Five Of The Best Bunkerless Courses

One way to avoid the sand is to play a course without any, such as one of these five, none of which is easier for its absence…

Five Of The Best Bunkerless Courses

One way to avoid the sand is to play a course without any, such as one of these five, none of which is easier for its absence…

Five Of The Best Bunkerless Courses

Berkhamsted (pictured above)

Par 71, 6,605 yards

GF: £40-£60

W: berkhamstedgolfclub.co.uk

The characterful course at Berkhamsted dates back to the 1880s and its commonland setting accounts for the club’s original approach of creating a design that preserved the heathland, making use of its mounds, hollows, gorse and heather.

James Braid followed this principle when he revamped the course in the 1920s, since when little has changed.

Several holes call for a shot to be played over Grim’s Dyke, a huge defensive earthwork, and the course offers golf in as natural an environment as you will find anywhere.

Braemar

Par 65, 4,973 yards

GF: £28

W: braemargolfclub.co.uk

The original 9-hole course at Braemar was built well over a century ago at which point there were plenty of sand bunkers.

Many were taken out when it was extended to a full 18 in 1911, and there are still reminders of these in the grass bunkers that are dotted throughout the course.

There was still some sand until more recently, but it was removed due to the expense of maintenance and problems with rabbits.

The course straddles the River Clunie and is blessed with a stunning setting in a fabulous Highland valley.

Kington 

Par 70, 5,961 yards

GF: £16-£36

W: kingtongolf.co.uk

Kington is the highest 18-hole course in England but despite its hilltop setting, it’s not a difficult walk.

The views over the Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains and Hergest Ridge are glorious and spectacular, and from the uphill opening tee shot to the thrilling drive at the short par-4 closing hole, there is great variety throughout.

The only distraction from this hugely enjoyable and sporty course comes from its idyllic setting; it would be hard to imagine there is an inland course in the UK or Ireland with better views.

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Llandrindod Wells

Par 69, 5,759 yards

GF: £15-£35

W: lwgc.co.uk

There are many extremely attractive courses in Wales, and this off-the-beaten-track beauty is one of the best.

Harry Vardon designed the hillside layout having been asked to ‘maximise the views from every tee and from every green’.

This he more than been achieved, and there are many excellent holes such as the beautiful, sweeping par-5 3rd and the super-tough par-4 5th.

The closing hole is ‘Death or Glory’, a potentially driveable par 4 played from an elevated tee back down towards the clubhouse.

Royal Ashdown Forest

Par 72, 6,537 yards

GF: £45-£95

W: royalashdown.co.uk

There are 36 holes of seriously good golf at Royal Ashdown Forest with the Old Course arguably the finest bunkerless test of golf anywhere.

There have been no significant changes to its evolutionary design for almost a century, and humps, hollows, heather and streams abound.

The course works its way out and up onto ancient heathland, and there is simply no need for sand as the heather, especially when in bloom, is a far more dangerous and tougher hazard from which to extract a golf ball.

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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 r.smith896@btinternet.com.