Welcome to the most comprehensive ranking to date of the finest courses in England.
There are so many courses to highlight (we have focused on numbers 51-100, as they didn’t feature in last year’s GB&I ranking), so many stunning images to find a place for and so many feature articles to cram in, we need to get straight to the business of how we put it all together.
Hopefully what follows answers any questions you have about our Top 100:
Who decided the positions?
Our panel of readers, who are efectively ‘Mystery Shoppers’. They visit the courses unannounced, pay the green fee and make their judgements. The list (and the Next 100) is an amalgamation of their opinions.
Do you ‘mark’ each course?
No. This is done by other rankings inside and outside golf, but at this time the panel purely rank the course using a ‘mental’ aggregate of the various factors*. A numerical breakdown might well add ballast but it’s not something I personally yearn for, at least not until every panellist has played every course and we can thus produce a valid statistical breakdown. At the moment, producing one would be no more useful than the ‘mental’ ranking. Watch this space – although I am personally more keen on working to get a large panel who’ve played every single course. That would, in my view, further improve our Top 100 lists.
What are the factors in assessing?
This seems obvious to me, but people do ask; we ask panellists to consider strategicmerit, presentation, memorable holes, playability, consistency of test and visual appeal. But not anything of the course. See, told you it wasn’t nuclear physics...
Top 100 Editor
Strong start, strong finish, yet the most memorable holes are arguably in the middle section; the 9th, 10th and 12th, make full use of the huge dunes. Birkdale is the complete package.
The quintessential english inland experience; the hype is justified.
Terrific fun, possibly the most enjoyment on a championship course in england. We love Mike’s comment above.
There really is nothing to choose between these superstars of the top four. For some, it could easily be no.1.
Modest opening and closing holes – otherwise world class. More difficult and complete than the old, even if not quite as much fun or as beautiful.
Great heathland with amazingly deep bunkers superbly positioned on what is otherwise completely flat ground. A course which needs to be played at least once.
Heather-clad, fast-running traditional heathland that is a very challenging but fair test, laid out in a natural open setting.
Few finer places to play and get away from it all. A challenging and beautiful inland links/a windswept heathland masterpiece, depending on your view of it.
With its springy turf, fast and true greens and the smell of the sea, it is impossible not to be intoxicated by the east.
A traditional and fair challengewith much character which reflects the club’sheritage. Very strong open host last year.
Retains a feeling of isolated heathland, with highlights including the sweeping par 5s, stellar two-shotters and classy par 3s.
With each hole in splendid isolation and six cracking par 3s of different lengths, this is a woodland delight.
Delightful heathland with perfect turf, glistening white sand, and some of the most picturesque holes imaginable.
A hybrid links/heathland/parkland but consistently firm, sandy, links fairways – and a classic layout.
What golf is all about – St Enodoc is memorable, scenic, challenging and fun. Twelve truly outstanding holes.
Now very difficult for those who play it 51 weeks of the year (outside the PGA) and thus lacks the seductive quality of Sunningdale or Swinley Forest.
Very good course laid out over more expansive, open heathland than many of its Surrey neighbours, the heather seems particularly purple and the greens especially
emerald. We absolutely adore it here.
Tightly-mown undulating fairways fully exposed to the Irish Sea winds are typical of this old-fashioned, demanding links. An underrated, classic course.
The best back nine in UK golf for some, including greg norman. But if you don’t like those dramatic dune holes, you’ll love the more sedate opening half.
Old-fashioned out and back layout remains a strong and enjoyable links with standouts such as the topsy-turvy 3rd with its comical concertina fairway.
Swinley Forest is one of the most enchanting settings you will ever find. The most tranquil and exclusive of heathlands.
Set among the mansions of pop stars, this magnificent heathland rolls up hill and down dale in a fi gure of eight, always with a refined elegance of which Harry Colt was a master. Magnificent.
A tremendous experience, from the tides to the clubhouse and the labradors to the views. a golfing relic that you need to play a few times to fully appreciate.
24 Rye, Sussex
Few courses have more strategic interest than this stunning fastrunning links. Some fabulous green complexes and terrific links topography.
Beautiful layout and a more conventional mix of holes than the six-of-each Red course. Solid heathland fare.
Some on the panel feel notts, along with Swinley Forest, are the most underrated courses on this list. Better than much higher-ranked ganton for some.
An excellent and challenging links that has been improved by Martin Hawtree by rebunkering while greens have gone from good to excellent. A proper championship test in breezy conditions.
The highest ranked of the ‘Three Ws’, with recent tweaks to enhance what was an already outstanding heathland. Impossible not to enjoy it here.
Inland golf at its aesthetic best. Achingly beautiful heathland.
