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We take a look at 10 golf courses that will put a smile on your face and keep you coming back for more.
10 Golf Courses To Make You Smile
Rob Smith and Fergus Bisset consider Golf Monthly's Top 100 and Next 100 courses and pick out ten fabulous layouts where fun is to the fore...
Old Head (opens in new tab)
There are some golfers who feel that one or two of the holes at Old Head (pictured above) are not so strong, but given that the course occupies one of the most stunning settings for the sport anywhere in the world, it is perhaps understandable that the views dominate your attention. The course opened for play a little over 20 years ago and is fantasy golf made real, with the majority of holes hugging the vertigo- inducing, jagged cli tops. The four par 3s are as photogenic and exciting as you will find anywhere; miss on the wrong side and your ball is in the Atlantic Ocean. You may need a head for heights, but play along this incredibly beautiful design on a calm, mild, blue-sky day and it is hard to imagine a more dramatic location for golf.
JF Abercromby was responsible for a very limited but highly regarded number of courses, and his distinctive design at Knole Park dates back to 1924. It runs over a spacious parcel of extremely attractive and gently undulating parkland that is blessed with soft, springy turf. Every hole is different, memorable and enjoyable, with far more individuality than you will find at the vast majority of such courses. The setting is a delight and next door to Knole House, once the palace of an archbishop that has been occupied by the Sackville family for over 400 years. Golfers will usually encounter some of the many graceful deer that live on the estate but which do surprisingly little damage to the course. With six par 3s, tricky doglegs and plateau greens, there are plenty of thrills all the way.
Adare Manor (opens in new tab)
The magnificent parkland course at Adare Manor was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior in the mid-90s. A change of ownership in 2015 led to the bold decision to close it down for the most comprehensive upgrade imaginable. Tom Fazio has created a sumptuous and quite wonderful course that follows the original routing but which otherwise is new in every respect. State-of-the-art drainage caters for whatever the Irish weather can conjure up, while over 6,600m2 of new bunkering serves up the most strategic and visual feast. All of the tees, fairways and greens have been re-turfed, and the manicuring is pristine from start to finish. This is as close to Augusta as is possible this side of the Atlantic. It will host the Ryder Cup in 2026.
If ever there was a course that made a mockery of yardage, Cavendish is it. Stretching to a fraction over 5,700 yards from the tips and with just the one par 5, it will still examine every department of your game while at the same time offering ample reward if you pass the test. The course was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie in the 1920s, almost a decade before he created his most famous legacy, Augusta National. MacKenzie was not unduly worried about length being a design factor, and the course has changed little since. There are a couple of tough but very distinctive par 4s that start the back nine, and a classic finishing hole round to the clubhouse, but its most memorable feature is the idyllic and peaceful setting surrounded by the Peak District.
Kingsbarns (opens in new tab)
Designed by one of today’s greatest golf course architects, Kyle Phillips, Kingsbarns provides a marvellous modern take on the traditional Scottish links. Set on the rugged coastline of the East Neuk of Fife, it plays through the rumpled dunes and along the rocky shore. The sheer playability of Kingsbarns makes it a supremely fun course. Golfers of all standards will find the layout challenging and forgiving in perfect measures. Wide fairways mean one is rarely out of a hole and the sizeable greens deliver plenty of interesting putts over the rolling ground. The holes set right by the sea are striking, while those on the slightly higher ground offer tremendous views along the coast. The small but perfectly formed clubhouse provides a wonderful haven for a post-round debrief.
Nefyn & District
The course at Nefyn is blessed with breathtaking panoramas, taking in Snowdonia and, on a clear day, the Wicklow Mountains of Southern Ireland. There are 27 holes at Nefyn, comprised of three nines – The Front, The New and The Old. The latter plays along a narrow promontory, with the sea and sandy beaches bordering the fairways on either side. Spectacular stuff, with some truly memorable holes. The three nines make this an ideal venue for a day’s golf. The modern clubhouse has comfortable bar areas, a snooker room and an excellent restaurant. If that’s not enough, on the beach below the 6th hole of the Old course is the famous Ty Coch pub. You can get to it from the course and you might stop for a quick pint before tackling the remaining holes. Sound fun?
Castle Stuart (opens in new tab)
A great deal has been written about Castle Stuart’s incredible setting, and there’s no doubt the views up the Moray Firth to the Kessock Bridge and across it to the Black Isle enhance the experience. But, even if you were to relocate this course to a barren wasteland, the holes themselves would stand up and deliver pure golfing enjoyment. With humps and swales, slopes and hollows, there are many ways to negotiate this fabulous track. There’s always an option to try and fly a shot all the way, or to run it in using the contours. The changes in elevation deliver great drama and the variety of holes, long and short, is exceptional. The fairways are generous so you won’t feel constricted from the tee, while the greens are large, sprawling and inviting. Castle Stuart is quite simply a pleasure to play.
Boat of Garten
With stunning views to the snow-capped Cairngorms and set among the pines and birches alongside the shimmering River Spey, Boat of Garten is one of the most scenic golf courses in the country. From the moment you arrive you realise this is a special place, from characterful course to cosy clubhouse. Designed by James Braid and established in 1898, Boat of Garten tests both accuracy and skill. The course isn’t long, just under 6,000 yards, but a straight ball is essential. The fairways are firm and undulating and lined with woodland. The greens are heavily sloping but they run true and can become fast through the summer months, leading to some perplexingly entertaining putts.
Saunton (West) (opens in new tab)
Saunton is one of a small number of extremely lucky clubs to have more than one course in the Top 100. The East is the higher ranked and undoubtedly the tougher, while the West is more forgiving, more varied and, most importantly for many, more fun. It dropped a few places in the latest Top 100, but this was more to do with rises elsewhere as the West is unquestionably a delightful course that is still a genuine challenge. Indeed, last summer it was home to the English PGA Championship, and this glorious site that is separated from the beach by towering dunes is a real draw. Streams and plenty of doglegs add to the interest, and the back nine is particularly varied with three of each par.
Sunningdale (Old) (opens in new tab)
The Old course at Sunningdale delivers the quintessential Home Counties heathland golfing experience. It’s a beautiful course played through the pines across beautifully maintained, rm fairways towards gorgeous greens that run as smoothly as any you will ever putt on. The front nine offers a great blend of holes and the short par 4s provide excellent opportunities. The strong 10th leads to the world-famous halfway house, where a highly superior sausage sandwich awaits before you tackle the run for home. Coming off the 18th, passing the iconic oak tree, you’ll reflect on a round that will likely have seen you hit every club in your bag and every shot in your arsenal. There’s fascinating history and memorabilia to take in at the club and the hospitality you will receive in the clubhouse is second to none.
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A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.
A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well.
Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five.
Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6
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