Best Links Courses In England

From Royal Birkdale to Royal St George's, Royal Liverpool to Royal Lytham and St Annes, England has some of the UK and Ireland's best links courses...

Royal Liverpool Golf Club general view
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best links courses in England rank right up there with some of Scotland's finest, with England home to no less than six Open venues past and present. Those Open venues are: Royal Birkdale, Royal St George's, Royal Lytham and St Annes and Royal Liverpool, plus two former Open host courses Royal Cinque Ports and Prince's.

England has some superb links golf on offer throughout the country, from 'England's Golf Coast' in the North West to the trio of Open venues in Kent, the Norfolk coast and the South West. There are around 20 links courses in the Golf Monthly Top 100 course rankings, with some boasting both links-like and heathland characteristics. Links land is generally defined by a strip of generally undulating, but always sandy, terrain linking the sea and the arable farmland around the edges of the British Isles.

All of the courses on this list feature amongst the best golf courses in England along with some of the best heathland courses in the UK.

Below we list the 20 best links courses in England in order of their ranking in our UK&I top 100...

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
  • Top 100 ranking: 7th
  • Book: Visit website

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 has played host to 10 Open Championships, as well as the 1965 and 1969 Ryder Cups. It has also played host to Women's British Opens, Senior Opens, Amateur Championships, Walker Cups and Curtis Cups. Most recently, it was also the site of Jordan Spieth's infamous drop and unbelievable last five holes to win the 2017 Open Championship. Birkdale is one of the best links courses in England and a must-play for avid golfers.

- Full Royal Birkdale Golf Club review

Royal St George's

Royal St George's pictured from above

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Sandwich, Kent
  • Founded: 1887
  • Designed by: Laidlaw Purves
  • Green fee: £125-£290
  • Top 100 ranking: 11th
  • Book: Visit website

Founded in 1887, Royal St George’s was the first English course to play host to The Open Championship, which it did in 1894. 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.

- Full Royal St George's Golf Club review

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
  • Top 100 ranking: 12th
  • Book: Visit website

The course that made its Open return in 2006, when Tiger reigned supreme over a bone-dry links, is 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. This testing and historic links plays host to its 13th Open Championship in 2023, nine years after Rory McIlroy lifted the Claret Jug here.

- Full Royal Liverpool Golf Club review

Royal Lytham and St Annes

Royal Lytham and St Annes general view

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
  • Founded: 1886
  • Designed by: George Lowe and Harry Colt 
  • Green fee: £160-£305
  • Top 100 ranking: 13th
  • Book: Telephone 01253 724 206. Email: bookings@royallytham.org

This 11-time Open venue and two-time Ryder Cup host 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. It's another fantastic links in the North West and easily one of best golf courses in Lancashire.

- Full Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club review

Burnham and Berrow

Burnham and Berrow Golf links general view

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)
  • Location: Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset
  • Founded: 1891
  • Designed by: Charles Gibson
  • Green fee: £130-£155
  • Top 100 ranking: 29th
  • Book: Visit website

Burnham and Berrow is a links with a difference, with a strong cast of par 3s and a short stretch of reed-lined holes adding to the course’s individuality. 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. It's not only one of the best golf courses in Somerset but one of, if not the, best courses in the South West.

- Full Burnham and Berrow Golf Club review

Hillside

Hillside Golf Club pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Southport, Merseyside
  • Founded: 1911
  • Designed by: Fred Hawtree
  • Green fee: £90-£230
  • Top 100 ranking: 31st
  • Book: Visit website

Owing to the significant work conducted at Hillside and the improvements made because of it, the course climbed three places to 31st in our 2020/21 ranking. One of It's undoubtedly one of England best links courses, and is an unusual one with a number of holes beautifully framed by towering pines. The front nine is strong, but the back nine really shines - it's arguably one of the best back nines in the entire UK. The par 5s - the 11th, sweeping from right to left, and the 17th through a dune-lined valley - really stand out. 

- Full Hillside Golf Club review

St Enodoc - Church

St Enodoc Church course pictured

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)
  • Location: Rock, Cornwall
  • Opened: 1890
  • Designed by: James Braid
  • Green fee: £75-£135
  • Top 100 ranking: 36th
  • Book: Visit website

St Enodoc is one of a kind and a real treat that offers excellent value, variety and views. The Cornish coastline provides a stunning backdrop to this wonderfully varied James Braid design that changes direction and elevation throughout. Packed with memorable features such as the Himalayas bunker, the course's namesake church and stunning views across the Camel Estuary to Padstow, it's a thrilling ride from start to finish. It's top of the list when it comes to the best golf courses in Cornwall and is right up there as one of England's best links courses.

