Golf World Top 100: Best Links Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland

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What are the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland? The Golf World Top 100 panel ranks the best seaside courses across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Royal County Down (Championship)

St Andrews (Old)

Turnberry (Ailsa)

Muirfield

Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

Royal St George’s

Royal Birkdale

Royal Dornoch

North Berwick

10 Carnoustie Golf Links (Championship)

Welcome to the first ever Golf World Top 100 Links Courses in Great Britain & Ireland ranking. It represents the start of a new era for our highly respected course rankings, which are now published in Today’s Golfer magazine and here at todaysgolfer.co.uk.

The courses will, however, still be chosen by an experienced panel of readers, invited to take part because of their extensive knowledge of the courses ranked that month.

RELATED: Europe's best new course since Kingsbarns

As we always have, we welcome your feedback on all of our rankings and know that everyone will have an opinion on their favourite's position. We'd love to hear from you via email, on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Ballyliffin (Old) is one of the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

What is the Golf World Top 100?

Golf World Top 100: The Best Golf Courses and Resorts

What is a links golf course?

The British Golf Museum defines a links as: “Land near the coast characterised by undulating terrain, often associated with dunes, infertile sandy soil and indigenous grasses such as marram, sea lyme, and the fescues and bents which, when properly managed, produce the fine textured turf for which links are famed.”

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Jump to the Best Links Golf Courses ranking

100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1

How we score the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland

There are a total of 100 marks awarded, and every golf course is marked using the following criteria to find the best:

Design [40 marks]

A key category, split into three sub-sections: Does the course take advantage 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 easily 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, and the conditioning of tees, fairways, bunkers and greens.

What if there is a tie?

In the event of a tie, Golf World Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram decides the positions based on breadth of opinions from the panel.

Do you consider anything other than the layout itself when scoring the best golf courses?

Off-course facilities, customer service or tournament pedigree played no part in deciding any of our Golf World Top 100 Courses rankings. We care about the best golf courses, not about who has the best clubhouse, has hosted the most Opens or provides the best lunches. No matter what your budget is, there are courses to fit your pocket. And you can play every course in this list, even if some offer very limited tee times.

RELATED: Golf World Top 100 – Best Golf Courses For £60 and Under

The Golf World Top 100 panel which selected the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

Meet the Golf World Top 100 ranking panel

Chris Bertram: Top 100 Courses editor has played all 100 links golf courses in our list. Handicap 11.

Michael Bailey: 88 of the Top 100 played. Handicap 17

Peter Bosworth: 96 of the Top 100 played. Handicap 14

Olle Dahlgren: 98 of the Top 100 played. Handicap 6

Nick Dungay: 96 of the Top 100 played. Handicap 11

Alan Ferguson: All of the Top 100 golf courses played. Handicap 4

Simon Haines: 61 of the Top 100 played. Handicap 3

Clyde Johnson: 87 of the Top 100 playedHandicap 8

Ronan Rafferty: All of the Top 100 played. Handicap Pro

Ben Sargent: 84 of the Top 100 played. Handicap Pro

Stephen Vincent: 73 of the Top 100 played. Handicap 10

In addition, we accepted input from our Scottish specialists Alan McPherson and Neal Stewart, Irish golf courses supremo Kevin Markham and Wales golf aficionados Richard Allen and Phil Davies.

THINK YOU SHOULD BE ON THE PANEL? Get in touch with us, here

St Annes Old Links narrowly missed out on a place in the Golf World Top 100 Links Courses in Britain and Ireland.

Which links golf courses narrowly missed out on a place in the Golf World Top 100?

Not every links in Great Britain & Ireland can get into the Top 100... but here are the 50 that came closest and stand the best chance of making the main ranking the next time we judge the best links golf courses.

Royal Portrush (Valley), Lundin, Conwy, St Annes Old Links, Monifieth, Strandhill, Irvine (Bogside), Golspie, Connemara, Tain, Leven, Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Archerfield (Dirleton), West Cornwall, Ashburnham, West Kilbride, Crail (Balcomie), Portmarnock Links, Royal Dublin, Bude & North Cornwall, Moray (New), Carnoustie (Burnside), St Andrews (Jubilee), Peterhead, Gullane No.3, Porthmadog, Nairn Dunbar, St Andrews (Eden), Ballybunion (Cashen), Royal Troon (Portland), Borth and Ynyslas, Kilmarnock Barassie, Cleveland, Turnberry (King Robert the Bruce), Durness, Newburgh on Ythan, Hesketh, Cullen, Weston-super-Mare, Spey Bay, Littlehampton, Hartlepool, Prestwick St Nicholas, Wigtownshire County, Pwllheli, Powfoot, Carnoustie (Buddon), North West, Castlerock (Bann), Isle of Harris.

RELATED: Golf World Top 100 Fun Courses in Great Britain and Ireland

Scotland has the most courses in the Golf World Top 100 Links Courses in Great Britain and Ireland ranking.

Which country has the most links golf courses in the ranking?

Of the 100 golf courses in the main ranking, it'll come as little surprise to learn than Scotland's links dominate with 40 courses, including six in the top 10. England has 29 of the best links golf courses, followed by Ireland with 20.

Then comes Wales with six, followed by Northern Ireland with five. But, in the case of the latter, sometimes its quality not quantity that counts with two of Northern Ireland's courses in the top five.

RELATED: Golf World Top 100 Courses in England

Golf World Top 100: The Best Links Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland

To read Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram's review of each course, simply click on its name

100 Pyle & Kenfig

Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales

The back nine is bewitching, the front nine less so. It’s fair to say the front nine is the warm-up for the awesome back nine, but it’s good enough to sneak in here. The best holes are immense, the more modest ones perfectly adequate. One not to miss, because the highs of P&K are immense.

Design 29.9 Setting 12.6 Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.2 Consistency 5.9 Presentation 7.0 
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.1

99 Dunaverty

Southland, Argyll, Scotland

Requiring just enough creativity, and with plenty opportunity for ones own adventure, Dunaverty is the sort of golf course to be played all day, every day. Views, creativity and drama are a potent mix and you’ll find them on this neighbour to the Machrihanish courses on Kintyre.

