The Best Golf Destinations in the UK&I

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 fourteenth hole at Royal Birkdale with the iconic clubhouse beyond
(Image credit: R&A via Getty Images)

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.

The par-3 7th at Hillside, right in the heart of England’s Golf Coast (Photo: Kevin Murray)

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.

The opening hole at Ferndown, one of a handful of excellent courses in the Bournemouth area (Photo: Rob Smith)

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.

The Isle of Purbeck is a Harry Colt design blessed with exceptional views (Photo: Rob Smith)

Wonderful Wales

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.

Royal Porthcawl is the leading course in Wales and there is plenty more on offer nearby

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.

Harlech Castle and magnificent mountains overlook Royal St. David’s (Photo: Rob Smith)

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.

The Island is one of many superb courses close to Dublin (Photo: Steve Carr)

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 Old Course at Ballybunion runs through some magnificent dunes (Photo: Getty Images)

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.

Kilspindie and Craigielaw are two of the superb supporting cast on Scotland’s Golf Coast (Photo: Getty Images)

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 King Robert the Bruce Course at Trump Turnberry has some wonderful holes and views (Photo: Rob Smith)

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.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for over 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2021, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He has been a member of Tandridge in Surrey for 30 years where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at