It's the list of lists: our guide to the best golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland. Starring the likes of The Old Course, Royal County Down, Muirfield and Royal St George's – but not necessarily in that order
NCG TOP 100s
GB & Ireland
Dundonald does not benefit from views of an intimidating sea or bay. It is, rather, a wonderfully challenging course where the breath is taken away by its relentless quality.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and Ayrshire
Packed with classic styles of holes – such as risk-and-reward par 5s and the the odd drivable par 4 – anyone who makes their way across the Lincolnshire Fens will be amply rewarded.
East Midlands, England, GB & Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Brora is the headquarters of the James Braid Golfing Society – quite an accolade considering Braid’s history and tradition of designing outstanding courses.
GB & Ireland, Highlands, Scotland and GB & Ireland Fun
Ferndown has sat elegantly for over hundred years, and is a nice and gentle place to be. It's easy to see why Peter Alliss loves the place so much.
England, GB & Ireland and Dorset
Understated and modest, never clamouring for attention, it would be easy to overlook New Zealand when considering the great Surrey courses. It would also be a mistake to do so.
England, GB & Ireland, Surrey and GB & Ireland Fun
All you need to know about this brilliant British course
England, GB & Ireland and West Midlands
Picturesque throughout, should you be able to shape the ball this way and that you are in for a profitable day – just as it should be. The Gleneagles of the south.
This rugged links is worth a trip across the Irish Sea alone
GB & Ireland
Dark financial days are now behind Lough Erne, which looks every inch today like the luxury resort it was originally built to be.
GB & Ireland and Ireland
Despite the fact there is not a single artificial feature to be found, including bunkers, you will need more than a driver to tame this classic old course.
England, GB & Ireland and Sussex
You can rely on the quality of the pristine linksland turf at Gullane No 2, which occupies the same land as its older sibling but is a fine course in its own right.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and East Lothian
It is easy to imagine what it was like here centuries ago before the grass was cut and greens and tees defined because that is all that has changed at the Montrose 1562.
GB & Ireland and Scotland
The rich turf of the East is a dream to hit iron shots from, and the surroundings are wonderfully floral. A mixture of holly and rhododendrons greet you all the way round.
England, GB & Ireland and Surrey
All you need to know about this brilliant Irish course
Walton Heath is a quintessentially English venue. With strong connections both to politics and the professional game, it is a club with the richest of histories.
The Royal County Down Annesley links has become so much more than a second course, and could well become one of the truly great courses in Ireland in a short period of time.
GB & Ireland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Standing on the first tee box, perched high above the sea, the view is astonishing. East Devon certainly doesn’t rely on its views, however, and is a superb test of golf.
Devon, England, GB & Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Southerness is as peaceful a place as you could wish to find yourself; the kind of course where you can hear the sound of your ball rolling across the true greens.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway
Heavy investment in recent years has bolstered the status of this distinctive heathland layout in Cheshire. With rolling par 5s and short, intricate par 4s, this is a course with real variety.
England and GB & Ireland
You enjoy holes routed through majestic sand dunes and when you emerge from these towering masses you catch views of Donegal.
Invariably presented in impeccable condition, it is immediately obvious how lovingly it is maintained. Trevose is one of the finest links in the south-west of England.
England, GB & Ireland and Cornwall
A classic links in Northumberland which deserves greater acclaim, there’s no doubt that Goswick is one of the UK’s best hidden gems.
England, GB & Ireland and North East
A downland course infused with heather, bracken, gorse and springy links-like turf, Southerndown uniquely sits on a naturally crafted limestone base.
GB & Ireland, Swansea, Wales and Cardiff
Simply delightful from the moment you arrive – this is a bunkerless, heathland course with small and elusive greens that will charm and confound in equal measure.
England, GB & Ireland, Sussex and GB & Ireland Fun
In relative terms, the start is largely unremarkable but the stretch in the middle through the dunes is outstanding. Overall, Hayling is a superb course worthy of any trip.
England, GB & Ireland and Hampshire
Purdis Heath, also known as Ipswich Golf Club, is a James Braid design that is rich in character and distinctive. Recent work has elevated its presentation to new levels.
England, GB & Ireland and Suffolk
Anywhere else in the world and the Jubilee would be a star attraction. At St Andrews it sits in the shadow of its glamorous neighbours. Do yourself a favour and play the Jubilee.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and Fife
One of Ireland’s most under-rated links, the front nine at Portsalon might be more consistently excellent but there are also superb holes coming home.
Donegal, GB & Ireland and Ireland
The highest golf course in England, sitting at 1284 feet above sea level, Kington is a fun, funky and wholly fascinating course that might just take your breath away.
England, GB & Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
There are a few certain courses, but only a few, where you know from the moment you pull into the car park you are in for a treat.
Blairgowrie is most certainly one of them.
The West course is slightly shorter than the East but hazards dotted all over the place means it provides a sound test. A wonderful compliment to the neigbouring East.
England, GB & Ireland and Devon
The Marquess is a quality, modern, championship course that is the perfect complement to Woburn’s older and more established charms.