Design 27.4 Setting 13.1 Memorability 13.4 Playability 8.2 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 7.0
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.4

98 Donegal

Murvagh, Co. Donegal, Ireland

The sensational holes five to seven stand out and will live in the memory long after you leave. We always use words such as bold, brawny and challenging about Donegal, and we aren’t misleading you. A serious examination among the dunes that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Design 32.2 Setting 10.2  Memorability 12.2 Playability 5.9 Consistency 8.2 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.5

Shiskine is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

97 Shiskine

Blackwaterfoot, Isle of Arran, Scotland

There is nothing ordinary about Shiskine, and that is all for the better. The connoisseur will appreciate the strategic blindness of the ‘Road Hole’, the ‘Shore Hole’s’ testy punchbowl green, and the sneakily frustrating double-blind green at ‘The Hollows’.

A blind par 3, a par 4 with a railway signalling system to indicate when you can play your second shot, glorious views and fascination at every turn… this is surely what golf should be about. Just the 12 holes, but in that dozen there is plenty of excitement to get Shiskine into our Top 100. 

Design 27.4  Setting 13.2 Memorability 13.4  Playability 8.2 Consistency 7.2  Presentation 7.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.5

96 Castlerock (Mussenden)

Castlerock, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland

A very competent and often breathtaking links near Portrush – Castlerock is now getting the recognition it deserves. Some stellar holes over raunchy terrain that deserves a place in the 90s. The Bann is also superb and together they offer a pair of tracks as fun as any club can offer.

Design 29.4 Setting 12.1  Memorability 12.6 Playability 7.3 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.5

95 Tenby

Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Get it on a summer’s day and you are in links heaven. Tenby is a pure, pure, pure links. Bouncy, brown and bewildering at times, this is the links course we used to never want to leave as a child on holiday. A host of classic features include a punchbowl green that is adorable. 

Design 28.2 Setting 13.3  Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.3 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.8

Golf World Top 100 total: 76.5

94 Dooks

Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Terrific setting and holes that have been significantly improved by the leading architect Martin Hawtree in a worthwhile overhaul. Dooks is ‘location, location, location’... plus some wonderful variety in the holes. The secret sensation of the Ring of Kerry easily gets in our list. 

Design 28.3 Setting 13.8  Memorability 12.5 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.5

93 Seaton Carew

Seaton Carew, Co. Druham, England

A classic out-and-in links with hardly a weak hole. The contours of the final third are full of interest. Willie Fernie’s routing introduces variety with just the right amount of adventure as it tackles parallel dune ridges. Its setting is modest, but the holes do the talking.

Design 31.6 Setting 9.2  Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.9 Consistency 8.2 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.5

92 Saunton (West)

Braunton, Devon, England

Less punishing and with more variety than the more famous East, according to one panellist. Enjoys a passage through Saunton’s larger dunes, even if the West lacks the craft of the older and more venerated East. A fabulous 36-hole day is on offer at this Devon club. 

Design 30.4 Setting 11.2  Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.7

RELATED: Is this the golf club of the future?

Perranporth is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

91 Perranporth

Perranporth, Cornwall, England 

Riotous fun above the town on undulating, elevated fairways. Its elevation invites the wind to ask additional questions of your game. Firm greens so expect to be going through the back if you try to fly all the way on, but Perranporth is all about fun and bewildering, undulating fairways.

Design 28.4 Setting 13.7  Memorability 12.7 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.7

90 Askernish

South Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

A stunning links running along the coast with holes winding between dunes and sheep maintaining it in winter. Originally laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1891, the course fell into decline in the 1920s but has been nursed back to full health. A proper pilgrimage for any links connoisseurs.

Design 30.4 Setting 12.7 Memorability 13.4 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 5.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.7

89 Narin & Portnoo

Portnoo, Co. Donegal, Ireland

A towering stretch of dunes sits at the heart of this Donegal links, with its holes routed around and through it. Leading American designer Gil Hanse’s know-how and nous has recently added to the allure of this links of great variety. It would not be out of place in the 60s – the margins are that fine.

Design 30.5 Setting 12.2 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 76.8

88 Kilspindie

Aberlady, East Lothian, Scotland

Quirky old design and while the balance of holes is slightly odd, it adds to the quirkiness. It’s short and looks relatively easy, but the beauty of Kilspindie is that it can make anyone, of any skill, look silly. The epitome of the short-but-charming Scottish links that seduces us so easily.

Design 28.2 Setting 12.4 Memorability 12.0 Playability 8.9 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 77

87 Murcar

Bridge of Don, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Shorter and less penal than Royal Aberdeen, the course it shares a boundary with to the south. Murcar impressively holds its own in stellar company on Aberdeenshire’s glittering coastline. A playable seaside classic.

Design 30.2 Setting 13.2 Memorability 11.0 Playability 8.1 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 7.4

Golf World Top 100 total: 77.2

86 Royal County Down (Annesley)

Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

Martin Ebert’s work here has transformed the Annesley from an after-thought into a must-play when in Newcastle. Offers even better access to the bay, and Ebert’s work has been a huge success – witness this position. One of the few clubs with two courses on this list. 

Design 29.2 Setting 13.1 Memorability 11.2 Playability 8.8 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 8.0
Golf World Top 100 total 77.2

85 Seascale

Seascale, Cumbria, England

Do not dare go to Silloth and not experience Seascape during the same visit, as they’re on the same tricky-to-reach stretch of Cumbrian coastline. Funky terrain, babbling brooks, great greens and terrific turf… this is one of England’s most under-rated golf courses.

Design 30.0 Setting 13.0 Memorability 11.2 Playability 8.5 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.0

Golf World Top 100 total: 77.2

84 Portsalon

Fanad, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Somewhat hard to find, very easy to enjoy. Donegal is packed with quality links and this is the secret find, as befits a course that crept into our GB&I ranking earlier this year. The 2nd tee offers one of Ireland’s best views – and that is some statement. Inconsistent finish costs it a few places.

Design 30.0 Setting 13.4 Memorability 11.4 Playability 8.6 Consistency 6.6 Presentation 7.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.4

83 Gullane No.2

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland 

Just because there is No.1, it is easy to overlook No.2. To do so is a tragedy as the second course here really must not be under-rated. Once on top of Gullane hill you are rewarded with fine views and some sufficiently varied holes. Less drama than No.1, but will still be a fixture in this list.

Design 31.3 Setting 11.0 Memorability 11.5 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 8.5 
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

82 Montrose (1562)

Montrose, Angus, Scotland

A classic links course that can be a severe test, particularly in windy conditions.

