Top 100 links golf courses in GB&I – The panellists

Courses & Travel

Find out more about the panel of experts who help us produce the definitive Top 100 list of links golf courses in GB&I

To view the Top 100 list in full CLICK HERE
For more on the criteria which was used to produce the list CLICK HERE

Dan Murphy, Editor of NCG
Courses played on our shortlist: 130

I‘m proud to introduce what I refer to as my POAT: ‘Panel Of All the Talents’. 

These architects, writers, photographers, broadcasters, elite amateurs, administrators, greenkeepers and readers have helped me shape a robust list of GB&I’s Top 100 Links Courses.

However, with so many strong opinions, someone has to put them into order. 

Ultimately, when one of the panel felt a links should be inthe top 20 while another placed it somewhere in the 70s – the kind of thing that happens with any panel – I was left with the casting vote.

What you see is a list that I and I alone take responsibility for. If nothing else, I have visited every single course in the Top 100.

In the depths of winter I hope it stirs memories of happy days on the links and inspires you to plan your next trip, whether to an existing favourite or new horizons.

What makes a great links?
There are three key factors. One, the ball has to run out a lot. Two the lies have to be so, so tight to reward good ball-striking. Three, there should always be options – from the tee or by the green.

1. Sean Arble, NCG Reader
Courses played on our shortlist: 93

Sean, a Burnham & Berrow member, has been making trips to play links golf for 25 years. He recently launched a travel company focusing on GB&I courses. 

What makes a great links? 
A blend of fine turf, interesting terrain, well balanced features, enough width to create angles with man-made or natural features and unique/original holes.

2. Tim Banting, NCG reader
Courses played on our shortlist: 115

Jim has played 1,000 courses worldwide. A published author, his preference from the age of 12 has been links. “The linksland is where the game began and its emotional home,”he says.

What makes a great links? 
A piece of undulating linksland where the course uses the terrain to its fullest. It should be tough, fair and allow a variety of shots.

3. Colin Callander, Golf Writer
Courses played on our shortlist: 84

Former Golf Monthly editor and long-time NCG columnist. Grew up in Forfar, 10 miles from Carnoustie, and has played links golf all his life. He’s a member of the R&A and Elie.

What makes a great links? 
It tests every aspect of your ball striking, shot- making and imagination even in benign conditions. It should stir the heart a bit.

4. David Cannon, Golf Photographer
Courses played on our shortlist: 118

David has photographed the last 100 Majors, played 700 courses and visited over 1,000. His book, Golf Courses of Great Britain and Ireland, is a must-own. He finished 15th in the 1974 Brabazon. 

What makes a great links? 
My bias is it has to be stunning to look at. Equally I judge a great links on how many clubs I use. I like contrasts in the short holes.

5. Andrew Cotter, BBC Commentator
Courses played on our shortlist: 60

Andrew has been a member of Royal Troon since childhood. A low handicapper, he has represented Scottish Schools and Scottish Universities.

What makes a great links? 
A great location (sea views help, or at least the feeling you’re beside the water). Some undulation, elevation changes, good turf and subtle change of hole direction.

6. James Crampton, Administrator and elite amateur
Courses played on our shortlist: 36 

James is England Golf’s director of championships. He played for England at youth level in 1993 and as a full international in 2005, when he was runner up in the Brabazon Trophy. His lowest handicap (so far!) is +4.3. 

What makes a great links? 
One that is both fair and playable in all wind and weather conditions.

7. Nigel Edwards, Elite amateur
Courses played on our shortlist: 61

Next year the Welshman will captain GB&I’s Walker Cup team for the third successive match, having made four appearances as a player. Nigel is England Golf’s performance director.

What makes a great links? 
The quality and variety of holes, scenery and the number of shots where you can see the bottom of the flag.

8. Kimmo Ekroth, Golf Industry, Professional
Courses played on our shortlist: 55

Since a winter round at Carnoustie 12 years ago, Kimmo has loved this form of the game more than the game itself. The Finn has played around 100 links.

What makes a great links? 
Hard and sandy soil, interesting green sites, close to the sea, natural routing, testing design, dramatic views, history and a minimalistic approach.

9. James W Finegan, Golf Author
Courses played on our shortlist: 129

The best-selling author has been a member of Pine Valley for 32 years. 

What makes a great links? 
Great holes routed over duneland: sand-based, pocked with dunes large and/or small, full of hummocks and hollows, blessed with plateauxand dells that make ideal green sites, open to the wind and within sight (or sound!) of the sea.

10. Richard Green, Golf Writer
Courses played on our shortlist: 67

Richard is a former courses editor of Golf World and a past member at Royal Cinque Ports.

What makes a great links? 
Springy turf, fast greens, pot bunkers, dunes, sea views, blind shots, rumpled fairways, humps, hollows, swales, gorse, fescues and wooden fences. And a great design that pulls all these qualities together.