- Full St Enodoc Church Course review

Formby

Formby Golf Club general view

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)
  • Location: Formby, Merseyside
  • Founded: 1884
  • Designed by: Willie Park Jr, James Braid and Harry Colt
  • Green fee: £110-£200
  • Top 100 ranking: 41st
  • Book: Visit website

Founded in 1884, the original course at Formby was redesigned by Willie Park at the start of the 20th century. 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. This premier-league links is distinctive and memorable and its future is safeguarded with changes on the way.

- Full Formby Golf Club review

Saunton - East

Saunton Golf Club East Course pictured


(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Braunton, Devon
  • Founded: 1897
  • Designed by: Herbert Fowler
  • Green fee: £80-£130
  • Top 100 ranking: 49th
  • Book: Email info@sauntongolf.co.uk Tel 01271 812436 (option 1)

Saunton is home to two of the best golf courses in Devon with the East and West, which both feature in the Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100 rankings. Designed by Herbert Fowler in the 1920s, the East is the more challenging of the two excellent links that has played host to a number of significant major amateur championships. If you can score well over the course at Saunton East, you can probably play just about anywhere. The course is set in the glorious North Devon dunes to provide a wonderful and testing setting to play golf.

- Full Saunton Golf Club East Course review

Royal Cinque Ports

Royal Cinque Ports pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Deal, Kent
  • Founded: 1892
  • Designed by: Harry Hunter and James Braid
  • Green fee: £115-£185
  • Top 100 ranking: 53rd
  • Book: Visit website

Along with Royal St George’s and Prince’s, Royal Cinque Ports is one of three Open Championship links in our Top 100 that lie almost back-to-back on the Kent coast between Sandwich and Deal. It hosted the 1909 and 1920 Opens won by JH Taylor and George Duncan. It's a very 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.

- Full Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club review

Silloth on Solway

Silloth on Solway pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Wigton, Cumbria
  • Founded: 1892
  • Designed by: David Grant and Willie Park Jr
  • Green fee: £35-£80
  • Top 100 ranking: 51st
  • Book: Visit website

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. While the course itself is a real delight, the views are also magnificent. From here you can see over to the Galloway Hills across the Solway Firth, over to the Isle of Man, and inland to the Lakeland fells to the south-east. Somewhat paradoxically, this is a Top 100 hidden gem and undoubtedly the best value course in the Top 100.

- Full Silloth on Solway Golf Club review

Royal West Norfolk

Royal West Norfolk general view


(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Brancaster, Norfolk
  • Opened: 1892
  • Designed by: Holcombe Ingleby
  • Green fee: Contact club
  • Top 100 ranking: 57th
  • Book: Tel 01485 210087 Email secretary@rwngc.org

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. Also known as 'Brancaster', this mainly two-ball only club is a wonderful experience of links golf from start to finish with some stirring holes. We think it's the pick of the bunch of the best golf courses in Norfolk.

- Full Royal West Norfolk Golf Club review

Southport and Ainsdale

Southport and Ainsdale GC pictured

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)
  • Location: Southport, Merseyside
  • Founded: 1906
  • Designed by: George Lowe and James Braid
  • Green fee: £85-£190
  • Top 100 ranking: 62nd
  • Book: 01704 578000 ext 1 or email charlotte.pilkington@sandagolf.co.uk

Two-time Ryder Cup host S&A is a welcoming golf club with a rich and interesting history. The current 18 holes date from 1925 and were the work of five-time Open champion and prolific course designer James Braid. His design remains largely unchanged. It is a very natural layout with a selection of highly memorable holes. 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.

- Full Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club review

Rye - Old

Rye Golf Club pictured

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Rye, East Sussex
  • Opened: 1895
  • Designed by: Harry Colt
  • Green fee: Contact club
  • Top 100 ranking: 65th
  • Book: links@ryegolfclub.co.uk

Situated on the south coast of the country, Rye is a well-maintained course with a great heritage. The original layout was designed by a 25-year-old Harry Colt, the club's first captain, who produced this attractive and exciting course with a hugely characterful layout. It plays over fast-running, undulating turf and presents a strong challenge particular when the wind is up. One of the best links courses in the south of England, Rye is always in excellent condition and playable all year.

- Full Rye Golf Club review

Hunstanton

Hunstanton Golf Club general view


(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Hunstanton, Norfolk
  • Founded: 1891 
  • Designed by: James Braid
  • Green fee: £85-£125
  • Top 100 ranking: 67th
  • Book: 01485 532811

The origins of the grand old links at Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast date back to 1891 although the course has been altered many times since then, firstly when James Braid oversaw the addition of 40 new bunkers in 1907. More recently, Martin Hawtree has overseen some significant course improvements. There are tremendous holes around the turn on this challenging links. It is a traditional out-and-back layout played either side of a dune ridge. The end of the front nine delivers some great holes and there's lovely scenery throughout. The course's par-3s are particularly memorable.