A real pleasure to play for all handicaps. Some magical holes including an all-star collection of par 5s. Boasts some of the most unusual holes around – which we absolutely mean as a compliment.
The longest and most open of Woburn’s courses, with a bold design. Liberal use of bunkers and water hazards.
Quality heathland where you cross a busy a-road mid-round to find the reward of four holes on the far side that are probably the most rugged and attractive.
Ken Moodie’s changes have ensured this is now a fixture; more light, more heather and more expansive heathland views make it a terrific experience.
Has a maturity beyond its young age. A pretty course with four or five fantastic holes such as the 2nd, 9th and 18th.
Boasts a fine collection of links holes further enhanced by surroundings of tall whispering pines, abundant gorse and the occasional passing train.
Very good heathland course that’s more fun than the West. Unusual and attractive mix of par 4s.
A quality heathland with a number of excellent holes defined by dense gorse neighbouring the fairways.
A heather-framed heathland with bags of class.
Towering pines and deep valleys are superbly used to create a variety of challenges, especially early on.
Brilliant links may be of the beaten track, but should be on everyone’s ‘must-play’ list, for its unusual and exciting holes, such as the long par-3 17th.
Like a well-mannered guest, this perfectly-manicured parkland does everything to impress. arguably the finest parkland course in the UK.
It may not have any bunkers, but bracken, streams and dog-legs provide hazards aplenty to catch the golfer already distracted by the glorious views.
Less than 6,000 yards it might be, yet fi nding the pins requires forensic placement from the tee and becomes impossible from the thick heather.
a testing heathland course that is not over manicured. It retains its rough edges that make it more testing and appealing to the eye.
Ferocious rough, deep bunkers, strong cross winds and tees that can extend this exposed links to over 7,000 yards.
Frank pont’s revision has ensured this remains one of england’s top heathlands and an essential in any dorset trip.
A tough heathland with a string of 400+ yard par 4s on the back nine. Underrated by many – but not us.
More strategic and less penal than most modern parklands, with wide fairways and ‘trouble’ centred on and around the cleverly-designed greens. An unremarkable site was worked beautifully by Kyle phillips.
The prettiest of Woburn’s trio is back in our GB&I Top 100, a situation reflected in this high rise up the england list. A delightfully subtle course among towering fir trees; skill and finesse are essential and overt brute force is a hindrance. Fully worthy of this top-50 position.
Once little more than a seeded field with sapling trees, it has now matured into a lush parkland, with famous holes like the 10th and 18th augmenting its status as an iconic four-time Ryder Cup venue.
Tom Simpson reputedly rated this undulating heathland of heather, pine and gorse as the best inland course in the UK.
An enjoyable and historic links with some serious dunes and great views out into the Irish Sea.
One of the toughest tracks, one of the best inland courses and one of the finest all-round venues in the country. A star of the British inland golf scene.
Recent changes have tightened up the 1957 Ryder Cup venue and it is unlikely to fall much lower. Yet still does not charm as some other top-class heathlands do.
Not especially scenic links but miss it of your wish list at your folly.
The long journey is rewarded by a links with no towering dunes but just well routed holes through subtle rolling dunes and gorse and scrubland. Well worth the fuel.
Your heart rises as you drive into the ‘Beautiful Wilderness’, knowing you are in for a genuinely-good heathland treat. A GB&I Top 100 contender.
Terrific start and finish and plenty of good fare in between. Wonderful.
Changes by european golf design and a new greenkeeper have improved the course to keep it on the brink of the top 50.
More than just a famous 9th green (of which Bobby Jones made measure). Traditional links that is consistently good.
A joy to play, aesthetically pleasing, with heather and pine in abundance. It benefits from some delightfully unusual holes with greens where you would not expect to find them. Bunker work and tree removal in line with the original design have categorically improved it – hence this significant rise.
Laid out by heathland expert Herbert Fowler and revised by Tom Mackenzie in the last 18 months, our decision to elevate delamere just outside the top 50 in 2011 now looks well judged.
The highest links in europe, as you might expect, delivers breathtaking beach and ocean vistas. The course moves up and down and around the hugely undulating terrain. If you can accept you’ll get some ‘unlucky’ bounces and also be faced with some very strange shots, then you’ll love perranporth.
Magnificent links among sand dunes, heather, gorse, and deep bunkers.
Some holes are simple, some quirky – but you’ll walk of with a smile.
Scenic, strategic and popular.
New courses bring with them serious hype these days, because there just aren’t many being built. This is one that manages to live up to expectations. Serious investment has patently been made, so the level of quality should be high. But for it to
look and play so beautifully already suggests it has been money well spent.
This pretty heathland ofers lovely views 30 miles down to the coast.
Dominated by mature woodland, it is often very underrated and we are pleased to give this quintessential parkland the status it deserves.
