Overshadowed by its Celtic cousins? When you look at this list of the best courses in England, it’s clear that the country can more than hold its own.
The Best Golf Courses In England
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.
Below we have looked at some of the best golf courses to lie 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. Birkdale was also the site of Jordan Spieth’s infamous drop and unbelievable last 5 holes to win the 2017 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Featuring tight fairways, impressive sand hills and thick rough, Burnham and Berrow seems a daunting prospect requiring strict accuracy off the tee. However, it has hosted more than 50 amateur competitions and provides a fair challenge that links enthusiasts will relish.
Hankley Common is a beautiful golf course that is of top quality. The surrounding area is a site of special scientific interest and the setting features thousands of birches, rowans, pines and oaks. The course is renowned for its good drainage and the dry conditions make for fast-running fairways akin to a links course, as Bobby Locke once pointed out.
One of England’s finest links, and as an unusual one with a number of holes beautifully framed by towering pines. The front nine is strong, but the back nine really shines. The par 5s – the 11th, sweeping from right to left, and the 17th through a dune-lined valley – really stand out.
Notts provides a genuine away-from-it-all feeling. The course is a fine heathland routing with sometimes breathtaking changes in elevation and a host of exceptional holes. An ongoing bunker-improvement programme is successfully recreating a true heathland appearance.
Swinley Forest is a quintessentially old-school course that is always a delight. Tunnelling through beautiful pines it provides a sublime balance of fun and variety, making it one of Harry Colt’s greatest legacies.
St Enodoc is one of a kind and a real treat that offers excellent value. The Cornish coastline provides a stunning backdrop to this wonderfully varies James Braid design. Packed with memorable features such as the Himalayas bunker, it’s a thrilling ride from start to finish.
While many links courses lack the framing and variety offered by trees, Formby features the best of both worlds with an almost heathland feel in place. It is abound with strong par 4s that contribute to its reputation as one of the very best courses on a coastline packed with excellent golf.
With six wildly differing shot holes, six par 4s and six long holes, there is something for everyone. This fabulous Herbert Fowler design provides enormous fun with something new in store at every turn.
The more challenging of two wonderful links courses set in the glorious North Devon dunes that provide a wonderful place to play golf.
Blessed with an idyllic setting, the rumpled links never seems to attract a bad word. Heather, gorse and the breeze will challenge every department of your game.
As course design debuts go, this Alister MacKenzie heathland beauty on the outskirts of Leeds takes some beating. Some of his original design features lost over the years have even been re-introduced in the 21st century. Fine opening and closing holes bookend this heathland classic.
The course eases you in with a short-par-4, delightful-par-3 combination, before a beautiful and, at times, very challenging heathland examination.
Don’t be fooled by this charming heathland layout’s modest length of 6,351 yards, for the par is just 68. Take full advantage of the opening par 5, four several testing par 4s and the very long par 3 6th give little away willingly.
Some holes and the entrance road have been affected by the tide, but this merely adds to the character of this step-back-in-time links that is still a true test in the modern era. It is a wonderful experience from start to finish with some stirring holes.
Rye is a well-maintained course with a great heritage. The original layout was designed by a 25-year-old Harry Colt who produced this attractive and exciting course with a hugely characterful layout.
A strong course with a great variety of holes forging out to the turn and then back into the prevailing wind. There’s a fine run from home from the 12th, which is one of the most challenging stretches you will find.
A picturesque and challenging Herbert Fowler course. Making use of the land’s natural slopes, the holes fit naturally and comfortably into the landscape.
It’s a fine and challenging links that sets out its stall from the word go, with a daunting par 3 of nearly 200 yards as the opener. It has been twice a Ryder Cup venue.
There are tremendous holes around the turn on this links venue. It is a traditional out-and-back layout played either side of a dune ridge.
The first ever Ryder Cup in Britain was held here and it is one of Alister MacKenzie’s finest designs. It has been re-worked to re-establish it’s traditional heathland characteristics.
When the heather is in bloom, this pretty layout is simply fantastic. The heathland track is built on the Bagshot sand making it very well-draining. A blend of short and long holes make this a thoroughly enjoyable test.
Liphook is enjoyable all year round as it is delightful, engaging and peaceful. The classy healthland design welcomes all sorts of players and offers very good value for money.
One of three courses at Woburn, this is the youngest and most highly rated. It has staged three British Masters and hosted the Women’s British Open in 2019.
It is very hard to split both the West and East course here at Saunton so why not give both a try and decide for yourself. It is another truly enjoyable links course.
Tall pines encircle the course and there are undulations, heathers, streams and ditches that provide constant interest and variety. It’s a traditional inland course which has reaped the rewards of recent improvements.
This is England’s second oldest heathland course with no par-5s and ten par-4s measuring over 400 yards. No need to worry though, it plays like a fast-running links course in summer.
A links course that will set your pulses racing. The famous 4th hole has even more of a ‘wow’ factor now due to continuing improvements and bunkering.
A tremendous Bournemouth healthland that contains many an attractive hole.
One of the country’s truest seaside tests. Every aspect of your game will be tested, it’s demanding but well worth it.
The oldest of the 3 W’s in Surrey is a course that requires good strategy as much as skill. Course conditioning and drainage is always improving too.
Royal North Devon
A course that has to fight with coastal erosion but still has a classic links feel. You have to share some of the unusual reed-lined holes with sheep and horses which gives a unique challenge to the golfer.
It lies over a springy heathland lined by heather and a magnificent variety of trees. This supremely attractive setting for golf offers tough tee shots and sublime putting surfaces.
This beautiful Kyle Phillips design flows naturally across an impressive swathe of mature parkland. It was the host to Tiger Woods’ 2006 WGC title and hosted the 2016 British Masters.
It sits comfortably alongside the two other courses at Woburn but this offers wonderful aesthetics and great variety. You would be forgiven for thinking it had always been here but it only opened back in 1976.
The Belfry (Brabazon)
No course has played host to more Ryder Cups, the great parkland track was the venue for four contests between 1985 and 2002. It’s always presented beautifully despite the heavy play, and the undulating greens can be a joy to putt on. In essence, this is a true tournament venue.
Ferndown was designed by Golf Monthly’s first ever editor, Harold Hilton. The fine heathland course has sandy fairways and heather to either side. Pine trees and firs also line some of the holes to create a very attractive layout.
The last of the three Woburn courses makes the list. This one is the tightest of all three with its iconic pines hugging each and every hole. You wouldn’t want to play this one if you hit it wayward.
A very welcoming healthland course designed by Tom Dunn which has had major modifications done by Harry Colt. It could easily have a second course attached to it.
This was the location of the 2017 British Masters, a strong modern design with plenty of eye-catching holes such as the par-3 9th over water and the 18th which is played over a wall – ironically this course isn’t too far from Hadrian’s Wall.
The course provides two different challenges up the front and back nine. You head out to face a relatively flat and strategic first nine before taking a scenic rollercoaster ride back home. A golden age course with exemplary greens.
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