11. Craig Higgs, NCG Reader
Courses played on our shortlist: 70

With a handicap of nine and 25 years’ experience of organising golf trips to every part of the United Kingdom & Ireland, Craig has had contact with many of the courses in the list as well as playing many of them too.

What makes a great links?
Sand dunes, hard bounces and the sight or smell of the sea.

12. Dove Jones, Golf Writer
Courses played on our shortlist: 115

American writer Dove fell in love with links when she played Royal Dublin
and Portmarnock in 1991. A member at Royal Liverpool, she visits Britain every year and enjoys spreading the word on how great links golf is.

What makes a great links? 
One that plays more fun in the wind than without it. Runs hard, fast and true.

13. Adam Lawrence, Golf Writer and Consultant
Courses played on our shortlist: 95 

Editor of Golf Course Architecture magazine since 2005, Adam was part of the team who re-discovered Askernish. 

What makes a great links? 
Terrain, turf, enough width to allow for creative shotmaking, a set of greens with enough contour to define the desired lines of approach. Nothing should be flat except the teeing grounds!

14. Maureen Madill, Broadcaster and former tour pro
Courses played on our shortlist: 66 

Maureen grew up as a member of Portrush and Portstewart. She played amateur international golf for several years before turning pro. She works for the BBC as an on-course reporter. 

What makes a great links? 
Super turf, great shot-making challenges posed by varying wind directions, endless interest and, hopefully, exhilarating views.

15. Tegwen Matthews, Elite amateur
Courses played on our shortlist: 60

The Welsh international was a member of Royal Porthcawl and played in the first of her four Curtis Cups aged 18. She captained GB&I to their first win in 16 years at Nairn in 2012.

What makes a great links? 
Tight lies, fast, undulating greens, a challenge on every shot, with a degree of difficulty that is not dependent on the wind.

16. John McLoughLin, Greekeeper
Courses played on our shortlist: 45

John is a member at West Lancs, where he captains the scratch team. He has previously worked at Gleneagles, Royal Melbourne, The Australian and Riviera. 

What makes a great links? 
It is dominated by fine fescue grasses. It will allow you to play the ball along the floor and you should also be able to see and smell the sea.

17. Ross McMurray, Architect
Courses played on our shortlist: 27

Designed Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten and Woburn’s Marquess. Learned golf at Elie, where his grandfather was secretary. 

What makes a great links? 
It must set a strong strategic challenge that requires the player to think their way around. The seaside setting also comes into play, adding visual interest, but the quality of the golf has to be the overriding factor.

18. Jeff Nueman, Publisher and writer
Courses played on our shortlist: 25

The editor of New York magazine Met Golfer says: “If Scots had played American-style courses from the start, golf wouldn’t have lasted 20 years.” 

What makes a great links? 
Movement in the ground, open to the wind, shots can be played a variety of ways with roll and bounce a significant factor, firm turf, a certain measure of quirkiness. 

19. George Oldham, Golf Writer
Courses played on our shortlist: 69

George has edited magazines, published two books and redesigned and project- managed three courses.

What makes a great links? 
Your own ‘amazing views, stringency of test, strategic value, presentation, playability, the wow factor, consistency of challenge, memorable individual holes, quality of the turf‘ cannot be improved on. 


20. Lorne Smith, Enthusiast and writer
Courses played on our shortlist: 121

Lorne founded finegolf.co.uk in 2008 to host his reviews of the finest 200 ‘running-game rather than target’ courses in GB&I. He plays off five and is a member at Royal Dornoch.

What makes a great links? One that provides a challenging ‘running game’ test and the ultimate ’joy to be alive’ feeling. 


21. Alan Spurr, Reader
Courses played on our shortlist: 72

Alan has been playing golf since he was 12 years old and he has been a member of three golf clubs since 1990. He currently plays off a handicap of 10 and describes a trip to The Machrie, on the Isle of Islay, as his favourite ever golfing experience.

What makes a great links?
Crisp turf and fast, running greens.

22. David Thomson, course designer/pro
Courses played on our shortlist: 80

David, a PGA pro for 35 years, has re-designed Skibo Castle, where he is the director of golf. Has played over 900 courses and competed for five years on the Asian, European and Tartan Tours. 

What makes a great links? Firm, fast fairways. Tight lies. Bunkering that gathers the ball. Chance to play a multitude of shots and use imagination.

23. David Williams, Architect
Courses played on our shortlist: 51

David is a respected golf course architect who has been a member at Conwy in North Wales for our 40 years, and a single-figure handicapper for most of that time.

What makes a great links?
A challenging test, in varying conditions, fair hazards and set in a scenic natural landscape.

To view the Top 100 list in full CLICK HERE
For more on the criteria which was used to produce the list CLICK HERE

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