My Favourite Golf Courses
AS YOU will know, here at Golfshake one of our key missions is to provide you with details of golf courses that you might want to play.
There are many lists of must-play courses, together with seemingly endless lists of the best courses.
It got me thinking about all the courses that I have played, courses that left an impression on me and made me want to come back and play them again.
So here is my personal list of 18 must-play courses. And let me be clear - I am not saying that these are the 18 best courses in the planet. But I do believe that if you haven’t ever played any of them and get a chance to do so you should grab it with both hands.
One of the most iconic courses on the planet. Some years ago I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in California and this was top of the list of courses I wanted to play. It is a public course but it is unlike any public (or municipal) course you will ever play in the UK. For starters, 18 holes will set you back about $500 - and that’s before you even think about hiring a buggy. But until the day I die I will never forget standing on the 18th tee, with the Pacific Ocean to the left and the waves crashing onto the fairway. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Green Fee $550
I played Torrey Pines a few months before Tiger Woods won the US Open there, needing 91 holes to see off Rocco Mediate, and doing so with a broken leg. It is a brute of a golf course. Again, they describe it as a public course but when I played, my name was called as my tee-time arrived. I would have been nervous had it not been for the fact that I had spent an hour watching overweight men hit the ball 50 yards off the first tee.
Green Fee: $212 Mon-Thu; $265 Fri-Sun
Secret Harbour is located in Perth, Western Australia. I do, of course, appreciate, that not many of you are ever going to have the opportunity to play here. It is a golf course that features some of the fastest greens I have ever experienced. And year-round sunshine!
Green Fee: A$55, online booking A$45
I grew up in Glasgow and played most of my golf at a course called Kirkhill. But Pollok was and remains the best parkland golf course I have ever played. It is the condition of the fairways and the magnificent greens that stick in my mind. The course weaves its way around the River Cart, featuring one glorious hole after another. If you ever visit Glasgow, make sure you include this course.
Green Fee: March-April £75; May-August £100; September-October £85
Located just 10 minutes from Glasgow city centre, the peaceful, picturesque setting ensures that you forget about the busy city lifestyle. The natural beauty of the Campsie hills, surrounded by a wonderful woodland, and with the Antonine Wall and Kelvin River meandering through the course provides spectacular views. There are two courses here, with the Championship Course being designed by James Braid. It is a masterpiece.
Green Fee: £45
I have only played here once and it may help that I played one of the best rounds of my life. What a course this is. It only opened in 2000 but feels like it has been around for ever. Nick Faldo was originally asked to design a course here but reckoned it could not be done. Step forward Kyle Phillips, who created a masterpiece.
Green Fee: £346
Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a resort course. Thorpeness was designed by James Braid and opened in 1922. It is a parkland course with a links feel. The fairways are narrow, the rough is thick. If you can keep the ball in the fairway you have every chance of scoring well - but only if you can master the greens, which have plenty of subtle borrows.
Green Fee: £60 before noon; £49 after noon
This one came as a real surprise. It features thousands of mature trees, plenty of water, well-manicured fairways, beautifully maintained bunkers filled with “proper’ sand and glorious greens. If you hit the ball straight and put your drives in the right place you will score well here, but the trees and water must be avoided.
Green Fee: £60; 36 holes £90; weekend £70
It may “only” be a par 68, but this incredible heathland course is a real beauty. It boasts glorious views of the surrounding Suffolk countryside but you cannot relax on any hole. The rough is “proper” and there is a huge amount of gorse - beautiful to look at it but to be avoided at all costs. If you are a member here and have a single-figure handicap then you will be able to score on any course, in any conditions.
Green Fee: from £65-£150
Most famous for being the course a certain Peter Alliss was attached to, I stumbled across it during a holiday in Bournemouth. Designed by Willie Park, it originally opened in 1907 and has been extended and redesigned several times since. It is a beautiful heathland course featuring mature pines, a wide variety of wildlife together and stunning panoramic views over Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island and the coastal downs of the Isle of Purbeck. The greens are magnificent.
Green Fee: Nov-March £65 weekday; April-October £90
I learnt to play my golf at Lundin Links, which is located about 20 miles from St Andrews. Many of the holes are true Scottish links but then you cross the old railway line and face a layout that is more of a parkland test. It has been used as a qualifying course for The Open, so you know it is a proper course.
Green Fee: December-March £40; April and October £60; May-September £96
A resort course that features a lot of water. It is a par 73 measuring 6,980 yards. There are a couple of risk-and-reward par fours where, if you get the tee shot right, birdies are there to be made. But there are also a couple of fearsome par fives, some long and difficult par fours and a couple of glorious par threes. You need to be on your game to score well here.
Green Fee: From £70
A true links course. And that means that when there is no wind it is there for the taking. It measures just 6,442 yards from the back tees but when the wind howls it plays an awful lot longer than that. The opening tee-shot, with a public road, down the left, can be pretty intimidating. There is a also a quirky par three where you have to hit your ball over that same road.
Green Fee: £25-30
I spent a number of years living in an old mining town in Leicestershire called Coalville. It is a county that boasts many fine courses but the pick of the bunch is Willesley Park, located in the delightfully-named Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It is a classic parkland course and one of the most welcoming golf clubs I have ever experienced.
Green Fee: Monday-Friday £45; Weekend £55
As true municipal courses go, this one takes some beating. It gets a lot of use so the condition is not the best but it has a links feel and there are a lot of cleverly-designed holes. You need to plot your way around to score well - and if the wind plays it is a real challenge
Green Fee: Monday-Friday £16; Weekend £18
The Old Course, St Andrews
At the risk of being hauled over the coals, I have to say that I think the most famous links course on the planet is not even the best course in St Andrews. But it’s the history that gets you, knowing that the legends of the game have all been here before you. There is something very special about standing on that first tee. The best hole is, of course, the 17th, which is a monster that can wreck your card.
Green Fee: From £98 to £270
Championship Course, Carnoustie
The hardest golf course that I have ever played, but also probably the best. Every time I have teed it up here the wind has been howling across the links. There isn’t a single hole where you can just stand over the ball and give it a thrash. The rough is pure evil. The greens are astonishing. The experience is unforgettable.
Green Fee: May to October £270; Low season £192
West Course, Wentworth
Home of the DP World Tour and located in Surrey, Wentworth is another must-play - but you are going to need to know a member. If you are not on your game you are going to run up a cricket score. And there is an argument for saying that the par-five 17th is one of the most unfair holes in golf, especially in the summer when the fairway is running hard and fast. It slopes viciously from left to right, which means that the vast majority of drives end up in the trees.
Green Fee: Members only
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