Plenty of variety that is bettered only by the history of one of the world’s ancient playing areas. Erosion threatens this links so get there soon to play it as close to what was originally intended as possible.

Design 30.1 Setting 13.5 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.7 Consistency 6.3 Presentation 7.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

81 Rosapenna (Old Tom)

Downings, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Expect two very different feeling nines on Old Tom, with the front nine relatively sheltered and sedate, and the back nine more exposed to the wind. It is a great contrast to Sandy Hills – and some may well prefer the No.2 here. Really enjoyable, straightforward links golf.

Design 31.3 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.6 Playability 8.1 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

80 Wallasey

Wirral, Merseyside, England

Much more than just the home of Stableford. Characterful holes and a fast-running experience on a links that rarely gets the credit it warrants. You can routinely expect firm, slick greens here. Wonderful front nine view over the sea and the Port of Liverpool. 

Design 31.7 Setting 11.1 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.6 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

Fraserburgh is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

79 Fraserburgh

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Records suggest golf was played on these rumpled, narrow fairways even before the 1780 date which is noted as the birth of the club. What isn’t for debate is how fabulous Fraserburgh is. A couple of our panelists absolutely rave about it and would have it 20 places higher.

Design 31.5 Setting 11.7 Memorability 11.5 Playability 8.1 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

78 Trevose

Padstow, Cornwall, England

Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert has helped this links on the edge of the Atlantic punch its weight without losing its Colt legacy. 

Trevose’s iconic 4th received a major overhaul so that now, standing on the green, the glorious views behind are in sight. Half of the other holes have also been extensively re-worked and Trevose is now threatening a return to our GB&I Top 100 ranking.

Design 30.1 Setting 13.5 Memorability 11.2 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.5  Presentation 7.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

77 Panmure

Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

Panmure has a slow start and finish, but is top quality in between. Great history and some brilliant holes. A pleasing middle-section of holes over more rumpled land is right out of the top drawer. The turf is a particular joy to strike irons off. 

Design 31.2 Setting 11.1  Memorability 11.3 Playability 8.3  Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

RELATED: Golf World Top 100 Courses in Scotland

76 Hayling

Hayling Island, Hampshire, England 

A true gem, one of the only true links on the south coast west of Rye. A links played over interesting terrain that gets better as the round progresses. Terrific fescue turf gets it a few extra nods from the panel. A wonderful variety of holes.

Design 31.0 Setting 11.8  Memorability 11.9 Playability 8.1 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5


Tom Watson is a five-time Open champion and legend of links golf.

Five-time Open champion Tom Watson on his love of links golf courses

“The first time I played the Old Course was in 1978. I really didn’t like it. It was too blind and there were too many bounces and variables. I didn’t like playing the game with so many variables. I liked to be in control.

"l didn’t grow to love links golf until just prior to the 1981 Open at Sandwich. My epiphany came during a wonderful series of rounds I had with my friend Sandy Tatum. We started out at Ballybunion in Ireland and had a glorious time there. Then we flew over and played Prestwick and Troon in one day, before taking a helicopter up to Royal Dornoch.

"On the 16th hole, I said to Sandy: “This is about as much fun as I’ve ever had playing golf.” That’s when I truly fell in love with the links style of golf.”

RELATED: The course aiming to conquer the world

Golf World Top 100: The Best Links Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland 75-51

To read Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram's review of each course, simply click on its name

75 Littlestone

Littlestone-on-Sea, Kent, England

Fast running and windswept – a delight on a sunny day. Runs fast in summer…  in fact it plays on firm land all year round as befits its location in the driest part of Britain. Bags of character and terrific use of the gently undulating terrain. 

Design 30.5 Setting 11.2  Memorability 12.0 Playability 8.2 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.5

Castletown is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

74 Castletown

Castletown, Isle of Man, England 

Some spectacular scenes and golf holes on this Manx links. The skills of Old Tom and Mackenzie Ross have combined to create a stellar links on the Isle of Man. Rugged, raw and dramatic. Castletown has one of the best settings in the second 50 of this list.

Design 30.2 Setting 12.8  Memorability 12.3  Playability 7.7  Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.6

73 Dunbar

Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotlan

Springy fairways by the Firth of Forth. Dunbar may begin and end relatively modestly, but everything in between is magnificent with holes that get you right down to the shore. Some of the best fescue in this list.

Design 31.0 Setting 12.3  Memorability 11.0 Playability 8.2 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.6

72 Seacroft

Skegness, Lincolnshire, England 

A relatively unheralded gem, Seacroft is a really enjoyable links overlooking The Wash just south of Skegness. Brilliantly set down across dune ridges on the Lincolnshire coast. Fascinating, playable and pure out-and-back links, one of the few on England’s east coast. 

Design 31.0 Setting 11.5  Memorability 12.0 Playability 8.7 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.8

71 Portstewart

Portstewart, Derry, Northern Ireland

The back nine was sharpened up for the recent Irish Open, but it still represents a slight letdown after a stunning opening half. Inconsistent, but at its best on the front nine, Portstewart offers peerless excitement amid some giant dunes. 

Design 31.0 Setting 13.1  Memorability 13.5  Playability 7.4 Consistency 5.5 Presentation 7.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.8

70 Goswick

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England

James Braid was typically astute on this links land. The fact Goswick is a relatively isolated high-class course should not deter you from making the journey to this charming links (conveniently just off the A1) which boasts a diverse set of holes overlooking Holy Island.

Design 31.0 Setting 11.5  Memorability 12.1 Playability 8.6  Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.8

69 Glasgow Gailes

Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland

A driver’s course cutting through swathes of gorse and heather. A generally flat links course with some really good holes, Glasgow Gailes offers a nice flow and sequence, a stringent test with no real weak holes in sight. Improved markedly of late to more than justify its place here.

Design 32.9 Setting 11.5  Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.6  Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.0 
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.8

68 Southerness

Southerness, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

The pride of Dumfries and Galloway, albeit with views to the south over the fells of the Lake District. The par 4s on the back nine would sit comfortably among the top-20 links in this list. Gorse is a very clear and ever-present threat for those straying from the fairway.

