The Best Parkland Golf Courses in England
England's rich golfing landscape boasts a diverse range of courses, each with its own unique charm and challenge. Whilst links courses may enjoy the spotlight for their coastal allure, parkland courses have their own enchanting appeal. Nestled amidst rolling hills, lush forests, and picturesque landscapes, these parkland gems provide golfers with an unforgettable experience.
Before we dive in, a caveat. Many of the golf courses below could also be considered ‘heathland’. However, we’ve tried to focus on those where the primary image of the course is one of woodland, rather than heather - The West Course at Wentworth being a good example. So, without any further ado …
Wentworth (West Course), Surrey
One of the most familiar layouts to fans of professional golf, with the European Tour playing its flagship event here each season. The West Course has been a constant evolution, with frequent redesigns of both the greens and bunkering. However, it’s still high up on the bucket list of many golfers that would like to follow in the footsteps of their heroes … striding down that iconic 18th hole (which looks an awful lot less intimidating without the grandstands!).
The Belfry (Brabazon), Warwickshire
A name synonymous with Ryder Cup history, The Belfry is another favourite of those who follow the professional game. The Brabazon Course, designed by Dave Thomas, boasts a parkland setting that is both breathtaking and challenging. With water hazards aplenty - notably at the 9th, 10th and 18th holes, the course always delivers an exhilarating round, with the overall setup of the venue perfectly suited for welcoming groups of travelling golfers.
Goodwood Golf Club (Downs Course), West Sussex
Set on the glorious Goodwood Estate, this parkland gem is known for its dramatic elevation changes and panoramic views. The Downs Course, designed by James Braid, meanders through rolling hills and dense woodland. It's a course that demands strategy and precision, with tight fairways and well-placed bunkers; and offers some serene tranquillity throughout the round … as long as you don’t play on one of the famous motorsport weekends!
Royal Ashdown Forest (Old), Sussex
Another course that does feature heather throughout, but is primarily thought of as the archetypal parkland layout. Royal Ashdown Forest is entirely befitting of its name; the ‘Royal’ element a testament to both its rich history and overall quality, with the latter part of the name entirely indicative of its location. Winding through the Sussex woodland, you’ll rise to one of the highest points in the county at the par-3, 250-yard, 11th hole, before weaving back towards the stunning clubhouse. Often overlooked by golfers that are heading down towards the coast, we implore you to make a stop along the way to Royal Ashdown Forest.
Woburn Golf Club, Bedfordshire
We’re cheating slightly with Woburn by not selecting an individual course, but in truth, there’s very little to choose between the Dukes, Duchess and Marquess layouts. Set within the magnificent Woburn Abbey Estate, Woburn Golf Club has continued to provide one of the best inland golfing experiences in the country, with impeccable conditioning, fantastic facilities (notably a world-class short game area), and an impressive overall level of service. If you had to twist our arm, we’d probably favour the Marquess course - but realistically, a round on any of the three is always special.
Bearwood Lakes, Berkshire
A more recent addition to the golfing landscape than many on the list, Bearwood Lakes is a magnificent members golf club. Whilst general visitor play isn’t all that common, there are plenty of opportunities to snag a round at Bearwood Lakes through societies, and amateur competitions. Already one of the country’s premier parkland courses, the club has created new ponds on the 1st and 18th holes which massively help with fairway drainage throughout the year, as well as a short game area and driving range that would be at home at a top-end American country club. If you are lucky enough to get a choice of tee-time, we’re not sure there’s many prettier views in golf than looking out over the great lake that borders the 13th and 14th holes in the late summer sunshine.
Little Aston, Staffordshire
Nestled in the heart of the Midlands, Little Aston Golf Club stands as a beacon of classic elegance and exceptional parkland golf. This timeless gem has continued to captivate golfers with its rich history, stunning scenery, and challenging layout. The course demands precision throughout the round, with tight fairways, and smart bunkering ensuring that it’s as much of a test today as it was when it was first laid out in 1908 by Harry Vardon. That said, there’s no trickery here - play well, hit fairways and greens, and you can score. But beware, the big miss can lead to some big numbers!
Swinley Forest, Berkshire
We feel like we’re able to include Swinley Forest as our last choice because of the woodland nature of its name. Sharing much of the same characteristics as the likes of Sunningdale, The Berkshire, and St George’s Hill, Swinley perhaps features a touch less heather, making it eligible (just) for our review here. Colt famously described it as his ‘least bad course’, and who are we to disagree with one of the greatest architects of all time? Once upon a time, the course was entirely shut off to non-members, however, selected tee times are now available and should be jumped upon by golfers looking to play a simply incredible golf course. There’s a quiet assurance that exudes from the atmosphere at Swinley Forest. The course doesn’t smack you around the head with dramatic elevation changes or gimmicky features, and the clubhouse itself isn’t the grandest or most elaborate on the planet. But everything is just very very good, in a way that only truly makes sense when you’ve been fortunate enough to wander about this magical destination.
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