Golfers living in or visiting the UK&I can never run out of new and exciting courses to play. Rob Smith looks at some of the best golf destinations in the UK&I
The Best Golf Destinations in the UK&I
With something like 3,000 courses dotted all over the UK&I, it would be impossible to play them all. And while the appeal of some is their remoteness, we are also blessed with a large number of localised clusters.
England’s Varied Hotspots
Golf’s foundations and roots are very firmly on the coast. Our first stop off at the best golf destinations in the UK&I is England’s Golf Coast in the north-west of the country.
Home to some of the finest links courses in the world, there are three current Open Championship venues here; Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes. The supporting cast such as Hillside, Formby and Southport & Ainsdale is magnificent. The accommodation is excellent and there are plenty of off-course activities to make a real holiday of it.
England has plenty of golfing hotspots such as the Kent coastline with its cluster of exceptional links courses, but we are heading slightly away from the coast for our other English destination, Dorset. The Bournemouth area is home to no fewer than five courses in the Top 100 and Next 100, each of them surprisingly different from the rest. There is Broadstone with its undulating, expansive, Harry Colt heathland design, then stately, pine-clad Ferndown which was designed by Golf Monthly’s first editor, Harold Hilton.
Isle of Purbeck has a fabulous location overlooking Poole and Studland Bay, Parkstone was redesigned by James Braid and makes brilliant use of every inch of its land, and Remedy Oak is a modern classic that simply gets better.
While Wales understandably has fewer courses, there is still a wealth of fine and extremely varied golf on offer. Much of it runs along the south coast with the area around the nation’s finest course, Royal Porthcawl, particularly strong. Close by are Pyle & Kenfig and Southerndown, while both Swansea and Cardiff have plenty of excellent courses of varied and interesting design, all within a short distance of one another.
Head round to the upper reaches of the west coast, and Wales has a couple of outstanding Top 100 links courses close to one another; Royal St. David’s and Aberdovey. There is also a fine selection of varied alternatives such as Aberystwyth, Borth & Ynyslas and Porthmadog.
Across the Irish Channel
The extreme north of Northern Ireland is an excellent hotspot with Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock, as is the area around Newcastle in County Down. Further south on Ireland’s eastern seaboard, Dublin is home to a great number of very fine courses including The Island, Portmarnock, Portmarnock Links and Royal Dublin. You could play somewhere different every day for a month around here and not run out of top quality new courses.
Ireland’s wild west coast is completely different, and home to many more premium links. As just one example, County Kerry has an embarrassment of riches with Ballybunion in the north, Tralee, Waterville, and beautiful Killarney.
The Home of Golf
To many, Scotland is the home of golf. It can probably boast more concentrated pockets of first-class, historic and engaging golf than any other. Fife is the sport’s spiritual home thanks to St Andrews, and the county is absolutely packed with brilliant courses. The other side of the Firth of Forth, East Lothian – now branded as Scotland’s Golf Coast – is another incredibly strong area for golf. At the top end are courses such as Muirfield, North Berwick and Gullane, but the strength in depth is immense.
On the west coast, Ayrshire has more fabulous links such as Trump Turnberry, Royal Troon, Prestwick, Western Gailes and Dundonald. These are all within very easy reach of one another. And here again, there are many wonderful but less well-known… and less expensive… alternatives such as Kilmarnock Barassie and Gailes Links. Many will plump for the remote beauty of the Highlands with Royal Dornoch, Brora, Golspie and Tain.
The UK&I is home to an incomparable array of varied and enjoyable golf to suit all tastes, abilities and budgets. In fact, it would take considerably less time to list the golfing deserts than it would all the hotspots. The variety on offer is ideal for golfing breaks of almost any duration, and those mentioned here simply scratch the surface! Both on the coast and inland, the best golf destinations in the UK&I include these and many more.