The Best Golf Courses You Haven't Considered Playing Before
I AM incredibly lucky. My career as a sports journalist has allowed me to attend some of the biggest golf tournaments in the world and also also given me access to some stunning golf courses.
I have played at every Open Championship venue and a host of other world-class courses, such as Wentworth, Royal Dornoch, The K Club, Gleneagles, Kingsbarns (my favourite course), Sunningdale, Valderrama and Torrey Pines.
But, in no particular order, I want to share with you some of the lesser-known tracks that I have been fortunate enough to tackle over the years. If you get the chance to play any of these fine layouts please do not hesitate to do so.
- Par, 72, 6,702 Yards, Heathland
- Golfshake Rating: 4.24
Perhaps most famous as the course upon with Lee Westwood learnt the game, Worksop is a magnificent heathland layout. I lived in Worksop for 18 months and was fortunate enough to be a member here during that time. And I never once got close to mastering it. There are plenty of well-placed bunkers, trees and gorse to be avoided. The putting surfaces are superb.
- Par 70, 6,344 Yards, Parkland
- Golfshake Rating: 4.10
Willesley Park is a thing of beauty. It was the first golf course I played when I moved to nearby Coalville and one of the things that struck me straight away was just how friendly a club this is. The greens are superb but be warned - during the summer they are quick. Very quick. And there are lots of subtle slopes. It is a tree-lined course and if you can keep the ball on the fairways you can score well.
- Par 71, 6,520 Yards, Parkland
- Golfshake Rating: 4.33
Located not far from the heart of Glasgow but you would never know it. Pollok is a tree-lined course with a river coming into play on several holes. There are some courses that are so easy on the eye that you really don’t care whether you have your A-game with you or not. This is one of them. The fairways and greens are pristine. The course was designed by Alister MacKenzie - that’s the same MacKenzie who designed Augusta National.
- Par 70, 6,169 Yards, Heathland/links
- Golfshake Rating: 3.23
The best municipal golf course I have ever played. Anybody who visits this area will probably want to head to Birkdale or Hillside - they are wonderful golf courses, but you really should give this course a crack too. It is flat but trust me when I tell you that it is a real challenge, especially when the wind blows. It also features some great short holes. It is a public course so it gets busy, and that also means you will have to make some allowances for the condition of the course. It was designed by Harry Colt.
- Par 70, 5,819 Yards, Links
- Golfshake Rating: 4.56
Proof positive that a golf course doesn’t have to measure 7,400 yards to provide a challenge, the Dunskey Course provides some spectacular sea views. It is 150 feet above sea level, which means that when the wind blows you are going to face a real challenge to keep the ball in the fairway. There is plenty of punishing rough to be avoided.
- Par 70, 6,002 Yards, Heathland
- Golfshake Rating: 3.58
I spent several years as a member here. Rushmere is a proper heathland course that features lots of gorse and several blind tee shots and approaches. If you can get through the first five holes unscathed then you are going to do well here. The opening tee shot is pretty daunting, and it doesn’t get any easier. If you don’t hit the ball straight here you are going to run up a cricket score. A golf club that welcomes visitors and new members with open arms.
- Par 70, 6,067 Yards, Heathland
- Golfshake Rating: 3.91
This is the best nine-hole course I have ever played and boy is it tough! It was established way back in 1884 and James Braid helped to design it. The first and the ninth are marvellous par threes and the second is 500-yard par five that calls for pinpoint accuracy from the tee. The greens at Southwold are sensational. There are two sets of tees so it can be played as an 18-hole course.
- Par 68, 6,603 Yards, Heathland
- Golfshake Rating: 4.80
One of the best golf courses I have ever played. It may only be a par 68, without any par fives. But it tests every single facet of your game. The fairways are narrow and if you miss them the chances are that your golf ball is going to be gobbled up by the gorse. On most courses you get the odd hole where you can relax. Not here. You need to focus from first shot to last. A wonderful test. If there is a tougher par 68 anywhere then I haven’t played it. Oh, and they don’t allow fourballs so the pace of play is quick!
- Par 70, 6,307 Yards, Heathland/Parkland
- Golfshake Rating: 4.43
A classic Harry Colt-designed layout that has barely changed. The most striking feature is the size of the greens - they are probably the smallest I have ever come across. It means your approach play needs to be pinpoint accurate. Shots can quickly drift away here. The four par threes are all classic short holes.
- Par 72, 6,422 Yards, Links
- Golfshake Rating: 4.41
It may not be the longest of courses but it sits beside the North Sea and that means it is often windy. Very windy. Play Felixstowe on a still summer’s day and you have every chance of tearing it to shreds. Return the next day with a stiff breeze and the links bares its teeth, turning what were benign golf holes into monsters. It also features a delightful nine-hole course and a great clubhouse.
- Par 70, 6,297 Yards, Parkland
- Golfshake Rating: 3.97
Designed by James Braid, Cawder’s Championship Course boasts spectacular views of the Campsies. It is a tree-lined course featuring superb putting surfaces. Braid’s original designed has been tweaked several times, most recently in 1981.
- Par 72, 6,581 Yards, Parkland
- Golfshake Rating: 4.20
This is something of a hidden gem that I discovered just after lockdown finally came to an end. Designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas, Old Thorns is a resort course, attached to a fabulous hotel. It gets busy but don’t let that put you off - it is a thing of beauty that carves its way through thousands of mature trees. Fairways and greens are beautifully kept.
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