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Best Golf Courses in the UK & Ireland

from the experts in Golf Holidays

✍️ Tommy Eatenton | ⏰ 8 min read

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UK & Ireland Golf Courses

Arguably some of the best golf holidays are had in the UK and Ireland.

You will find multiple Championship links on the Kent coast and the rolling sand dunes of Southport offer courses of the highest calibre. The dramatic, natural terrain that Scotland is blessed with seems as though it were designed for the purpose of creating golf courses of unparalleled beauty and challenge.

Ireland is home to around a quarter of all the natural links courses on the planet which have a huge amount of character. Then there is Wales, with miles of charming coastline and acres of untouched countryside, full of hidden gems.

Read on to discover the courses our experts have played and consider the best in the UK & Ireland or check out some of the best golf holiday deals in the UK >>


Royal County Down

Ranked 1st on Golf Digest's biennial 'World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses' list in 2016 and again in 2018, Royal County Down Golf Club needs little introduction. The golf course is nestled in the Murlough Nature Reserve, flanked by the breathtaking Mountains of Mourne and running along Dundrum Bay, is considered by many to be the most strikingly beautiful golf course in the world.

Don’t let the beauty of Royal County Down fool you, the course is a true test of golf, narrow fairways and ‘bearded bunkers’ demand excellent control of the golf ball.

More info on Royal County Down >>

Royal County Down facts
Location Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
Length 7,186 yards
Par 71
Designed by George L. Ballie, Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Harry Colt
Established 1890
Hosted Irish Open 4 times (1928, 1935, 1939, 2015)
Where to stay Belfast

"There probably isn't a golf course that tests you as much off the tee as Royal County Down. Each shot requires perfect execution to open up your approach."
Tom (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 6)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Tom about playing this course.

St Andrews Old Course

It would be impossible to compile a list of the best golf courses, in Scotland and the world, and not include the Old Course at St Andrews. By far and away the most iconic course on the planet, you can feel how special the place is the moment you set foot in town.

The Home of Golf needs little introduction and should be played by every golfer at least once, follow in the footsteps of golf legends and see where golf was born.

More info on St Andrews Old Course >>

St Andrews Old Course facts
Location St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Length 7,305 yards
Par 72
Designed by Daw Anderson, Old Tom Morris
Established 1552
Hosted Scottish Open 1973
Hosted The Open 30 times
Hosted Women's Open 2 times (2007, 2013)
Where to stay St Andrews

"The 1st tee is undeniably the happiest place on earth for golfers, it is impossible not to smile standing there awaiting the centuries old challenge."
Gareth (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 12)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Gareth about playing this course.

Royal Birkdale Golf Club

The pedigree of Royal Birkdale Golf Club is beyond doubt, having hosted The Open 9 times, the Ryder Cup twice and a multitude of other championships including the Walker Cup and Women's British Open.

Ranked 15th in Golf Digest's 'World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses 2018' the magnificence of Royal Birkdale cannot be overstated, arguably the crown jewel of English golf, this course should be on every golfer's bucket list.

More info on Royal Birkdale >>

Royal Birkdale facts
Location Merseyside, England
Length 7,156 yards
Par 70
Designed by Frederick G. Hawtree / J.H. Taylor
Established 1889
Hosted Ryder Cup 1965, 1969
Hosted The Open 10 times
Hosted Women's Open 6 times (1982, 1986, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2014)
Where to stay Southport

"Playing into the 17th you appreciate how amazing Harrington's shot was to claim his 2nd Open. From start-to-finish, this is a great day of golf."
Sam (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 1)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Sam about playing this course.

Trump Turnberry - Ailsa Course

Potentially the most picturesque golf course in Scotland, on a sunny day the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry is nothing short of glorious. Watched over by the iconic Turnberry Lighthouse, The Ailsa has a rich history to match the phenomenal views.

Four Open Championships have been played here, none as intense as the 'Duel in the Sun' in 1977 between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, one of the greatest spectacles in the history of the event.

