With literally hundreds of fine golf courses across the breadth of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it is arguably our most competitive ranking. And with many of the best golf courses in the list boasting incredible history, heritage and prestige, it is also the one that is most difficult to judge. In this ranking, you’ll find courses worthy of hosting major championships and internationally-acclaimed tournaments, those that actually do just that, and a selection of unsung heroes that you may not even have heard of before. Here are some of the best golf UK courses.
Going by what Rory has been telling me, it could possibly be the best course I play this year,” says Sergio Garcia. When one considers the hosts of this year’s majors – Augusta, the Old Course and genuinely exciting modern venues Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits.
The course Garcia and Rory McIlroy have been discussing must be something special. While it’s true McIlroy will have been ‘selling it’ to the Spaniard, given he was trying to lure Garcia to a first Irish Open in 15 years, the sentiment does not flatter Royal County Down.
Garcia will set eyes on one of the world’s finest tracts of links land when McIlroy’s charity The Rory Foundation hosts the Irish Open in the last week of May. The world No.1’s role has attracted Rickie Fowler and Ernie Els back to the town of Newcastle.
The former will relive his Walker Cup match there, the latter will reprise a social trip 17 years ago. “I went with my dad and a friend. I remember the course well, it is in my top five links in the world.”
Garcia, Els and McIlroy may know of RCD’s allure, but it has a lower profile among the wider golfing public than its quality merits. The fact it has not hosted an Open – unlike Royal Portrush up the coast – or even an Irish Open for 75 years, is one obvious reason.
Amateur Championships, British Senior Opens and a Walker Cup have been played here and it is now Golf World’s No.1 course in GB&I. But we were hardly quick to recognise RCD’s superiority; it only reached the summit in 2012 having seen several Open hosts take their turn at the top. To this golfer at least, RCD in the No.1 spot feels absolutely appropriate.
Every couple of years or so, due to the vast amount of wear, tear and sheer brutality it experiences week in, week out at the hands of golfers from all four corners of the globe, the famous Road Hole bunker that guards the front left portion of the 17th green at the Old Course at St Andrews Golf Club gets a makeover.
Up until fairly recently, the greenkeepers charged with that important rebuilding task would carry out the work by eye, using their best judgement to ensure the latest iteration of golf’s most famous sand hazard as closely as possible resembled its predecessor.
Not only did this mean the bunker never looked exactly the same twice; the constant stream of subtle, almost imperceptible, tweaks over the course of several decades eventually led to some rather noticeable changes. If you compare an aerial view of the Old Course from four or five decades ago with one taken today – a period when no major alterations or design work were performed – you would notice some big differences.
Nowadays, of course, the process is somewhat different. A while back, the St Andrews Links Trust committed to what it believed to be the optimal styling of the championship course’s most prominent design features and then mapped them in fine detail to ensure that any future reconstruction work perfectly replicated the original contouring.
But no matter how much technology is applied to ensure the design remains consistent from an aesthetical standpoint, the point is, the Old Course, which dates back to the 15th century, has always been in a state of transition and most likely always will be.