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What Are The Best Value Golf Courses In The UK?
The cost of living is on the rise – it’s in the news all the time at the moment, with the spectre of increases in energy bills, food and petrol prices, National Insurance contributions and more looming ever larger in the UK.
Golf is not exempt, and when you remember that many golf clubs increased both green fees and membership fees following golf’s well-documented membership boom during the pandemic, keeping playing much as you would like as economically as possible is becoming trickier. In related articles, we have looked at to how to play cheaper golf via a few handy tips, and more specifically, how to find the best-value golf at some of our premier tracks for those who still hanker after the occasional treat at a Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100 course.
Here, we turn our attention to the best value on offer away from our premier-league tracks, but it’s important to remember that ‘best value’ doesn’t necessarily equate to the very cheapest. Value is about finding the right blend of experience and price, so a very cheap course that offers a very disappointing experience (for whatever reason) actually represents very little value at all.
We’ve picked out a dozen courses across the UK&I from a recent, extensively researched Golf Monthly 100 Hidden Gems project that we feel offer an excellent experience for the money, and therefore, real value…
England – South
Cleeve Hill GC, Gloucestershire
GF: from £15 (low-season twilight) to £40 (summer weekend rate)
Rob Smith says… Lightly bunkered and with masses of room off the tee, this is a course that will test your short game at the same time as delivering a history lesson in golf course design. If far-reaching and unspoilt views are your thing, Cleeve Hill will tick all the boxes and more. Recently saved from the brink of extinction, it is the very epitome of natural golf, running as it does up hill and down dale at the highest point in the beautiful Cotswolds.
Lewes GC, East Sussex
GF: from £32.50 (low-season round)
Jezz Ellwood says… Successfully locating the narrow approach road and clawing your way painstakingly up to the clubhouse is well worth the effort as the views over the town and along the South Downs are magnificent. Three short par 4s early on give you early hope, but they don’t always roll over tamely in the wind. Highlights include the par-5 9th, where bigger hitters might just get over the ridge to bring the green in range, and the long downhill par-3 12th. Lewes ranks among the best of the golf courses to be found on the Sussex Downs.
England – Midlands
Kington GC, Herefordshire
GF: from £22 (low-season round) up to £54 (summer all-day play)
Fergus Bisset says… At 1,284ft above sea level, Kington is the highest golf club in England. With panoramic views from the course, encompassing the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Black Mountains, the Radnorshire Hills, Hergest Ridge, plus the Malvern and Clee Hills, there are few more spectacular settings for golf anywhere in England. The back nine in particular offers some seriously enjoyable holes with amazing views across the surrounding countryside. Kington is quite simply supreme fun and one of the best golf courses in Herefordshire.
Market Rasen GC, Lincolnshire
GF: from £25 (low-season round) to £45 (summer weekend rate)
Jezz Ellwood says… This lovely course just outside the famous horse-racing town deserves to be more widely known. The dauntingly long par-4 opener is a bit of an early shock, but don’t despair for the six remaining front-nine par 4s all start with a ‘3’. They must still be treated with respect, though, as you’re invariably in among the trees and heather. Eventually you find more open terrain on the 9th, and after the excellent dogleg-left 10th, you head out into a trio of fine new holes that replaced three closer to the racecourse in 2001. Market Rasen is rated one of the best golf courses in Lincolnshire, a county in which Woodhall Spa's Hotchkin course is the standout track.
England – North
Cleveland GC, Yorkshire
GF: from £24 (twilight) up to £50 (all-day play)
Fergus Bisset says… The course at Cleveland is a great links with a fine array of holes played over rumpled terrain and dune-lined fairways to good, firm and pacy greens. The front nine has some cracking holes played out towards the old steelworks and the run for home delivers a good test.
Dunstanburgh Castle GC, Northumberland
GF: from £20 (twilight summer weekend) to £40 (weekend summer rate)
Rob Smith says… This par-70 course runs along the stunning coast about 40 miles south of the border with Scotland. It was remodelled and extended by James Braid in 1920, and what remains is very much his handiwork with just three par 3s and a solitary par 5. Not heavily bunkered, it’s exceptionally pretty with stirring views of the castle at the far end.
