In 1457, King James II famously banned the game of Golf in Britain.
Fortunately, this law was overturned soon after and now Britain boasts some of the finest courses on the planet.
In England’s north west, there’s an area which has gained world-wide recognition as having some of the most beautiful courses available.
Known as England’s Golf Coast and stretching down from the Lake District to the Wirral, it has the highest concentration of championship links golf courses in the world.
There are three Royal links courses – Birkdale, Liverpool and Lytham & St Annes and together these world-famous have hosted The Open Championship no fewer than 29 times.
Please note: The list of courses in this article are based on 3rd party rankings from sites like Golf Digest, Top 100 Golf Courses, Planet Golf and Golf Advisor; as well as from consumer reviews from platforms like Google and Trip Advisor.
Best Golf Course in England
1. Royal St Georges Golf Club
- Location: Kent
- Date Established: 1887
- Course Architects: William Laidlaw Purves, Alister MacKenzie, Frank Pennink
- Interesting Fact: Royal St Georges was the first English course to host the coveted Open Championship.
The course is truly brilliant in its own unique way. It's perfectly playable for golfers of all levels with curvy wide fairways and lush green surroundings to keep you entertained all the way round. The bunkers are amongst the hardest on any golf course, where you may find yourself playing backwards on more than one occasion.
The Golf Club welcomes golfers with open arms and the clubhouse itself is a sight to behold oozing with rich history and tradition. Every hole plays true to itself varying in difficulty and direction. There is simply not one bad hole on this course and all the holes run magically with the natural terrain.
Hole 4 is said to be one of the greatest Par 4 experiences for a golfer with a classic risk-reward tee shot over a huge blowout bunker and one of the best green complexes globally. If links golf tickles your fancy, a round at Royal St Georges is an absolute must.
2. Sunningdale (Old) Course
- Location: Berkshire
- Date Established: 1901
- Course Architects: Willie Park Jr., Harry Colt
- Interesting Fact: The first truly great Golf course to be built on the Surry/Berkshire sand belt
Sunningdale (Old) Course opened to universal acclaim and was among the first successful courses located away from the coast of England, as many had believed turf would not grow well in such regions. The course is considered extremely long and this is reflected in its design.The course has wonderful challenges but is eminently playable. It’s not a course you can overpower easily but will reward golfers who keep their wits about them. However, if you are a little wayward off the tee you won’t get the punishment you may face on the New course. There is significant elevation change on the course, with tees and fairways swooping down towards their respective greens. The colourful trees contrasting the windy fairways and heather bunkers offer a visual feast for golfers. The architecture and splendour of conditioning offer an unforgettable experience for golfers.
3. Royal Birkdale Golf Club
- Location: Merseyside
- Date Established: 1889
- Course Architects: George Lowe, Fred G. Hawtree, J. H. Taylor, Fred W. Hawtree
- Interesting Fact: 10-time Open Championship venue
The Royal Birkdale Golf Club is not only a highly prestigious golf course but also a fully functional nature reserve with significant conservation value. A large portion of the golf course is set aside for nature that sits within a wider parcel of land as it winds its way through towering sand-dunes that is deemed fair to golfers’ wayward shots.It is long for a links golf course but with its mild, generally flatter in landscape fairways, golfers of all skill levels won’t be unfairly penalized if they are not dead straight off the tee. Having said that, the most challenging part of navigating this course is the approach angles into the greens as landing the ball stiff is a tough ask for your typical average golfer. Putting is a whole new dynamic itself as Royal Birkdale’s greens are notorious for being fast and extremely difficult to read. Keep in mind the wind factor as it may change the way you approach this beautiful golf course.
4. Sunningdale (New) Course
- Location: Berkshire
- Date Established: 1923
- Course Architects: Harry Colt
- Interesting Fact: No better natural inland golfing terrain anywhere in the world
Sunningdale’s New Course is tough but playable, with some wonderfully designed holes that will test golfers without making them want to quit the game. The conditioning of the course fantastic and while there is plenty of heather bunkers to gobble up errant shots, it doesn’t come into play on every fairway and sometimes is a good distance back from the fairway line.In stark contrast to the old course, the New Course is built across a more open and uniformly undulating landscape with deep, punishing bunkers and greens that are more demanding on your approach play, many being built up with false fronts and subtle tiers. These aspects will certainly test golfers’ short game and their ability to use their imagination around the short grass. Situated on a fabulous stretch of land, Sunningdale definitely does not disappoint and is regarded as one of the world’s premier golf destinations outside of the United States.
5. Swinley Forest Golf Club
- Location: Berkshire
- Date Established: 1909
- Course Architect: Harry Colt
- Interesting Fact: Private Members Only Club
Swinley Forest is a private members’ club in Ascot that has charmed, inspired and challenged golfers for over 100 years. Designed by Harry Colt, its layout carves its way through spectacular heathland vistas framed by heather, pine woods, azaleas and rhododendrons.
