Best golf courses in the UK & Ireland
The UK & Ireland is the envy of the golfing world with possibly the best quality and quantity of courses across the globe. Join us as we celebrate the British Isles and list out our favorites.
Golf has been played on these isles for centuries, and as a result, the UK & Ireland are blessed with some of the most well-known courses on the planet. Understandably, these attract visitors from across the globe, which has helped them to maintain impeccable standards to match their world-class designs.
Whilst an exhaustive list of all of our favorites would be impossible to collate, we’ve grouped twelve of the layouts most commonly ranked by our customers as the best golf courses in the UK & Ireland.
Where else could we start? Royal County Down in Northern Ireland is in a perpetual battle with Pine Valley in the USA for the accolade of ‘best course on the planet’. Given that County Down can be played by anyone and the fact that Pine Valley is entirely private, we're going to play favorites and claim that this Northern Irish gem is the best golf course in the world!!
As you’d expect, the layout has played host to many professional events, most recently the Irish Open, and was also the backdrop for the Walker Cup in 2007, featuring a star-studded lineup which included Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Danny Willett, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, and more!
The original course was designed by Old Tom Morris but has also been shaped over the years by Harry Colt and Harry Vardon – a holy trinity of the most well-respected golf course architects in the game. From the opening par-5, through the elevated par-3 4th hole, to the majestic finisher in front of the clubhouse, Royal County Down is simply spectacular. If you are contemplating the possibility of adding it to your itinerary – just do it. It’s something that you’ll remember forever.
Perhaps the most famous course on the planet, The Old Course at St Andrews was originally established in 1552 and continues to play host to the game’s oldest Major on a 5-year rotation. The layout was originally played in a clockwise direction, before Old Tom Morris became keeper of the greens and reversed this to create the order of play that we still enjoy today.
The Grand Auld Lady of St Andrews (as it’s known) is the very definition of a must-play course. From its iconic shared greens and fairways, through to notorious unique design features – such as the Valley of Sin on #18, or the Road Hole Bunker on #17 – it’s something that every golfer should experience at least once in their life.
That said, it can often take multiple visits to fully fall for The Old Course’s charms, with it occasionally appearing a touch unremarkable due to its relative lack of elevation change. Trust us though, it’s the sort of place you could return for every year of your life and learn something new each time – as Bobby Jones famously said; “I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St. Andrews, and I would still have had a rich and full life”.
The Ailsa Course at Turnberry has recently undergone one of the most scrutinized renovations in golf … and the results are phenomenal. The last venue to be added to The Open rota, the venue famously features a stunning lighthouse, which has been turned into potentially the most breathtaking half-way hut in the sport!
Every green was improved by Mackenzie & Ebert, with bunkering updates, and the holes around the turn also amended to help Turnberry put forward a very strong claim for the best championship layout in Scotland.
In addition to the course, the hotel is also amongst our favorites, with a world-class spa and first-class cuisine to compliment the luxury suites. And while you could run around the Ailsa Course every day of your trip, Turnberry is also blessed with a brilliant second option in the Robert The Bruce Course. We’ve got some incredible deals for Turnberry available across our website, so speak to one of our sales experts today to plan your perfect itinerary at this excellent resort.
The Championship Course at Royal Dornoch only stretches back to 6,754 yards – however, don’t be lured into thinking this means low scoring, as upturned green complexes and tricky pin positions can make the layout incredibly tough, particularly if you’re facing some ‘traditional’ Scottish weather. This is one of the most natural links layouts in the world and is an easy pick for our best golf courses in the UK list… see it for yourself!
Joining Royal Dornoch in the world’s top 20 courses is the stunning Ballybunion Old Course. Perhaps the best piece of golfing linksland on the planet, the club has attracted regular visitors from across the globe who strive to take on the layout that 8-time Major Champion Tom Watson so adored.
The American once said: “After playing Ballybunion for the first time, a man would think that the game of golf originated there”, and was almost singlehandedly responsible for its renaissance amongst his countrymen who flock to the area. While the Old course is sublime, it is joined on the land by the Cashen Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones – a layout that would be a destination in its own right if not somewhat overshadowed by its elder brother!
The world-famous ‘Redan’ par-3 can be seen mimicked across the globe, with its raised right-hand side of the green kicking the ball back into the middle of the putting surface. We could talk about North Berwick all day, but we’d be remiss to not mention the splendid short par-4 finisher, ‘Home’. At just 277 yards, At just 277 yards, the hole offers golfers the chance for a final birdie to ensure you leave with a smile on their face … providing you can keep it away from the road which runs all the way down the right-hand side!
Like others on this list, Lahinch places a premium on enjoyment over sheer difficulty, something seen during a recent hosting of the Irish Open as Englishman Robert Rock shot a fabulous 60 on the Saturday. Grass walkways are carved out between the dunes here, and with spectacular views across the water, there’s not many prettier places to play the game on a late summer’s evening.
From the beauty to the beast! Carnoustie was billed as ‘Car-Nasty’ the last time The Open was played across its famous links as Francesco Molinari held off a late charge from a resurgent Tiger Woods. The course has many notable moments from the iconic ‘Hogan’s Alley’ through to the 18th green complex laid out before the imposing clubhouse – and the site of Jean van der Velde’s memorable meltdown.
Carnoustie is comfortably visitable in a day for those staying around St Andrews, and it’s a trip that we’d always recommend making. However, please do ensure to play from a sensible tee-box to mitigate any risk of giving up the game for good!
The jewel in the crown of England’s Golf Coast, Royal Birkdale is another that has been the site of vivid golfing memories. Both Seve Ballesteros and Justin Rose really burst on the scene here, with Irishman Padraig Harrington also claiming one of his Open victories over this links with a famous 5-wood into the Par-5 17th hole.
Perhaps though, you’d be keener to stay and play at a destination with two brilliant courses right there on-site. In which case, we’d highly recommend checking out Woodhall Spa, with the Bracken and Hotchkin layouts both mainstays of Top 100 lists.
These heathland gems change throughout the season, as the heather flowers beautiful into a striking purple colour. England Golf have their base at Woodhall Spa, owing to the quality of the destination; and with a whole host of practice facilities to boot, there’s few places better to work on your game whilst away on a trip.
If you were going to design a piece of land to build a golf course on, then a 500-acre sandy peninsula in Ireland might be the ideal location! Despite being on the opposite coast of Ireland to others mentioned here, Portmarnock still reels in travellers from around the world; thanks not only to its excellence, but also to its proximity to Dublin.
Famed for its fearsome final stretch of holes, Portmarnock is a true test of golf, with the ability to stretch out to almost 7,500 yards, and so once again, ensure to choose the right tees for your group, particularly if you’re visiting when the wind is whipping across this exposed piece of golfing paradise.
Head of UK & Ireland Sales