Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland, sorted by country

st andrews with logo

Scotland owns a significant chunk of GOLF's list of the Top 100 Courses in the U.K. and Ireland — starting with the "home of golf," the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Brian Oar

There are many course rankings out there. What’s the point? For starters, to educate golfers on everything this game can do to challenge your skill and — more important — your spirit. That’s exactly what makes GOLF’s inaugural rank of the Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland our most thrilling yet, spotlighting the obvious (i.e., the courses that have played host to the 149 previous Opens ahead of this July’s sesquicentennial), those that routinely pepper our World Top 100 and a few surprises. Golf here is, well, as bloody good as it gets.

The warning came from all corners of the golf world, but it carried the same message. It didn’t matter who I chatted with — fellow writers, caddies, players, fans, even complete strangers — when the topic of my impending golf trip to Scotland found its way into the conversation, so too did their caution.

“Oh man, get ready,” they chuckled. “Your life is about to change. It’s just different over there.”

By the time I finally boarded my flight to Edinburgh, I’d heard the warning so many times that I began parroting it myself.

“Yeah, I’ve heard it’s pretty wild,” I heard myself saying. “Just different.

So what is it about golf in the old country — Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England — that makes it so different? The answer, I soon learned, is just about everything.

The weather is perhaps the best place to start. Damp, chilly temperatures make for ideal playing conditions year-round. Contrary to popular belief, the greener pastures of the UK and Ireland aren’t always … greener. At the height of the playing season — during the summer months — the land is firm, bouncy and brown, providing an ideal test of shotmaking skill and creativity.

On Sundays, The Old Course at St. Andrews becomes a dog park
By: Sean Zak

Yes, linksland is the most common (and beloved) form of course architecture in the region, but it’s hardly the only one available. Variations in land structure and soil lead to natural variations in course design, while the condensed region makes for (reasonably) easy travel between countries and locales. Even the ease of play is reasonable by comparison, with many of the course’s best private clubs opening tee slots for savvy-booking out-of-towners.

In truth, though, the biggest difference between old country and new can’t be quantified in fairways found and putts made, but rather by combing through the pages of golf’s history books. The tapestry of the sport runs freely through the meadows and dunes; pot-bunkers and seaside bluffs. GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland is a celebration of that history, and our best attempt at ranking it all together in one place.

Of course, even the most objective ranking has its flaws, and we don’t expect you’ll agree with every course on the list. What we hope, rather, is that this list will spark your inspiration to try some (or all) of the brilliant locations below for yourself. That you’ll learn, like I did, the wonder in being different. — James Colgan, assistant editor

InsideGOLF exclusive: On Thursday at 1 p.m. EST, InsideGOLF members will have exclusive access to an interactive Zoom roundtable featuring three of our expert course raters, who will take members behind the scenes of our latest ranking. Not yet an InsideGOLF member? Join here!

A map view of GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland Derik Hobbs

GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland, sorted by country

England (46)

7. Sunningdale (Old)

8. Royal St. George’s

14. Royal Birkdale

15. Swinley Forest

16. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)

18. Royal Lytham & St Annes

22. St. George’s Hill (Red & Blue)

23. Sunningdale (New)

24. Rye

27. Royal Liverpool

29. Royal Cinque Ports

31. St. Enodoc (Church)

32. Walton Heath (Old)

34. Ganton

38. Royal West Norfolk

40. Notts

41. West Sussex

42. Silloth on Solway

43. Royal Worlington & Newmarket

46. Woking

48. Alwoodley

51. Addington

52. Formby

55. Royal North Devon

58. Burnham & Berrow (Championship)

59. Saunton (East)

60. The Berkshire (Red)

67. Huntercombe

The 4th hole at Huntercombe, an English delight. Jason Ivy

69. Royal Ashdown Forest

70. Southport & Ainsdale

71. Hillside

72. Stoneham

74. Wentworth (West)

75. Huntstanton

76. Hankley Common

78. Broadstone

81. Walton Health (New)

85. The Berkshire (Blue)

86. New Zealand

89. Moortown

92. Worplesdon

94. Cleeve Cloud

95. Liphook

96. Delamere Forest

98. Prince’s

100. Littlestone (Championship)

Scotland (30)

1. St. Andrews (Old)

3. Royal Dornoch (Championship)

4. Muirfield

6. Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)

10. North Berwick (West)

12. Carnoustie (Championship)

19. Prestwick

20. Cruden Bay (Championship)

21. Royal Troon (Old)

25. Ardfin

The brilliant, seaside links test at Cruden Bay is an all-world treat. Brian Oar

26. Kingsbarns

28. Machrihanish

30. Castle Stuart

35. Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie)

36. Askernish

37. Trump International

44. Gleneagles (King’s)

45. Western Gailes

47. Loch Lomond

49. Gullane (No. 1)

57. Nairn (Championship)

62. St. Andrews (New)

63. Brora

77. Renaissance Club

80. The Golf House Club (Elie)

87. Machrie

90. Macrihanish Dunes

91. Skibo Castle (Carnegie)

93. Dumbarnie Links

97. Fraserburgh

Ireland (17)

9. Ballybunion (Old)

11. Lahinch (Old)

13. St. Patrick’s Links

St. Patricks Links, a 2020 design from Tom Doak, has quickly become one of the hottest new courses in the world. Clyde Johnson

17. Portmarnock (Old)

39. Waterville

50. County Louth

53. County Sligo

54. Enniscrone (Dunes)

56. The Island

64. Trump International Doonbeg

65. Tralee

66. Carne (Wild Atlantic)

68. Adare Manor

79. European Club

83. Old Head

88. Rosapenna (Sandy Hills)

99. Ballyliffin (Old)

Wales (4)

33. Royal Porthcawl

61. Pennard

82. Aberdovey

84. Royal St. David’s

Northern Ireland (3)

2. Royal County Down (Championship)

Royal County Down is placed perfectly into an imperceptibly beautiful piece of land. Evan Schiller

5. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

73. Portstewart (Strand)

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate GolfLogix.

Exit mobile version