The Quirkiest Golf Courses in the UK&I

Rob Smith takes a keen look at a few of our more unusual and distinctive courses, some of the quirkiest golf courses in the UK&I

Painswick in Gloucestershire - what it lacks in length is more than made up for in character
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Rob Smith takes a keen look at a few of our more unusual and distinctive courses, some of the quirkiest golf courses in the UK&I

The Quirkiest Courses in the UK&I

Some people might see ‘quirky’ as a negative or slightly disparaging adjective. We at Golf Monthly would argue that it is quite the opposite; a badge of honour and recommendation. In a world with too many formulaic and regulation designs, who wouldn’t want to play somewhere with character or with elements that are different or unique?

England’s Beautiful West Country

In England, a pair of Ps begins our brief look at unusual designs. The first of these is Painswick in Gloucestershire. This remarkable course is less than 5,000 yards and at one point features a hat-trick of short holes followed by a pair of par 5s. The reason for this convoluted design is that it runs along Painswick Beacon. This is a narrow and extremely scenic ridge that is home to an iron age hill fort. There are frequent crossovers, driveable par 4s and some very small greens. Golf here is all about embracing and enjoying the magical setting.

Over in Cornwall, Perranporth is as natural and elemental as they come. This James Braid design is a few miles from Newquay and it runs over and through some of the most impressive and glorious dunes in the country. An undulating opening combined with terrific views and challenging tee shots will really get the adrenalin running. Not everyone will cherish the number of blind shots, but it’s a sensational place to play, thrilling and totally rewarding.

There are blind shots and odd bounces at Perranporth, but it’s still a complete delight (Photo: Rob Smith)

Scotland’s Spectacular Coast

Simply based on number of holes - twelve - Shiskine is one of Scotland’s more unusual designs. Once a full 18, six holes fell into disuse during the first World War. What remains is a now a very unusual and extremely pretty 12-hole course. There are four 2-shotters, 7 par 3s and a solitary par 5, but the golf here is all about character, location, natural beauty and fun. Everyone who visits comes away singing its praises. It won’t stage The Open anytime soon, but it’s a prize-winner in its own right.

Shiskine on Arran in Scotland may only have 12 holes… but does that really matter?!

Across on the Kintyre Peninsular, the nine-holer at Carradale is a wonderfully sporty and scenic little gem. With five par-4s, the longest of which is just 341 yards, you won’t need your driver. And nor will you need to take out a loan for the green fee. What you will need, is imagination and guile… and your camera!

The nine-holer at Carradale in Argyll is short, but enormous fun (Photo: Rob Smith)

The Wild West of Wales

If ever there was a course that changed character dramatically over its two nines, it’s the beautiful James Braid design at Porthmadog on the Welsh coast. The front nine is perfectly fine and has some very enjoyable and attractive parkland holes. However! The back nine is a thrills and spills journey through the dunes with plenty of “where do we go now?” There is also the most fabulous scenery that can make it difficult to concentrate on your game.

There are elements of Jekyll & Hyde in the two nines at Porthmadog (Photo: © Crown Copyright (2021) Visit Wales)

Not far to the west, there are 27 holes at Nefyn & District, all of which are enjoyable. It is the reconfigured Point Nine that classifies among the quirkiest golf courses in the UK&I. These are the holes that visit the lighthouse, and they are exceptional. They run along an elevated and extremely photogenic promontory, and there are four exciting par 3s including the 6th which is played back over the famous blow-hole.

The Point Nine at Nefyn & District has some terrifically unusual holes (Photo: © Crown Copyright (2021) Visit Wales)

A Wealth of Irish Charm

Up across the Irish Channel, the Championship Course at Royal County Down understandably attracts golfers from all over the world. Many, however, overlook its short but absolutely delightful second course, the Annesley. It’s only 4,500 yards, and only one hole exceeds 350 yards, but your two and a half hours through the dunes offer a sugar rush of wow-factor golf. The three newer holes at the far end run down to and alongside the beach. This is fun with a capital F, capital U and capital N.

The Annesley Course at Royal County Down is totally engaging (Photo: Getty Images)

Way over on Ireland’s wild and glorious Donegal coastline, Cruit Island is a course that probably won’t please architecture purists. It will, however, please anyone who loves life, the game in general, and something different and special. It’s a shame that there are just nine holes. Although the land is not obviously suited to golf, the setting is breath-taking. The short 6th is played over a cliff-top ravine, can be any club in the bag, and would not look out of place on a championship links.

Cruit Island is as quirky and memorable as they come (Photo: Rob Smith)

This is just a taster of the quirkiest golf courses in the UK&I. There are plenty more that fit the quirky category, and also plenty of individual quirky holes. Let us celebrate them all, because what golf really needs is character. What clubs and courses very much need is something to mark them out as different and special. Long live quirky!

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for 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 2022, 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 is a member of Tandridge in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at