Overshadowed by its Celtic cousins? When you look at this list of the 10 best courses in England, it’s clear that the country can more than hold its own
Popular opinion might have you believing that the cream of the crop in the UK & Ireland lies north of the border or across the Irish Sea, but English courses fare well in the most illustrious of golfing company as a glance at the latest Golf Monthly Top 100 UK & Ireland course rankings reveals. Here are what we believe to be the 10 best courses in England
The Southport coast has way more than its fair share of very fine links, but one stands above them all – Royal Birkdale where the holes play predominantly along the valleys between tall dunes, and to where the world’s elite will gather in 2017 for the famous links’ 10th Open Championship.
New in name but getting on for 100 years old now, Harry Colt and John Morrison’s design has just got better and better over the years. It is a supremely beautiful place to play golf, with holes that will test and tease you, and others where you may just fancy your chances. Whatever happens on the day, you can’t help but enjoy yourself!
Royal St George’s
This links with a difference boasts fairways more rumpled in nature than on any other course on the current Open rota. There’s a glorious feeling of space around the 1st tee, but the challenge is stiff from the outset in any sort of breeze. Among the standout holes are the famous 4th with its mighty sleepered bunkers and extremely testing green.
Royal Lytham & St Annes
Lytham really is a thinker’s course where plotting your way round is of at least equal merit to length of the tee. Uniquely among The Open venues, it starts with a heavily bunkered par 3, which is followed by two strong par 4s flanking the railway. The run for home is stout indeed. The long par 4s at 15 and 17 – the latter’s approach blind if you’re too far left off the tee – yield par figures with some reluctance.
The Old vies strongly with its younger sibling for the honour of finest inland course in the UK, let alone England. There are so many strong holes on this wonderful heathland layout, that picking out one over another is tough, but the stretch from the 6th to the 8th excels heading out, while the 10th is a glorious down and up par 4 that will test you to the full.
The course that made its Open return in 2006, when Tiger reigned supreme over a bone-dry links, is again a little different. Looking out from the fine red-brick clubhouse, you’ll see a number of flat holes playing around what was once a racecourse but is now the practice ground. But the course at Hoylake really comes alive in the middle when it ventures closer to the Dee estuary for a prolonged spell of dramatic links golf.
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
Yes, the deep, testing bunkers are what the Hotchkin is most famous for, but Lincolnshire’s finest is about so much more than that. There are so many strong holes it’s almost impossible to single one out, but if pushed, the par-5 9th sets up particularly magnificently from the tee.
St George’s Hill (Red & Blue)
There is drama, variety and challenge aplenty laid out beneath the imposing red brick clubhouse that you play back up towards on the Red nine’s finale. To pick out one or two standout holes from such a strong cast is tough, but the 2nd on the Red is a demanding par 4 played from a raised tee over a crest, then gently back up to the green, while the 2nd on the Blue is a well-guarded 120-yarder where trouble awaits in the form of deep bunkers and steep banks.
Ganton is a gem of a course with an embarrassment of riches, and a number of holes that will quickly expose your weaknesses, especially if you stray into one of many bunkers that wouldn’t look out of place at Woodhall Spa. The final run for home is strong, with the 17th not quite able to decide if it’s a par 3 or 4 on the card, and 18 then somewhat unusually playing over an entrance road that is actually OOB should your ball come to rest on it.
Walton Heath (Old)
The older of Walton Heath’s two excellent courses has a long and rich history, and is blessed with an expansive landscape where you can often gaze out over several holes, though rarely will they impinge on each other. If you’re into the wind heading out, the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th will all test your game to the full, especially if you’re unable to keep it out of the heather.