(credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images)
In just a few months, the 145th Open Championship will be held at the Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. Home to three world-class golf courses, including the fabled Old Course, this will be the ninth tournament also known as the British Open to be held at Troon and the first since American Todd Hamilton won the 2004 Open in a four-hole playoff against Ernie Els of South Africa. Scotland is also the birthplace of modern golf and, as part of the United Kingdom, is home to some of the most challenging and most famous golf courses in the world. Here is a look at five of the very best golf courses in the U.K., including the course where the modern game of golf was first played in the early 15th century.
Royal Portrush Golf Club
Portrush BT56 8JQ
+44 028 7082 2311
Considered one of the world’s best and most challenging golf courses, Dunluce Links was the setting for the only British Open not on the mainland of Great Britain. With splendid views of the ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle, the 7,143-yard, Par 72 championship course was designed by the famed British architect Harry Colt, who also helped redesign other high-profile golf courses such as the old courses at Sunningdale, Muirfield and Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Among the featured holes are the 411-yard, Par 4 5th hole with its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the windswept 210-yard Par 3 14th hole aptly known as Calamity Corner. In addition hosting The Open Championship in 1951, the historic Royal Portrush Golf Club has also hosted three Amateur Championships and four Irish Opens. Established in 1888, the Royal Portrush Golf Club is slated to host the Open Championship again in 2019.
East Lothian, EH31 2EG
+44 (0) 1620 842123
Located just 20 miles northeast of Edinburgh with sweeping views of the Firth of Forth, Muirfield has hosted Great Britain’s most prestigious golf tournament 16 times. The championship course was designed by Tom Morris Sr., a four-time winner of The Open, and was the first golf course to feature two circuits in opposite directions. One year after golf was first played in 1891, Muirfield hosted its first Open Championship, which at the time was the first tournament ever to offer competition over four rounds or 72 holes. Over the years, Muirfield was redesigned several times and its current configuration is a Par 71, 7,245-yard layout recently ranked No. 9 among best golf courses in the world by Golf.com. Once described by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus as the “best course in Britain,” Muirfield was founded by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which claims to be the world’s oldest golf club and is responsible for creating the original 13 Rules of Golf in 1744. Muirfield has hosted several other major golf tournaments, including 10 Amateur Championships, two Walker Cups and the 1973 Ryder Cup.
Southport PR8 2LX
+44 1704 552020
Established in 1889, Royal Birkdale has hosted the Open Championship eight times and will host the 2017 Open Championship. Like Muirfield, Royal Birkdale is part of the Open Championship rotation of Open Championship locations and has hosted many other major golf championships, including the Ryder Cup twice and the Women’s British Open a record six times. Recently voted the No. 1 course in Britain, the championship course at Royal Birkdale is an imposing 7,171-yard Par 70 layout overlooking the Irish Sea that’s marked by an exceptional Par 4 18th hole and unpredictable weather. The Royal Birkdale is located 1.5 miles from Southport in the heart of England’s Golf Coast, home to 15 of the finest golf courses in Britain.
36 Golf Links Road
Newcastle BT33 0AN
+44 28 4372 3314
Named this year’s Best Golf Course in the World by Golf Digest, Royal County Down also happens to be one of Rory McIlroy’s favorite home courses. Located in the southeastern portion of Northern Ireland in the Murlough Nature Reserve, the championship links covers a total of 7,186 yards on a Par 71 and is widely thought to be one of the toughest links in golf. The impressive layout features two of the game’s most photographed holes — the 228-yard Par 3 Hole No. 4 and the 486-yard Par 4 Hole No. 9, both with stunning bayside views of the village of Newcastle, amid a glorious backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne. Additionally, the 475-yard Par 4 Hole No. 3 is believed to be the best third hole in the world, alongside the third hole at Brookline Country Club, one of the oldest country clubs in the U.S. Founded in 1889, Royal County Down Golf Club is one of the oldest golf clubs in Northern Ireland and has hosted several major golf championships, including three British Senior Opens, two Amateur Championships and eight British Ladies Amateur Golf Championships.
St. Andrews Links
The Links House
W. Sands Road
St. Andrews KY16 9XL
+44 1334 466718
The Old Course at St. Andrews Links is one of the oldest and most famous golf courses in the world. The location for the earliest known modern game of golf more than 600 years ago, the Old Course is the premiere attraction at St. Andrews Links, also known as the “Home of Golf.” Described as the “ultimate” by Tiger Woods, the championship course is a 6,721-yard Par 72 and features a number of iconic landmarks of the game, such as the Swilken Bridge, Hell Bunker on the 14th hole and the legendary Par 4 17th hole, known as The Road Hole. The Old Course has hosted 29 Open Championships, two Women’s British Opens and will host the 2018 Senior Open Championship. St. Andrews Links was founded by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, among the world’s oldest and most prestigious golf clubs.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com