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The beauty of the surroundings is a big factor for many golfers, but what are the most scenic golf courses in GB&I? We share our thoughts here...
What Are The Most Scenic Golf Courses in GB&I?
Where to start? There are golf courses set in beautiful countryside and amid spectacularly wild landscapes the length and breadth of the country.
We will all have played many that have simply wowed us, whether on the coast or inland. This article could have been filled 20 times over with Scottish courses alone!
But to spread things around a little, we’ve selected three from each nation, some well-known and some less so…
Perthshire may not be blessed with the higher mountains of the north. But the more subtle grandeur of the Ochil Hills near Auchterarder is equally alluring.
The town’s course sits right beside Gleneagles and is a fine example of a sub 6,000-yarder that can look after itself! Among the many strong holes is the lovely long 9th, playing straight towards those stirring distant hills.
Further north, Spey Valley represents Speyside golf on a slightly grander scale than the delightful short courses at Boat of Garten and Grantown. It plays right beside the mighty river, which seems to separate the 1st and 18th from the main body of the course. In reality you never actually cross it.
This is a big golf course playing over majestic, rolling terrain, with glorious backdrops all round.
Our final Scottish course is a relative unknown. Aigas near Beauly in Inverness-shire is blessed with an idyllic setting for golf.
The course plays in a kind of bowl between wooded slopes and the River Beauly. The signature dogleg-right 6th tees off right beside the river before doglegging sharply right to mirror the river bend. A little gem of a course.
Old Head in Kinsale, County Cork probably enjoys the most dramatic setting of any golf course in GB&I. It is laid out on a headland separated from the mainland by a slender neck partly occupied by the 12th and 13th holes.
Perched atop 300ft cliffs, with visual drama all around, it’s a scenic treat from start to finish.
Druid’s Glen in County Wicklow is a magnificent parkland course that has been likened to Augusta.
That may be stretching things a touch, but the course is blessed with several gorgeous par 3s and the fearsome and thought-provoking long par-4 13th where water comes into play on both the drive and daunting long approach. Par is exceptional here.
Then it’s back to the coast and Arnold Palmer’s mind-blowing 1980s creation at Tralee. The course is a mix of links and clifftop golf, with the visual drama ramping up a notch over the spectacular back nine. The front nine is not without stirring visits to the cliffs, too, on the 2nd and 3rd.
Arnie willingly admitted that God did the lion’s share of the design work here!
For England, we’re going hilltop, clifftop and moorland. We start at Kington in Herefordshire, England’s highest course at 1,284ft on Bradnor Hill.
It offers up some of the most spectacular views of any inland course in the country. The fairways gaze out over Hergest Ridge (of Mike Oldfield fame for those old enough) and then beyond to seven different English and Welsh counties.
This is golf on a landscape of freely grazing sheep, springy moorland turf, intriguing shelf greens, grass bunkers aplenty, and stunning 360˚ panoramas. For more of the same, Church Stretton in Shropshire and Cockermouth in Cumbria are from the same mould.
Thurlestone, laid out over the clifftops between South Milton and Bantham beaches in Devon, was once likened to Pebble Beach by Peter Alliss.
The views may at times rival those of its Californian counterpart, especially at the far end where you gaze across to Burgh Island. But the green fee is mercifully a mere 9% of Pebble’s. Mullion in Cornwall has a similar feel.
Slaley Hall’s Hunting course is another to have been likened to Augusta. This former tour venue has a rugged moorland feel in places, with beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons lining the fairways elsewhere.
The final hole is one of the best, a testing long par 4 that plays gently back up to a raised green. This fine course has a wonderful away-from-it-all feel in many places.
The country’s most-photographed golf course is undoubtedly Nefyn & District on the Llyn Peninsula. Rolling into the car park and gazing down over the course is a real ‘great to be alive’ moment.
There are 27 clifftop holes here, with the most memorable laid out over a slender headland christened The Point. Think Old Head on a slightly lesser, but no less dramatic, scale – golf with a real wow factor.
The Harry Vardon course at Llandrindod Wells in the heart of Wales is perched high above the Victorian spa town. It enjoys a wonderful moorland setting.
There are few better places to play on a fine day. It's under 6,000 yards, too, so your game won’t end up too battered and bruised when the wind gets up.
Our final stop is the parkland course at Cradoc just outside Brecon. It enjoys spectacular views across to the Brecon Beacons and their highest peak of Pen-y-fan.
The 11th is a tricky par 4 with a worryingly tight drive thanks to a copse on the right and the course’s perimeters on the left.
The short par-3 12th that follows then demands extra attention for no other reason than the breathtakingly distracting mountain views you feast your eyes upon from its tee.
We hope you've enjoyed our thoughts on the most scenic golf courses in GB&I, and are only sorry that space didn't allow us to include more of our countless scenic treasures!
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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 instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and 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 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but 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
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