What Are The Best Island Golf Courses in GB&I?

The hundreds of islands around our shores are home to some stunning courses as you'll discover in our round-up of the best island golf courses in GB&I

The Machrie on Islay (Photo: © Phil Inglis)
(Image credit: Phil INGLIS)

The hundreds of islands around our shores are home to some stunning courses as you'll discover in our round-up of the best island golf courses in GB&I

The Best Island Golf Courses in GB&I?

The British Isles archipelago is made up of over 1,000 islands of varying sizes. Although most of our golf courses are situated on the mainland, an intriguing number can be found on some of these many island outposts.

Here, we pick out some of the best island golf courses in GB&I. It’s not a comprehensive list, though. So if island golf appeals, we would encourage you to also investigate what else might be on offer beyond our mainland shores.

The Machrie on Islay

Golf on whisky-rich Islay in the Inner Hebrides dates back to Willie Campbell’s original course in 1891. More recently, tour pro, DJ Russell, has overseen a wholesale upgrading of this famous links on the island’s west coast. There is also a first-rate 47-room hotel here.

The Machrie on Islay has undergone a major transformation (Photo: © Phil Inglis)

DJ’s new masterpiece plays over a rumpled landscape of unending drama with several front-nine tees set right by the shore. Magical green settings abound, with the 2nd, wedged between river and beach, standing out.

Ardfin on Jura

The Ardfin estate on Jura is owned by Australian hedge fund multi-millionaire, Greg Coffey. Talk of a golf course first came up in 2012, and three years later, Australian Bob Harrison’s creation was finished. He declared that “nothing I've seen anywhere in the world competes with the sheer beauty of the Jura site”.

Ardfin is GB&I's ultimate island golfing experience (Photo: Campbell Lindsay)

The 11th plays to a green close to a stunning halfway hut boathouse by the water’s edge. The spectacular par-3 12th’s narrow, contoured green nestles beneath a rock face. Other standout holes include the par-3 10th across a chasm above the beach.

The only drawback is that you can only play Ardfin if you also stay on site. And this will cost you a very pretty penny indeed!

Hayling on Hayling Island

There are surprisingly few south coast links between Rye in Sussex and Devon. Hayling, on a small island just east of Portsmouth, is one notable exception. Hayling Island is linked to the mainland via a road bridge.

The 10th hole on the splendid links at Hayling (Photo: Kevin Murray)

This splendid links starts with a 179-yard par 3 and features a particularly challenging run for home into the wind. The long and testing 444-yard 12th, where the green is cut into the right-hand dune ridge, perhaps just edges the ‘signature hole’ stakes.

Shiskine on Arran

Scotland in miniature, they say of Arran, but that doesn’t stop the island being blessed with seven golf courses, of which Shiskine, by the spectacular Drumadoon Cliffs on the west coast, is the most famous.

Shiskine plays beneath the Drumadoon Cliffs (Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images)

This 12-holer boasts the unique and famous Crow’s Nest 3rd, a short par 3 that rises steeply and dramatically to a hidden green. Shiskine started out as a nine-holer in 1896 and grew to 18 early last century before finally settling on 12 in 1912 as six holes on Drumadoon Hill fell out of favour.

Askernish on South Uist

The original Old Tom Morris 18-holer on South Uist gradually fell into disuse in the 1930s with the club creating 12 new holes on flatter ground away from the dunes.

Early this century, golf course consultant, Gordon Irvine, learnt of a lost Old Tom Morris course in the Hebrides thus setting the wheels of rediscovery in motion.

Askernish is a rediscovered Old Tom Morris links on South Uist (Photo: Jeremy Ellwood)

Three years later, the Old Tom Morris links at Askernish was open once more, with Irvine and co doing their best to recreate what they believed to be many of the original holes. The end result is a splendidly rugged natural links.

Whalsay in The Shetlands

The UK’s northernmost golf course was designed by Whalsay native, Graeme Sandison, in 1976, since when it has undergone several layout changes. The current 4th tee is the most northerly in the UK and the arctic terns that nest nearby sometimes go for golfers to protect their young.

Whalsay is the UK's northernmost golf course (Photo: Kevin Murray)

Some of the views are breath-taking, nowhere more so than from the 16th tee – a truly stunning hole that hugs the cliffs as it drops steeply down to a magical green location.

Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight

Freshwater Bay enjoys perhaps the most striking setting of the island’s eight courses. The layout plays over a narrow strip of chalky downland, with plenty of room to the right on most holes – good news for the nation’s slicers.

Freshwater Bay enjoys a stirring cliff-top setting (Photo: Rob Smith)

The course is not heavily bunkered, with its elevated setting meaning the wind is its greatest defence. Its location in the south-west corner of the island allows you to see the sea to both the south and north.

Isle of Harris on the Isle of Harris

This beautiful nine-holer looks out over Taransay, the island made famous in 2000 by the BBC’s social experiment programme, Castaway. Golf was once played a little further down the west Harris coast, but the club has been at Scarista since 1985, and the setting is simply magical.

The visually stunning nine-holer on the Isle of Harris (Photo: Jeremy Ellwood)

There can be few courses anywhere that better conjure up that “wonderful to be alive” feeling on a fine day.

Furness on Walney Island

Founded in 1872, Furness in Cumbria is England’s sixth oldest club. The bridge that now carries the A590 across Walney Channel replaced the ferry in 1908. This exhilarating links runs along the Irish Sea on the west coast of Walney Island.

The links at Furness on Walney Island in Cumbria

There are panoramic views from every tee, whether the majestic peaks of the Lakeland hills to the north or Morecambe Bay to the south and east. Perhaps no hole is more challenging than the signature 10th - a tricky par 3 played from an elevated tee.

We hope you've enjoyed our guide to some of the best island golf courses in GB&I.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response