Much-merited rise with the front nine in bracken-sided valleys a big hit.
A round here, especially in the warm and colourful summer months, is as good as golf gets. Terrific recent upgrade.
Garden loop also got a mention; a quality parkland that’s very well designed.
Beauty and conditioning make this exquisite parkland now a Top 100 fixture.
Harry Colt designed the original 12 holes between the north and South downs, with birch and fir trees lining many sandy fairways. A very widely-touted rise.
Uses the hilly terrain to create a notable variety of holes, there was unanimous agreement for this significant elevation up the list. Expect sandy turf, slick greens and gorse.
Laid out on a narrow strip, some love Sheringham’s high-rise holes on the edge of the clifs and others those along lined by gorse or hemmed in by the railway line.
An enjoyable parklandheathland that becomes extremely testing in the wind. Much more than just the site of Bernhard langer’s famous tree shot to the side of the 17th green.
Lovely location and is a fine parkland without pyrotechnics of those above.
The ‘St Andrews of the South’ is golf for the traditionalist and the historian. You could wander through the clubhouse for ages taking in all the memorabilia on show but that only serves to keep you from the course – which divides opinion. For some it is the epitome of how golf used to be played... and still should be played. For others it is in need of some loving care. a very fl at links, it boasts vast sleepered bunkers and a fearsome hazard on the back nine of sea rushes which are a definite lost ball.
Simple but brilliant. Sellafield in your eyeline is a negative, otherwise this would be top 60. as it is, it remains must play.
Recent improvements so could rise in future lists as the work matures and the panel become more familiar with the tweaks.
Quite difficult to define, being a mix of parkland and heathland but what is certain is that it is classy and plays superbly. Doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Didn’t find as much favour as in previous years but a Tom Mackenzie upgrade may help to regain some popularity.
A beautiful mix of heathland and parkland that is a real delight.
Not much has changed here to get this open Qualifi er in the Top 100, except the af ection for it from our extremely well-travelled panel. It is now where, we strongly believe, it belongs.
Real wow factor on fi rst nine.
We love the subtleties, the springy turf and the quick, undulating greens.
A lot more than just a lot of sand. Our panel may love links, but they generally rated Sir Nick’s design very highly. Exacting but satisfying, this inland course among oak trees and around water proves Kent is more than just a trio of ‘open’ links in Sandwich.
Opened in 2011, it is a nod in terms of its name and influence to Harry Colt; rectangular tees, the bunkering, and the style of the par 3s are all influenced by the great man. located in a picturesque northumberland valley on the banks of the Tyne, this is Roman army territory – indeed ‘Hadrians Wall’ almost abuts the course itself. a quality new addition to england’s portfolio.
Winds through large dunes at times but despite largely sitting on flatter ground, there is still much to enjoy on the springy turf.
There are not many courses like this in england; a lush parkland but which is not dominated by trees. It is in terrific nick and a wonderful all-round experience.
A good test but playable for all skill levels, it relies on ridged gulleys and clever contouring to protect the greens. Fine par 3s.
Often one of those most unlucky to miss out on the main list in previous years, Camberley Heath comes into the Top 100 as a result of the work carried out by Frank pont and the greenkeeping staf over the past two years. A programme of forestry and heathland conservation management means it now plays to its sand-based best with heather proliferating and the whole experiencebenefiting from a more open feel. A future rise higher is entirely possible.
En route to Hunstanton and Brancaster? do not pass up the chance to play at this superb woodland-heathland and try to keep your tee shots out of the trees.
Is a noted Tour host but our panel prefer cute heathlands to americanstyle golf. But enough fans to stay in the 100.
Rather like Foxhills, there is debate as to which of Frilford’s courses is the best! The Red was a clear winner, the oldest of the three courses, laid out in 1908 by the iconic JH Taylor.
A slight fall for this heathland, more as a result of the rise of other similar courses that found more favour with our panel.
Some prefer the Hunt, which is in the next 100 for this year but could easily come into the main list in 2017, such is the af ection for the work of Ryder Cup man Bernard Hunt, the club’s fi rst pro who served for 25 years. The longcross has the edge for the majority of our panel, though, as it beautifully combines challenge and charm, with a serious test of 6,750 yards being softened by the aesthetic charm of a course that is routed through Scots pine, beech and silver birch trees. Comparisons with Sunningdale’s old Course are not fanciful. Well-balanced nines give you chances of scoring with two par 5s on each half being nice respite from the exacting two-shotters. A class act.
Edges the Melbourne here (next 100), a fine parkland that plays across undulating ground. Some very good holes among mature Hornbeam, pines and oaks.
A mix of links and parkland, this is a fantastic and fair test. What you see is what you get.