This most traditional, archetypal links is the oldest course in Wales and those who find their way to Tenby will be richly rewarded by its idiosyncratic delights.
GB & Ireland, Swansea, Wales and GB & Ireland Fun
The finishing touches to the Archerfield Fidra were only made in 2004, yet this piece of prime East Lothian land already boasts more history than almost any course in the world.
Connemara is characterised by rocky outcrops, with white stones peeking through coarse grasses, that lead to some terrific green sites.
GB & Ireland, Ireland and West Coast of Ireland
Littlestone is a raw-boned, fast-running championship links that frequently calls for approach shots to be chased on to the close-cropped greens.
England, GB & Ireland and Kent
Home to some sensational green complexes that blend into the Derbyshire countryside, this is a special MacKenzie moorland design of rare subtlety.
Camberley Heath is yet another stunning Surrey heathland that was designed by the great Harry Colt. Its collection of tempting short par 4s can ruin as well as make your scorecard.
For setting alone, it is hard to beat Royal Dublin, which stands on the golf-course-sized Bull Island and is accessed by a rickety wooden bridge.
Dublin, GB & Ireland and Ireland
The home of Stableford scoring, you'll be thankful not to have to record every shot around this supremely challenging and exceptionally kept links.
England, GB & Ireland and North West Coast
Ladybank is a course to tease into submission rather than overpower; if you stray off the mainly flat fairways, expect to be punished for your sins.
Just admire the way Abercromby uses the slopes and hills to make interesting holes rather than allowing them to detract from the overall standard of the course.
England, GB & Ireland, Kent and GB & Ireland Fun
Murcar offers realism and a sense of proportion. As is so often the case with true links courses, it improves with each round played.
Aberdeen, GB & Ireland, Scotland and GB & Ireland Fun
One of those timeless English clubs that tends to fly under the radar when discussing great English courses. This list intends that to be the case no longer.
This Southampton parkland was designed by the great Willie Park Jnr, who utilised its undulating site of an old deer park to craft a course that is never less than stimulating.
Like a wonderfully complex puzzle, Lindrick itself is resistant to generalisation. Only those lucky enough to play it again and again can hope to uncover all of its eccentricities.
England, GB & Ireland and Yorkshire
The Old Tom Morris at Rosapenna is a perfect compliment to the rigours of sister course the Sandy Hills.
Donegal, GB & Ireland, Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson worked wonders with just over 100 acres at this Worcestershire classic, a course that probes and tests at every level.
Tandridge benefits from firm, springy fairways that make it playable throughout the winter, fast-running in the summer and a delight at all times. A Surrey delight.
Should you be the sort of person that cares to take a stroll down the fairways of modern history as well as great golf holes, Fulford is a place where you will find both in abundance.
Old Tom Morris created the Balcomie, so its design is governed by the natural lie of the land, seeing plenty of holes play right up against the North Sea. It’s a breathtaking experience.
Fife, GB & Ireland, Scotland and GB & Ireland Fun
A famous tour stop with a picture-postcard short hole, the Dukes will long continue to represent a fine, and more importantly enjoyable, test of golf.
Perranporth is an exciting and vastly interesting course demanding concentration for every shot. The more one plays it the more one likes it, low and high handicappers alike.
Cornwall, England, GB & Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Laid out in the shadow of Conwy mountain, many holes overlook the estuary towards Llandudno and Anglesey.
GB & Ireland, Wales and North Wales
Great things come in small packages and never more so than at Boat. It's a sensational location, but better still, there is a marvellous layout to be enjoyed.
Unspoilt Woodbridge is just a few miles from Ipswich but feels a world away from modern life. It's an undulating heathland with gorse, bracken and attractive trees lining the fairways.
Every bit as authentic a seaside course as its famous neighbour, Lytham, St Annes Old Links is a century-old layout that has stood the test of time.
Willie Park Jnr revealed his design genius at Huntercombe by carving out grassy hollows and creating a series of incredible green complexes high on a ridge of the Oxfordshire Chilterns.
The large two-tiered greens at Duff House Royal are classic MacKenzie work, and the many well-positioned bunkers and trees make the course a severe but fair challenge.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and Moray
This is a course that all of us feel we have played without so much as setting foot on the property. Host to some of European golf's great moments, this course will never disappoint.
Counting Open champions and prime ministers among its alumni, Coombe Hill has the richest of histories. Of Surrey's many notable courses, this one is closest to central London.
Not only are the views stunning at Purbeck, but the course is quite spectacular to play and provides a stern challenge for even the most accomplished golfer.
Dorset, England, GB & Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Donegal, GB & Ireland, Ireland and West Coast of Ireland
The outstanding greens are fenced off to keep grazing cattle away. It's a magnificent piece of land, and a site of real scale and grandeur.
The West is a fun course to putt on. It really does reward those with good touch and who can appreciate the severity of some of the contours, which are not always apparent.
Leven offers the ultimate test of links golf in all its glory. There are blind tee shots, outcrops of spiky gorse and undulating greens.
A jewel on industrial Teesside, the magnificent character and immaculate condition of this wonderful layout always shines through, no matter the weather.
