21 of the toughest courses in the UK


Every golfer enjoys and relishes a challenge…and that is exactly what you’ll get if you tee it up at any of the 21 courses listed below. They’re arguably the most challenging layouts you’re ever likely to face so are you prepared to pit your wits and skills against ther toughest courses around?

Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

A links beast as well as a beauty, ‘Carnasty’ – as it is affectionately known – is widely regarded as the most difficult course on the Open Championship rota and is fraught with danger virtually around every twist and turn with the 18th providing one of the iconic closing holes in golf.

Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

Proud home of England Golf and the awesome Hotchkin course – one of England’s finest layouts, inland or coastal, and you need to make sure you pitch up with you’re A plus game…and avoid the scary house-high bunkers at all costs! Has recently been revamped by top US architect Tom Doak.

Muirfield, East Lothian, Scotland

The legendary Open venue Muirfield is the proud home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, and is regularly voted among the leading UK courses. The place oozes charm and class but, make no mistake, the on-course challenge is a severe one owing to the constant switch in direction of the holes and, therefore, the wind.

St Mellion, Cornwall

Inland courses don’t come much, if any, better or harder than this Jack Nicklaus masterpiece carved from scenic, exquisite rural Cornish countryside. It’s long, tough and memorable with a stunning array of holes and is always in tip-top condition.

Royal Birkdale, Merseyside

This summer’s Open venue begins as it means to go on, a long, challenging double dog-leg par-4 making an opening par here a badge of honour for even the pros. Others point to the short 12th or the three par-5s in four holes to finish as the highlights but the strength of Birkdale is surely not in the high points but in the lack of low points.

Slaley Hall, Northumberland

The so-called ‘Augusta of the North’ is widely recognised as the north east’s leading golfing venue and the Hunting course, a former European Tour venue, is its chief attraction with the ultra-demanding par-4 ‘Sleeping Giant’ 9th the signature of signature holes.

Players Club, Bristol

The Codrington course is tough and demanding with water features – and memorable holes – galore. It’s summed up by the breathtaking par-4 4th where you hit over aqua twice. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of balls in the bag!

Vale Resort (Wales National), South Wales

Top championship layout which has developed a fearsome reputation owing to its length, but that shouldn’t put higher handicappers off: it’s a resort venue after all and therefore there are several tees to play from. But there are some brutally demanding holes, specially the stroke index 1 par-5 2nd, with plenty of water features.

The Belfry, West Midlands

The scene of so much Ryder Cup joy and despair and arguably one of the finest parkland layouts in the land. You can follow in the footsteps of the legends and have a crack at the driveable par-4 10th and the nerve-jangling, potentially card-wrecking finale.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Regularly features in most Top 100 Courses listings and is chiefly a two-ball course which promotes foursomes (alternate shot play). Plotted on classic heathland with gorse-lined fairways, it’s close to the coast and its fast-draining sandy soil means it’s in great year-round condition. Beware of a bunch of devilishly difficult – and long – par-4s!

Royal Lytham & St Annes, Lancashire

Classy Lytham combination of honest challenge and straightforward links attractions such as tight seaside turf and deep pot bunkers. Everyone knows it doesn’t boast the best views but there is plenty enough to like about this fine links and its iconic, statuesque and welcoming clubhouse.

Machyns Peninsula, Carmarthenshire

A decade old beauty as well as a beast overlooking Carmarthen Bay. It’s a demanding Nicklaus design – is there any other? – and unusually for a seaside layout boasts a number of on-course water features. It’s well over 7,000 yards but at least there are five sets of tees to play from!

Forest Pines, North Lincolnshire

Dubbed the ‘Woburn of the North’ and designed by John Morgan, the venue for several big events offers golfers three sets of nine holes in between majestic timber and into open heathland. The longest, most popular and arguably best 18-hole selection involves the imaginatively named Forest and Pines loops. Keep it straight…or else!

Royal Cinque Ports, Kent

World class links next to Royal St George’s and the scene of many Championships, including two Opens in 1909 and 1920, the Amateur Championship in 2013 and one of four Final Open Qualifying venues between 2014-2017. Arguably boasts one of the toughest finishing stretches in the UK.

Forest of Arden, Warwickshire

The Donald Steel-designed Arden course has a wonderful pedigree after hosting the British Masters three times. It’s parkland golf at its best and most demanding, finishing with a breathtaking par-3 over a valley.

Royal County Down, Co. Down, N Ireland

Overlooked by the mystical mountains of Mourne and flanked by the Irish Sea, stunning Co. Down will take your breath away in more ways than one. One of Co. Down’s biggest fans is five-times Open champ Tom Watson who has no hesitation in saying “the outward nine especially is as fine a nine holes as I’ve ever played.” Keep out of the enormous bunkers…at all costs.

Spey Valley, Aviemore, Scotland

There can be few more scenic places to play the Royal & Ancient game than Spey Valley. Part of a super Macdonald hotel complex, this 7,153-yard course is tackled to a backdrop of the Cairngorms with the river Spey running through it.

Castletown Links, Isle of Man

This Turnberry lookalike was originally designed by Old Tom Morris in 1892 and is the premier course on this well endowed golfing island. It has it all, including amazing views, gorgeous turf, exhilarating clifftop location and spectacularly demanding and potentially punishing holes.

Brora, Scottish Highlands

It is easy to under-rate Brora. This far flung ancient links in the north east of Scotland is another timeless James Braid design. Everyone who plays it comes off buzzing – not because they accidentally touched one of the green-protecting electrified fences but because it is one of the most enigmatic, exhilarating links courses anywhere in the world!

Southerndown, South Wales

 Often described as a links but it is more downland in nature though its lofty location means it is affected by the wind. But the turf is linksy while the gorse and bunkers are also seaside-esque.

Pyle & Kenfig, South Wales

Magical links with one of the strongest back nines in the UK. The front nine is pretty good too but the round really picks up from the 11th amidst towering dunes onwards.


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