Quick Summary

Introduction

Golf is more than just a sport in the United Kingdom; it’s a tradition steeped in history and prestige. From the lush, rolling fairways of Scotland to the picturesque landscapes of England, the UK is home to some of the most iconic and challenging golf courses in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an enthusiastic amateur, exploring the top golf courses in the UK is a journey through the heart of the game itself.

In this blog post, we will take you on a tour of the Top 15 Best Golf Courses in the United Kingdom (UK). We’ll delve into the unique characteristics that make each course a must-visit, share personal anecdotes, and provide practical tips for planning your golfing trip. Whether you’re looking to tick off a bucket list course or discover a hidden gem, this guide has got you covered.

Why Golf in the UK?

The UK boasts a rich golfing heritage, with courses that date back centuries. The diversity in course design, from links courses along the rugged coastlines to parkland courses nestled in serene countryside, offers something for every golfer. Moreover, the UK has been the stage for numerous historic tournaments, adding a sense of grandeur and legacy to the golfing experience.

So, let’s tee off and explore the top golf courses in the UK that every golf enthusiast should visit.


Top 15 Best Golf Courses in the United Kingdom (UK)

How Many Golf Courses Are There in the UK?

Before we dive into our list, it’s worth noting that the UK is home to over 2,500 golf courses, each with its unique charm and challenges. Here’s a breakdown of the distribution:

  • England: Approximately 1,870 courses
  • Scotland: Around 580 courses
  • Wales: About 200 courses
  • Northern Ireland: Roughly 90 courses

What Makes a Golf Course “Royal”?

Many of the top courses in the UK have earned the prestigious “Royal” status, granted by the British monarchy. This designation not only adds to the allure but also signifies a certain level of excellence and historical significance. Examples include the Royal St. George’s and Royal Troon.


1. Royal County Down – Championship Course (Northern Ireland)

History and Evolution

Located in Newcastle, County Down, the Royal County Down Championship Course is often ranked as one of the best golf courses in the world. Established in 1889, this course has evolved over the years, with contributions from renowned course designers like Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt.

Unique Features

  • Blind Tee Shots: The course is famous for its blind tee shots, adding an element of challenge and excitement.
  • Scenic Views: Nestled against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains, the scenery is as breathtaking as the golf itself.
  • Challenging Holes: Holes like the 9th, known as “The Annesley,” offer both beauty and difficulty.

Personal Anecdotes

Playing at Royal County Down feels like stepping into a piece of golfing history. I remember my first round here, standing on the 4th tee with the wind howling and the mountains in the background—it was both intimidating and exhilarating. The course demands precision and patience, making every round a true test of skill.

2. St. Andrews Old Course (Scotland)

Significance as the Birthplace of Golf

St. Andrews, known as the “Home of Golf,” is where the game was first played in the early 15th century. The Old Course at St. Andrews Links is a pilgrimage site for golfers worldwide, with its history and tradition deeply woven into the fabric of the sport.

Key Holes and Features

  • Hidden Bunkers: The Old Course is notorious for its pot bunkers, like the infamous “Hell Bunker” on the 14th hole.
  • Double Greens: Unique double greens serve two holes each, a rare feature that adds to the strategic complexity.
  • The Swilcan Bridge: Crossing this historic bridge on the 18th hole is a rite of passage for any golfer.

Personal Experiences

Walking the fairways of St. Andrews feels like a dream. I recall the first time I stood on the 1st tee, the sense of history was palpable. The Old Course is both challenging and forgiving, offering a mix of wide fairways and tricky greens. It’s a course that tests your strategy and adaptability.


Tips for Planning Your Golf Trip to the UK

To make the most of your golfing adventure in the UK, consider the following tips:

  • Best Times to Visit: The ideal months are May through September, when the weather is more predictable.
  • Booking Tee Times: Plan ahead and book tee times well in advance, especially for the more popular courses.
  • Travel and Accommodation: Look for golf packages that include accommodation and transport. Staying in local inns or golf resorts can enhance your experience.
  • Additional Resources: Websites like Golf Monthly and Golf Digest offer extensive reviews and tips for golfing in the UK.

3. Royal Dornoch Championship Course (Scotland)

Historical Significance

Situated in the Scottish Highlands, the Royal Dornoch Championship Course has a storied history dating back to 1877. Originally laid out by Old Tom Morris, the course underwent significant redesigns by renowned architects like Donald Ross, lending it a unique blend of tradition and modernity.