Strathpeffer Spa GC, Ross & Cromarty
GF: from £20 a round (low-season and twilight) to £40 (summer rate)
Fergus Bisset says… The course here was extended to 18 holes at the turn of the 20th century with Old Tom Morris employed to make the necessary additions and alterations. It retains the character and charm of an old-fashioned Scottish club and course. There are seven par 3s demanding skill and precision and the undulating fairways lead to sloping greens that can cause even the best putters to scratch their heads. With views over the Cromarty Firth and to the hills around Ben Wyvis, a visit here will live long in the memory.
Shiskine Golf & Tennis Club, Arran
GF: from £22 a round
Fergus Bisset says… Playing towards Drumadoon Point with stunning views across to the Kintyre peninsula and up Arran’s coast to impressive basalt cliffs, Shiskine enjoys an amazing setting. The course features one of the most memorable pairs of holes you’ll find. The nigh-on impossible 3rd, ‘Crow’s Nest’, where the tee-shot must climb some 50ft and stop on a plateau green, then the 4th, where you play from an elevated tee with cliffs to the right and the Kilbrannan Sound and Kintyre ahead. It’s stirring stuff. The small island of Arran is home to no fewer than seven golf courses.
Neath GC, Neath Port Talbot
GF: from £28 (low-season round) to £44 (weekend summer rate)
Jezz Ellwood says… Neath, the 1930s handiwork of James Braid set high above the south Wales Valleys, offers some of the very best views of any hilltop course from the 13 holes that play over the higher ground. The vista from the 9th green and then the 10th and 11th holes is truly mesmerising as you gaze down on normal life in the valley below. The hole you will remember most is the mid-length par-4 15th, which plunges 80ft back down to the lower level in one fell swoop via more tee-shot hang time than you can possibly imagine.
Bull Bay GC, Anglesey
GF: from £25 (low season and twilight) to £45 (summer Saturday rate)
Rob Smith says… Opening shortly before World War I, this lightly bunkered Herbert Fowler design lies in the centre of Anglesey’s scenic and craggy north coast and is regarded as one of the best golf courses in North Wales. Its elevated position means that wind is often a factor, but to compensate there are views out over the sea and up towards the Isle of Man that are simply magnificent. Bull Bay is an extremely sociable club where staff and members take the time to welcome visitors. If it wasn’t quite so off the beaten track it would be far better known.
Strandhill GC, Co. Sligo
GF: from €30 (low-season round) up to €100 (summer round)
Kevin Markham says… Strandhill is Ireland’s quirkiest 18-hole links. It is also one of its most scenic and entertaining. It lies under the gaze of Knocknarea Mountain, with sea pressing in on two sides. The holes keep you guessing all day long and while there are ‘traditional’ links holes here, several others are off the charts for sheer adventure. They almost defy belief because of exuberant terrain (holes 5 and 15) or because there’s no way a hole should be designed like that (the outrageous 13th). They all add to Strandhill’s infectious charm. You play beside the sea on two occasions – on holes 2, 3 and 4, and then 7 – although the sounds of the waves follow you wherever you go.
Scrabo GC, Co. Down
GF: from £30 a round
Kevin Markham says… Scrabo, at the other end of the county to the famous Championship links at Royal County Down, boasts rugged, bumpy, unpredictable, sometimes unfair but always adventurous and adrenaline-inducing hilltop terrain. Gorse swamps your senses while views spill for miles. Right from the start you are hit by the drama of the course and its setting. The 1st plays from a high tee, driving straight uphill between flanks of gorse. It’s a par 4 of 459 yards and is SI 1. There are short par 4s, too, but this is a challenging day’s golf. The sense of untamed adventure follows you from one hole to the next as fairways snake across the hillside to small natural green sites lost in the gorse.
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 across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
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