By Golf Monthly
GM has created a fantasy golf course comprising the very best holes from the UK and Ireland Top 100 Courses
The UK&I's Best Golf Holes - Golf Monthly's Dream 18
Golfers in these isles are blessed to have so many of the world’s finest, most varied, historic and picturesque golf courses within their borders.
Every two years, Golf Monthly goes through a complex and rigorous process to produce a list of the top-100 courses, and we are proud this is generally recognised as the definitive golf course ranking for the UK and Ireland.
The 100 courses on our list are made up of 1,800 golf holes. No two of them are the same and each one sets an individual golfing examination.
The GM team began to discuss favourite holes from within the list and this evolved into a project to create a ‘Dream 18’ – a perfect course comprising the very best holes that the UK & Ireland have to offer.
As with any project of this nature, subjectivity comes into play. We all had slightly different ideas, but we eventually settled on the following selection. See if you agree with our choices...
The UK&I's Best Golf Holes - Dream 18 - Front Nine
1 - 1st at Trump Doonbeg - Par 5 - 561 yards
The spectacular course at Doonbeg starts with an incredible par 5. It leads the golfer right into the dunes and gives a clear indication of the dramatic terrain that will be a feature of the whole round on this captivating west-Irish links.
The tee shot is fairly straightforward, as you would hope for your first blow of the day, but there is danger with a bunker in the centre and rough-covered dunes left and right.
The approach is into an amphitheatre within the dunes, with the green acting as the stage. Clever bunkering protects the route in and a precise shot is required if you are to find the putting surface safely.
This is a thrilling and striking hole that will send a tingle down the spine of even the most cynical golfer. It’s the ideal opener to our Dream 18. It involves just the right amount of drama to set the pulse racing and to raise expectations for what’s to come.
2 - 15th at Royal St David’s - Par 4 - 427 yards
Playing down this fantastic, bunkerless hole, travelling between and over the dunes, you get the feeling you are experiencing golf in its most natural state. This is how the golfing gods intended for the game to be played.
The drive here is struck over the dunes to an angled fairway. The approach must carry more dunes and, depending on the wind, the prudent play may be to lay up short and tackle the hole in three shots.
Having said that, the exciting chance of possibly firing a long-iron onto this large putting surface is tough to resist. This is a hole where players of varying abilities will find satisfaction in its successful negotiation.
After putting out on the 15th at Harlech, turn around and consider what you’ve just played – the ribbon of fairway cutting through the rumpled, wispy dune-land with incredible views of the mountains behind. Stunning.
3 - 7th at Hankley Common - Par 3 - 183 yards
This brilliant short hole is played on the edge of the vast wilderness which surrounds Hankley Common – the whole area (including the course) has been classified as a site of specific scientific interest.
This is a hole that has captivated many great players over the years, including Bobby Locke and Sir Henry Cotton.
It’s the near perfect simplicity of this par 3 that makes it so enticing. The ball must carry a swathe of heather and rough towards a flag perched upon a two-tier green, with bunkers front left and front right.
The wind can make finding the target a significant challenge, particularly when it blows across in either direction. But, as with most great short holes, only a perfectly struck shot will find the putting surface, no matter the conditions.
Anything just missing will leave a testing up-and-down.
If one had a blank canvas on which to draw a perfect heathland par 3, this is what it would look like.
4 - 11th at Hillside - Par 5 - 509 yards
Before you tackle this incredible par 5, it’s worth taking a moment to soak up the views on offer from the tee.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to the mountains of the Lake District.
The fabulously shaped fairway kinks to the right before turning left between dunes on both sides.
The hole then sweeps round towards a green that’s framed by a striking circle of high pines.
When played into the wind, it’s definitely a three-shot hole, but on calmer days, or with a breeze behind, there’s a chance to make it to the putting surface in two blows. That will require a strong second shot, ideally with a hint of draw to feed the ball in towards the flag.
This is both a visually striking and technically excellent long hole. It requires precise play, but it provides a true and fair chance of reward for strong striking.
5 - 3rd at Royal County Down - Par 4 - 477 yards
This formidable par 4 plays from an elevated tee, affording spectacular views across Dundrum Bay.
Driving to a narrow fairway, the question is: do you play over, or skirt round, the two fairway bunkers between 195 and 220 yards out? If you choose the former, you have to be careful not to run out of fairway, as it pinches in just before 300 yards. Choose the latter and another bunker waits down the right side.
The approach to the green is guarded by five perilous bunkers and a mound short and left that kicks an under-hit shot away to the right.