Scenic Beauty

  • North Sea Coastline: The course offers stunning views of the North Sea coastline, with rugged dunes and sweeping vistas.
  • Heather and Gorse: Natural hazards like heather and gorse add to the course’s charm and challenge.
  • Famous Par-3 “Foxy”: The 14th hole, affectionately known as “Foxy,” is a standout feature, offering a thrilling challenge against the backdrop of the sea.

Memorable Moments

Playing at Royal Dornoch is a memorable experience that stays with you long after the round ends. I recall teeing off on the 1st hole, the salty breeze in my face and the sound of waves crashing nearby. Every hole presents a new challenge, whether navigating the narrow fairways or avoiding the strategically placed bunkers.


4. Royal Portrush Golf Club (Northern Ireland)

Open Championship Venue

Royal Portrush Golf Club holds the distinction of being the only venue outside of mainland Great Britain to host the Open Championship. The Dunluce Links, in particular, is renowned for its challenging layout and stunning coastal views.

Notable Features

  • Dunluce Castle Ruins: The course is punctuated by the ruins of Dunluce Castle, adding a sense of history and drama to the landscape.
  • Strategic Design: Architect Harry Colt’s design incorporates natural features seamlessly, with holes that demand strategic shot-making.
  • The Calamity Corner: The par-3 14th hole, known as “Calamity Corner,” requires a precise tee shot over a deep ravine to a narrow green.

Personal Reflections

My round at Royal Portrush remains one of the highlights of my golfing adventures. Walking along the rugged coastline, with the wind whipping off the Atlantic, is an experience I’ll never forget. Each hole presents a new challenge, from the blind tee shot on the 5th to the daunting approach to the 18th green.

5. Royal Troon Golf Club – Old Course (Scotland)

Championship History

Royal Troon Golf Club has been a prominent fixture on the golfing landscape since its establishment in 1878. The Old Course, in particular, has hosted numerous Open Championships, showcasing its pedigree as one of the finest links courses in Scotland.

Legendary Moments

  • The “Postage Stamp”: The par-3 8th hole, affectionately dubbed the “Postage Stamp,” is one of golf’s most iconic short holes, with a small green surrounded by bunkers.
  • Historic Victories: Royal Troon has witnessed historic moments, including Arnold Palmer’s victory in 1962 and Henrik Stenson’s epic duel with Phil Mickelson in 2016.

Personal Impressions

Playing the Old Course at Royal Troon is a humbling experience, with every shot requiring careful consideration of the elements and terrain. I vividly recall standing on the tee box of the 8th hole, trying to gauge the wind and envisioning the perfect trajectory to land safely on the green. It’s a course that demands respect and rewards precision.


6. Muirfield (Scotland)

Championship Legacy

Muirfield, located in East Lothian, has a rich history as a venue for the Open Championship. Designed by Old Tom Morris and later revised by Harry Colt, Muirfield is revered for its strategic layout and challenging conditions.

Notable Features

  • Natural Beauty: Set amidst rolling sand dunes and gorse-covered hills, Muirfield offers a picturesque backdrop for a round of golf.
  • Strategic Design: The course layout emphasizes strategic play, with undulating fairways and well-guarded greens testing golfers of all skill levels.
  • The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers: Muirfield is home to one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, adding to its sense of tradition and prestige.

Personal Reflections

Playing Muirfield is like stepping back in time to golf’s golden age. The course exudes a sense of timeless elegance, with each hole presenting a new challenge to overcome. I remember navigating the infamous bunkers and subtle breaks on the greens, all while soaking in the beauty of the Scottish landscape.

7. Sunningdale Golf Club (England)

Historical Background

Established in 1900, Sunningdale Golf Club holds a revered place in English golfing history. Situated in Berkshire, this heathland gem is renowned for its strategic design and pristine conditioning.

Heathland Beauty

  • Lush Fairways: Sunningdale’s fairways wind through heather and pine, creating a tranquil setting for a round of golf.
  • Challenging Hazards: Well-placed bunkers and natural contours add complexity to the course, requiring golfers to think strategically on every shot.
  • Iconic Design: The Old Course at Sunningdale, designed by Willie Park Jr. and later refined by Harry Colt, epitomizes classic heathland golf.

Personal Experience

Playing at Sunningdale is a delight for the senses, with the scent of pine and the rustle of heather providing a sensory backdrop to the game. I recall teeing off on the 1st hole, surrounded by the beauty of the English countryside, and feeling a sense of excitement for the challenges that lay ahead.


8. Royal St. George’s (England)

Historical Significance

Royal St. George’s, located in Kent, boasts a rich heritage dating back to 1887. As one of England’s most distinguished links courses, it has played host to the Open Championship numerous times, showcasing its enduring appeal to golfers worldwide.

