It’s true of any countdown. There is always the urge to skip – to sweep your fingers up any table and settle them on top spot. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a best-seller list or the singles charts, it’s only natural our focus falls on No 1. I’m here to tell you not to do that. I’m here to implore you to let your gaze drop further down and even out of the top 100 golf courses in England completely.
For it’s here where you’ll discover the most delightful surprises.
I’ve got to be honest. When NCG Top 100s editor Dan Murphy asked me to switch my focus from the bright lights of Royal Birkdale and Sunningdale, I needed a little convincing.
If you’re steeped in golf, you grow up dreaming of stepping on those perfect fairways and putting on those immaculate greens.
But it took only one moment – right at the start of the season – to realise the brilliance of the concept, and it was at a club that only just missed out on making our final standings.
You can’t even see the course from the road. It’s enveloped in a patchwork of fields and hidden by the majesty of the hills that surround it.
When you stand on the 1st tee at Appleby, though, you can’t believe something this good exists and you never knew about it.
How did this glorious course, perched on a heather and bracken-laden moor, pass me by?
You don’t need me to tell you about Royal St George’s. Television has shown you everything you could ever desire.
I can tell you, though, about Halifax – a Pennines course touched by Fowler, MacKenzie and Braid and which plays host to one of the most enjoyable, and frankly preposterous, par 3s you’ll ever play.
I can tell you about Cleveland, perched in the shadow of an old Teesside blast furnace that hides an Old Tom Morris design of breath-taking simplicity and fun.
And I can tell you about North Foreland, where I braced the toughest rough I’d seen all year and hit a tee shot out the shadow of a ruined ancient Kentish fort.
What I learned, criss-crossing motorways and heading through side roads over the course of six glorious months, was that I didn’t need to walk England’s jewelled hit parade to find glorious golf.
I found it at Tadmarton Heath, in Oxfordshire, at Hallamshire, in South Yorkshire, and at Northumberland.
If there’s a point to this mini ramble, it’s that England is a remarkable golfing country. Its magnificence can’t be contained within a mere 100 names. Its delights are spread over every county and its depth is incredible. This is the real heart of English golf.
So get out there in 2022. Devour those on our shortlist that didn’t make the final century and find joy in this nation’s incredible quality. You won’t regret it.
Three to play in 2022
This trio didn’t make our Top 100 but you must tick them off your personal must-play list…
Waves of calm wash over you in this pine-laden routing. Some lovely greens and a stirring finish means you should add Lodge to your schedule when you go to play the club’s renowned Highgate course.
There are two holes – the 5th with its challenging drive, and the 15th with a rectangular green hidden in a dip – that would make my all-time, all-England 18.
A clever layout and incredible scenery means this West Yorkshire layout is far more than one hole – even if that 17th involves a 62-foot vertical drop from tee to green.
More from NCG Top 100 golf courses in England
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