This green tends to be extremely fast and it features subtle borrows that confuse even long-time members.
Making a par on this tremendously testing hole will feel like a birdie for even the most accomplished links golfer.
6 - 15th at Kingsbarns - Par 3 - 185 yards
Playing right along the Fife coastline, the tee shot here must carry rocks and sea to reach the putting surface.
A ball lacking power or getting up in the wind will end up bouncing around and eventually wet.
With the trees on the left providing shelter it’s hard to feel the wind, but when a tee shot gets up and away it can easily be taken on the breeze.
The position of the flag here can greatly alter the question posed. When front left, a shot of some 165 yards is required. When back right, it’s more than 200 yards and simply not to be taken on.
The prudent play is for the centre of the putting surface. Frankly, anything on the green is highly acceptable.
7 - 11th at Ballybunion - Par 4 - 402 yards
This is a daunting but magnificent par 4.
The prevailing wind comes off the sea so you must be extremely brave on the drive and aim down the shoreline, allowing the breeze to push the ball back towards the narrow fairway.
The target from the tee is a small section of cut grass between dunes and beach.
The hole is undulating throughout, with shelves of fairway all the way to a brilliant green protected by dunes short left, slopes short right and a hollow to the right of the putting surface.
The approach must carry all the way.
It’s not surprising that this is one of the most photographed and painted holes in world golf. Mastering this one delivers pure golfing satisfaction.
8 - 13th at Liphook - Par 5 - 502 yards
A beautiful long hole, the 13th at Liphook is named ‘Two Counties’ as a waterway marking the border between Hampshire and West Sussex crosses the fairway some 130 yards short of the green.
From the tee, the hole plays gently downhill to a gorgeously shaped fairway lined with heather.
On the approach, the hole moves back uphill to a green protected by clever bunkering and run-offs. Pines and flowering shrubs frame the putting surface, making it one of the most enticing approaches you’ll ever play.
For longer hitters, the green is on in two during the summer months and this makes the hole a good birdie chance.
Mere mortals have the dilemma of whether to take on the carry over the stream or not.
It’s a perfect par 5, offering potential glory for those who display power and accuracy, and trouble for those who take on too much and falter.
9 - 9th at Turnberry - Par 3 - 185 yards
This hole is the newest on our list, arriving at Turnberry as part of the redesign of the Ailsa course that took place between 2015 and 2016. This par 3 makes the very most of the dramatic coastline around the iconic lighthouse.
A selection of tees can be used here – the longest leaves a huge carry of some 220 yards and a total distance of nigh on 250. But a number of other teeing grounds can be put into use to shorten the hole, and this can be crucial if the wind is hurting.
Out on the rugged shoreline, the gusts make this a hugely challenging shot but an incredibly rewarding one if executed correctly.
To watch the ball flying over the wave-battered rocks with the lighthouse in the background is an exhilarating experience.
To see it touch down on the putting surface is an elating one.
Trump Turnberry Resort Ailsa Course Review
Click to the next page for our Dream 18 Back Nine
The UK&I's Best Golf Holes - Dream 18 - Back Nine
10 - 6th at Sunningdale New - Par 5 - 510 yards
The view from the elevated tee on this wonderful par 5 is inspiring, offering expansive vistas of the surrounding heathland and the distant flag, a fluttering speck across a sea of heather.
The downhill tee shot to a fairway turning left to right is extremely enticing, but danger lurks with water hazards on the corner of the dogleg.
The hole then climbs to a superb green with run-off areas, including a heather-filled pit to the left.
This is reachable with two powerful blows, but an attempt to force the issue can quickly turn into a nightmare.
11 - 2nd at Royal Porthcawl - Par 4 - 425 yards
This stunning hole plays right out to the shoreline, with the beach and the rocks providing a beautiful backdrop. On top of these obvious aesthetic qualities, this is also a brilliantly challenging par 4.
The tee shot must be long and straight and carry some 200 yards. The beach and out of bounds waits left and it becomes more of a factor all the way down the hole.
When it comes to the approach, anything catching the breeze and flying left will be in trouble.
Finding the right side of the fairway from the tee offers the best angle to approach the green.
The second shot requires supreme nerve and precision and, with the safe option being to err right, a perfectly placed bunker awaits.
12 - 16th at Royal Portrush - Par 3 - 202 yards
‘Calamity Corner’ on the Dunluce course is one of Harry Colt’s very best par 3s. There are no bunkers to contend with and there doesn’t need to be to make this an extremely challenging short hole – testament to Colt’s skilled use of the natural terrain.