Design 32.4 Setting 11.5  Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.8  Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.8

Dundonald Links is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

67 Dundonald

Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland

A modern links design, with some of Scotland’s deepest bunkers. Kyle Phillips is one of the great modern architects and while Dundonald lacks seaside panoramas, it makes up for it in drama and is poised to get even better with architect Tim Lobb overseeing.

Design 32.8 Setting 7.7  Memorability 12.3 Playability 8.0 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 8.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 77.9

66 Tralee

Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland 

Clifftop-links laid out by Arnold Palmer that possesses bags of drama and breathtaking scenery. The nines are somewhat imbalanced [the best holes are on the back nine], but coming home is a truly epic experience. Tralee loses a few marks here for its less-linksy clifftop character.

Design 30.0 Setting 14.1 Memorability 13.8 Playability 7.3 Consistency 6.0 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 79

65 Moray (Old)

Lossiemouth, Inverness-shire, Scotland

The Old here – the New is in our ‘Next 50’ – ends dramatically with a fantastically sited 18th green right under the windows of the clubhouse. Subtle links that is threaded between gorse towards delightful greens. Moray Old packs a punch right to the end, building and building to a fine finale.

Design 32.0 Setting 11.5 Memorability 13.1 Playability 8.6 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 79.8

64 Luffness

Aberlady, East Lothian, Scotland 

Luffness won’t blow you away, but it will test your patience and your ball-striking. Known as a ‘Mini Muirfield’, this pedigree links replicates the unobtrusive class of the revered Open host and boasts some stellar holes and lots of deep bunkers. Expect nothing else but a high-class experience.

Design 32.9 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.7 Playability 7.4 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 79.8

63 Ballyliffin (Old)

Inishowen, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Ballyliffin’s courses can never be more than a dozen places apart in any ranking [in this case it’s 11 spots] – they are so close in quality. While the Glashedy enjoys the best of the higher ground, the Old has more than its share of crumpled fairways, clever bunkering and entertaining greens.

Design 32.0 Setting 11.5 Memorability 13.1 Playability 8.6 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 79.8

62 Southport and Ainsdale

Southport, Merseyside, England

S&A incorporates a carefully weaved routing that ensures the wind is coming from different angles during your round. This two-time Ryder Cup venue unusually starts with a par 3 before winding through the dunes and pines so characteristic of
this coastline.

Design 32.4 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.7 Playability 8.9 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 79.9

61 The Renaissance Club

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

“The cliffside holes by the Firth of Forth are superb – it’s just a shame there aren’t just a few more of them,” wrote one panellist. It might be true, but Tom Doak’s routing is predictably masterful, the green complexes typically intriguing and the steady land used to its maximum. 

Design 33.2 Setting 11.6 Memorability 11.4 Playability 7.5 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 8.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 80

Aberdovey is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

60 Aberdovey

Aberdovey, Gwynedd, Wales

The railway line is a very real and present hazard – and it’s all the better for that. Bernard Darwin’s favourite dishes up everything you’d expect from a proper links – bumps and humps, swales and hollows, tight seaside turf and prominent dunes. Not as consistent as some, but the highlights at the start and the end are splendid. 

Design 32.4 Setting 11.5 Memorability 13.6 Playability 8.3 Consistency 6.5 Presentation 7.7 

Golf World top 100 total: 80

59 Elie

Elie, Fife, Scotland

Quirky [look no further than submarine periscope towering 10m above the starter’s hut!] and great fun. Elie used to be Fife’s forgotten course – not any more. Beautiful use of the terrain to create a links of rare class. Just enough quirkiness to see it rise above many more famous names in the list.

Design 31.4 Setting 11.9 Memorability 12.3 Playability 8.6 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 80

58 Rosapenna (Sandy Hills)

Downings, Co. Donegal, Ireland

If you like plateau greens, you’ll love Pat Ruddy’s Sandy Hills monster. Rosapenna’s No.1 – the Old Tom follows later – is a serious, serious test. In inclement weather it is very tough and your short game will be tested to the limit around those greens, but you’ll love taking it on.

Design 33.0 Setting 13.8 Memorability 13.1 Playability 5.3 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 6.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 80

57 St Andrews (New)

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland 

Don’t be lulled by the straightforward start, St Andrews shows its teeth later. It is in some people’s eyes a truer and fairer test than the Old, which inevitably means it’s not as characterful and quirky. But its placing at No.57 illustrates how highly we rate the little sister to our No.2.

Design 32.4 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.0 Playability 8.6 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 80

56 Enniscrone

Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, Ireland

Rugged, remote links golf at its ‘edgy’ best. May lack a little consistency compared to the elite links in this list, but its best holes are very, very good. In a land so easy on the eye, it boasts some of the most dramatic scenes in Ireland, with undulating fairways lined by marram-covered dune ridges.

Design 32.5 Setting 12.9 Memorability 13.4 Playability 7.3 Consistency 6.4 Presentation 7.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.1

55 Brora

Brora, Sutherland, Scotland

James Braid used the natural features to full effect. Tracks the coast and the small-to-medium sized undulations perfectly. Plays over near flawless links terrain with the added bonus of some dramatic elevation changes. Braid enthusiasts adore their man’s Highlands masterpiece.

Design 31.4 Setting 11.9 Memorability 12.6 Playability 8.6 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.1

54 Royal North Devon

Westward Ho!, Devon, England

Famous for its bulrushes, on hand to gobble up an inaccurate drive, Royal North Devon Golf Club is known as England’s St Andrews. It’s not a silly comment, given the history of the course and also the strategic way this gently rippling links tests your game. A wonderfully historic clubhouse, too.

Design 32.5 Setting 10.9 Memorability 12.6 Playability 8.7 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.3

53 Carne

Belmullet, Co. Mayo, Ireland 

“More ups and downs than the FTSE 100,” suggested one panellist. “Wild, wild, wild” said another. Both are correct. This is a remote links that’s grand in scale and variety. Only the intrepid ever get here – but it’s worth it. If high-octane links action is your thing, start planning a trip right now.

Design 33.2 Setting 12.8 Memorability 13.9 Playability 6.6 Consistency 6.8 Presentation 7.0.
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.3

52 Ballyliffin (Glashedy)

Ballyliffin, Donegal, Ireland

Rarely plays without a stiff breeze – or stronger… Glashedy is a modern links that does very well to hang on to the traditional courses that dominate the top 50 of our list. It is characterised by large, testing greens and plenty of bunkers – tame her, and you have played extremely well. 