- Full Hunstanton Golf Club review

Saunton - West

Saunton West course pictured

(Image credit: Simon Boyd)
  • Location: Braunton, Devon
  • Founded: 1897
  • Designed by: Herbert Fowler
  • Green fee: £80-£130
  • Top 100 ranking: 75th
  • Book: Email info@sauntongolf.co.uk Tel 01271 812436 (option 1)

In the mid-1930s, demand for golf amongt the members at Saunton was so high that they decided they required a second course. Herbert Fowler was asked to submit a design, and the new course was built. When the Second World War came, however, it was occupied by the military and used for training. Shorter than the East, though not much, the West Course is arguably a little more forgiving, more varied, and most importantly for many, more fun. 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.

- Full Saunton West Course review

Prince's - Himalayas and Dunes

Prince's golf course pictured from above

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Sandwich, Kent
  • Founded: 1906
  • Designed by: Charles Hutchings, Guy Campbell and John Morrison
  • Green fee: £100-£120
  • Top 100 ranking: 76th
  • Book: Visit website

Considerable investment in recent years plus new holes and a dramatic re-styling saw this famous Open Championship venue on the Kent coast break into the Golf Monthly Top 100 for the first time. Gene Sarazen won the Claret Jug here in 1932, introducing his new-fangled sand wedge to the golfing world to deal with the deep pot bunkers. Today’s Prince’s bears little resemblance to the 18-hole course over which Sarazen triumphed 89 years ago. Indeed, today’s 27 holes have changed beyond all recognition over the last three years thanks to major investment and the design mind of Martin Ebert.

- Full Prince's Golf Club review

Trevose - Championship

Trevose GC green and sea pictured beyond


(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Constantine Bay, Cornwall
  • Founded: 1925
  • Designed by: Harry Colt
  • Green fee: £45-£95
  • Top 100 ranking: 79th
  • Book: Visit website

A number of seaside links in our Top 100 have reaped the benefits of Harry Colt’s legendary architectural genius, either in the capacity of original designer or sought-after remodeller. His Championship course at Trevose on the north Cornwall coast is a great example of a layout that offers challenge and fairness in equal measure. Even before you set foot on the links, you’ll be pacing around in anticipation, for the clubhouse and 1st tee enjoy a tantalisingly elevated setting. From here, you can enjoy captivating views out over the fairways you’ll soon be treading, and on to Constantine Bay and Trevose Head beyond.

- Full Trevose Golf Club review

West Lancashire

West Lancs GC pictured on a sunny day


(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Blundellsands, Liverpool
  • Founded: 1873
  • Designed by: C.K Cotton and Fred Hawtree
  • Green fee: £140-£200
  • Top 100 ranking: 81st
  • Book: 0151 924 1076

West Lancs is the oldest club in Lancashire, and one of the ten oldest in England, boasting a history inextricably intertwined with Royal Liverpool’s. The club started out in 1873, when seven Royal Liverpool members decided golf should cross the Mersey. The two clubs shared memberships in the early years. This renowned course at Blundellsands, north of Liverpool is among a concentrated cluster making up one of the UK’s finest stretches of links golf from The Wirral up to Southport. The Open qualifying venue is one of the country's truest seaside tests. Every aspect of your game will be tested, it's demanding but well worth it.

- Full West Lancashire Golf Club review

Royal North Devon

Royal North Devon general view

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Westward Ho!, Devon
  • Founded: 1864
  • Designed by: Old Tom Morris
  • Green fee: £40-£100
  • Top 100 ranking: 85th
  • Book: Visit website

The historic links at Westward Ho! in Devon is the oldest course (not club) in England still playing over its original fairways. A course that has to fight with coastal erosion but still has a classic links feel to it. You have to share some of the unusual reed-lined holes with roaming sheep and horses which gives a unique challenge to the golfer. It can take a couple of rounds to begin to understand the subtleties of this great links, but that is all part of its charm and character.

- Full Royal North Devon Golf Club review

How many links courses are there in England?

It is thought that there are close to 250 links courses in England. The country as a whole has 2,270 golf courses according to the R&A's 'Golf Around the World' release in 2019.

What is the best links course in England

The best links course in England is Royal Birkdale Golf Club according to the most recent Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100 golf courses list. Birkdale has hosted 10 Open Championships, most recently in 2017 when Jordan Spieth lifted the Claret Jug.

What is links golf?

The term 'links' isn’t a term specific to golf courses. It is simply a strip of generally undulating, but always sandy, terrain linking the sea and the arable farmland around the edges of the British Isles. As it often went unused, save for the odd rabbit farm, this was ideal ground for sporting pioneers on the east coast of Scotland back in the 15th and 16th centuries, as they experimented with a new stick and ball game. It was over these narrow corridors of gorse-covered, sandy dunes that rudimentary 'courses' were first carved out and golf, as we know it began. The ground on the links is firm and sandy, populated by indigenous bent and fescue grasses that are extremely hardy.

Elliott Heath
Elliott Heath

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.


Elliott is currently playing:


Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x