TG Top 50: Are you ready for a challenge?
Golfers of all playing abilities just love a challenge. In fact that's a good portion of what the game is all about: pushing yourself to your playing limit and tackling courses that will examine all aspects of your game – from driver to mid-iron to putter and everything in-between. And sometimes it's a case of the more demanding the course, the better.
If you can cope with traditionally difficult layouts, your confidence soars and you then fancy your chances of delivering the goods at other times. What's more, when we play a really tough course, we have low expectations of tremendous success... so generally end up playing well! Book a tee time at any of the courses in the following pages and we can assure you of a great test and a great day out... yet not a single one will cost you a penny over £50 despite all of them being of an exceptionally high calibre.
This quality heathland might be just 6,603 yards off the tips, but don't expect to be shooting under your handicap here. There are no par 5s to gorge on and the fairways are mostly lined with ball-swallowing thick gorse.
Green fees: Summer (midweek) – single or foursomes after 3pm, £45. Winter (Nov to March midweek) - Single per round £55.00, or Foursome (per person) per round or day £40.00. Contact: 01728 452890.
Belton Woods, Lincolnshire
Splendid all-round QHotels venue with two 18-hole layouts, the most challenging being the Lakes with, as you would expect, multiple water features. The most notable is the par-5 nale, with the 18th green menacingly perched beyond a lake in front of the hotel.
Green fees: £45 midweek, £55 weekends. Contact: 01476 514332 http://www.qhotels.co.uk/
Challenging par-70 layout with breathtaking coastal views across to Burgh island. But you can't afford to get distracted too much, too often, especially if the wind is blowing. Great year-round holiday golf though.
Green fees: (October 30th - February 28th) £21. Contact: 01548 810557.
Bowood G&CC, Wiltshire
Surely one of the late Dave Thomas's best and most challenging layouts. The gently rolling parkland layout is plotted within the grounds of a 2,000-acre Capability Brown great park. You're tested every inch of the way, especially at the right dog-leg par-4 2nd and the stroke index 1 17th.
Green fees: From £35. Contact: 01249 823881.
Carden Park, Cheshire
You'll have to use all your gol ng nous to successfully negotiate this outstanding Jack Nicklaus parkland, which features several water hazards, notably the 17th that weaves round a large lake in front of the luxury hotel.
Green fees: From £25 midweek. Contact: 01829 731002.
Castletown Links, Isle of Man
Designed by Old Tom Morris in 1892 and home of the premier course on this well- endowed gol ng island. It has amazing views, gorgeous turf, an exhilarating clifftop location and spectacular and demanding holes.
Green fees: £45 in Oct. Contact: 01624 822211.
One of Essex's nest – and toughest. Even though the short-but-testing par-69 parkland is just under 6,000 yards, it's a hard nut to crack for high and low handicappers alike. It is particularly demanding around the greens so make sure your short game is spot on!
Green fees: £50. Contact: 01245 256483.
This mature parkland layout is always in great condition and provides excellent north-east Derbyshire views but if you're to master it, you need to turn up with a red-hot putter to combat the quick greens.
Green fees: £35. Contact: 01246 279256.
Collingtree Park, Northants
A splendid, well-established parkland examination – it is a former European Tour venue and was the handiwork of Johnny Miller after all. There's plenty of water to avoid including the par-5 climaxes to both nines, the 18th famously featuring an island green right in front of the clubhouse!
Green fees: October £32 midweek, £36 weekends. Contact: 01604 700000.
Crowborough Beacon, Sussex
Fine heathland layout and somewhat unheralded Alister MacKenzie creation, lofty Crowborough is perched 800ft above sea level. At just over 6,000 yards it's not long but deserves respect, with most fairways lined by swathes of penal heather.
Green fees: from 1 November £30 Mon--Fri (after 12pm), weekends from £35. Contact: 01892 661511.
The demanding Championship course features a dozen water features so make sure you've plenty of balls. You'll encounter several memorable holes including classic par 3s – while par 5s don't come any tougher than the twisting 3rd, a dogleg with a narrow fairway.
