AS YOU KNOW, HERE AT Golfshake one of our main missions is to provide you with details of the golf courses you might want to play.
There are many lists of must-have courses, as well as seemingly endless lists of the best courses.
It made me think of all the courses I’ve played, courses that marked me and made me want to come back and play them again.
So here is my personal list of 18 must-have courses. And let me be clear – I’m not saying these are the 18 best courses on the planet. But I believe that if you’ve never played one of these and you have the chance to do so, you should grab it with both hands.
One of the most iconic courses on the planet. A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in California and it was high on my list of courses I wanted to play. It is a public course, but it is unlike any public (or municipal) course you will play in the UK. To start, 18 holes will set you back around $500 – and that’s before you even think about renting a buggy. But until the day I die, I will never forget standing on the 18th tee, with the Pacific Ocean to my left and the waves crashing on 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 Rocco Mediate with a broken leg. He’s a golf course bully. Again they describe it as a public course but when I played my name was called when my tee time arrived. I would have been nervous if it weren’t for the fact that I spent an hour watching overweight men hit the ball 50 yards from the first tee.
Green Fee: $212 Monday through Thursday; $265 Fri-Sun
Secret Harbor is located in Perth, Western Australia. I understand, of course, that few of you will have the opportunity to play here. This is a golf course that has some of the fastest greens I have ever seen. And sunshine all year round!
Green Fee: 55 AUD, online booking 45 AUD
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 state of the fairways and the magnificent greens that stick in my mind. The course weaves its way around the Cart River, with one glorious hole after another. If you ever visit Glasgow, be sure to include this course.
Green Fee: March-April £75; May-August £100; September-October £85
Located just 10 minutes from Glasgow city centre, the peaceful and scenic setting ensures you forget the bustling city life. The natural beauty of the Campsie Hills, surrounded by magnificent forest, and with the Antonine Wall and the River Kelvin meandering through the course, offers spectacular views. There are two courses here, with the championship course being designed by James Braid. It’s a masterpiece.
Green fee: £45
I’ve only played here once and it may help that I played one of the best rounds of my life. What a course it is. It only opened in 2000, but it feels like it’s been around forever. Nick Faldo was originally asked to design a course here, but felt it couldn’t be done. Step forward Kyle Phillips, who has 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 feel of links. 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 master the greens, which have a lot of subtle borrowing.
Green Fee: £60 before noon; £49 afternoon
This one came as a real surprise. It features thousands of mature trees, lots of water, manicured fairways, beautifully manicured bunkers filled with “proper” sand and gorgeous greens. If you hit the ball straight and get your drives in the right spot you will score well here, but trees and water should be avoided.
Green Fee: £60; 36 holes £90; weekend £70
It may be ‘only’ a par 68, but this incredible moorland course is a real beauty. It has great views of the surrounding Suffolk countryside, but you can’t relax on any hole. The rough is “clean” and there is a huge amount of gorse – beautiful to look at but avoid at all costs. If you are a member here and have a single digit handicap, you will be able to score on any course, in any condition.
Green Fee: £65 to £150
Most famous for being the course a certain Peter Alliss was attached to, I came across it by chance whilst on holiday in Bournemouth. Designed by Willie Park, it opened in 1907 and has been extended and redesigned several times since. It is a beautiful moorland course with mature pine trees, a wide variety of wildlife and stunning panoramic views across Poole Harbor to Brownsea Island and the Isle of Purbeck coastal dunes. The greens are beautiful.
Green Fee: Nov-Mar £65 weekdays; April-October £90
I learned to golf at Lundin Links, located about 20 miles from St Andrews. Most of the holes are true Scottish links, but then you cross the old railway line and face a layout that looks more like a park test. It was used as a qualifying course for the Open, so you know it’s a suitable course.
Green Fee: Dec-March £40; April and October £60; May-Sept £96
A resort course with a lot of water. It is a par 73 measuring 6,980 yards. There are a few risk and reward fours where if you land the tee shot, birdies are there to be made. But there are also some fearsome par fives, long and difficult par fours and some glorious par threes. You have to be on your game to score well here.
Green Fee: from £70
A real journey of links. And that means when there’s no wind, it’s there for the taking. It’s only 6,442 yards from the back tees, but when the wind howls, it plays much longer than that. The opening tee shot, with a public road, down to the left, can be quite intimidating. There is also an original par three where you have to hit your ball on this same route.
Green fee: £25-30
I lived for several years in an old mining town in Leicestershire called Coalville. This is a county with plenty of great courses, but the pick of the bunch is Willesley Park, located in attractively named Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It’s a classic parkland course and one of the friendliest golf clubs I’ve ever been to.
Green Fee: Monday to Friday £45; Weekend £55
Municipality of Southport
As true municipal courts, this one takes a beating. It’s been used a lot so the condition isn’t the best, but it has a ties feel and there are lots of cleverly designed holes. You have to make your way to score well – and if the wind blows, it’s a real challenge
Green Fee: Monday to Friday £16; Weekend £18
The Old Course, St Andrews
At the risk of being fired at the coals, I have to say that I think the most famous link course on the planet is not even the best course in St Andrews. But it’s the story that draws you in, knowing that the legends of the game have all been there before you. There is something very special about standing on that first tee. The best hole is, of course, 17, which is a monster that can destroy your card.
Green Fee: From £98 to £270
Championship Course, Carnoustie
The most difficult golf course I have ever played, but also probably the best. Every time I made it here the wind howled through the links. There isn’t a single hole where you can just stand over the ball and give it a beating. The rough is pure evil. The greens are amazing. 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 – but you’ll need to know a member. If you’re not on your game, you’re going to run a cricket score. And there is an argument to say that the par five 17th is one of the most unfair holes in golf, especially in the summer when the fairway turns hard and fast. It tilts viciously left to right, which means the vast majority of discs end up in the trees.
Green Fee: Members Only
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