More info on Trump Turnberry Ailsa Course >>

Trump Turnberry Ailsa Course facts
Location Ayrshire, Scotland
Length 7,204 yards
Par 70
Designed by Willie Fernie, Mackenzie Ross, Martin Ebert
Established 1906
Hosted The Open 4 times (1997, 1986, 1994, 2009)
Hosted Women's Open 2 times (2002, 2015)
Where to stay Ayrshire Coast, Turnberry Resort

"The 9th hole is up there with the very best par-3 you'll ever play."
Rob (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 16)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Rob about playing this course.

Royal Portrush - Dunluce Links

Royal Portrush remains the only golf club outside of mainland Britain to ever host The Open Championship, an honour that was bestowed upon it once again as the world’s elite golfers did battle on the rough links terrain in The Open in 2019.

The already tough track will present a fresh challenge to amateurs and pros alike, as two new holes have been added in for the most exciting major of the year, potentially making an already great course even greater.

More info on Royal Portrush >>

Royal Portrush Dunluce Links facts
Location Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
Length 7,143 yards
Par 72
Designed by Harry Colt
Established 1888
Where to stay Portrush & Derry

"Some of the best links views anywhere in the world. A very playable course if you drive it well and somewhere I'd recommend to all, such a great stretch of golf with great apres golf at Ramore in the Harbour."
Tom (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 6)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Tom about playing this course.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club

The journey that thousands of golfers a year make to Royal Dornoch is often described as a pilgrimage, given how far north and just how spectacular the course is, it is an accurate description.

Royal Dornoch was ranked 2nd on Golf Digest’s 2018 ‘World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses’, only surpassed by Royal County Down in Ireland. It is one of the most natural golf courses on the planet, it has both wildness and beauty in abundance.

More info on Royal Dornoch >>

Royal Dornoch facts
Location Sutherland, Scotland
Length 6,722 yards
Par 70
Designed by Old Tom Morris
Established 1877
Where to stay Royal Marine Hotel, Royal Golf Hotel

"Arguably one of the most underrated top-rated golf courses. I don't know anyone who has played here who hasn't put it amongst their Top 10 Courses they've played."
Gareth (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 12)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Gareth about playing this course.

Tralee Golf Club

Situated in a breathtaking location on the shores of County Kerry, Tralee is arguably a little overlooked at times thanks to its relatively close proximity to some of Ireland's most famous courses such as Ballybunion and Lahinch; a crying shame considering it easily holds its own with the best layouts in Ireland. Just ask course designer Arnold Palmer, who once said of Tralee: “I have never come across a piece of land so ideally suited for the building of a golf course.” Who are we to argue with The King?

Tralee is not only a fantastic test of golf but its stunning location on the shores of the ‘Lake District’ of Ireland will have golfers taking as many shots with their cameras as they do with their clubs. Get into your stride on the gentler front nine which boasts some of the most spectacular views imaginable, before taking to the back nine where it's fair to say you'll need your A Game to come out the other side with a decent scorecard intact!

More info on Tralee >>

Tralee Golf Club facts
Location Co. Kerry, Ireland
Length 6,975 yards
Par 72
Designed by Arnold Palmer
Established 1892 (current course 1984)
Where to stay Killarney

"Probably the most naturally beautiful golf course you'll come across. The course looks like a natural part of the landscape. Can't wait to play here again."
Sam (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 1)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Sam about playing this course.

Royal St George's Golf Club

Nestled in the dunes of the beautiful Kent coast, Royal St George's Golf Club is a course of outstanding natural beauty and, since it’s establishment in 1887, it has been considered one of the best courses in Britain and indeed the world.

Dramatic undulations, thick, heavy rough, upturned saucer-shaped greens, and devilish pot bunkers all add to the challenge but it is perhaps the routing of the holes at Sandwich that provides the toughest conundrum for the golfer. Unlike many classic links courses that have a "9 out and 9 back" design, the holes at Royal St George's point every which way, meaning that when the wind us up, the golfer has to constantly be on their toes, assessing its direction and speed. Follow in the footsteps of Open Champions past including Collin Morikawa, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman, and Darren Clarke, and see if you are up to the test.