Links Golf at its Finest

  • Dramatic Dunes: The course is characterized by towering dunes and undulating fairways, providing a true links golf experience.
  • Unique Challenges: Royal St. George’s presents a variety of challenges, from blind shots to treacherous bunkers, testing the skills of even the most seasoned golfers.
  • Historic Moments: The course has witnessed its fair share of historic moments, including Darren Clarke’s memorable victory in the 2011 Open Championship.

Personal Reflections

Playing Royal St. George’s is a journey through golfing history, with each hole presenting a new adventure. I remember standing on the tee of the 4th hole, known as “The Maiden,” and marveling at the sweeping views of the English Channel. It’s a course that demands respect and rewards bold play.

9. North Berwick – West Course (Scotland)

Historical Significance

North Berwick Golf Club, founded in 1832, is steeped in history and tradition. The West Course, in particular, is celebrated for its unique layout and challenging links-style design.

Quirky Features

  • Famed “Redan” Hole: The signature 15th hole, known as the “Redan,” is a par-3 that features an elevated, diagonal green sloping from high right to lower left, offering a strategic challenge for golfers.
  • Historic Stone Wall: The 13th hole, aptly named “The Pit,” features a green nestled behind a low stone wall, adding to the course’s character and charm.
  • Variety of Challenges: From blind shots to undulating fairways, North Berwick’s West Course offers a diverse range of challenges that keep golfers on their toes.

Personal Experience

Playing the West Course at North Berwick is a truly memorable experience. I recall teeing off on the 1st hole, the salty sea breeze in my face and the cries of seagulls overhead. Each hole presents a new adventure, with the rugged coastline serving as a stunning backdrop to the game.


10. Royal Birkdale Golf Club (England)

Championship Pedigree

Royal Birkdale Golf Club, located in Southport, Lancashire, is renowned for its championship pedigree. Since hosting its first Open Championship in 1954, it has been regarded as one of the finest links courses in the world.

Notable Features

  • Strategic Layout: Royal Birkdale’s layout demands precision and strategy, with well-placed bunkers and undulating fairways testing golfers of all abilities.
  • Iconic Holes: From the challenging par-4 1st hole to the picturesque par-3 12th, Royal Birkdale is home to a variety of memorable holes that showcase the beauty and challenge of links golf.
  • Historic Moments: The course has witnessed historic moments in golf, including Arnold Palmer’s victory in 1961 and Padraig Harrington’s triumph in 2008.

Personal Reflections

Playing Royal Birkdale is a test of skill and character, with every shot requiring careful consideration and execution. I remember navigating the towering dunes and punishing rough, all while marveling at the natural beauty of the Lancashire coastline. It’s a course that leaves a lasting impression on all who have the privilege to play it.

11. Carnoustie Championship Course (Scotland)

Historical Significance

Carnoustie Championship Course, often referred to as “Carnasty” due to its challenging nature, is one of Scotland’s most prestigious golf venues. Established in 1842, Carnoustie has a rich history of hosting major championships, including The Open.

Legendary Challenges

  • Barry Burn: The meandering Barry Burn winds its way through the course, adding a strategic and visual challenge for golfers, particularly on the closing holes.
  • Dense Rough: Carnoustie is known for its punishing rough, which can quickly penalize errant shots and test the resolve of even the most seasoned players.
  • Historic Moments: The course has witnessed many historic moments, including Jean van de Velde’s infamous collapse on the 18th hole during the 1999 Open Championship.

Personal Impressions

Playing Carnoustie is an unforgettable experience that tests every aspect of a golfer’s game. I remember standing on the tee of the daunting 18th hole, known as “Home,” and feeling a mix of excitement and trepidation. It’s a course that demands respect and rewards perseverance.


12. Swinley Forest Golf Club (England)

Hidden Gem

Swinley Forest Golf Club, nestled in the heart of Berkshire, is a hidden gem revered by golf purists for its timeless design and natural beauty. Established in 1909, Swinley Forest offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Timeless Elegance

  • Harry Colt Design: The course was designed by the legendary Harry Colt, known for his ability to seamlessly integrate golf courses into their natural surroundings.
  • Subtle Challenges: Swinley Forest may not be the longest course, but its strategic layout and subtle challenges make it a true test of skill and strategy.
  • Picturesque Setting: Surrounded by pine and heather, Swinley Forest exudes a sense of tranquility and natural beauty that enhances the golfing experience.