The tee is exposed and the green is raised so the wind is almost always a factor. The tee shot must carry all the way over a rough-filled chasm to a raised green. Anything short or right will leave a difficult shot at best, a lost ball at worst.
During the 1951 Open, Bobby Locke missed the green here in all four rounds, finding the small swale to the short left of the green – known now as Bobby Locke’s hollow. But he was purposefully aiming at it – the lesser of the evils around this green. He got up and down from it each time.
13 - 12th at Old Head of Kinsale - Par 5 - 537 yards
One of the most striking holes in the world, this is a sprawling par 5, played along a narrow spit of land out towards the most northerly point of the course.
From the back tees, the drive must carry more than 220 yards just to reach the fairway. Anything left of the aiming point will tumble downwards to the cliffs and the Celtic Sea.
With the hole turning to the left, though, the bolder you are, the shorter the second and third shots will be.
The fairway becomes increasingly narrow on the approach to the green and the cliffs on the left side loom ever larger.
It’s a hugely memorable hole but a very obvious potential card-wrecker – one that should be played with suitable deference, as well as an appreciation for its sheer beauty and spectacle.
14 - 14th at Royal Dornoch - Par 4 - 445 yards
This cracking par 4 demonstrates how natural terrain can provide all the defence a hole requires. There are no bunkers on ‘Foxy’, but it ranks as stroke index one on the Championship course at Dornoch.
From the tee, the fairway is protected by rolling dunes on both sides.
The hole turns to the left and you must decide how much of the corner to cut off.
Finding the fairway from the tee is just a small part of the test, however.
The green is raised and slanted, with a deeper section to the right and a narrow plateau jutting out to the left.
Only the most precise approach will find the putting surface and if you don’t, you’ll face a testing touch shot that, whether putted, chipped or pitched, must be judged to perfection.
15 - 11th at Woodhall Spa - Par 4 - 437 yards
A wonderful heathland hole on the Hotchkin course that looks ostensibly straightforward but the challenge it poses is, in fact, both technical and subtle.
The fairway is generous, but the drive is intimidating as you must fire over heather and there’s no bail-out option.
The hole is straightaway and the second shot is a deceptive one. There are cross bunkers some 70 yards short of the putting surface, but the raised green appears closer beyond them.
Club selection is of paramount importance and many seemingly good shots come up short.
The green is relatively flat and there are no bunkers.
The test of this hole is sufficiently complex and clever there’s no need for them.
16 - 11th at Hoylake - Par 3 - 194 yards
The views of the Dee Estuary are spectacular on this par 3, but it’s not a tee shot where you can afford to become distracted.
‘The Alps’ is a challenging hole with the prevailing wind in your face.
For most, it will require a precisely struck long-iron or hybrid to carry all the way to the putting surface.
Although the green is reasonably generous, it doesn’t look it from the tee.
With a variety of possible pin positions and variable winds, you’re asked to produce a slightly different shot almost every time you play.
The bunker and slope to the front right of the green are frequently a factor, as missing there is preferable to erring short and left, where the rough-covered slope swallows balls.
Rory found trouble here in the final round of the 2014 Open and made bogey, opening the door slightly for the chasing pack.
17 - 17th at St Andrews - Par 4 - 455 yards
The Road Hole is one of golf’s most iconic and as testing a par 4 as you’ll find.
Long hitters must be bold with the tee shot and hug the side of the hotel to find the fairway, but anything fading right will be lost.
The approach must be perfect as the dreaded Road Hole bunker lurks, waiting to gather anything short left. Through the green is a footpath and that road before rough and a wall.
18 - 18th at Carnoustie - Par 4 - 444 yards
This is arguably the most difficult finishing hole in golf. It has certainly been one of the most dramatic in the recent Open Championships contested over the testing Angus links.
It witnessed Jean Van de Velde’s meltdown and paddle in the Barry Burn in 1999 and then, in 2007, Padraig’s double visit to the water but eventual play-off win.
The drive is intimidating with the burn snaking across the fairway.
Bunkers, including the one that cost Johnny Miller the 1975 Open, lurk at driving distance to the right and out-of-bounds looms left.
The burn arcs back across the hole again just in front of the green, ready to catch any mis-struck approach.
Out-of-bounds continues round the left of the green with a gaping bunker to the right.
This is a brilliant beast of a closing hole and a fitting way to close our Dream 18.
Carnoustie Golf Links Championship Course Review
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