Green fees: £46 midweek. Contact: 01803 712011.
Forest Pines, Lincolnshire
Twenty-seven holes of densely tree-lined golf via the Forest, Pines and Beech nines. The longest and most challenging layout is the Forest and Pines combination, where you particularly need to thread your ball between the mature towering timber that seems to attract balls like metal to magnets.
Green fees: £40 midweek. Contact: 01652 601718.
Hollywood, West Midlands
Formerly known as Gay Hill, you'll do well to master this century-old par-72 parkland which, in places, is as mean and tight as Scrooge. It's a severe all-round test as it proved when staging last year's Midlands Open. Two streams menacingly meander throughout the course.
Green fees: From £15. Contact: 0121 430 8544.
Huddersfield, West Yorks
Founded in 1891 this parkland course sits within Fixby Park and from the long dog- legged 475-yard par-4 opener, Hudders eld – better known locally as Fixby – is a true test. A long-time past host of European Tour and Seniors events, the front nine is relatively at but the inward half is undulating and at its highest on the 18th fairway.
Green fees: £30-£35 Weekdays. Contact: 01484 426203.
John O'Gaut, Bedforshire
Regarded as Bedfordshire's best, the John O'Gaunt layout is a serious examination of parkland golf owing to the combination of mature tree-lined fairways, severe rough and small greens. For a friendlier game, try the club's neighbouring Carthagena.
Green fees: £50 weekends (after 3pm). Contact: 01767 260360.
Kedleston Park, Derbyshire
A wonderful parkland layout with a splendid mixture of long and short holes while the USGA-spec greens are a joy – if somewhat tricky, to putt on. Offers great views of Kedleston Hall too.
Green fees: £30 with county card (midweek), £35 at weekends. Contact: 01332 840035.
King's Lynn, Norfolk
Tight tree-lined championship course – keeping the ball in play off the tee here is imperative if you're going to score low and you need to be aware of the sloping fairways which encourage loose balls to tumble into the assorted timber.
Green fees: £50 from Nov 1. Contact: 01553 631655.
Ladbrook Park, Warwickshire
Hidden away in the Warwickshire countryside, you'll discover this century-old parkland that features a challenging quartet of par 3s including the prime 200-yard 15th. All three par 5s are on the front nine while all the par 4s require precision and especially good course management.
Green fees: £50 midweek. Contact: 01564 742581.
Middleton Hall, Norfolk
Every club in your bag will get a workout at the toughest par-71 test in Norfolk. The key to a good round here is nding the fairways – easier said than done of course – before attacking the small undulating greens.
Green fees: £22-£28. Contact: 01553 841800.
Minehead & West Somerset, Somerset
Intriguing par-72 blend of classic links – pot bunkers protect the greens – with a parkland twist set against the rugged backdrop of the Brendon Hills. You need to hit the narrow fairways – which is no easy task when the strong prevailing wind is blowing.
Green fees: £25. Contact: 01463 702057.
Moor Allerton, West Yorkshire
Modern classic close to Leeds icons Moortown and Alwoodley. It was legendary American architect Robert Trent Jones' rst UK project, boasts 27 holes and there's not a weak one – or cast-iron par – among them.
Green fees: Oct-Mar – £40 midweek, £45 weekends. Contact: 0113 266 1154.
Northants County, Northants
Widely regarded as the toughest course in the county, this is a serious test of golf with tight tee shots demanding both accuracy and length off the tee. Every shot demands your full attention and respect on a course on the fringes of Top 100 England contention.
Green fees: £45 from October 31. Contact: 01604 843025.
North Downs, Surrey
A challenging treat on the North Downs at between 800-850ft above sea level with spectacular panoramic views. But you need to be fully focussed and ignore the fact it's under 6,000 yards owing to the fact it's extremely tight and demands careful shot selection and accuracy.
Green fees: From £15 on Mondays. Contact: 01883 652057.
