The United Kingdom boasts some of the finest and most historically significant golf courses worldwide. Offering a diverse range of layouts, from lush parklands to expansive heathlands, traditional links-style courses continue to hold a special place in golf enthusiasts’ hearts. Yet, hidden among these coastal beauties are several inland treasures that are equally deserving of a visit. In the following article, let’s GolfLux introduce to you the top 15 most wonderful golf courses in UK that worth your visit.
Best Golf Courses in UK
1. St. Andrews Old Course in Scotland
The birthplace of golf boasts hidden pot bunkers, expansive double greens, and iconic holes like the Eden, Road, and Long, offering a wealth of strategic choices that shift with the day’s winds and pin placements. On tranquil days, the course may seem unassuming, but when the breeze picks up, the venerable Old Course demands the most skillful shots in golf.
Celebrating its 30th Open Championship, this historic course might just boast the swiftest and finest turf in the sport, despite (or perhaps because of) its constant use. Its design allows golfers of all ages and skill levels to revel in the game’s pleasures. Modern architects, take heed!
2. Royal County Down – Championship Course in Northern Ireland
The captivating evolution spanning more than 130 years of this golf course design has resulted in what many regard as the sport’s most exquisite front nine. This layout is rife with intriguing challenges, particularly evident in the clever use of blind tee shots on holes like the 2nd, 5th, and 9th. However, when you ask the club members about their favorite hole, the distinctive 13th often takes the spotlight with its banana-shaped fairway nestled within a picturesque valley.
Much of the credit for shaping the course’s destiny, especially during its pivotal transition to accommodate the rubber core Haskell ball, goes to member George Combe. It remains a thought-provoking curiosity why several prestigious golf courses owe a substantial part of their character to individuals who only had a hand in designing a select few courses.
3. Royal Dornoch Championship Course in Scotland
Following Tom Watson’s round here in preparation for his Open defense in 1981, he famously declared it to be “the most enjoyable golf experience I’ve ever had.” While Donald Ross, the course’s architect, spent his formative years in this area, the Dornoch course took its definitive form long after his departure. In fact, the course bears similarities to renowned layouts like Oakmont, Pinehurst No. 2, and NGLA, where a single visionary hand, in this case, John Sutherland’s, guided its design improvements over several decades.
Its most renowned hole, the bunkerless 14th known as “Foxy,” graces the North Sea shoreline, but its most exceptional sequence of holes lies inland, spanning from the 2nd through the 6th. In 2019, Tom Mackenzie made notable enhancements to the 7th hole, adding to the course’s allure. By the time you arrive at this point, you’ll find yourself thoroughly enchanted by the course’s magic.
4. Muirfield in Scotland
Jack Nicklaus was deeply impressed by this Open Championship venue, which has hosted the event 16 times, that he christened his own Ohio course in its honor following his victory here in 1966. Tom Weiskopf, in describing its primary allure, highlights “the constant change in hole direction, resulting in varying winds, exceptional balance, and a wide range of challenges.”
The course maintains an unwavering sense of perfection, with its nearly vertical bunkers around the greens exacting a formidable toll on errant shots. What distinguishes this course as one of the best golf courses in UK is its lack of artificial mounding, and its features gracefully integrated into the natural terrain, imparting a sublime beauty to its low-profile design. In fact, upon contemplation of Muirfield’s clean, unadorned lines, it becomes evident how many other designs tend to be overly sculpted and cluttered.
5. Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland
The Open Championship has ventured beyond the borders of England and Scotland to be hosted by this exceptional course, consistently ranked among the top 15 in the list of the best golf courses in the world. It owes its acclaim to a brilliant 1929 design by H.S. Colt, ingeniously utilizing the rugged terrain amidst the elevated dunes overlooking the Irish Sea.
In 2019, the golfing world witnessed the introduction of two new holes during the Open: the 7th and 8th, which replaced the previously unremarkable 17th and 18th holes. Both the front and back nines of the course hug the cliff line, with the pinnacle of its dramatic beauty occurring at the 5th hole. Here, the fairway doglegs to the right, leading to a two-tiered green set flush against the cliff’s edge. Remarkably, many holes require thoughtful consideration as to whether to employ the driver, as they gently curve one way or the other.
6. Sunningdale Golf Club in England
The origins of golf in the United Kingdom lie in the coastal linkslands, but as the sport’s popularity grew, there was a demand for courses closer to urban centers. Sunningdale Golf Club played a pioneering role in this shift, establishing one of the earliest inland golf courses in England that set a new benchmark in course design at the beginning of the 20th century.
Harry Colt’s refinements, including the strategic relocation of the 12th green to a higher position on the left, complemented Willie Park Jr.’s original vision. These enhancements have collectively elevated Sunningdale to its current status as one of the best golf courses in England.
7. Royal St. George’s in England
This venerable course, a 16-time host of the Open Championship since its inception in 1887, is affectionately known as “Sandwich.” It occupies some of the most undulating and spirited dunes of any Open venue, resulting in a higher prevalence of blind shots compared to other current host sites. While some professional golfers embrace this unique challenge, others approach it with caution. Amateurs, viewing links golf as an adventurous pursuit rather than a livelihood, tend to be more universally enthusiastic in their appreciation.
Despite its expansive layout, Sandwich offers moments of intense drama. For instance, the 4th tee presents golfers with the daunting task of clearing a formidable 40-foot-deep fairway bunker. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was an ardent admirer of the 10th green, perched precariously atop its location. However, the most nerve-wracking moment arrives at the par-5 14th tee, where a boundary out-of-bounds looms ominously along the right side.
