For golfers who don’t want to commit to one club or members who like to try out different courses, Pay and Play provides the perfect solution
The Best Pay & Play Courses In The UK&I
We golfers in the UK&I are lucky in that we can get to play at the overwhelming majority of our estimated 3,500 golf courses.
Most are members’ clubs which have their own policies and booking methods for visitors, but this article looks instead at a variety of golfing facilities such as hotels and stand-alone pay and play facilities that welcome golfers at just about any time.
The Premier League
At the top end, a surprising number of the our finest courses are actually pay and play facilities.
Technically, the Old Course at St Andrews is one, as are all of the courses administered by the St Andrews Links Trust.
Nearly half of the tee times on the Old Course are drawn by ballot two days in advance, and a limited number of tee times on the New, Jubilee, Castle Course, Strathtyrum, Eden and Balgove Courses are made available to book online from 7pm two days ahead of play.
Three of Scotland’s most exciting new courses are very much pay and play; Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart and Dumbarnie Links.
Each is sensational, and while the fees reflect the experience, each will provide lasting memories.
Other Scottish Top 100 and Next 100 courses that are effectively pay and play include those that are part of a hotel set-up such as Trump Turnberry, Carnoustie, Gleneagles, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, The Machrie and more.
The same principle applies in Ireland with Old Head, the two, soon-to-be-three courses at Rosapenna, Mount Juliet and Portmarnock Links.
In Wales, you can play any of the excellent courses at Celtic Manor including the 2010 Ryder Cup Course.
England has many excellent golfing hotels such as The Belfry and The Grove, Prince’s and Stoke Park.
One of the joys of pay and play is the enormous variety, not just in the style of golf, but in its cost.
Yes, the leading courses are pricey, but even here there are bargains to be had if you do your homework.
Elsewhere, there is terrific value on offer at less well-known courses such as Kinghorn in Fife.
Largely gone are the days of council-owned facilities, but one of the best starting points is to look at the websites of the leading tee time sales companies such as GolfNow and Teetimes.
They release times usually a couple of weeks in advance, and you can home in on an area or define your search using a variety of parameters.
Golf Course Groups
There are also groups of courses under the same ownership that are well worth investigating.
BGL operates more than 20 courses across 10 facilities including Burhill, Hoebridge and The Shropshire.
Crown Golf is another chain that includes the excellent courses at St Mellion, Pine Ridge and South Winchester.
The Club Company has fifteen facilities, many with accommodation. They cover a large area from The Tytherington in Cheshire to Meyrick Park in Dorset.
While this look at pay and play has focussed on courses that thrive on visiting golfers, it is worth remembering that there are perhaps no more than a dozen clubs in the UK&I that do not welcome green fees.
With a little planning, and sometimes a fair bit more cash, all of us can play any of the courses in the Top 100 or Next 100.
What are your favourite pay and play golf courses? Let us know on social media
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,200 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during that year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. 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! During the 2021-22 review period, Rob played 36 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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