Home of a mature parkland, originally designed by Harold Hilton, with a great variety of holes plotted within 125 scenic acres. It is a relatively at, easy-walking course with some extremely tight fairways.
Green fees: £50. Contact: 01695 572227.
Players Club, Bristol
The American-style Codrington is a matchplay paradise. It's long, tough and there's water on 14 holes! It can be pretty intimidating, especially the par-4 4th that asks you to twice hit over water.
Green fees: £48 Mon-Thurs. Contact: 01454 313029.
Rockliffe Hall, Co. Durham
At well over 7,000 yards off the back tips, this Marc Westenborg design is one of the longest in Europe. As a resort venue, though, there are several tees to play from. The modern masterpiece features stunning bunkering and water features including a virtual island green.
Green fees: £200 per fourball (Mon-Thurs). Contact: 01325 729980.
St. Mellion (Nicklaus), Cornwall
Inland courses don't come any better or harder than this formidable Jack Nicklaus layout, which is carved from scenic Cornish countryside. It's demanding but memorable with a stunning array of holes.
Green fees: Oct - £30-£40 (after 2pm). Contact: 01579 352004.
Shanklin & Sandown, Isle of Wight
With fairly tight fairways and well-protected greens, S&S is a more-than-worthy challenge for pros and hackers alike. It's kept in tip-top condition throughout the year and affords breathtaking panoramic views.
Green fees: £36 midweek, £40 weekends. Contact: 01983 404424.
South Staffordshire, Staffs
Originally designed by Harry Vardon, South Staffs is a classy parkland which has adapted to the modern game with tree-lined fairways and small greens making accuracy essential.
Green fees: £43 midweek. Contact: 01902 751065.
The Kendleshire, Bristol
Has 27 holes of modern golf (Hollows, Ruffet & Badminton nines) nestling in nearly 260 acres of the Frome valley. You'll be relieved to nd the 11th's Sawgrass-esque island green. Green fees: £100 Early Bird midweek fourball before 9am (coffee, bacon rolls & 18 holes). Contact: 0117 956 7007.
The Shire, Hertfordshire
The only Seve Ballesteros design in the UK is a thrilling layout with water features aplenty. Finishes in style with the signature of signature holes – the approach shot is played over an S-shape (for Seve) stretch of water.
Green fees: Mon-Thur - £190 per fourball, before 12 noon, food included. Contact: 020 8441 7649.
The Tytherington, Cheshire
Another modern layout, the Tytherington opened about two decades ago and features more than 100 bunkers and eight water hazards, including the water-dominated 12th.
Green fees: From £17 (booking online). Contact: 01625 506000.
Thorndon Park, Essex
Sitting in a mature deer park, Thorndon is particularly demanding off the tee. Finishes by looking down the 18th to the clubhouse, originally Thorndon Hall's Palladian mansion.
Green fees: £40 (winter). Contact: 01277 810345.
Woodbury Park, Devon
The championship Oaks layout, supported by the nine-hole Acorns, is de nitely a hard nut to crack, especially off the 7,314-yard back tees. It comprises rolling fairways, a number of lakes, big fast greens and a lake nale.
Green fees: £45 midweek, £50 weekends. Contact: 01395 233500.
Wychwood Park, Cheshire
Has been seriously examining golfers – pros and amateurs – and their patience since opening 15 years ago. It's seriously tough off the back tees (around 7,000 yards), especially considering the numerous water hazards.
Green fees: £40 midweek, £50 weekends. Contact: 01270 820 955.
This dramatic nine holer just down the coast from St Andrews comprises an impressive combination of par 3s and 4s including the most demanding par 3 you're ever likely to play – the 5th, aptly known as The Rockies, that plays over 200 yards.
Green fees: £18 for 9 holes. Contact: 01333 310956.
Everyone who plays this timeless James Braid layout comes off buzzing – not because they accidentally touched one of the green- protecting electri ed fences, but because it is one of the most enigmatic, exhilarating links courses you'll nd anywhere.
Green fees: October – £45. Contact: 01408 621417.