Design 34.2 Setting 12.6 Memorability 12.2 Playability 6.3 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 7.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.6

Pennard is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

51 Pennard

Swansea, West Glamorgan, Wales

There is nowhere quite like it – cows, castle ruins and footpaths litter the course, but who cares when you are having such fun?
A links set down on clifftops that is tremendously entertaining and a very unusual experience in terms of trying to classify a links that does sit on clifftops.

Design 31.3 Setting 12.6 Memorability 13.6 Playability 8.0 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.6

Three legends of the game pick their best links golf course

Sir Nick Faldo

“If I think about memorability, I think about Muirfield. It is a good, solid, honest course. It is a good mind game. But you better play well there!”

Annika Sorenstam

“St Andrews is a fabulous place. It’s just a treat to play the golf course. I love it. It does not get better than the Old Course.”

Colin Montgomerie

“I put Royal Porthcawl in the same category as Turnberry and Royal Birkdale. If the weather plays its part, it’s a super test.”

RELATED: The best golf course in England revealed

Golf World Top 100: The Best Links Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland 50-26

To read Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram's review of each course, simply click on its name

50 Prince’s

Sandwich, Kent, England

The Shore and Dunes nines had always been the premier combination at Prince’s, which overlooks Sandwich Bay in Kent and has Royal St George’s as its over-the-fence neighbour. 

 But after a significant overhaul by the R&A’s preferred architect, Martin Ebert, of Mackenzie & Ebert, the Himalayas is now the equal of its sisters… if not even better and this former Open venue is one of Britain's premier courses again.

Design 33.0 Setting 12.2 Memorability 12.0 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.6

49 West Lancs

Blundellsands, Merseyside, England

Possibly tougher than its famous Merseyside neighbours. An unassuming club and an unfussy links. Always in terrific condition, West Lancs is not to be messed with – it will take anyone’s game on and give it a match. The collection of short holes is sensational. 

Design 32.7 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.3 Consistency 8.7 Presentation 8.8

Golf World Top 100 total: 80.6

48 Nairn

Nairn, Highlands, Scotland 

The host of many international events, from Curtis to Walker Cups, Nairn is a class act. The variety of holes here is wonderful, with the shoreside holes the scenic highlight, but there is also much to commend those that head inland, too. Its greens are like baize – few will be better in this whole list.

Design 33.0 Setting 12.5 Memorability 12 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 8.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.6

Hunstanton is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

47 Hunstanton

Hunstanton, Norfolk, England

Renowned for the speed and quality of its greens. Hunstanton has the championship calibre to neighbour Royal West Norfolk’s quirk and eccentricity. A consistent affair that’s always in impeccable condition, with some fearsome bunkering and a tricky closing stretch. 

Design 33.0 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.4 Playability 7.7 Consistency 8.2 Presentation 8.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.6

46 Royal St David’s

Harlech, Gwynedd, Wales

Royal St David's has you on the drive through the village, with the most perfect glimpse of its linksland that doesn’t disappoint. It lies between Harlech Castle and Cardigan Bay on terrific, rumpled land that was simply made for golf. One of the few great links to end with a par 3. 

Design 33.5 Setting 12.4 Memorability 11.8 Playability 6.9 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 80.7

45 Dumbarnie Links

Fife, Scotland

Scotland's newest links had to be special to stand out – it is and it has. It will be extremely popular with American golfers as well as Brits for its mix of scenery, risk-reward holes and playability. We even predict the 17th, a sharp dog-leg right which will bemuse some off the tee and might be pinpointed as a weaker hole, will end up being a heroic moment in the round. As Dumbarnie matures and settles – giving it higher Presentation marks – expect it to rise in our 100s. This, rest assured, is a cautious first ranking.

Design 31.1  Setting 13.6 Memorability 13.2 Playability 8.3 Consistency 7.7  Presentation 7.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.0

44 Machrihanish Dunes

Machrihanish, Argyll, Scotland

The property stretches out over 270 acres, on a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the course built without resort to major earth shifting. The most raw course David McLay Kidd has ever built – and all the better for that. Supremely scenic and with some all-world holes draped across the linksland.

Design 33.1 Setting 12.6  Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.0 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 6.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.0

43 Hillside

Southport, Lancashire, England

Starts flat and gradually becomes more and more hilly, it adds much to Southport’s portfolio. The back nine among towering dunes is epic, like next door Birkdale, but Hillside wouldn’t grace the top 50 if the front nine’s routing and tee locations weren’t also high class. It indubitably is. 

Design 32.9 Setting 12.6  Memorability 12.9 Playability 7.8 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.0

42 County Louth

Baltray, Co. Louth, Ireland

Few dazzling sea views on offer here, but some impressive dunes nonetheless. A good player’s links course. Traditional, no-frills layout that does not try to overwhelm you and just lets effortless holes sitting in the natural terrain do all the talking. Baltray is the choice of those in the know in Ireland.

Design 33.2 Setting 11.6  Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.8 Consistency 8.1 Presentation 8.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.4

41 Gullane No.1

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

Very underrated and so often overshadowed by nearby Muirfield and North Berwick. No.1 incorporates a variety of holes that are not found at many more heralded links. Brilliant routing that works the landscape magnificently. Supremely conditioned yet admirably feels natural.

Design 33.2 Setting 11.6  Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.8 Consistency 8.1 Presentation 8.3 
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.4

Trump International Golf Links Ireland (Doonbeg) is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

40 Trump International Golf Links Ireland (Doonbeg)

Kilkee, Co. Clare, Ireland 

Recently toned down due to coastal erosion [five greens were washed away in 2014], but Doonbeg still a tough proposition. We loved the original by Greg Norman and are impressed by Martin Hawtree’s renovation. The loss of the bewildering par-3 14th is a shame, but its replacement is hardly boring.

Design 33.0 Setting 13.7  Memorability 12.7 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.4

39 County Sligo

Rosses Point, Co. Sligo, Ireland

As inspiring a setting of sea and mountains as any in the British Isles. Expect acute elevation changes, magnificent views of Benbulben [Ireland’s Table Mountain], and some brilliant holes that strain brain and brawn at this unassuming links. A top-40 slot, ahead of some feted Irish links.

