What are the best golf courses in the UK and Ireland? The revered Golf World Top 100 reveals all in our most anticipated ranking.
The Golf World Top 100 Courses in Great Britain and Ireland is arguably the blue riband of our rankings and attracts more interest than any other list we publish.
As our World Top 100 illustrates, no country surpasses Britain and Ireland for elite-level courses – with the notable proviso that the United States would if we included its unattainably private venues.
That has been the case for well over a century, but I think there is good reason to believe this GB&I Top 100 is the most exciting one we have produced in the 40-year history of the ranking. Why? Because the quality of new entries is so breathtakingly high.
Three courses enter this ranking that weren’t eligible for the last one for the simple reason they were yet to open – and while I won’t spoil any surprises, let’s just say they don’t exactly squeeze into the list in the 90s.
When combined with further high-calibre new entries or re-entries that come in further down the ranking, I believe the class of 2022’s newcomers are unmatched.
That of course makes the job of deciding the 100 even more difficult; when you suddenly add a handful of courses to the list that didn’t exist for the last one or had just opened, room has to be found for them somehow.
So, while I know getting in the 100 is the main prize, I’d urge everyone – readers and the clubs themselves – to give credit to the ‘Next 100’, which we have ranked 101-200 and whose quality is genuinely astonishingly high.
There are former Top 100 entries that now can’t get into the Next 100 and many courses in the Next 100 that would cruise into the Continental Europe Top 100 Courses that we produce. That’s how good that supplementary list is, and how fortunate we are to have so many incredible golf experiences on our doorstep.
The main emphasis within this Top 100 shows fun, character, nuance and interest being preferred over punishing, laborious, brawny challenges.
Of course, there are plenty of unremittingly exacting courses in the list but fewer than there used to be and they occupy positions further down the list than they previously enjoyed.
This ranking – and indeed the others we produce – has largely been going that way since I began chairing the panel in 2010. It shows the steadily building preference for what might be generally classed as charming, playable courses over those designed with minimal forgiveness.
I am delighted this is the case – golf is supposed to be an enjoyable way to spend our leisure time! – and that this is the way golf as a sport and an industry is going.
We can all disagree on the categories used to decide what makes a ‘good course’ just as much as the courses that actually appear in the list. But the fact we have a ‘Playability’ category instead of a ‘Resistance to scoring’ category tells you where I stand on this!
This preference tends to favour the older courses which are generally shorter and more quirky than those built in the second half of the 20th Century, which were often created with hosting championships in mind. But the number of brand-new courses that debut in notable positions in this list is a mark of where golf is heading.
Golf course architecture lost its way for a while – several decades in fact – but I believe it is firmly on the right track now, and this Top 100 is testament to that. What is deemed ‘good’ is now different from what it was 20 years ago and that means new courses are being judged as instant classics and older courses are showing their best faces as a result of restoration and presentation.
It makes for the most competitive GB&I Top 100 ever produced, which was a headache for me but is wonderful news for golfers. I hope our ranking inspires you to play more of the very best in Britain and Ireland – or indeed play one for the first time.
As this is our flagship ranking, we’ve produced a special 84-page digital magazine, which is packed with additional content, including expert interviews, opinion, guides to the best GB&I trips, statistics from the rankings and a fascinating look at the evolution of the list. You can download your copy, here.
And, once you’ve enjoyed this ranking, please do take a look at some of our others – from the best courses in Europe and the USA, to the finest golf resorts in Britain and the world, we’ve got it covered.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
We used the 2021 England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales rankings as our framework for this list – as well as the Next 100 that follows it. We used the positions and marks – refining them slightly to take account of the different panels’ general behaviour (Scotland mark extremely highly) – allocated in those national lists, formed a provisional list from that and asked our panel to assimilate a GB&I list.
The initial list changed notably but not dramatically, and a handful of courses leapfrogged others they were behind in their national ranking, where widespread opinion felt they deserved to be higher.
It’s worth noting that the panel and criteria for this biennial ranking have changed substantially since its last publishing in 2020, with Chris Bertram returning as Golf World Top 100 Editor later that year, hence some substantial rises and falls for many courses.
Design (40 marks): The key category, split into three sub-sections: Does the course make the most of its landscape (20); the green complexes (10); the routing (10).
Setting (15 marks): The aesthetic value of the surrounding views and the course itself. And the overall ‘atmosphere’ of the course – not the club.
