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10 of the Best Short Golf Courses in Britain

By: Derek Clements | Thu 17 May 2018

WE ARE living in an era when everybody seems to be obsessed with length and distance. Everybody talks about the vast distance that the likes of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson hit the ball, and there is increasing talk of building golf courses that measure in excess of 8,000 yards. But not everybody hits the ball 300-plus yards. In fact, studies have shown that the average club golfer actually doesn't hit the ball any further than he or she did 20 or 30 years ago.

How comforting it is, then, to know that there are plenty of golf courses in the UK that provide a terrific challenge despite the fact that they may not be terribly long. Here, we look at just 10 of what we consider to be the best short courses in Britain, where it is more important to put the ball in the right place rather than trying to smash it out of sight.

Royal Worlington & Newmarket Golf Course

Regarded by many as the finest nine-hole course in England, Royal Worlington and Newmarket is the home course of Cambridge University. It opened in 1893 and is built on undulating sandy soil. Despite being an inland course, it has the feel of a links and although it may measure just 3,123 yards, only the very best will score well here. The course features an eclectic mix of holes, with a simple opening par five, a tricky 220-yard par three second hole and a short par four that calls for an accurate drive fairly typical of what is to follow.

Rye Golf Club, Camber

With only one par five and five par threes, Rye is a par 68, and only measures 6,400 yards from the medal tees - however, it is anything but easy. The links hosts the President's Putter match between the Oxford and Cambridge golf societies each year and has held Open Championship qualifying, which will give you some idea of the sort of challenge it provides. It is a private club but it welcomes visitors on a limited basis.

Dorking Golf Club, Surrey

This traditional parkland layout was established in 1897 and boasts tree-lined fairways and undulating, well maintained greens. It may only measure 5,100 yards but it demands accuracy on almost every one of its 18 holes. Short-game skills and good putting are essential if you are going to score well here.

Eltham Warren, Kent

Eltham Warren is the only nine-hole course in Kent to host county championship matches, even though when played as an 18-hole course it measures just 5,800 yards. It was designed by the legendary James Braid in 1890 and is one of England’s oldest nine-hole golf courses. Leave your driver in your bag and pick out the right spots from the tees.

Crail Golfing Society (Balcomie Links)

Crail was first founded way back in 1786 and claims to be the seventh-oldest golf club in the world. The par-69, 5,861-yard Balcomie Links is the shorter and older of Crail's two courses, and offers magnificent views of the North Sea, springy fairways and fabulous greens.  

Church Stretton, Shropshire

At just over 5,000 yards in length, Church Stretton is short by modern standards, but it offers an unforgettable challenge. The first has a steep bank in front of the green and out of bounds to the right. The second and seventh both play uphill, while the beautiful 15th is steeply downhill. Many of the par fours can be reached from the tee, but you will pay a heavy penalty if you are wayward. The greens are also fairly small, calling for pinpoint accuracy. The views will take your breath away.

Chevin, Duffield, Derbyshire

Established in 1894, Chevin Golf Club has changed little over the years. It measures 6,059 yards from the back tees and is a par 69. It is located at the foot of the Derbyshire Hills and features plenty of slopes and climbs. The views over Derbyshire from the ninth green are simply spectacular. Essentially, you start climbing from the third hole.  The 10th, 11th and 12th are relatively flat and then from the 13th, you play downhill to the 17th, finishing with a dog-leg par five.

Tadmarton Heath, Oxfordshire

Known as "Taddy" by the locals, Tadmarton Heath is a heathland course with plenty of gorse that has to be avoided at all costs. The greens are small and the putting surfaces are true, no matter what time of year you play. The course is built on a hill, 650 feet above sea level in the North Oxfordshire Cotswolds, so wind is always likely to be a factor. Many of the holes interweave among one another.

Appleby Golf Club, Cumbria

Measuring just 5,993 yards, Appleby Golf Club is situated two miles east of the town centre just off the A66. The club enjoys a golfing history dating back to 1894 when the game was played on the Minsceugh just outside the town. In 1903 the club was reformed on its present location on the Brackenber Moor. The Open Champion Willie Fernie of Troon laid out the course using the natural contours of the moor with short heathery rough and bracken to provide a challenging and spectacular par 68 that features not a single par five.

Pitlochry Golf Club, Pitlochry

Pitlochry is one of the most visually stunning golf courses in Scotland - and that is saying something. It measures just 5,700 yards but features some serious elevation changes, with several of the opening holes climbing up and up. Don’t worry though, because you do get to play some beautiful downhill holes too. No matter what else you do, take the time to stop and enjoy the fabulous surrounding scenery.

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