Design 33.9 Setting 12.8  Memorability 12.6 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.5

38 The European

Brittas Bay, Co. Dublin, Ireland 

The European is a magnificent test that is well-suited to those with a strong long-game. It is a classic Pat Ruddy examination – as you’d expect from the man who owns the club and designed the course. With the freedom to do as he wished, he produced a titanic, brawny test... just as he likes it. 

Design 32.5 Setting 13.5  Memorability 13.3 Playability 6.1 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 7.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 81.6

37 Western Gailes

Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland 

Lying along a thin strip close by the sea, crosswinds are a strong factor at this Ayrshire links. High-class hole after high-class hole unfolds in front of you on a pedigree links that takes no prisoners. Western Gailes’ par 4s ooze quality as they examine your game thoroughly.

Design 34.9 Setting 11.5  Memorability 12.2 Playability 6.9 Consistency 8.9 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.1

36 The Island

Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland 

Not a big name and easily overlooked, but a brilliant links, as we’ve been stating for the past few years. Mackenzie & Ebert’s rework has enhanced what we always rated as one of Ireland’s elite, with new bunkering, new tees and greens and a couple of new holes. Understated excellence.

Design 34.3 Setting 12.0  Memorability 13.1 Playability 7.2 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 7.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.3

Rye is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

35 Rye

Rye, East Sussex, England

A Harry Colt seaside masterpiece that will enchant with its layout and feel from start to finish. A historic links that oozes charisma with a set of par 3s overshadowed by very few even within this stellar list. Yet, while Rye’s short holes are correctly admired, the par 4s are equally strong. 

Design 35.3 Setting 12.1  Memorability 13.0 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.3

34 Silloth-on-Solway

Silloth, Cumbria, England

Located far from the madding crowd in coastal Cumbria, but worth the effort to get there. Silloth rewards the determined traveller for their journey with an epic round among notable dunes leading to terrific green complexes. Scored very highly among the panel for its routing.

 

Design 34.2 Setting 12.1  Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 7.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.3

 

33 The Machrie

Islay, Argyll, Scotland

Tour-player-turned-architect DJ Russell full-scale overhaul of the Machrie means it now makes even more of its seaside location.

It is distinctly more playable and has retained the unique, endearing features that it was always famed for. Blind shots are still very much part of the Machrie experience, but now only if you get out of position. Add in terrific natural presentation, a pleasing variety of holes and a brilliant routing and you have one of Scotland’s elite links layouts.

Design 34.2 Setting 12.8  Memorability 13.0 Playability 7.5 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 8.0
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.4

32 Saunton (East)

Braunton, Devon, England

“A tough track with more long par 4s than you can shake a niblick at,” is how one panellist described the East. The start is certainly absolutely epic, with a succession of elegant but exacting par 4s that are right out of the top drawer. That there are 31 better links shows the high standard.

Design 33.2 Setting 12.7  Memorability 12.8 Playability 7.4 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.4

31 Machrihanish

Machrihanish, Argyll, Scotland 

Much to enjoy, even after the famed opening drive across the beach. Machrihanish could easily have ranked higher, because the highs are iconic and truly unforgettable. Just a little inconsistent with some sedate moments, especially the last couple – but by then you are spellbound by Mach Old. 

Design 34.7 Setting 12.5  Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.5 Consistency 6.8 Presentation 7.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.4

30 Royal Porthcawl

Rest Bay, Mid Glamorgan, Wales

A links masterpiece that’s hosted a number of Senior Opens, Wales’ No.1 enraptures you within the opening trio. The pace is however maintained throughout, with constant views of the sea and a terrific variety of holes. The Walker Cup host is better presented now than ever.

Design 33.2 Setting 12.5  Memorability 12.7 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.7 Presentation: 8.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 82.5

29 Royal West Norfolk

Brancaster, Norfolk, England

If fun, entertaining, eccentric golf is your bag, start planning your trip now. No other course in Britain changes with the tides as  Brancaster does – you need to check the tide tables before visiting as you could very easily end up cut off in the car park. Tremendous fun at a terrific club.

Design 34.7 Setting 12.1  Memorability 13.9 Playability 8.0 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 83.5

Burnham and Berrow is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

28 Burnham and Berrow

Burnham, Somerset, England 

Blessed with some of the best green sites in England. We love Burnham & Berrow and have championed it for some time. The front nine is incredible and we don’t have a problem with the so-called ‘weak’ holes around the turn. If anything, they prime you for the great golf coming in.

Design 34.1 Setting 11.5  Memorability 13.8 Playability 7.8 Consistency 8.8 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 83.8

27 Formby

Southport, Lancashire, England

Classic links holes punctuated by a fine mid-round woodland stretch. One panellist has this as their top course in Southport – and bearing in mind Royal Birkdale is just along the coast, that’s how good Formby Golf Club is. It has a pleasingly consistent quality of turf, too. Well worthy of this notable position.

Design 34.9 Setting 12.3  Memorability 12.9 Playability 7.8 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 7.7

Golf World Top 100 total: 84.2

26 Royal Aberdeen

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

You can’t forget to make the turn after the 9th here, or you could end up playing next door Murcar by mistake. The front nine is as good as its reputation says it is. The back nine might well be less explosive – where isn’t? – but this links oozes class from every blade of its fine fescue.

Design 34.8 Setting 12.6  Memorability 13.6 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 8.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 84.6

Golf World Top 100: The Best Links Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland 25-11

To read Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram's review of each course, simply click on its name

25 Castle Stuart

Inverness, Highlands, Scotland

Memorable infinity views, which made for great television coverage during the Scottish Open, this is an expansive, playable and strategic modern classic. Castle Stuart could have been a touch higher but for the odd question mark over its links purity, a result of the sometimes clifftop feel.

Design 34.2 Setting 14.3  Memorability 12.9 Playability 8.3 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 84.8

Royal Cinque Ports is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

24 Royal Cinque Ports

Deal, Kent, England 

Benefits from some of Britain’s most naturally undulating terrain. A fast-running links with rippling fairways and unexpected green locations. Littered with fine holes, Deal should not be overlooked for more celebrated neighbour, St George’s. Understated, but not underpowered.

Design 35.9 Setting 11.5  Memorability 13.3 Playability 7.2 Consistency 8.9 Presentation 8.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 84.9

23 Prestwick

Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland 

Too short for modern Opens, but still presents a tremendous amount of fun for amateurs. It’s odd that Prestwick is not regarded more highly than it is. For us, it has the history, it has the holes and it has the setting, as this position suggests. Simply a must play, and deserves this top-25 slot.