It is one of the purest examples of classic inland golf and one of the best courses on the land. The heathland setting of rare beauty, privacy and tranquility, Swinley Forest was also blessed with enough interesting ground movement to create a variety of exceptional golf holes. Even though it may not seem like it, this course plays deceptively long and its undulating greens deliver a true test of skill to golfers of all skill levels. The intricate putting surfaces, positioned in superb natural areas, are a feature throughout the course layout as are the rippled and bumpy ground contours that create uneven bounces to further complicate approach play into ever changing targets.
6. Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club
- Location: Lincolnshire
- Date Established: 1886
- Course Architect: George Lowe
- Interesting Fact: 10- time Open Championship venue
Royal Lytham & St Anne’s sits as a green oasis within the urban landscape. The links is characterised by its undulating duneland nature and drop-dead gorgeous Clubhouse. There is a reason why this course has played host to The Open Championship a staggering 10 times.
It is a links in every sense of the word, with sandy soil and the wind blowing in from the Irish Sea. Open to the elements, the trees on the course permanently lean sideways, with the wind often proving a formidable competitor in the homeward five holes of the course. The course is extremely tough and don’t expect to play to your handicaps especially if the elements are in full flight. There’s no doubt that this is a place to soak up the history of previous Open Championships and admire the true grit of the past and present golfing heroes.
7. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Golf Club
- Location: Lincolnshire
- Date Established: 1905
- Course Architects: Harry Vardon, Harry Colt, S. V. Hotchkin
- Interesting Fact: The England Golf Union purchased Woodhall Spa in 1995 for a reputed 8 million pounds and turned it into their headquarters.
Built primarily on sandy soil, the Hotchkin Course is set amongst banks of fescue and heather with its flowing fairways generally lined by mature canopies of pine and birch trees. Its primary feature is undoubtedly the bunkers, which are overpoweringly huge, which have been dug deeper each year to create canyon-like traps capable of dealing severe punishments to even the best of players.
Woodhall Spa has a fearsome reputation for being on of the toughest inland courses in Britain. What sets this golf course apart from other Heathland courses is the relentless and more often than not, overwhelming nature of its challenge. Golfers will rarely feel confident within their stroke play apart from the opening hole which somehow gives just a glimmer of hope. This course has the ability to get tempers flaring but at the same time, give golfers an idea of where their game is really at. If you love the game of golf, you will love Woodhall Spa.
8. St Georges Hill
- Location: Surrey
- Date Established: 1913
- Course Architect: Harry Colt
- Interesting Fact: The Clubhouse converted to a military hospital run by the Red Cross from 1914-1918
St Georges is regarded by many as Harry Colt’s crowning glory, and has been one of England’s most revered Clubs since 1913. Situated in the heart of Surrey’s heathland, it sits within an exclusive private estate, creating an idyllic ambience and sense of bewilderment.
The classy routing of the natural landscape rolls up and over steep hills, ridges and ravines with hard running speedy fairways and cleverly manipulated greens that are quite large yet deceiving with small target areas as the approach shot looms. As it rises up through the valley, the array of scenery on offer is unlike any other and gives way for their infamous undulating fairways and vast elevation changes. A truly spectacular course offering both jaws dropping views and a challenging round of golf. This course cannot be missed if you’re in the Surrey area.
9. Ganton Golf Club
- Location: North Yorkshire
- Date Established: 1891
- Course Architects: Tom Chisholm, Harry Vardon, James Braid, J. H. Taylor, Alister MacKenzie, Tom Simpson, C. K. Cotton
- Interesting Fact: Hosted the 1949 Ryder cup between USA and Great Britain
Ganton is deemed as one of the most demanding courses in England and arguably the most authentic links course on the planet. The free draining sandy subsoil provides a distinct base for the course layout and results in a relatively open and undulating heathland where gorse bushes and heather are in abundance.
The fairways are predominantly bents and fescues, which provide a solid base for well executed shots. Majority of the holes are characterized by fast running fairways, firm greens and brilliantly placed bunkers where, if you’re not careful, will penalize your typical golfer to great proportions. Panoramic views exude great seaside links character on this course and attention to detail may just set you apart from your average golfer. However, golfers of all levels will find that Ganton puts a premium on accuracy over length.
10. St Enodoc (Church) Golf Club
- Location: Cornwall
- Date Established: 1891
- Course Architects: James Braid, Tom Simpson
- Interesting Fact: Famous for its association with Rick Stein and his seafood restaurants
St Enodoc linksland is an unusual landform that was shaped when great Atlantic gales blew vast deposits of sand up onto the bluff. These deposits created the large dune ridges and deep sandy swales that were used expertly in this design.
