Top 100 courses under £100: 30-21
30 – Ladybank, Fife
2013 green fee: £54
You know before you have even opened the car door that Ladybank is going to be special. This is a blend of parkland and heathland where the smooth fairways are often lined by pine trees and the greens are delightfully and naturally situated. Given its location 10 miles west of St Andrews, it is the perfect course to play on either your way in or out of the Auld Grey Toun. Peaceful, fair and receptive to good shots, there is something inspiring about playing here.
Why it’s special: Positioning from the tee is all-important here so that you can navigate doglegs without being blocked by trees
29 – West Hill, Surrey
2013 green fee: £75
The Surrey heathlands provide a form of escapism from the rigours of modern life and nowhere more so than West Hill with its entrance next to the intersection of a busy road and main railway line. Enter the property and everything slows down, allowing you to derive full enjoyment from what is a supremely classy heathland layout that specialises in tricky par 4s with streams, heather, towering pines and sand to catch you out. You can score well here in places but more often than not it is the course that comes out on top.
Why it’s special: It is an oasis of timeless calm just outside busy Woking
28 – Liphook, Hampshire
2013 green fee: £64
The famous Surrey sandbelt extends as far as Hampshire and Sussex and if you travel a little further away from London you can find stunning Liphook, with its charming old clubhouse and birch- and pine-lined heathland fairways. Not long, and with a par of 70, it is certainly the equal of its more famous peers. Most agree the best stretch is from the 2nd to the 14th, after which you cross the road to play the last four. The greens here are renowned for being pure, quick and not without undulation so be sure to pay attention.
Why it’s special: Liphook has a wonderful collection of short holes that look perfect from the tee
27 – The Addington, Surrey
2013 green fee: £65
Even some very fine courses can begin to blend into each other but The Addington comes with a guarantee that it will live long in the memory. As quirky as a remote links course in places, JF Abercromby’s design is often bordering on genius. The Addington occupies high ground just outside Croydon and sporadically the views open up towards central London. It is heathland in style, but with more changes in elevation and uneven ground than most of its peers.
Why it’s special: The par-5 12th and short 13th simply must be played to be believed. Sensational
26 – Gullane (No 1), East Lothian
2013 green fee: £96
Virtually as good in the winter as it is in the summer, golfing turf does not really get much better than at Gullane. There are two significant climbs here, and both are among the best uphill holes you will ever play. On the 2nd the fairway narrows to almost single-file at driving distance and the green is the shape of the coffin. Meanwhile the stroke-1 5th hole is as strong a par 4 as any at nearby Muirfield, doglegging left and climbing all the while to a green set in the hill. Gullane No 1 is classy throughout.
Why it’s special: The vista from the 7th tee was described by Bernard Darwin as the best view in golf – and he certainly had a point.
Often inexplicably absent from lists such as this one, Sherwood Forest assuredly belongs in the highest company. 25 – Woking, Surrey
2013 green fee: £75
Woking might just be the most subtly designed of Surrey’s famous Three Ws, which all lie within a couple of miles in and around Woking. Certainly, its architect Tom Dunn is credited both with laying out the first heathland course and also inventing the concept of a bunker in the middle of the fairway to influence strategy. So it is that at the 4th you must choose between a drive to the right, close to the ubiquitous railway line and giving an advantageous route to the green, and playing safely left from where you must carry a greenside bunker.
Why it’s special: It is the first heathland course
24 – Moortown, Yorkshire
2013 green fee: £80
A recent tree-clearing and bunker renovation project is helping Moortown to restore heathland characteristics that were in danger of being lost. In fact, those who have not visited for a few years will be amazed by the transformation. A great driving course, you can once more see across several fairways from various vantage points. Moortown stretches to 7,000 yards from the back tees and is not only a classy members’ course but also a genuine championship test.
Why it’s special: Moortown hosted the Ryder Cup in 1929 and was also a European Tour venue as recently as the 1980s
23 – Aldeburgh, Suffolk
2013 green fee: £75
Inland but with definite links characteristics, Aldebugh is a traditional club and its course is blessed with fast-running, gorse-lined fairways, some steep-faced, sleepered bunkers and outstandingly good greens. Its par of 68 is certainly a contender for the stingiest in the country – it has no par 5s but plenty of testing par 4s and very few obvious birdie chances. Designed by John Thompson and Willie Fernie, it has been modified since by JH Taylor and Willie Park Jr. Foursomes and twoballs are still the order of the day here.
Why it’s special: This is a classy layout and a timeless experience
22 – Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
2013 green fee: £60
Often inexplicably absent from lists such as this one, Sherwood Forest assuredly belongs in the highest company. It scores well on so many levels, whether that be the quality of the playing surfaces (firm and springy with fast greens), the ambience of this friendly club or the general merit of the holes themselves. The back nine is intimidatingly strong – remarkably, all seven par 4s are over 400 yards – so you must do your scoring on the way out.
Why it’s special: It begins in the style of open heathland, but later on the holes are lined by pines, silver birches and oak tees.
21 – Worplesdon, Surrey
2013 green fee: £90
There will never be a unanimous verdict on the relative merits of the Three Ws but it can surely be agreed that the work of JF Abercromby and Willie Park Jr at Worplesdon was among their very best. It begins in real style with an inviting downhill par 4 that feels like the perfect way to start a round. It is just one of so many outstanding holes, which certainly include a quintet of par 3s. Across the road on the back nine, recent tree clearance has restored the heathland feel and back to back par 5s give you the chance to set up a strong finish.
Why it’s special: It enjoys a delightful, sheltered setting