Golfer Emulates Father By Completing Golf Monthly Top 100... For The Second Time!

Following in his father’s footsteps, reader Michael Howlett set himself the enviable task of playing every course in the Golf Monthly Top 100

Golfer Emulates Father By Completing Golf Monthly Top 100
Reader Michael Howlett on the final green at Tandridge, completing the Top 100 for the second time in three months!
(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Back in the Summer of 2009, Golf Monthly published a feature in which Jeremy Ellwood accompanied reader John Howlett as he completed playing all of the Top 100 courses in the UK&I. This took place at Loch Lomond, and the pair were joined by John’s son Michael, and his grandson Connor.

Loch Lomond - Hole 5

The Howlett family on the beautiful par-3 fifth at Loch Lomond in 2009 - John, Connor and Michael

(Image credit: Loch Lomond Golf Club)

Sadly, John was in the latter stages of cancer and passed away the following year. One of his enduring legacies, however, is that the course-collecting gene has been inherited by both Michael and Connor. So much so, that Michael has himself just completed playing the entire 2021/22 Golf Monthly Top 100. This he did with Connor on a lovely April's day at the excellent Dumbarnie Links in Fife, where manager David Scott was waiting to congratulate him as he returned to the clubhouse.

David Scott and Michael Howlett

Michael outside the smart new clubhouse at Dumbarnie Links with general manager David Scott

(Image credit: Dumbarnie Links)

The day spent at Loch Lomond was several years before reader opinion led to Golf Monthly excluding from the rankings the very small number of clubs that do not accept regular green fee visitors. There are many golfers such as Michael who are keen to play and tick off as many as possible of the Top 100 and Next 100, and they understandably don’t want to be tempted by courses they cannot visit.

Dumbarnie Links

The opening hole at Dumbarnie Links, the final course on Michael's quest

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael is a 51 year-old self-employed plumber, married to Vicky and with three children of whom Connor, 28, is the only other golfer. Michael has been a member at Ashton-in-Makerfield, situated between Liverpool and Manchester, for more than 40 years. Having achieved single figures, he now plays off what he describes as “a very poor 13!"

Royal Dornoch - Hole 7

The seventh green at Royal Dornoch, the first tick on Michael’s list

(Image credit: Royal Dornoch Golf Club)

It was John who initiated the Howlett quest for playing the top 100 courses, and Michael’s earliest memory related to this was on a 2-week family holiday touring Scotland with his mum and sister… who both disliked golf! The first course he was able to tick off was Royal Dornoch, not a bad start, and he and his father played another handful during the holiday.

A generation on, and the same thing still happens with Michael heading off with Connor for a sneaky game while on family holidays.

Saunton - East Course - Hole 10

The tenth hole on the East Course at Saunton in Devon, scene of Michael’s best score at a Top 100 course

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Michael’s finest performance on his mission has been a 3-over gross on the lovely East Course at Saunton… “unfortunately a feat never to be repeated!” He has hit “many, many bad shots on these wonderful courses”, but also some real pearls including the first of his four holes-in-one which came on the 8th at Royal Cinque Ports.

Royal Cinque Ports - Hole 8

The par-3 eighth at Royal Cinque Ports, home to Michael’s first-ever hole-in-one

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Another wonderful golfing memory is playing The Old Course twice. The first time; no lost balls, no bunkers found and a gross 83. The second time, an eagle on the 3rd, 1-under gross after 10, but then turning into the wind to be 14-over for the final 8!

According to Michael, “To play the top 100 courses, we always try to do it in as cost-effective a way as possible. This means playing them in clusters, usually getting in about 6 or 7 rounds over 4 days. Playing this much golf, as well as all the travelling, eating and drinking really is a challenge… although my wife doesn't see it that way! We try to book them in low season, a week or so before the prices increase.”

Royal County Down

Royal County Down, the number one course in the Golf Monthly Top 100

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Generally lucky with the weather, Michael has one tale to tell of when he booked to play at our number one course, Royal County Down, as a Christmas present for his father. This ended up being his dad’s favourite-ever course, and they played in January at a very welcoming rate… unlike the weather. “It was brutal! Cold, snow, torrential rain, we were the only ones on the course, and the secretary was waiting on the 18th green to welcome us home and offer us a partial refund because of the conditions.”

Also with his father, at Doonbeg, he was teamed up with a pair of Americans who asked how they had travelled over from England. Michael explained they had come by boat, so which the reply was, "Gee Mike, you like to sail?"

The Berkshire - Blue Course

The Blue Course at The Berkshire is one of Michael’s all-time favourites

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Asked to list his personal favourites, Michael is reluctant as there are so many wonderful courses, but nonetheless lists Tralee, Formby, Berkshire (Blue), Kingsbarns, and “last but not least, the Marquess’ Course at Woburn. This is where I've told my wife to scatter my ashes on the split fairway on the par-5 7th. A hole that I managed to get a 10 on… the beauty of the hole distracted me too much!”

Woburn - Marquess Course - Hole 7

The par-5 seventh hole on the Marquess’ Course at Woburn

(Image credit: Woburn Golf Club)

The recently updated 2023/24 Top 100 includes two courses Michael has not played. Tandridge, which is where the author of this article plays who would be more than happy to welcome him for a game, and the stunning new St Patrick’s Links at Rosapenna.

A final word from Michael, “I’ve already booked flights, golf, hotels and car hire for June - starting at Portsalon and then all 3 courses at Rosapenna - hopefully 36 holes on the Saturday and Sunday - very understanding wife!”

Story Update - July 2023

As explained above, the Top 100 is a regularly moving feast as it is updated every two years. Since its first publication, there have always been a handful of changes, and there was no exception when the 2023/24 list was revealed this May. Happily, following a flying visit to Rosapenna, Michael then drove down with Connor to re-complete (if there is such a word !) his feat with a game at Tandridge.

Connor Howlett, Jeremy Ellwood, Michael Howlett

The final green at Tandridge with Connor, Jeremy and Michael immediately before heading into the clubhouse for some celebratory refreshment!

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Golf Monthly's Rob Smith is a member at the club, which kindly offered courtesy to mark his feat, so he and Jeremy joined the Howletts as Michael once again reached his sacred goal.

Now it is Connor's turn! He is on 42 and hits the ball a mile. While he's still some way to go, there is no doubting that the drive and passion is there so it will be fascinating to follow his progress and see if he can make it father, son AND grandson.

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