Click on the links below to view the courses.
No.100-91; No.90-81; No.80-71; No.70-61; No.60-51; No.50-41; No.40-31
No. 30-21; No.20-11; No.10-2; No.1
Regular readers will not need telling, for our words have long betrayed us, but the fact is we are lovers of links golf at NCG. The heathlands of Surrey, Leeds et al undoubtedly have their attractions but, given the choice, we always head to the coast for our golf.
Some of you will find this statement superfluous, being already converted to the charms of the seaside. Others, though, we recognise, will either not agree with our passion for links – or indeed have little experience of this type of golf.
We hope this feature caters for all three groups, offering an objective ranking for the connoisseur and some insight into why it is such a special form of the game for the less enthusiastic.
To that end, we include several features within the section, which we hope entertain and inform.
WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR:
Courses situated within a mile of the sea
There are many different definitions of what a links is but for the purposes of this list, we decided any course within a mile of the sea was eligible. This means some courses that are undoubtedly downland or clifftop in nature are included – and there is even one out-and-out parkland.
The essence of seaside golf
By which we really mean links golf. Above all else, this means firm underfoot conditions. The ball must bounce and run. Suddenly, the game is richer and more interesting. The player has more options. Strategy is more important. The concept of subtlety is introduced.
It also means a breeze. Without one, the game is diminished. That doesn’t mean you would choose to play in a gale – only that you might encounter one. The essence of seaside golf is that you must adapt to the conditions. Only the strongest characters fully embrace the challenge.
A true test
Not in the sense of needing to be championship-length, rather in terms of being the most thorough possible examination of your game. As it happens, most of the very best links courses in Great Britain are on the Open rota. That is hardly a coincidence. Unlike the Ryder Cup, quality of the course is paramount when it come to the Open Championship. But none are great courses merely because they are long. Quite the opposite. A true test is one that calls for mastery of all parts of the game.
The best seaside courses offer a little bit of everything. Variety
The best seaside courses offer a little bit of everything. Play in windy, fast-running conditions and the scorecard means little. A par 4 of over 400 yards can be little more than a 3 wood and a pitch in one direction; a 350-yarder the opposite way might need a drive and a long iron.
You might play one par 5 and have an eagle putt, then be unable to reach the green on a par 4 in two. Play off the right set of tees and you ought to have a decision to make on every tee. The skilful links practitioner knows when to attack and when to throttle back.
We intend this in the broadest sense. Where would you want to play if you could take your best game (regardless of whether you are a scratch man or a novice). Where would you get the most satisfaction from? Which courses would give you the chance to enjoy your good shots the most?
WHAT WASN’T A FACTOR
Pomp and ceremony Links golf is all about simplicity and the game being reduced to its most basic elements. To us, the links game involves simply testing your skills in a natural environment. The less fuss, the better.
The off-course experience
For the purposes of this list we did not look at clubhouses, practice facilities, warmth of welcome, halfway houses, signage or indeed anything at all outside the moment you walk on to the 1st tee until the time you leave the 18th green.
This is a feature about golf courses – pure and simple.
We spoke as we found, regardless of whether the green fee was nearer £300 or £20. Bringing ‘value’ into the mix makes things very complicated.
We are presuming, as a discerning golfer, you are capable of choosing a set of tees that will provide a balance between challenge and playability. Personally speaking, we get as little pleasure from playing a great course from tees so far forward that we can carry all the trouble from the tee as we do from being too far back and needing to hit a couple of woods to most of the par 4s. The Open-hosting courses that make up the majority of our top 10 are not there just because they have all been lengthened over the years to well over 7,000 yards.
They are there because they are great courses.
The list was compiled by NCG’s staff, headed by editor Dan Murphy – a man who walks with a slight lean to the left, so used is he to battling into a links headwind. Dan was aided (Ed’s note: and very occasionally confronted) by opinions from in-house staff as well as freelancer contributors. This wideranging panel means every course has been played by at least three different panellists at least once. More usually, they will have been played by more than three people, and played more than twice. We humbly suggest this gives the ranking an authority which surpasses other course listings.