GM has created a fantasy golf course comprising the very best holes from the UK and Ireland Top 100 Courses
Golfers in these isles are blessed to have so many of the world’s finest, most varied, historic and picturesque golf courses within their borders.
Every two years, Golf Monthly goes through a complex and rigorous process to produce a list of the top-100 courses, and we are proud this is generally recognised as the definitive golf course ranking for the UK and Ireland.
The 100 courses on our list are made up of 1,800 golf holes. No two of them are the same and each one sets an individual golfing examination.
The GM team began to discuss favourite holes from within the list and this evolved into a project to create a ‘Dream 18’ – a perfect course comprising the very best holes that the UK & Ireland have to offer.
As with any project of this nature, subjectivity comes into play. We all had slightly different ideas, but we eventually settled on the following selection. See if you agree with our choices…
The UK&I’s Best Golf Holes – Dream 18 – Front Nine
1 – 1st at Trump Doonbeg – Par 5 – 561 yards
The spectacular course at Doonbeg starts with an incredible par 5. It leads the golfer right into the dunes and gives a clear indication of the dramatic terrain that will be a feature of the whole round on this captivating west-Irish links.
The tee shot is fairly straightforward, as you would hope for your first blow of the day, but there is danger with a bunker in the centre and rough-covered dunes left and right.
The approach is into an amphitheatre within the dunes, with the green acting as the stage. Clever bunkering protects the route in and a precise shot is required if you are to find the putting surface safely.
This is a thrilling and striking hole that will send a tingle down the spine of even the most cynical golfer. It’s the ideal opener to our Dream 18. It involves just the right amount of drama to set the pulse racing and to raise expectations for what’s to come.
2 – 15th at Royal St David’s – Par 4 – 427 yards
Playing down this fantastic, bunkerless hole, travelling between and over the dunes, you get the feeling you are experiencing golf in its most natural state. This is how the golfing gods intended for the game to be played.
The drive here is struck over the dunes to an angled fairway. The approach must carry more dunes and, depending on the wind, the prudent play may be to lay up short and tackle the hole in three shots.
Having said that, the exciting chance of possibly firing a long-iron onto this large putting surface is tough to resist. This is a hole where players of varying abilities will find satisfaction in its successful negotiation.
After putting out on the 15th at Harlech, turn around and consider what you’ve just played – the ribbon of fairway cutting through the rumpled, wispy dune-land with incredible views of the mountains behind. Stunning.
3 – 7th at Hankley Common – Par 3 – 183 yards
This brilliant short hole is played on the edge of the vast wilderness which surrounds Hankley Common – the whole area (including the course) has been classified as a site of specific scientific interest.
This is a hole that has captivated many great players over the years, including Bobby Locke and Sir Henry Cotton.
It’s the near perfect simplicity of this par 3 that makes it so enticing. The ball must carry a swathe of heather and rough towards a flag perched upon a two-tier green, with bunkers front left and front right.
The wind can make finding the target a significant challenge, particularly when it blows across in either direction. But, as with most great short holes, only a perfectly struck shot will find the putting surface, no matter the conditions.
Anything just missing will leave a testing up-and-down.
If one had a blank canvas on which to draw a perfect heathland par 3, this is what it would look like.
4 – 11th at Hillside – Par 5 – 509 yards
Before you tackle this incredible par 5, it’s worth taking a moment to soak up the views on offer from the tee.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to the mountains of the Lake District.
The fabulously shaped fairway kinks to the right before turning left between dunes on both sides.
The hole then sweeps round towards a green that’s framed by a striking circle of high pines.
When played into the wind, it’s definitely a three-shot hole, but on calmer days, or with a breeze behind, there’s a chance to make it to the putting surface in two blows. That will require a strong second shot, ideally with a hint of draw to feed the ball in towards the flag.
This is both a visually striking and technically excellent long hole. It requires precise play, but it provides a true and fair chance of reward for strong striking.
5 – 3rd at Royal County Down – Par 4 – 477 yards
This formidable par 4 plays from an elevated tee, affording spectacular views across Dundrum Bay.
Driving to a narrow fairway, the question is: do you play over, or skirt round, the two fairway bunkers between 195 and 220 yards out? If you choose the former, you have to be careful not to run out of fairway, as it pinches in just before 300 yards. Choose the latter and another bunker waits down the right side.
The approach to the green is guarded by five perilous bunkers and a mound short and left that kicks an under-hit shot away to the right.
This green tends to be extremely fast and it features subtle borrows that confuse even long-time members.
Making a par on this tremendously testing hole will feel like a birdie for even the most accomplished links golfer.
6 – 15th at Kingsbarns – Par 3 – 185 yards
Playing right along the Fife coastline, the tee shot here must carry rocks and sea to reach the putting surface.
A ball lacking power or getting up in the wind will end up bouncing around and eventually wet.
With the trees on the left providing shelter it’s hard to feel the wind, but when a tee shot gets up and away it can easily be taken on the breeze.
The position of the flag here can greatly alter the question posed. When front left, a shot of some 165 yards is required. When back right, it’s more than 200 yards and simply not to be taken on.
The prudent play is for the centre of the putting surface. Frankly, anything on the green is highly acceptable.
7 – 11th at Ballybunion – Par 4 – 402 yards
This is a daunting but magnificent par 4.
The prevailing wind comes off the sea so you must be extremely brave on the drive and aim down the shoreline, allowing the breeze to push the ball back towards the narrow fairway.
The target from the tee is a small section of cut grass between dunes and beach.
The hole is undulating throughout, with shelves of fairway all the way to a brilliant green protected by dunes short left, slopes short right and a hollow to the right of the putting surface.
The approach must carry all the way.
It’s not surprising that this is one of the most photographed and painted holes in world golf. Mastering this one delivers pure golfing satisfaction.
8 – 13th at Liphook – Par 5 – 502 yards
A beautiful long hole, the 13th at Liphook is named ‘Two Counties’ as a waterway marking the border between Hampshire and West Sussex crosses the fairway some 130 yards short of the green.
From the tee, the hole plays gently downhill to a gorgeously shaped fairway lined with heather.
On the approach, the hole moves back uphill to a green protected by clever bunkering and run-offs. Pines and flowering shrubs frame the putting surface, making it one of the most enticing approaches you’ll ever play.
For longer hitters, the green is on in two during the summer months and this makes the hole a good birdie chance.
Mere mortals have the dilemma of whether to take on the carry over the stream or not.
It’s a perfect par 5, offering potential glory for those who display power and accuracy, and trouble for those who take on too much and falter.
9 – 9th at Turnberry – Par 3 – 185 yards
This hole is the newest on our list, arriving at Turnberry as part of the redesign of the Ailsa course that took place between 2015 and 2016. This par 3 makes the very most of the dramatic coastline around the iconic lighthouse.
A selection of tees can be used here – the longest leaves a huge carry of some 220 yards and a total distance of nigh on 250. But a number of other teeing grounds can be put into use to shorten the hole, and this can be crucial if the wind is hurting.
Out on the rugged shoreline, the gusts make this a hugely challenging shot but an incredibly rewarding one if executed correctly.
To watch the ball flying over the wave-battered rocks with the lighthouse in the background is an exhilarating experience.
To see it touch down on the putting surface is an elating one.
Click to the next page for our Dream 18 Back Nine