This 2001 Dave Thomas parkland/woodland creation has entertained the EuroPro and Challenge Tours and is majestically plotted amid the beautiful Borders Hills, is skirted by the River Tweed and is one of Scotland's longest and most demanding inland courses.
Green fees: From £15 midweek. Contact: 01896 831144.
Craigielaw, East Lothian
A relatively new star of Scotland's 'Golf Coast', this Donald Steel design opened in 2001 and was a qualifying course for the 2007 British Seniors Open at nearby Muir eld. Look out for the challenging greens, cavernous bunkers and spectacular Firth of Forth views.
Green fees: From Nov 1 - £35 midweek, £45 weekends. Contact: 01875 870800.
Gleddoch House, Renfrewshire
A wonderful undulating mix of mature parkland and heathland holes which weave around a stunning 360-acre estate with amazing Clyde estuary views as well as an inviting four-star hotel.
Green fees: £25 midweek, £35 weekends. Contact: 01475 540704.
Letham Grange, Angus
After a fairly gentle rst six holes, the next six on the Old Course are as tough as you'll play anywhere. They'll test all aspects of your game with long par 4s, tricky par 3s and a par 5 requiring real accuracy. It's backed-up by the less-demanding Glens course.
Green fees: £40 midweek, £50 weekends. Tel: 01241 890373.
Moray (Old), Highlands
Laid out by Old Tom Morris, this links is one of the most demanding around... and that's not even taking into consideration the wind. Seven par 4s measure over 400 yards.
Green fees: From Nov 1 - £25. Contact: 01343 812018.
St Andrews (Jubilee), Fife
Under-rated neighbour of the fabled Old Course but arguably provides the toughest test of the St Andrews Links courses, specially with it being the closest to the sea and therefore the most affected by the wind. And you can play it for a fraction of the price too!
Green fees: £37 from Nov 1. Contact: 01334 466718.
Spey Valley, Inverness-shire
One of the most scenic and demanding places to play in the UK, this is very much architect Dave Thomas' pride and joy. It's tackled to a backdrop of the Cairngorms with the river Spey running through it and you have to drive it straight... or nd yourself in heather or among the silver birch. A glorious but demanding Top 100-ranked course.
Green fees: October fourball £45pp. Contact: 01479 815100.
Wales Conwy, Caernarvonshire
This magical links is a severe test when the wind picks up. Situated at the mouth of the estuary of the River Conwy, clever strategy is needed to score well, particularly in and around the fast greens. The closing three holes are fraught with danger – gorse and bunkers will collect anything slightly wayward.
Green fees: Mon, Tues – £48. Contact: 01492 593400.
Mchyns Peninsula, Carmarthenshire
A beauty as well as a beast overlooking Carmarthen Bay. It's a demanding Nicklaus design 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 ve sets of tees to choose from.
Green fees: £40 midweek, £45 weekends. Contact: 01554 744888.
The challenge starts immediately – the opening shot is severely uphill! The turf is linksy and a delight to strike irons from – but the gorse and bunkers are seaside-esque... and notably penal. Green fees: £50 midweek (afternoons). Contact: 01656 880476.
The Vale (Wales National), Glamorgan
One of the longest layouts in the UK – it's nearly 7,500 yards off the championship tips – is fraught with potential danger with some classic demanding long holes, driveable par-4s and a cracking cluster of par 3s. Oh, and water is in play on eight holes.
Green fees: From £17.50 (booking online). Contact: 01443 665899.
Ireland Donegal, Co. Donegal
Darren Clarke is among the many admirers of this big, robust and often unforgiving links. Not for the faint-hearted on a blustery day.
Green fees: €50 Nov-Mar. Contact: 00 353 74 97 34054.
Kirkistown Castle, Co. Down
Challenging James Braid creation in Northern Ireland with several strong par 4s. You'll particularly do well to achieve par at the par-4 10th with its elevated green.
Green fees: £35 Nov-Mar (midweek). Contact: 028 4277 1233.