Why go abroad? Top 10 British Golf Breaks
We'd argue Britain has better courses than anywhere in the world. Chris Bertram selects his favourite areas for a long weekend (and, yes, we are aware there is a links bias...)
We didn't forget the Home of Golf, St Andrews - which is indeed a phenomenal UK golf break - but we felt it seemed a bit obvious to include. It is worth noting that the rest of Fife (Leven, Crail et all) is also fantastic, but this top 10 instead focuses on places you might not have considered going to.
East Lothian, Scotland
WHAT YOU GET: A wealth of world-class links stacked up next to each other waiting to be played, in the driest part of Scotland.
THE COURSES: They range from über exclusive Renaissance and Archerfield, to plush-but-playable Muirfield, to the incomparable North Berwick (pictured). Then add in gems such as Kilspindie and Dunbar.
WHERE TO STAY: The lodges at Archerfield are possibly the best golf accommodation in Britain but there are lots of other options to fit every pocket. Upstairs at The Renaissance Club is sensational – and allows you to play the course too...
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is the lower-profile courses that arguably make East Lothian quite so outstanding. If you said Longniddry and Gullane 3 were the eighth and ninth-best courses in the region you'd think they were modest... but in fact they are superb.
WHAT YOU GET: High-class fare whether you are playing by the coast or further inland.
THE COURSES: St Enodoc (pictured - the best 12 holes in GB&I?), Perranporth (enormous fun that is at times bonkers), St Mellion (a Jack Nicklaus signature of beauty and beast nature) and Trevose (with a spectacular front nine that is getting even better).
WHERE TO STAY: St Mellion for any kind of golf party but it is an especially good base for a family break, and Trevose when you want to be by the coast.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The range of courses is unsurpassed, with four in Golf World's English Top 100 that are all totally different in character.
WHAT YOU GET: A five-star golf break in every sense, and one of golf's great pilgrimages.
THE COURSES: Start your itinerary by working out when you can play Skibo Castle – it's not inexpensive and they have only limited times, but secure a time at this heroic, scenic links and take it from there. Then add in Royal Dornoch (pictured), which is about as soulful as golf gets, and let fun Golspie, charming Tain and Braid heaven at Brora balance the books.
WHERE TO STAY: The apartments at Brora are ideal – modern, spacious and well- equipped, and within staggering distance of the clubhouse...
WHY WE LIKE IT: Something for everyone, and if you can't enjoy Royal Dornoch we suggest you buy some ludicrous Lycra and try cycling.
WHAT YOU GET: Three Open venues stacked up next to each other on an unspoilt section of coastline.
THE COURSES: Royal St George's (pictured), thought by some to be the finest course in England and is due to host The Open in 2020, plus the fascinating Royal Cinque Ports, and 27-hole Prince's, which is a classic, recently-renovated links.
WHERE TO STAY: The Lodge at Prince's is one of our favourite bases for a break anywhere in Europe. Built by golfers for golfers, it sits on the Prince’s-Sandwich border.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The high quality of golf and the low hassle once you are there – you never have to drive more than five minutes.
WHAT YOU GET: Tremendous variety of golf, plus green fees that will scare nobody. THE
COURSES: Carnoustie (pictured), with three stellar links including the host of The Open, leads the way but in Panmure, Montrose and Monifieth it has super back up. Don't forget Downfield and Edzell inland either.
WHERE TO STAY: Carnoustie hotel overlooks the 18th green but we prefer the Links View Guest House B&B next to the tee – or Brucedfields five-star B&B in Arbroath.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The value is extraordinarily good. The calibre and variety of links courses is exceptionally high, yet it is do- able by more golfers' budgets than any other similar trip in the UK.
North Wales, Wales
WHAT YOU GET: Not as many star names as in other areas on this list, but enough really good golf to keep even the most discerning golfer satisfied.
THE COURSES: Nefyn (pictured) is the star attraction and is certainly a course with outstanding scenery; in that respect it has few peers in the UK. Porthmadog is a better golf course with a really special links back nine. Pwllheli is much the same, while Conwy is what we might term a 'proper' links. North Wales plus Bull Bay and Holyhead add some depth to a largely undiscovered area.
WHERE TO STAY: Abersoch (which has a course that's well worth playing too) has lots of neat B&Bs and hotels.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The value is sensationally good at any time of the year. And you can easily add on an extra day to sneak down the coast to play Royal St David's and Aberdovey too!
WHAT YOU GET: Soulful golf that is deserved reward for an epic trip to get there. THE
COURSES: Just the three, but two are GB&I Top 100 tracks – the ancient Machrihanish, with a front nine full of iconic holes, and Machrihanish Dunes (pictured), a modern links that is as authentic as it is brilliant. Clifftop fun at Dunaverty completes the picture.
WHERE TO STAY: Easy – the Ugadale Hotel, opposite the 1st tee of Machrihanish Old. Or the cottages alongside it. Unbeatable.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The golf is indubitably terrific, but just as enjoyable is the tremendous accommodation next door and the food and refreshment in the Old Clubhouse. Just don't book early tee times...
WHAT YOU GET: A fine mixture of heathland, links and clifftop courses that are eminently playable all year round.
THE COURSES: Let's start at Royal West Norfolk, a beguiling, feature-packed links that's worth the drive on its own. Add in the championship class of next door Hunstanton, the clifftops of Sheringham and Royal Cromer, and the heathland- woodland of King's Lynn.
WHERE TO STAY: Don't stay anywhere else but Old Lodge at Hunstanton – walkable from the course and with superb dining including a terrific breakfast.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Uncrowded courses, dry weather (that is not a myth) and, more than anything, Royal West Norfolk's charm
WHAT YOU GET: What is quite simply now one of the best stretches of golfing terrain in Britain and Ireland, with courses to suit all tastes and budgets.
THE COURSES: Trump Links International has raised the bar in Aberdeenshire, adding a high-class links to what was already – in stellar Royal Aberdeen, crazy Cruden Bay and earthy Murcar – an alluring offering. There's even more great golf further afield too, if you have the time.
WHERE TO STAY: McLeod House at Trump International for those treating themselves but otherwise lots of options in Aberdeen.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Is there a more high-octane trio in the UK so close to each other than here? We don't think so.
WHAT YOU GET: Two Top 100 heathlands with another elite course within an hour, plus the myriad attractions of a big city.
THE COURSES: The Alwoodley (pictured) and Moortown are intertwined with the legend of Dr Alister MacKenzie and are exquisite heathlands that are genuinely getting better with age. Plus high-calibre inland links Ganton is a short drive to the east.
WHERE TO STAY: It's the city of Leeds... you're not short of options! For a play and stay, look to five-star Oulton Hall.
WHY WE LIKE IT: We had to have one inland option, didn't we, and while Perthshire Nottinghamshire, Birmingham, and the Surrey heathlands would have been equally as good, in The Alwoodley, Moortown and Ganton you get a class of golf as good as almost anything in Surrey or Berkshire.