Within these shores we are blessed with a rich variety of courses both around the coast and inland. Here are what we feel to be our 10 best inland courses
It’s true that links courses dominate the upper echelons of the Golf Monthly Top 100 UK & Ireland course rankings, but that’s not to say our inland courses don’t cut the mustard. Far from it, for we are also blessed with some of the finest heathland and parkland courses in the world too, with heathland courses also particularly well represented in the top 50.
Here are what we believe to be the 10 best inland courses in the UK…
Few would dispute that a day out at Sunningdale is one of the finest golfing experiences there is, full stop. But many would argue as to which is the better of its two magnificent heathland layouts. We feel the New edges it for the many visual and strategic thrills it serves up from start to finish. Is there a finer duo of back-to-back holes anywhere than the gorgeous par-3 5th and expansive par 5 that follows?
The Old will always be the choice of many at Sunningdale on account of the history, tradition and great championships that have been staged there over the years. It plays over a simply wondrous piece of golfing terrain, via heather, broom and a whole spectrum of elevation changes. The magnificent 10th is a fine example of this, sweeping down and up to the fabled halfway hut, where the sausage sandwich is guaranteed to bring a smile however well you’re playing.
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
Mention Woodhall Spa to any reasonably travelled golfer, and it’s likely the first thing they will say in response is, ‘What about those bunkers?’ What indeed, other than that no other inland course in the UK, bar perhaps Ganton, serves up a more challenging, and indeed, deep collection of bunkers both fairway and greenside. Suffice to say that any round over this beautiful and challenging heathland course becomes as much about positioning and strategy as it about ball-striking and length off the tee. Keep out of the sand!
St George’s Hill (Red & Blue)
This glorious heathland course boasts wonderful variety among its holes, and countless memorable moments like the par-3 8th on the Red nine that plays across a valley, whose far bank is heavily bunkered – but considerably less so than once it was! The unusual red-brick clubhouse stands proud over proceedings, looking out over the opening and closing holes of both Red and Blue nines.
Ganton’s heathland course in the Vale of Pickering hosted the 1949 Ryder Cup when USA just edged out Team GB. It’s often referred to as an inland links, and while such a description may sit uneasily with some, it certainly exudes many of the playing characteristics of a links. The winds that often blow across the course place a great premium on accuracy, for the bunkers are almost up there with Woodhall Spa’s! There are many excellent holes, among them the 6th, with shades of Gleneagles, and the pretty par-3 10th, whose inherently fair green is heavily bunkered, yet slightly concave to gather balls in.
Walton Heath (Old) Hankley Common Gleneagles (King’s) Swinley Forest Notts
Herbert Fowler’s Walton Heath masterpiece is famed the world over for the quality of its test. This classic course plays over an expansive tract of Surrey heathland, with the opening stretch providing a sterling test in any sort of breeze, not least the 200+ yard opener. There are chances to score over the closing holes with three par 5s from the 13th onwards, but staying out of the sometimes-thick heather is essential if you are to take full advantage.
Another Surrey heathland treat that just keeps getting better on account of all the work that has been carried out here over the past decade, both in clearing trees and scrub and in significant improvements to many holes. There’s a real sense of peaceful seclusion to any game here, and a whole host of holes that will linger in the memory, among them the superb par-3 7th that plays across a heather-clad gully to a well-bunkered green.
James Braid’s Perthshire masterpiece may no longer have what it takes to host tour events like the Scottish Open, but it is just a breath-taking place to play golf amid some of most majestic Scottish scenery. The opener is memorable for the sharp incline up to the green, and raised greens are a common defence courtesy of Mr Braid, many of whose original features have recently been reinstated during an extensive improvement programme. Once a classic, always a classic.
This very private club is a hidden delight. Magnificent hole follows magnificent hole from start to finish through beautiful Berkshire heathland that’s ablaze with colour in the heart of the season courtesy of the flowering shrubs that adorn a number of fairways. It may not look long on the scorecard, but don’t be fooled – the par 5s are few and far between, and a number of lengthy par 4s ensure a test well beyond the overall yardage. Several holes have recently been lengthened a little too.
The club that also goes by the name of Hollinwell boast the finest course in the East Midlands. It presents a fittingly grand stage for our great game, playing over a vast landscape via a wonderfully diverse collection of holes, among them the fiercely demanding long par-4 2nd, which doglegs round to a green set at the foot of a pine-clad hill, and the stunning par-3 13th that cascades back down from the higher ground via a heather-lined valley to a green encircled by sand. A course that can test the very best.
Walton Heath (Old)