Design 35.9 Setting 11.7 Memorability 13.8 Playability 8.6 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.3

22 Lahinch

Liscannor Bay, Co. Clare, Ireland

‘Ireland’s St Andrews’ – and every bit as memorable and atmospheric as that title suggests. The blind par-3 5th, ‘Dell’, and the iconic par-5 4th, ‘Klondyke’, take all the headlines, but Lahinch is much more than those two. As many as nine epic holes and super views to boot. A masterpiece. 

Design 36.0 Setting 13.0 Memorability 13.9 Playability 8.0  Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.4

Golf World Top 100 total: 85.3

21 St Enodoc (Church)

Wadebridge, Cornwall, England

One of the few links to play all around a churchyard, St Enodoc’s aptly-named premier course boasts a magnificent opening six holes and a wonderful finish. A quieter corner on the back nine loses it a mark or two for consistency, but this is a world-class, super-fun links course.

Design 35.5 Setting 13.7 Memorability 14.0 Playability 7.5 Consistency 6.8 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.3

20 Royal Liverpool

Hoylake, Merseyside, England

For some it is a tough and austere golf course, but for us Hoylake is beautifully conditioned, interesting and historic.

It begins with subtlety, which might leave the casual golfer underwhelmed but the connoisseur intrigued, however the middle stretch along and through the coastline dunes will satisfy all who play here.

Its return to The Open rota has enhanced its reputation and prestige further and in real terms the gift of a brand-new, Martin Ebert-designed par 3 – the 17th hole, played towards an elevated green looking out to the Dee Estuary.

Design 36.1 Setting 11.2  Memorability 12.9 Playability 7.9 Consistency 8.9 Presentation 8.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.4

Waterville is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

19 Waterville

Waterville, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Thrilling from the moment you arrive at this south-west Ireland outpost. The final three are as good as anywhere; they sum up the best golf has to offer – a short par 4, a mid-length par 3, a par 5 just about reachable for the very long. Each one is a brilliant test in its own right.

Design 35.0 Setting 13.6 Memorability 13.4 Playability 8.0 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.4

18 Royal Troon (Championship)

Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland

Despite what you may have heard, it’s not all about the par-3 Postage Stamp. Troon is generally underrated, with a scenic start, iconic middle among lots of gorse and next to the classic railway line, and a tough closing stretch [often into wind]. An awesome experience.

Design 35.4 Setting 12.4 Memorability 13.8 Playability 7.5 Consistency 8.1 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.4

17 Ballybunion (Old)

Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, Ireland

From the 6th tee onwards, one great hole follows another. If it’s good enough to charm a links connoisseur like Tom Watson, then it’s plenty good enough for us.

If you enjoy dramatic holes among towering dunes, you’ll adore Ballybunion, one of Ireland’s stellar links.

Design 35.6 Setting 13.8  Memorability 13.9 Playability 7.6 Consistency 6.5 Presentation 8.2
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.6

16 Skibo Castle

Dornoch, Highlands, Scotland

After a comprehensive overhaul led by Mackenzie and director of golf David Thomson, Skibo now rightly rubs shoulders with the elite in British and Irish golf. The absence of gorse is the most obvious change, but the routing has changed, individual holes have changed and even the character of the course has changed. It is more linksy than ever and in astonishing condition.

Design 34.5 Setting 14.0 Memorability 13.1 Playability 6.9 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 9.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.6

15 Trump International Golf Links Aberdeen

Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

A course as ambitious and bold as its owner, and which just about lives up to the hype. Loses some marks for its purity of links, despite sitting among huge dunes. Big holes, big views, big drama and a very big experience. The 14th tee, pictured, offers one of GB&I’s jaw-dropping moments.

Design 33.8 Setting 13.9 Memorability 14.4 Playability 6.7 Consistency 8.9 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.6

14 Royal Lytham & St Annes

Lytham, Lancashire, England

“A monster of a course, ready to devour your game,” is how one panellist described it. Lytham is certainly no pushover. There isn’t a weak hole to be found. The turf is immaculate, bouncy and inviting and the closing stretch is just magnificent. ‘Pure’ sounds twee, but Lytham is exactly that.

Design 37.3 Setting 8.5 Memorability 13.4 Playability 7.6 Consistency 9.6 Presentation 9.3
Golf World Top 100 total: 85.7

Cruden Bay is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

13 Cruden Bay

Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Just the once is never enough. Not even close. A superb routing, full of half-par holes, rumpled ground, dramatic elevation change and truly mesmerising vistas. Those elements combined, No.13 on this list does not flatter Cruden Bay – the top 10 would not flatter it. Endlessly entertaining.

Design 35.9 Setting 12.7 Memorability 14.4 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 86.0

12 Kingsbarns Golf Links

Kingsbarns, Fife, Scotland

Much loved for its playability and stunning sea views on every hole, Kingsbarns is a modern masterpiece. Kyle Phillips’ sequencing of holes takes you on a wonderful journey along  a glorious stretch of coastline. Loses some marks for its purity-of-links factor.

Design 34.3 Setting 13.9 Memorability 13.4 Playability 8.5 Consistency 8.1 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 86.0

11 Portmarnock (Old)

Malahide, Dublin, Ireland

The scene of more famous events in Irish golf than any other links. This is a player’s course, oozing pedigree and demanding quality shots. An ‘Irish Muirfield’ in its examination, Portmarnock is all class. In most countries and in most lists in the world, it’s No.1. 

Design 36.2 Setting 11.8 Memorability 13.4 Playability 7.0 Consistency 9.2 Presentation 8.4
Golf World Top 100 total: 86.0

Golf World Top 100: The Best Links Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland 10-1

To read Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram's review of each course, simply click on its name 

Carnostie Golf Links Championship course is among the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

10 Carnoustie Golf Links (Championship)

Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

Can be brutal if you attempt to play off tees beyond your capability. Unremittingly demanding and utterly unfussy, Carnoustie is a pure and comprehensive test. There are however regular lighter moments as well as gorgeous linksland scenes. Very possibly the best-presented links in the country.

