for its crenelated clubhouse as for the championships it has hosted, including the World Matchplay Championship and BMW PGA Championship, still played on its tree-lined West Course, one of three beauties there.
Cornish fishing village Rock, popular for its long, sandy beach, boasts a wonderful golf course giving glorious views across then Camel Estuary to Padstow. But the most unusual aspect of the James Braid-designed Church Course at St Enodoc lies in the cemetery of the crooked-spired church which it winds around – the grave of long-time Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman.
1st hole, Royal Porthcawl Golf Club – image courtesy of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club
Host to the 2014 Senior Open, the first Major to be held in Wales, Royal Porthcawl is a lovely old links course bordering the Bristol Channel that bites with its lurking pot bunkers.
Rain made for more Ryder Cup drama on the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort in 2010, forcing the match to go into a Monday for the first time and producing a nail-biting Europe victory. Edged by the winding Usk River, it is one of three courses at the resort.
Nefyn and District Golf Club Old Course and Porth Dinllaen Peninsula – image courtesy of Visit Wales
While you won’t find Nefyn & District near the top of ranking lists, this North Wales course deserves to be played for its sheer drama alone, 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.
5th hole, Royal Portrush – image courtesy of North and West Coast Links
Regarded by many as the best course in the UK, historic Royal County Down is nothing short of an epic layout with spectacular views of the nearby Mourne Mountains – if the weather is kind enough to let you see them.
The only Northern Ireland course to have played host to the Open, in 1951, Royal Portrush is back on the Open rota once again and offers golfers top-notch golf in a majestic seaside setting.
Lahnich Golf Club, County Clare – image courtesy of Peter Ellegard
Lovers of old-style links courses will adore the venerable Alister MacKenzie-designed Lahinch on the shores of the Atlantic, even with its sometimes-quirky layout and blind shots.
Formerly Doonbeg, Trump International Golf Links is a modern masterpiece by Greg Norman laid out over daunting grassy dunes on the wild Atlantic coast of County Clare that now forms part of Donald Trump’s collection.
Trump Links Ireland – image courtesy of Peter Ellegard
And alongside the Irish Sea in County Wicklow, Journalist-turned-designer Pat Ruddy has created a 20-hole – there are two extra par 3s you play for fun – marvel in The European Club that is both stunning and brutal if you stray off the fairways.