This distinctive Hertfordshire parkland boasts some famous club professionals – not least the three-time Open champion Henry Cotton and the former BBC commentator Alex Hay.
Homely, friendly and down-to-earth, visitors tend to feel more comfortable here than they do in the more august setting of Royal Porthcawl just a mile or two down the coast.
This Fife layout possesses significant charm and variety. Most of Lundin Links is played across vintage linksland while the middle section climbs up towards the town.
Enville's presentation is a real strength and greets you with the most appealing sight – a pristine 1st tee with a heathland par 5 stretching away into the distance.
Sometimes courses designed by famous golfers do not bear their hallmark but Portmarnock Links is very much in the mould of its creator, Bernhard Langer.
GB & Ireland, Ireland and Dublin
In terms of difficulty, ambience and design many would argue Thorpeness is the best in Suffolk. The classic Braid design has a number of genuinely memorable holes.
Cleeve Hill presents a pale, inhospitable, windswept landscape that wouldn't be out of place on the moon. All that open space however conceals a wonderfully subtle course.
The old Irish saying, Cead Mile Failte means 100,000 welcomes. In a land renowned for its welcome this proverb could well have been written for Dooks.
GB & Ireland, Ireland, West Coast of Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Sheringham enjoys the most spectacular of settings on the North Norfolk coast. Noted for its long par 4s and sensational clifftop views, it's a course that is dear to many golfers' hearts.
England, GB & Ireland, Norfolk and GB & Ireland Fun
Situated close to south-west gems Trevose and Saunton, Bude is a fantastic linksland challenge that is well worth a visit on any golfing trip to the Cornwall coastline.
If you want to experience modern, championship inland golf and play a course in the kind of condition more normally associated with a professional tour event, The Grove is for you.
When it seems time for something completely different, a journey to the quirky yet beautiful Cruit Island would fit the bill more aptly than most.
Donegal, GB & Ireland, Ireland, West Coast of Ireland and GB & Ireland Fun
Kilspindie, tucked away between Aberlady and Gullane is all too easy to miss yet contains within 5,500 yards every element of links golf you could wish for.
East Lothian, GB & Ireland, Scotland and GB & Ireland Fun
The cutest and least forgiving of Woburn's trilogy of fine courses – be prepared to leave your ego in the well-appointed clubhouse and treat this lady with due respect.
Northants County is a an attractive and testing layout shaped by Harry Colt and James Braid. Watch out for the firm, sloping fairways and a collection of meaty par-4s.
England, GB & Ireland and East Midlands
Using the natural features of the land, each of Bull Bay's glorious 18 holes has its own appeal and character as the landscape climbs and falls majestically.
Historic Lanark is much nearer its 200th anniversary than its centenary and boasts a moorland course that was designed by Old Tom Morris.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and GB & Ireland Fun
Every so occasionally Ashburnham throws up the kind of hole that is simply impossible to play without foreknowledge of its perils and secrets.
GB & Ireland, Wales and Swansea
You might think that the Dunluce stealing prime ground from the Royal Portrush Valley course would leave it diminished. The result is the exact opposite.
Taddy, as it's known, is never less than interesting, and the turf here is fantastic both to walk on and to strike your iron shots off. It is quintessentially English.
The Dirleton is a traditional Scottish links with sweeping fairways, deep menacing bunkers and undulating sand dunes bordering each fairway.
The most striking paradox at this stunning clifftop course lies in its scale. Nefyn is an enormous course which stretches for miles around the coast.
GB & Ireland, Wales, West Coast of Wales and GB & Ireland Fun
Druids Glen is a gentle and soft experience. That is not to say it is easy - far from it - but the pristine and verdant fairways are often flanked by beautiful fauna and colourful flora.
With the Cairngorm mountains forming the backdrop, and the River Spey running alongside a number of holes, the natural beauty of Spey is a joy to behold.
GB & Ireland, Scotland and Highlands
Renowned for its firm fairways and quick greens, Luffenham Heath is a real thinking-man’s course and requires accuracy and good ball striking throughout the round.
You will never forget your visit to 12-hole Shiskine, on the west coast of Arran. It contains some of the most distinctive holes in Scotland – and that's saying something.
Set amidst beautiful terrain and long known for its conditioning, this Midlands masterpiece doesn't have a blade of grass out of place.
At first glance it seems impossible that 18 holes have been squeezed into this piece of land to the cost of the layout but they have and it is a genuine treat.
Originally laid out in the early 1900s, Porthmadog has more than enough length to test even long hitters, and retains a charming mix of heathland and links land.
GB & Ireland, Wales and West Coast of Wales
It is not a Turnberry, a Troon or a Prestwick, but West Kilbride deserves elevation to the second tier alongside Irvine, Barassie and the Gailes.
Ayrshire, GB & Ireland, Scotland and GB & Ireland Fun
James Braid’s Sevenoaks parkland is surely one of the best-presented parklands in the country and its sweeping fairways are lined by mature and attractive trees.
Askernish runs parallel to the coastline of the Isle of South Uist and follows an anti-clockwise path from start to finish. Quite simply, it is a must-visit.