Design 35.8 Setting 10.9 Memorability 13.5 Playability 6. 9 Consistency 9.2 Presentation 9.7
Golf World Top 100 total: 86.0

North Berwick is among the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

9 North Berwick

North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland

If there’s one course our panelists said they would return to again and again and still get unbridled enjoyment playing it, this was it. North Berwick is home to some of the world’s most replicated holes – which is testament to its memorability [note its score in that category] and entertainment.

Design 37.1 Setting 12.5  Memorability 14.4 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total:  87.4

Royal Dornoch is among the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

8 Royal Dornoch

Dornoch, Highlands, Scotland

Play on a sunny summer evening and get a glimpse of heaven. Your appreciation grows with each and every visit. One of the finest natural links in the world and in ‘Foxy’ – the famed par-4 14th – Dornoch boasts a hole that is among the word’s finest.

Design 36.5 Setting 13.4 Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.8 Consistency 8.3 Presentation 7.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 87.4

Royal Birkdale is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

7 Royal Birkdale

Southport, Merseyside, England 

A tough but fair test – the English Muirfield, routed through some enormous dunes. It’s one of our most cherished and majestic links, few courses sustain the nature and extent of their challenge from start to finish as consistently as Birkdale.

Design 35.3 Setting 12.2 Memorability 13.9 Playability 8.1 Consistency 9.0 Presentation 8.9
Golf World Top 100 total: 87.4

Royal St George's is among the best links golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

6 Royal St George’s

Sandwich, Kent, England

Royal St George's is quintessentially English in character – lovable, a little eccentric, but tough underneath. We are quite sure this Open-hosting golf course is England’s best links. Gorgeous dunescape provides some of the best set of green sites in this list.

Design 36.3 Setting 12.6 Memorability 13.9 Playability 8.3 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 7.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 87.5

Royal Portrush's Dunluce is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

5 Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

Portrush, Co.Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Dunluce requires and rewards good driving more than most. A wonderful journey among high dunes that take you to the edge of the sea and back.

The land is a mix of quietly rippling fairways mixed with often notable changes in elevation, all the while with drama seemingly awaiting around every corner. Some understandably quibble with the decision to change the course in order to host The Open, but in the two new holes by Martin Ebert the Dunluce has at least gained two epic tests. Colt’s green complexes are as elegant as any links in this list. 

Design 35.6 Setting 13.2 Memorability 13.9 Playability 7.6 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 8.8
Golf World Top 100 total: 87.5

Muirfield is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

4 Muirfield

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

Golfing perfection, only lacking the scenery to match. Muirfield does the pure links golf experience exceptionally well. Outstanding routing, majestic bunkering, strategically brilliant and peerless condition and consistency.

The walk from the car park to the clubhouse gives you time to think. You are about to play a legendary course, to enter a legendary club. Stepping onto the 1st tee, you know you are in for a fight – against nature, Old Tom [original 1891 layout], as well as Harry Colt [1923 revision].

Every hole is tough, the routing is unrivalled, the rough unrelenting. But there is inspiration, from some of the great moments in Open history. It’s a dramatic course, but not in the drama of great and not so great holes… they are all good, if not better than good.

Design 37.5 Setting 12.1 Memorability 13.2 Playability 7.4 Consistency 9.5 Presentation 9.6
Golf World Top 100 total: 89.3

Trump Turnberry's Ailsa is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

3 Turnberry (Ailsa)

Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland

Donald Trump’s multi-million pound investment has led to a masterful remake, and the changes make the difference between a top-10 spot and a top-three ranking. That third on this list is the absolute lowest we could have placed the Ailsa sums up how effective the overhaul by Martin Ebert has been there.

We loved the Ailsa for many years, but eventually saw its flaws – that it didn’t make the most of the peerless location, that it had weak holes and it felt disjointed. None of those complaints remain now, after Ebert’s renovation.

The ‘new’ Ailsa is now one of the world’s finest courses. That’s a fact. It lost a decimal point here and there among the panel for its turf being less pure links than those above it – but we are talking about the very finest of margins here.

Design 36.0 Setting 14.4  Memorability 14.4 Playability 8.7 Consistency 8.3 Presentation 8.5
Golf World Top 100 total: 90.3

St Andrews Old Course is one of Great Britain and Ireland's best links golf courses.

2 St Andrews (Old)

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

Still and always will be the Mecca for any serious scholar of the game. People will tell you to go left from the tee, but that leaves difficult second shots on ‘double’ greens.

The Old Course is the most special experience golf can offer for probably all of us. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on the 1st tee and it makes you think and plot your way around every hole after that.

On the stellar back nine it has in the 11th, the 17th and the 14th – arguably three of the seminal par 3, 4 and 5 holes in the world.

Design 36.8 Setting 13.2 Memorability 14.0 Playability 8.7 Consistency 8.5 Presentation 9.1
Golf World Top 100 total: 90.3

Royal County Down is the best links golf course in Great Britain and Ireland.

1 Royal County Down (Championship)

Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

There are very few courses in the world, never mind by seaside in Britain and Ireland, which mesmerise and challenge as RCD does. The setting is epic, the Mountains of Mourne a brooding presence overlooking linksland that flits between gentle ripples and pronounced mound and dips.

You leave the stellar 18th knowing your game has had one of the hardest exams it will ever undergo, but you’ve also had the best experience of your life, too, where a superstar hole is always imminent, with the stretches on the front nine of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th plus the 7th, 8th and 9th without peer – which is exactly the quality you’d expect from our No.1 links in GB&I.

Design 36.9 Setting 13.7 Memorability 14.1 Playability 7.2 Consistency 8.9 Presentation 9.7 
Golf World Top 100 total: 90.5

Rory McIlroy is a huge fan of Royal County Down.

Why Rory McIlroy loves Royal County Down

I believe this par 3 is also one of the most photographed golf holes anywhere. Essentially, it’s a straightforward hole on a calm day, but gorse and bunkers protect the green and really come into play in breezy conditions.

It’s a very challenging test for any level of player. 

Just like every links course, the elements are its best defence. But you also have a number of blind tee and approach shots to contend with. Then there’s the rough and the gorse, so there can be no let-up in concentration when you play here.

It’s definitely in the top few golf courses in Britain and Ireland. 

There just seem to be too many top links in Britain and Ireland for me to point to just one as the best. Each has its own qualities, quirks and character traits that make it unique. When I’m home, I still play the odd round at Royal County Down with my mates.

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