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Best golf courses in the UK

Sunningdale golf course in the UK

The 148th Open Championship was held in July at the Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. It served as a fitting reminder that the UK has some of the most spectacular golf courses in the world.

So it goes without saying that now is a good a time as ever to take a look at the country’s best and we’ll begin, naturally, with the beautiful Royal Portrush.

Royal Portrush (Northern Ireland)

Royal Portrus


Golf Digest named Royal Portrush as among the world’s best courses, and it has been that way for nearly a century. The grounds of Royal Portrush are described as “[a] natural a setting for golf,” with holes that are “menacing and majestic, beast and beauty.” Menacing and majestic is an apt description of Royal Portrush’s signature 4th hole — a 480-yard par 4 littered with several bunkers. Beast and beauty, on the other hand, best describes the 16th hole called Calamity Corner.

In 1930, Royal Portrush held its first golfing tournament of note: the Irish Open. Since then the course has hosted the event three more times (in 1937, 1947, and 2012). In 1951, Royal Portrush hosted its first major in the 80th Open Championship. The historic course has also hosted the Senior Open Championship six times (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2004).

St. Andrews Old Course (Scotland)



Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have paid the Old Course at St. Andrews the ultimate compliments. Nicklaus once said: “If a golfer is to be remembered, he must win the Open at St. Andrews.” Tiger, on the other hand, calls St. Andrews, his “favorite course.” After all, St. Andrews is truly iconic. It is the home of golf, having been around since the 15th century. Today, St. Andrews is known for its history, and its 112 individually named bunkers. Most popular is Road Bunker, found on St. Andrews’s signature par-4 17th hole. It is considered one of the hardest holes in all of golf, with hazards such as a tarmac roadway and an old stonewall.

St. Andrews is also one of The Open's homes. It has hosted The Open 29 times, with the first being in 1873 (won by Scotland’s own, Tom Kidd). The last time was in 2015, and it was notable for missing the then world number 1 and defending Open champion Rory McIlroy. One of sport’s most famous injuries is McIlroy’s ruptured ankle ligament, as it meant he couldn’t defend The Open title he won in 2014 at the Royal Liverpool. Had McIlroy played in that tournament, he could have joined a distinguished list of golf greats who have won The Open at St. Andrews. That list includes Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Woods, and Nicklaus. St. Andrews will next host The Open in 2021. Hopefully the sport’s best young stars — Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and McIlroy, among others — will all play

Royal County Down (Northern Ireland)

Royal County Down


Royal County Down in Newcastle is breathtaking, with views of the Mourne Mountains to the south and Dundrum Bay to the east. It opened in 1889, with the course originally designed by Old Tom Morris. Since then Royal County Down has been given various facelifts. Among those who have helped redevelop the course are George Combe in 1900, Harry Vardon in 1908, and Harry Colt in 1926. But it was designer Donald Steel, who gave the final touches, tightening the 18th in 1997 and then redoing the 16th and 17th in 2003.

Currently, Royal County Down has two links courses — the Championship Course and the Amnesty Links. Of the two it is the Championship Course that has received the most acclaim. It is included in The 500 World's Greatest Golf Holes. In 2016, Royal County Down also topped an annual list of top golf courses commissioned by Golf Digest. It was 4th in 2015, and is consistently ranked among the best, likely due to its signature long par-4s (notably the 3rd, 9th, and 15th holes). The notable events the Royal County Down has hosted include the Irish Open (1928, 1935, 2015), the Amateur Championship (1970), and the Senior British Open Championship (2000–2002).

Sunningdale (Surrey)



Top 100 Golf Courses calls Sunningdale “one of the British Isles’ most aesthetically pleasing inland courses,” with its pine, birch, and oak trees. Sunningdale actually offers two courses: the Old Course and the New Course. But Sunningdale’s signature hole is no doubt the elevated 10th hole of the former. Then there's the exquisite 5th hole, also in the Old Course, as well as the 15th. It has hosted the European Open, and the Senior British Open, as well as the British Masters in the 1940s and 1950s. It has yet to host The Open.

Muirfield (Scotland)



Overlooking the Firth of Forth is the exclusive Muirfield golf course. Muirfield is as beautiful as it is challenging, and that's likely why it has hosted 11 Amateur Championships and 16 Open Championships. Every hole in this 7,245-yard course must be meticulously planned due to the course's unusual layout. The front and back nines of Muirfield are arranged in opposing loops, which means the direction of the wind is different on every tee. Its rolling hills are even reminiscent of those in Puerto Los Cabos, which happens to be one of the best golf courses in Cabo. And like Los Cabos, Muirfield also has lots of breathtaking views.

The heavily contoured par-4 1st is one of Muirfield's two signature holes. The other is the foreboding par-5 9th, where golfers often encounter heavy winds. Established in the 1700s, Muirfield has the great Jack Nicklaus as one of its ardent fans. The Golden Bear was so enamored with Muirfield that he named one of the courses he founded — Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio — after it.

AUTHOR BIO: Brionna Jeune is a sports analyst moonlighting as a freelance writer. She’s also into zumba, golf and wall climbing. She lives in a happy home with her 3 cats and one dog.