10 Best Links Courses In The UK

Come with us on a tantalising tour of what we consider to be the 10 best links courses in the UK

Royal Birkdale golf course pictured
Royal Birkdale
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With links courses dominating the upper echelons of Golf Monthly’s latest UK & Ireland Top 100 course rankings, it’s no surprise that the 10 best links courses in the UK all feature in the top-12 of the top 100. Only the two Sunningdales (ranked 9th and 10th) stop our top-10 from being links-only.

Inland golf lovers may raise an eyebrow, but the seaside was where the great game evolved within these shores and our links courses are a national treasure for which we should be extremely grateful and extremely proud. Our list of the 10 best links courses in the UK features eight Open Championship venues, and whilst they all demand high peak season green fees, they are open to the public for all golfers to play.

So join us on a whistlestop tour around our 10 best links courses…

1. Royal County Down - Championship

Royal County Down

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Newcastle, County Down
  • Founded: 1889
  • Designed by: Old Tom Morris, George Combe, Harry Vardon and Harry Colt
  • Green fee: £270-£370

In top spot is the stunning Championship Course at Royal County Down, which is in first place in the top 100 rankings and when it comes to the best golf courses in Northern Ireland. Rolling terrain, beautiful rough-edged bunkering and gorse aplenty mix with the odd blind hole and a glorious backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne to serve up a golfing experience that is simply hard to beat.

- Full Royal County Down Championship Course review

2. St Andrews - Old Course

St Andrews Old Course

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: St Andrews, Fife
  • Founded: 1552
  • Designed by: Old Tom Morris and Daw Anderson (1850s)
  • Green fee: £98-£270

In second spot and the best of the bunch when it comes to the best golf courses in Scotland is the Old Course at the Home of Golf. It's quite simply where it’s at for scores of visitors from all over the world who cram every available tee time from dawn to dusk pretty much all year round. History and heritage combine to deliver an experience like no other as you head out from, and return to, the Auld Grey Toon over the famous opening and closing holes. Some say the course is too easy for the modern game; others simply revel in a goosebumps moment unrivalled in world golf.

- Full St Andrews Old Course review

3. Muirfield

Muirfield pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Gullane, East Lothian
  • Founded: 1744 (course opened: 1922)
  • Designed by: Old Tom Morris, Harry Colt and Tom Simpson
  • Green fee: £285-£420

For many, Muirfield remains golf’s ultimate links test, where what you see is what you get on pretty much every hole, including a hard-to-beat quartet of excellent par 3s. The course, home to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, has hosted 16 Opens between 1892 and 2013 with many of the game's greats boasting victories here. Phil Mickelson lifted his one and only Claret Jug last time it hosted in 2013.

- Full Muirfield Golf Course review

4. Trump Turnberry - Ailsa

Trump Turnberry Ailsa Course

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Turnberry, Ayrshire
  • Founded: 1902
  • Designed by: Archibald Kennedy and William Fernie (Martin Ebert redesign 2016)
  • Green fee: £275-£395

The famed four-time Open venue was transformed it into something truly special when it re-opened in 2016 with the assistance of acclaimed course architect, Martin Ebert. Some of the weaker holes were seriously improved, while those already considered the highlights of the round – like the 9th, 10th and 11th - were transformed into something not far off mind-blowing.

- Full Trump Turnberry Ailsa Course review

5. Carnoustie - Championship

Carnoustie Golf Links pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Carnoustie, Angus
  • Founded: 1842 
  • Designed by: Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris and James Braid
  • Green fee: £270

Stern, uncompromising and blessed with no great beauty beyond its perimeters, Carnoustie has earned a thoroughly deserved reputation for being one of The Open Championship’s most demanding examinations of all. There is, of course, great beauty within, and golfers the world over respect this fabulous links for the strategic challenge it poses – especially the fairway bunkers – and what must rank as the hardest closing trio of holes anywhere.

