Best royal golf courses
Not every golf course gets the royal stamp of approval, we've pulled together some of our favourites – but which will be next on your list?.
It should come as no surprise that the 40 or so ‘royal’ golf courses in the UK & Ireland offer some of Europe’s best golfing experiences. With appointments made by the reigning Monarch, this title certainly isn’t awarded without due care on consideration.
Many of these courses have become mainstays of The Open rota, as well as being some of the most highly-ranked layouts on the planet. Check out some of the best royal golf courses to experience on your next golf itinerary.
On the golden sands of the Southport’s golfing coast stands Royal Birkdale. The scene of some of The Open’s most memorable moments, from Jordan Spieth playing from the driving range to the young Justin Rose and Seve Ballesteros both making an impression on the iconic closing hole, the course is firmly fixed in the minds of golfers. Bestowed with its royal title in 1951 and consistently ranked as one of the top three courses in England, it continues to be an incredible golfing destination.
Royal Cinque Ports was granted its royal title in 1910 by King Edward VII and offers one of the finest links experiences in the world, on England’s south-east coast. It hosted its first Open Championship before its royal status in 1909, and then once again in 1920. The classic out and back layout, combined with rolling fairways and impressive greens, makes for a great experience.
The only club in Northern Ireland to host an Open Championship made a lasting mark on the golfing world following Shane Lowry’s iconic victory in 2019. The relatively recent redesign of several holes on the front nine of the Dunlace Links elevated this course into something truly special – a fabulous mix of beauty and brawn.
Thanks to the overwhelming support it received first-time around, the course will once again welcome The Open in 2025. Visitors should also make time to play the Valley Links, often overlooked in favor of its bigger brother, but one of the best hidden gems in the British Isles.
Bestowed with its royal title by Queen Victoria in 1871, Royal Liverpool, often known as Hoylake, was just the third course in England to be given the patronage. The course has evolved with the times, undergoing near constant tweaking since the turn of the millennium, whilst continuing to play host to some of the most famous recent Open victories – Tiger Woods in 2006 & Rory McIlroy in 2014. Golfers will continue to see the Hoylake host the sport’s oldest Major as it remains to be a staple on the Open rota.
Offering a stern golfing examination across its two courses, Royal Troon is another famous Open Championship venue and became a royal in 1978 under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II – making it the most recent in the British Isles to be awarded the title. The Old Course is the Open host, with many great holes such as the “Postage Stamp” 8th hole, but the Portland Course is also well worth a visit having been designed by the great Dr Alister MacKenzie.
Royal County Down is another stunning links venue to be awarded royal status, and thanks to its 36-holes of golf in one of the world’s most naturally beautiful settings, a golf holiday here is unforgettable. King Edward VII granted County Down’s royal title and no matter whether you’re playing the Annesley Links or the famous Championship links – often voted as the best course on the planet, golf doesn’t come much better.
Royal St David's is one of the stand-out golf courses in Wales and its stunning location, dominated by the presence of Harlech Castle, will leave you coming back for more. As all fine traditional links courses do, Royal St David’s features undulating fairways, true, fast greens, and strategically placed bunkers. The course was granted royal status by King Edward VII, in 1908, and has maintained these impeccable standards for more than a century.
A course with perhaps one of the most distinguished history, Royal St George's was awarded royal status in 1902 by King Edward VII. The wind which blows through the course is notoriously difficult to pick, with no two continuous holes playing in the same direction – unusual for links courses which often have more of an ‘out-and-back’ type of layout.
Collin Morikawa put on a masterclass to win The Open here in 2021, highlighting the need for accuracy over raw distance around this magnificent venue. Without a doubt one of the best and most historic royal golf courses – simply a must-visit venue!
A true links course, albeit set back from the sea, Royal Lytham & St Anne’s is a unique Open venue that was awarded royal status in 1926 by King George V. 174 bunkers pepper the fairways here, making accuracy from the tee vital, with the added challenge of slick, true greens. A popular Open Championship venue for many – although perhaps one of the toughest tracks in England on a blustery day!
As the second and final course to be granted royal status in Wales in 1909 by King Edward VII, Royal Porthcawl is based in a magnificent setting that slopes down to the seashore, and thanks to the absence of dunes, golfers can see the sea from every hole. Memorable views south to Somerset and Exmoor, and north-west across Swansea Bay to the Gower Peninsula, are enough to make golfers return, time after time.
One of the oldest golf clubs in Ireland, Royal Belfast went through a couple of transformations and relocations in its early life before finally settling on its current spot on the shores of Belfast Lough in 1925.
It was granted royal status in 1885, the first to hold such a title on the island of Ireland and has more recently undergone some high-acclaimed bunker relocation from MacKenzie & Ebert. With no hotel on-site, it’s the perfect day trip for groups staying in Northern Ireland’s capital who are looking for a top-quality course nearby.
Built on Bull Island on the outskirts of Ireland’s capital, Royal Dublin’s current layout was designed by Harry Colt in 1920 and has been a regular host of both the Irish Open and Irish Amateur Championship. Bestowed with royal status by Queen Victoria in 1891, it remains a first-class member’s golfing establishment.
However, the club welcomes guests through the week for those tailoring a trip around a stay in the capital, offering an experience that can truly rival some of the great golf break destinations on the east coast of the country.
The most northerly on our list, but well worth the trip, Royal Dornoch is an epic links and was voted as Scotland’s best golf courses in 2020 at the World Golf Awards - quite the achievement considering the quality of golf on offer in the country!
It was given royal status in 1906 by King Edward VII and is certainly one of the most deserving on this list of the title, given its perfect layout and natural setting overlooking the North Sea. It’s not a particularly testing course off the tee but be sure to strengthen your iron game prior to playing, as the protected, raised greens demand pinpoint accuracy.
Last but certainly not least on our list of top royal golf courses comes Royal Aberdeen. The course has hosted the Scottish Open, Amateur Championship, Walker Cup and The Senior Open – truly an elite tournament venue, always presented in pristine condition. The ‘out-and-back’ layout here was given its Royal title in 1903 by King Edward VII and remains a pure test of links golf to this day.
Royal North Devon
The oldest club in England still played on its initial property and designed by none other than Old Tom Morris, Royal North Devon – or Westward Ho! – is a much loved pilgrimage for golfers. Opened in 1864, it was awarded ‘royal’ status just three years later by Queen Victoria, becoming the fifth course to have been given the title.
A relatively tranquil piece of land, without too much in the way of trees or elevation, Westward Ho! offers a truly nostalgic feel which is almost impossible to replicate. However, the course still oozes quality and has regularly hosted elite Amateur events over the years.
Royal North Devon Golf Club, Devon
Head of UK & Ireland Sales