Personal Reflections

Playing at Swinley Forest is like stepping back in time to a bygone era of golfing elegance. I remember walking the fairways, surrounded by the sounds of nature and the scent of pine, and feeling a sense of peace and serenity. It’s a course that celebrates the timeless traditions of the game.

13. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) (England)

Historical Charm

Woodhall Spa Golf Club, home to the Hotchkin Course, is a historic gem located in Lincolnshire, England. Established in 1905, this inland course offers a unique blend of natural beauty and strategic challenges.

Classic Design

  • H.S. Colt and S.V. Hotchkin: The Hotchkin Course was designed by the renowned H.S. Colt in collaboration with S.V. Hotchkin, resulting in a layout that seamlessly integrates with the surrounding landscape.
  • Deep Bunkers: Woodhall Spa is characterized by its deep bunkers and undulating fairways, which require precision and strategy to navigate successfully.
  • Restoration Efforts: In recent years, extensive restoration efforts have been undertaken to preserve the course’s historic charm while ensuring it remains relevant for modern players.

Personal Experience

Playing at Woodhall Spa is a journey through golfing history, with each hole offering a new challenge and opportunity for adventure. I recall teeing off on the 1st hole, surrounded by towering trees and the tranquil sounds of nature, and feeling a sense of anticipation for the round ahead.


14. St. George’s Hill (Red & Blue) (England)

Exclusive Elegance

St. George’s Hill Golf Club, located in Surrey, England, is synonymous with exclusivity and elegance. The Red and Blue Courses, designed by the renowned architect Harry Colt, offer a timeless golfing experience amidst stunning surroundings.

Architectural Brilliance

  • Harry Colt’s Legacy: The Red and Blue Courses at St. George’s Hill are a testament to Harry Colt’s genius, with each hole carefully crafted to provide a unique challenge for players of all abilities.
  • Varied Terrain: From elevated tees to meandering streams, the courses at St. George’s Hill showcase the natural beauty of the Surrey countryside while offering a diverse range of playing conditions.
  • Membership Privileges: Access to St. George’s Hill is limited to members and their guests, ensuring a sense of exclusivity and privacy for those fortunate enough to play its hallowed fairways.

Personal Reflections

Playing at St. George’s Hill is a privilege reserved for the fortunate few, and I feel fortunate to have experienced its beauty firsthand. I remember teeing off on the 1st hole of the Red Course, the sun casting a golden glow over the rolling hills, and feeling a sense of awe at the timeless elegance of this historic club.

15. Rye Golf Club (England)

Seaside Splendor

Rye Golf Club, located on the picturesque coast of East Sussex, England, offers a unique golfing experience amidst stunning seaside scenery. Established in 1894, this historic club boasts a rich heritage and a reputation for challenging links-style golf.

Natural Beauty

  • Spectacular Views: Situated atop sand dunes overlooking the English Channel, Rye Golf Club offers breathtaking views of the coastline, providing a stunning backdrop for a round of golf.
  • Challenging Layout: The course at Rye is characterized by its undulating fairways, deep bunkers, and fast-running greens, all of which combine to test the skill and strategy of even the most seasoned golfers.
  • Historic Charm: Playing at Rye Golf Club is like stepping back in time, with each hole offering a glimpse into the club’s storied past and the traditions of the game.

Personal Experience

My experience playing at Rye Golf Club was nothing short of magical. From the moment I stepped onto the 1st tee and gazed out at the sweeping vistas of the sea, I knew I was in for a memorable round. The course presented a formidable challenge, with the ever-present wind adding an extra layer of complexity to each shot. But amidst the challenges, there was a sense of joy and exhilaration that comes from playing golf in such a stunning setting.

Tips for Planning Your Golf Trip to the UK

1. Research Golf Courses: Before planning your trip, research the various golf courses in the UK to find ones that match your preferences in terms of difficulty, scenery, and historical significance.

2. Book Tee Times in Advance: Many popular golf courses in the UK require advance booking for tee times, especially during peak seasons. Make sure to secure your tee times well in advance to avoid disappointment.

3. Consider Accommodation: Look for accommodation options near the golf courses you plan to visit. Some courses may have on-site lodging options, while others may have partnerships with local hotels.

4. Check Weather Conditions: The weather in the UK can be unpredictable, so make sure to check the forecast for the duration of your trip. Be prepared for rain and wind, especially if you’re playing links courses.

5. Pack Proper Gear: Bring appropriate golf attire and equipment for the conditions you’ll encounter. Waterproof clothing, sturdy shoes, and wind-resistant gear are essential for playing golf in the UK.