- Full Carnoustie Championship Course review

6. Royal Dornoch - Championship

Royal Dornoch golf links pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Dornoch, Sutherland
  • Founded: 1877
  • Designed by: Donald Ross
  • Green fee: £125-£335

The game has been played for 400 years in this famous Highland golfing town, and no course in the land attracts golfing pilgrims on the same scale as this wonderfully natural, and often challenging, links. A gentle opener eases you in, but should you miss the green either side of the par-3 2nd, you could be there for some time as you negotiate some truly testing chips. After a couple of holes on more elevated terrain, the links flanks the shore for a stretch before twisting its way home, with the 17th a classic test of strategy and skill. Do you leave it on the top plateau off the tee for a longer but perhaps easier approach, or try and get it down there as far as possible. Only you can decide!

- Full Royal Dornoch Championship Course review

7. Royal Birkdale

Royal Birkdale Golf Club general view

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Southport, Merseyside
  • Founded: 1889
  • Designed by: Fred Hawtree and JH Taylor
  • Green fee: £185-£285

Royal Birkdale, a 10-time Open venue, is the cream of the crop when it comes to the best golf courses in England. This famed links presents a real test from the off, especially if the wind is against and off the left on the 1st. You’ll play to all four points of the compass over the early holes, enjoy another wonderful cast of par 3s – especially the 12th – and savour a magnificent series of holes that weave their way almost entirely between impressive dune ridges rather than up and over them. Its most recent Open was a high drama affair in 2017 when Jordan Spieth emerged as the winner with sublime golf in the final five holes.

- Full Royal Birkdale Golf Club review

8. Royal Portrush - Dunluce

Royal Portrush Dunluce course general view

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Portrush, County Antrim
  • Founded: 1888
  • Designed by: Harry Colt
  • Green fee: £240-£390

The stunning Northern Irish venue, host of the 2019 Open Championship won by Shane Lowry and the upcoming 2025 edition, is a special place to play golf with some of the best links holes you'll find and spectacular views out to sea. The Dunluce was designed by the legendary Harry Colt, and even before the relatively recent changes prior to hosting the 2019 Open, there were plenty who felt it was a contender for the best course in the whole of Ireland.

- Full Royal Portrush Dunluce Course review

9. Royal St George's

Royal St George's

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Sandwich, Kent
  • Founded: 1887
  • Designed by: Laidlaw Purves
  • Green fee: £125-£290

Another of the best links courses in England is the first course outside Scotland to host The Open way back in 1894. Royal St George's is a truly unique experience playing over the most rumpled fairways on the Open rota. No two holes are remotely the same on this wonderful links that plays around the tallest of the dunes on the golf-rich Kent coast. Among the standout holes are The Maiden – the par-3 6th – and the par-5 14th, which flanks neighbouring Prince’s, with its green set perilously close to Out of Bounds. Collin Morikawa won the Claret Jug on his Open debut here in 2021.

- Full Royal St George's Golf Club review

10. Royal Liverpool

Royal Liverpool Golf Club general view

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Hoylake, Wirral
  • Founded: 1869
  • Designed by: Robert Chambers, George Morris and Harry Colt
  • Green fee: £135-£250

Tiger reigned supreme over a bone-dry links here in 2006 before Rory McIlroy won his Claret Jug  here in 2014. This testing and historic links plays host to its 13th Open Championship in 2023. 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. The course at Hoylake is a little different and really comes alive in the middle when it ventures closer to the Dee estuary for a prolonged spell of dramatic links golf. 

- Full Royal Liverpool Golf Club review

What is the best links course in the UK?

The number one links course in the UK, according to the Golf Monthly Top 100 rankings, is Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. The best links course in England is Royal Birkdale, in Scotland it's St Andrews Old, Wales' best links is Royal Porthcawl and Ireland's top links is the European Club - all according to our rankings. There are dozens and dozens of amazing links courses all across the UK and Ireland from Open venues to old-school classics and modern greats.

How many links courses are there in the UK?

There are around 250 links courses in the UK. Links courses are defined by the area between the sea and the arable farm land, usually set within dunes on fast-draining sandy soil that produces firm conditions that are playable all year round. There are many 'links-like' courses inland but a true links plays along, or near to, the coast.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response