Memorability (15 marks): How easy it is to recall holes? Are they distinctive, varied and interesting. Are they strategic and heroic?
Playability (10 marks): Is it just too tough, possibly even unfair, for the majority? Or is it able to be enjoyed by all?
Consistency (10 marks): Does every hole deliver all of the above, or is it let down by a few poor ones?
Presentation (10 marks): Two aspects: is maintenance at ease with its surroundings; plus, the conditioning. A relatively small number of marks because conditioning is so variable – but this category does reward especially flawless courses as well as alert you to the less manicured, more raw venues.
• In the event of a tie in the marks, the Top 100 Editor has adjudicated based on the breadth of opinions across the panel.
• Off-course facilities, customer service or tournament pedigree play no part.
Chris Bertram – Golf World Top 100 editor
Top 100 courses played 100 | Handicap 11 | Likes Memorable holes, sporty greens, fun | Dislikes Long par 3s.
Peter Bosworth – Hellidon Lakes
Top 100 courses played 96 | Handicap 19.2 | Likes Clever use of land | Dislikes Monster par 5s, long walks.
Nick Dungay – West Sussex
Top 100 courses played 95 | Handicap 15 | Likes Distinctive, memorable holes | Dislikes Long slogs
Paul Macmichael – Braehead and Whitemuir
Top 100 courses played 81 | Handicap 16 | Likes Risk-or-reward par 4s | Dislikes Long par 4s. Internal OB.
Adam Uttley – Woburn
Top 100 courses played 75 | Handicap 5 | Home club Woburn | Likes Enduring holes, strategy, interesting greens | Dislikes Bunkers in rough.
Mike Bailey – Formby
Top 100 courses played 95 | Handicap 12 | Likes Playable, fair, attractive holes. Memorable par 3s | Dislikes Attritional golf
Eric Carrier – Pinehurst
Top 100 courses played 77 | Handicap 11.2 | Likes Courses I immediately want to play again | Dislikes Long walks green to tee
Ken Hannah – Royal Cinque Ports
Top 100 courses played 90 | Handicap 5 | Likes Good green complexes, charisma | Dislikes Mundane holes
Kevin Markham – Greystones
Top 100 courses played 53 (and every course in Ireland) | Handicap 7 | Home club Greystones | Likes Charm, flow, memorability | Dislikes Not too manufactured.
Stephen Vincent – Bearwood Lakes
Top 100 courses played 82 | Handicap 6.5 | Likes Variety, memorable holes | Dislikes Boring, long slogs
Stuart Bendoris – Longniddry
Top 100 courses played 80 | Handicap 1.7 | Likes Challenge, playability, condition, aesthetics | Dislikes Lack of variety in par 3s
Olle Dahlgren – Falsterbo
Top 100 courses played 95 | Handicap 6.7 | Likes Variety, strategic, fun holes. Aesthetics | Dislikes Target golf
David Jones – Archerfield
Top 100 courses played 73 | Handicap 11 | Likes Variety in challenge, requires creativity | Dislikes Overly penal
Andrew Stracey – Denham
Top 100 courses played 82 | Handicap +1 | Likes Courses that ‘flow’. Scenic. Strategic | Dislikes Uniformity, poor maintenance.
• No panellist could assess their own club’s course or one they had a prior attachment to. We thank all panellists for their time and invaluable expertise in assisting us on this ranking.
Additional key Top 100 panellists
Darius Oliver: GB&I, England & Scotland. Ben Sargent, Simon Haines: England. Douglas Mill, Alan McPherson, Susie Robertson, Neal Stewart: Scotland. Phil Davies, Rich Allen, David Thomas, Daniel Jones: Wales. Pat Smyth, Peadar Conlon, Sean Kilroy, Mark Ryan, Kevin Connelly, Derek Wickham, Siobhan Cullen: Ireland.
Can I join the Golf World Top 100 panel?
Yes! If you have knowledge of lots of resorts and courses, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re male, female, young, old, low handicap, high handicap, if you’re well-travelled then get in touch with us, here.
In the past we’ve listed the courses that missed out on the ranking alphabetically. This year we show you exactly where the ‘next 100’ placed so that you can see which courses were closest to a place in the top 100 and appreciate the quality on offer in Great Britain and Ireland.