8. North Berwick – West Course in Scotland
To the east of Edinburgh lies this legendary links course. Among its numerous notable features, the 15th hole stands out, famously known as the Redan. It’s a par-3 hole that presents golfers with an elevated, diagonal green sloping from high right to lower left – a design element often imitated by other courses. However, when it comes to lasting impressions, the 15th hole takes a backseat to the par-4 13th, aptly named “The Pit,” with its green nestled behind a low stone wall.
Yet, one should not overlook the equally thrilling 16th green, where the left and right plateaus are separated by a deep channel. The sheer variety of challenges on this course sets it apart, making other designs appear unadventurous by comparison.
9. Carnoustie Championship Course
This ancient links course, with roots dating back to 1842, is characterized by its abundant heather, gorse, dense fescue rough resembling a jungle and steep-faced revetted bunkers. The sinuous Barry Burn winding through the layout adds an extra layer of complexity, particularly when the wind is in play. Among the roster of Open Championship venues, it’s renowned as one of the most formidable, counting golf legends such as Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Tom Watson among its champions.
Unfortunately, a challenging course setup during the 1999 Open earned it the nickname “Carnastie,” which, in hindsight, seems regrettable. When played from the appropriate set of tees, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised and thoroughly impressed by the course’s diverse array of challenges and its exceptional variety of greens, including the cleverly shared double-green at the 4th and 14th holes.
10. Royal Birkdale Golf Club in England
Many regard this links course as the most “fair” among the Open Championship rotation. Despite its location amidst towering dunes, the majority of its holes gracefully traverse valleys, sparing golfers from too many blind shots. The inaugural Open played here in 1954 saw Australian legend Peter Thomson emerge victorious, and Birkdale has since hosted nine other editions, including Jordan Spieth’s remarkable victory in 2017.
Both the front and back nines exhibit exquisite balance, with the course’s standout holes thoughtfully distributed throughout. Among these, two notable ones include the challenging 1st hole, a demanding par-4 that curves left through a scenic valley, and the picturesque 12th, a one-shot with a treacherously positioned green, surrounded by hazards. Remarkably, the 12th hole is a relatively recent addition from the 1960s, courtesy of designer Fred Hawtree Jr., making it one of the youngest holes in the Open Championship rotation.
11. Swinley Forest Golf Club in England
Unlike the United States, England doesn’t hold a prejudice against golf courses with a par score below 70. The fact that our reviewers have embraced a 6,431-yard, par-69 course like Swinley Forest as a prime example of excellent design sends a compelling message. Similar to Rye, Swinley Forest’s combination of five one-shot holes and a sub-70 par score make it a more comprehensive test of golfing prowess than a cursory look at its scorecard might suggest.
Interestingly, Harry Colt himself modestly referred to Swinley Forest as his “least bad” design, demonstrating his preference for letting his work speak for itself rather than indulging in self-promotion.
12. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) in England
Credit is due to architects H.S. Colt and S.V. Hotchkin for elevating Harry Vardon’s initial vision and transforming this course into one of the premier inland golf courses in UK – an oasis amid the otherwise flat fenland of Lincolnshire. Woodhall Spa is distinguished by its deep bunkers, abundant gorse, and a remarkable collection of par-3 holes.
In recent years, an assiduous restoration project led by Renaissance Design involved the removal of trees and the regeneration of heather, rejuvenating the course’s natural charm. Situated 150 miles north of London and not part of a cluster of well-known designs, Woodhall Spa tends to receive less attention than it truly merits.
13. Royal Troon Golf Club – Old Course in Scotland
Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, and Tom Watson, among other American golfers, have claimed victory at Royal Troon. Nevertheless, the most unforgettable moment in Troon’s history came from a non-champion: 71-year-old Gene Sarazen. In the 1973 Open, he executed a remarkable hole-in-one on the 123-yard “Postage Stamp” 8th hole, using a 5-iron no less! While the diminutive 8th hole garners much of the limelight, Troon boasts an array of outstanding par-4s, including the 7th, 11th, 13th, and 15th.
The stone wall that separates the course from the rail line looms disconcertingly close to the right of the 11th green and serves as a rigorous litmus test to gauge who has mastered their swing and who hasn’t. While the “Postage Stamp” deserves celebration, it’s equally important to appreciate the course’s other treasures.
14. St. George’s Hill (Red & Blue) in England
Throughout his illustrious career, H.S. Colt had the pleasure of working on splendid European sites, ranging from London’s heathland to the rugged cliffs of Northern Ireland and sandy terrains in the Netherlands. Among his many achievements, one of the most exceptional properties is the one where he artfully crafted a diverse array of holes across the undulating landscape.
Colt’s genius is evident in his placement of the green sites, which vary from perched on knobs or plateaus to nestled at ground level. Notably, the 10th green, positioned at the lowest point beyond a hillock, stands out as a remarkable challenge. Perhaps the most perplexing hole is the half-par 4th, a downhill, 272-yarder that transitions surprisingly swiftly from a position of advantage to one where the golfer becomes the prey.
15. Rye Golf Club in England
The first hole serves as the course’s lone three-shotter and is relatively straightforward, but don’t let your guard down! What ensues is a sequence of twelve challenging par-4s, with a substantial ten of them stretching beyond 420 yards. Additionally, Rye features a notorious set of five par-3s that contribute to its 6,503-yard layout ranking it among the most demanding on our list in terms of sheer difficulty.
What’s particularly intriguing is that you can navigate Rye’s 18 holes in just two and a half hours. This brisk pace prompts reflection on the value of courses that are significantly longer in length.
Above is the list of the 15 best golf courses in UK. Do you know any other courses that really worth visiting? Please share with us by commenting below. Also, don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more information on these courses. Thank you so much for your reading!