6. Explore Non-Golf Activities: While golf may be the main focus of your trip, take some time to explore the surrounding areas and enjoy other attractions, such as historic landmarks, cultural sites, and scenic landscapes.

7. Plan for Transportation: Consider how you’ll get around during your trip, whether it’s renting a car, using public transportation, or hiring a private driver. Make sure to factor in travel time between golf courses and accommodation.

8. Respect Course Etiquette: Familiarize yourself with the etiquette and rules of the golf courses you’ll be visiting, including dress codes, pace of play expectations, and local customs.

9. Budget Wisely: Golfing in the UK can be expensive, especially at prestigious courses. Set a budget for your trip and stick to it, considering green fees, accommodation, dining, and other expenses.

10. Enjoy the Experience: Above all, remember to enjoy the experience of playing golf in the UK. Take in the stunning scenery, challenge yourself on legendary courses, and create lasting memories with fellow golf enthusiasts.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How far in advance should I book tee times? A: It’s recommended to book tee times at least several weeks in advance, especially for popular courses during peak seasons.

Q: What should I wear when playing golf in the UK? A: Most golf courses in the UK have dress codes that require collared shirts, tailored trousers or shorts, and golf shoes. Check the specific requirements of each course before your visit.

Q: Are caddies available at UK golf courses? A: Some golf courses in the UK offer caddie services, while others may have golf carts or allow you to carry your own clubs. Check with the course in advance if you’re interested in hiring a caddie.

Q: What is the best time of year to visit the UK for golf? A: The spring and summer months (April to September) are generally considered the best times to visit the UK for golf, as the weather is milder and daylight hours are longer.

Q: Can I play golf in the UK as a non-member? A: Many golf courses in the UK welcome non-members, although some may have restrictions on when non-members can play. It’s best to check with the individual course for their guest policies.

Conclusion

Planning a golf trip to the UK offers golf enthusiasts the opportunity to experience some of the finest courses in the world amidst stunning landscapes and rich history. By following these tips and guidelines, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable golfing experience in the UK.

Remember to research and book tee times in advance, pack appropriate gear for the weather conditions, and explore non-golf activities to make the most of your trip. Respect course etiquette, budget wisely, and above all, enjoy the experience of playing golf in this iconic destination.

Whether you’re teeing off on the legendary links courses of Scotland, exploring the inland gems of England, or taking in the coastal splendor of Northern Ireland, a golf trip to the UK promises adventure, challenge, and unforgettable memories.

Additional Resources

  1. Golf Course Directories: Explore online directories of golf courses in the UK to discover hidden gems and plan your itinerary.
  2. Travel Guides: Consult travel guides and websites for information on accommodations, transportation options, and local attractions near golf courses.
  3. Golf Tour Operators: Consider booking your trip through a golf tour operator specializing in UK golf vacations for personalized assistance and expert advice.
  4. Golf Associations: Check with golf associations such as the R&A, England Golf, and the Golfing Union of Ireland for resources and recommendations.
  5. Local Recommendations: Reach out to local golfers or golf clubs in the UK for insider tips and recommendations on must-play courses and off-the-beaten-path attractions.

By utilizing these additional resources, you can enhance your golfing experience in the UK and make the most of your time on and off the course. Safe travels and happy golfing!

Author’s Note

As an avid golfer and enthusiast of the sport, writing this comprehensive guide to the top golf courses in the United Kingdom has been a true pleasure. I’ve poured my passion for golf into every word, aiming to provide fellow golfers with valuable insights and practical tips for planning their own unforgettable golfing adventures in the UK.

Having had the opportunity to play on some of these renowned courses myself, I can attest to the unique challenges, breathtaking scenery, and rich history that each one offers. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a newcomer to the game, I hope this guide inspires you to explore the diverse landscapes and world-class courses that make the UK a premier destination for golf enthusiasts worldwide.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the fairways and greens of the United Kingdom. May your drives be long, your putts be true, and your golfing adventures be nothing short of extraordinary.

Happy golfing!

Brief Note about the author.

Kimbowa Geofrey

I am Kimbowa Geofrey, a go-getter, It is my passion that drives me in all I do but also the personal improvement that I experience.
My story started about 8 years back, trying one business to another, it wasn’t easy at the start because I didn’t get exactly what I expected out of these businesses and my frustration grew. Luckily I stumbled upon three businesses that changed my life; Web hosting, web development, and blogging.

I also love to play golf, It’s my only time of leisure.
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Brief Note about Hostziza.

Hostziza Tech Solutions was founded in August 2021 by two visionary entrepreneurs,
Dr Nkurunziza Emmanuel and Mr Kimbowa Geofrey.
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