200. Turnberry (King Robert the Bruce), Ayrshire, Scotland
199. Porthmadog, Mid Wales, Wales
198. Coombe Hill, Surrey, England
197. Scotscraig, Fife, Scotland
196. Spey Valley, Highlands, Scotland
195. Fulford, North Yorkshire, England
194. Bull Bay, North Wales, Wales
193. Sheringham, Norfolk, England
192. St Mellion (Nicklaus), Cornwall, England
191. Royal County Down (Annesley), Down, Northern Ireland
190. Prestbury, Cheshire, England
189. Ashridge, Hertfordshire, England
188. Cleeve Hill, Gloucestershire, England
187. Royal Portrush (Valley), Antrim, Northern Ireland
186. Portmarnock Links, Dublin, Ireland
185. Donegal, Donegal, Ireland
184. Druids, Glen Wicklow, Ireland
183. Formby Ladies, Merseyside, England
182. The K Club (Palmer), Kildare
181. Moray (New), Highlands, Scotland
180. Nefyn & District, Mid Wales, Wales
179. Celtic Manor (2010), South Wales, England
178. Gleneagles (Centenary), Perth, Scotland
177. Golspie, Highlands, Scotland
176. Crail (Balcomie), Fife, Scotland
175. Ladybank, Fife, Scotland
174. Seascale, Cumbria, England
173. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
172. The Belfry (Brabazon), West Midlands, England
171. Leven, Fife, Scotland
170. Lundin, Fife, Scotland
169. Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland
168. Askernish, Western Isles, Scotland
167. Dunaverty, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
166. Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Highlands, Scotland
165. Lindrick, South Yorkshire, England
164. Knole Park, Kent, England
163. Stoneham, Hampshire, Scotland
162. Woburn (Duchess’), Buckinghamshire, England
161. Ardglass, Down, Northern Ireland
160. Rosapenna (Old Tom), Donegal,
159. Blackmoor, Hampshire, England
158. Tandridge, Surrey, England
157. Saunton (West), Devon, England
156. Perranporth, Cornwall, England
155. Camberley Heath, Surrey, England
154. Connemara, Galway, Ireland
153. Littlestone, Kent, England
152. Piltdown, Sussex, England
151. Blackwell, Worcestershire, England
150. Mount Juliet, Kilkenny, Ireland
149. Dooks, Kerry, Ireland
148. Seaton Carew, Durham, England
147. Wallasey, Wirral, England
146. Woburn (Marquess), Buckinghamshire, England
145. Trevose, Cornwall, England
144. Kington, Herefordshire, England
143. Cavendish, Derbyshire, England
142. Ipswich (Purdis Heath), Suffolk, England
141. Pyle & Kenfig, South Wales, Wales
140. The Grove, Hertfordshire, England
139. Blairgowrie (Rosemount), Perth, Scotland
138. Archerfield (Fidra), East Lothian, Scotland
137. Montrose (1562), Angus, Scotland
136. Kilspindie, East Lothian, Scotland
135. Gullane (No.2), East Lothian, Scotland
134. Tenby, South Wales, Wales
133. Ashburnham, South Wales, Wales
132. Luffness, East Lothian, Scotland
131. Conwy, North Wales, Wales
130. Gailes Links, Ayrshire, Scotland
129. East Devon, Devon, England
128. Moray (Old), Highlands, Scotland
127. Narin & Portnoo, Donegal, Ireland
126. Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
125. Panmure, Angus, Scotland
124. Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
123. Boat of Garten, Highlands, Scotland
122. Woburn (Duke’s), Buckinghamshire, England
121. Delamere Forest, Cheshire, England
120. Castlerock (Mussenden), Londonderry, Northern Ireland
119. Lough Erne, Fermanagh, Ireland
118. Huntercombe, Oxfordshire, England,
117. Goswick, Northumberland, England
116. Hindhead, Surrey, England
115. Little Aston, West Midlands, England
114. New Zealand, Surrey, England
113. Wentworth (East), Surrey, England
112. Southerndown, South Wales, Wales
111. Shiskine, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
110. Portsalon, Donegal, Ireland
109. Hayling, Hampshire, England
108. Murcar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
107. Royal Ashdown Forest (Old), Sussex, England
106. Ferndown, Dorset, England
105. Beau Desert, Staffordshire, England
104. Seacroft, Lincolnshire, England
103. Dundonald, Ayrshire, Scotland
102. Southerness, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
101. Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England
>>> Top 100 GB & Ireland: 100-76 >>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.