St. Enodoc has it all – beautiful views, difficulty, quirkiness – and all the joys that coastal links golf has to offer. This course gives golfers a true sense of adventure with its astonishing views, aesthetic landscape and excellent presentation all the year round. A golfer with the right strategy will be offered plenty of birdie opportunities on this course but is far from a pushover as trouble constantly lurks in the distance and the harsh prevailing Atlantic winds can cause major havoc. With some of the prettiest sea views in England, St Enodoc never fails to disappoint and is considered one of the games genuine hidden delights.
11. West Sussex Golf Club
- Location: Pulborough
- Date Established: 1931
- Course Architects: Guy Campbell, C. K. Hutchison, S. V. Hotchkin
- Interesting Fact: The West Sussex practice is only 25 yards from the Clubhouse.
Located just beyond the small village of Pulborough, the West Sussex Golf Club is a geological godsend built on some of the brightest white sand in Britain yet surrounded by the harsh clays and marshes of the Sussex downs. The course has been largely untouched over recent years, making way for one of England’s best heathland challenges.
Amidst the green picturesque forest of pine and birch lies the ideal base for inland golf of the highest quality. The course is remarkably suited to the surroundings with all the undulation perfectly utilized, the bunkering both visually and strategically outstanding and the shaping and construction of the course first-class. While West Sussex is highly underrated, the course is exceptional and a round on this short sandy jewel is highly recommended.
12. Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club
- Location: Kent
- Date Established: 1892
- Course Architects: Henry Hunter, James Braid, Guy Campbell
- Interesting Fact: The third English course to host The Open Championship
Royal Cinque Ports is a classic links course which will have you grinning from ear to ear. It's been host to the Open on two occasions and countless top quality amateur tournaments. The Club also has excellent practice facilities, including a driving range, putting green, chipping green and pitching greens.
A strong course with a great variety of holes forging out to the turn and then back into the prevailing wind. One of the most challenging stretches you will find on links golf courses. Narrow undulating fairways, bounded by tangled grasses, gorse and the imposing coastal wall that separates the layout from the English Channel, lead past cunningly placed bunkers to wonderful sloping greens. It’s a superb and secretively secluded setting for golf on an impressive stretch of golfing coastline which is truly unmatched.
13. Wentworth (West) Golf Club
- Location: Surrey
- Date Established: 1926
- Course Architect: Harry Colt, Ernie Els
- Interesting Fact: Played host to the 1953 Ryder Cup between USA and Great Britain
The West course was opened in 1926 and winds like a great coiling snake through Wentworth's heavily wooded estate. It is also affectionately known as the “Burma Road course” and is arguably one of the world's most famous layouts. It plays host to the prestigious BMW Championship, the European Tour's flagship tournament and the World Match Play Championship.
The West Course is fairly playable for golfers of all levels where majority of the holes are wide and forgiving. The greens however are a different story, with huge variation in elevation throughout. These greens are also surrounded by viciously deep bunkers, giving golfers no chance to run the ball up to the green. This makes for incredibly difficult approach shots to the green where ball flight is vital in scoring low. The West course has been the scene of so many golfing trials and tribulations. For example, Gary Player's amazing World Match Play victory when he fought back from seven down with 17 holes to play to defeat the late Tony Lema. If you’re in the mood for history and a tough round of golf, the West course is a must-see piece of landscaping.
14. Walton Heath (Old) Golf Club
- Location: Surrey
- Date Established: 1904
- Course Architect: Herbert Fowler
- Interesting Fact: Walton Heath played host to the 1981 Ryder Cup matches between USA and Europe
Walton Heath has an illustrious history, with the great James Braid as professional for some 50 years and past members including Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. Host to numerous competitions, Walton Heath was recently venue for the British Masters.
The Herbert Fowler designed Old Course with its sandy fairways protected by heather, gorse, pines and the ever-changeable wind, becomes extremely fast-running in the summer time. The greens are large and many appear flat, but there are some subtle borrows that can confuse even the best of players. Bunkers are strategically placed along the fairways, eating into the greens where premium ball striking is required if golfers are to score well. All in all a great course where the setting can be both beautiful or bleak depending on how closely you are admiring the plants.
15. The Alwoodley Golf Club
- Location: Leeds
- Date Established: 1907
- Course Architects: Alister MacKenzie, Harry Colt
- Interesting Fact: Alwoodley was the first course that MacKenzie created and he would go on to become one of the most treasured golf course architects in the game's history.
Alwoodley is recognised as one of Englands finest inland courses. It was designed by Alister MacKenzie, the famous golf course architect. He left a legacy of classic golf courses and Alwoodley was the first.
For a course comprising of predominantly heathland characteristics, the layout adopts more of an out and back routing. The terrain is undoubtedly natural in appearance and with no two holes playing remotely similar, golfers must be able to work the ball both ways in order to score well. On the tee box of several holes, golfers are only offered a glimpse of what lies ahead where the hazards and slithering fairways are unknown till you walk up to you second approach shot. This dynamic sets Alwoodley apart from its much-loved Heathland counterparts and certainly gives it a unique feel and a tricky round of golf.