More info on Royal St George's >>

Royal St George's facts
Location Sandwich, Kent, England
Length 7,204 yards
Par 70
Designed by Dr. Laidlaw Purves, Hugh Alison, Frank Pennink, Alister MacKenzie
Established 1887
Where to stay Kent

"A serious test of golf, regardless of the tees you play off or the wind on offer."
Rob (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 16)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Rob about playing this course.

Carnoustie Golf Links (Championship Course)

Carnoustie is considered the toughest track of any in The Open rotation by pros and amateurs alike, however, it is also one of the greatest. Coming in at 21st on the Golf Digest 2018 ‘World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses’ list, Carnoustie arguably has the finest closing holes of golf of any course in the world.

With the Barry Burn snaking through the fairways, distance control is a must when attempting to tame this beast of a course. Despite the challenge, a must play course for any serious golfer.

More info on Carnoustie Golf Links >>

Carnoustie Golf Links facts
Location Angus, Scotland
Length 6,948 yards
Par 72
Designed by Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, James Braid
Established 1850
Hosted Scottish Open 2 times (1995, 1996)
Hosted The Open 1931, 1937, 1953, 1968, 1975, 1999, 2007, 2018
Hosted Women's Open 2 times (2011, 2021)
Where to stay Dundee

"Depending on the wind, 16, 17 and 18 are the hardest finish in golf."
Gareth (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 12)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Gareth about playing this course.

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club

The crown jewel of Welsh golf, Royal Porthcawl is not only the best course in Wales but one of the best in the world. Whilst not a true links course, Royal Porthcawl is right on the coast of South Wales and boasts breathtaking views across the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic beyond.

Do not let the absence of sand dunes fool you, this epic track is tough, one has to navigate the plentiful gorse and excellent bunkering, all in the face of the winds coming off the Atlantic.

More info on Royal Porthcawl >>

Royal Porthcawl facts
Location Bridgend, Wales
Length 7,065 yards
Par 72
Designed by Charles Gibson, Ramsay Hunter, J. Simpson
Established 1891
Where to stay Swansea

"The course leads you into a sense of false security from the first few holes only to take that away with the brutal par 5 5th."
Rob (UK & Ireland Team: Handicap 16)

Call 0800 043 6644 to speak to Rob about playing this course.

Explore more UK & Ireland Golf Courses

Golf Courses in England
Golf Courses in Scotland
Golf Courses in Wales
Golf Courses in Ireland
Golf Courses in Northern Ireland

Royal County Down, Northern Ireland
Royal County Down, Northern Ireland
The Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland
The Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland
Royal Birkdale, Southport, England
Royal Birkdale, Southport, England
Trump Turnberry, Ailsa Course, Scotland
Trump Turnberry, Ailsa Course, Scotland
Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland
Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland
Royal Dornoch, Scotland
Royal Dornoch, Scotland
Tralee Golf Club, Ireland
Tralee Golf Club, Ireland
Royal St George's, Kent, England
Royal St George's, Kent, England
Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland
Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland
Royal Porthcawl, Wales
Royal Porthcawl, Wales

Frequently asked questions about Golf in the UK & Ireland

How many golf courses are there in the UK?

Golf is a very popular sports across the United Kingdom (UK). England has the highest number of registered golf courses with a total of 2270, followed by Scotland with 614 courses, Ireland has 494 and Wales has 186 courses.

What is best golf course in the UK & Ireland for under £100?

The UK & Ireland is home to a host of excellent golf courses that won't break the bank. Few of these top-rated golf courses will be available to play for less than £100 in the high or summer season but you can play the likes of Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay, Hankley Common, Royal Porthcawl and Woodhall Spa in the winter or low season for less than £100 making for a truly memorable day on the course.

What is the best private golf course in the UK & Ireland?

There are numerous golf courses that are restricted to members and their guests. These include Queenwood, Wisley, Beaverbrook and Wentworth all located in Surrey and Loch Lomond in Scotland. Some courses such as Ardfin require you to stay on a night to gain access to the course.

More About Tommy

Handicap: 14
Favourite Course: Twenty Ten at Celtic Manor
My 'Expert' areas: England, Scotland & Wales
Best trip I've done: Gleneagles
Where my next trip is to: Le Golf National

Give Tommy a call on 0800 043 6644 to arrange your next golf break.

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