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Is England Europe's premier golfing destination?

09 October, 2011

Is England the premier golfing destination in Europe?

With a dozen courses in the World Top 100 and more courses than any other country ranked in Britain & Ireland’s Top 100, England expects.

9th October 2011

Visit England, the national tourist board for England, is responsible for promoting the country to domestic and overseas markets and for improving England’s tourism product. Unlike their tourist board counterparts in Scotland and Ireland, Visit England does little to promote golf and we genuinely wonder why, especially given that English professional golfers are flying the St George’s Cross on the world stage.

According to IAGTO, the International Association of Golfing Tour Operators, the global golf tourism market is estimated to be worth more than $17 billion annually. Thailand announced last month that the value of foreign golf tourism in 2012 might reach a cool $2 billion. It’s estimated that Scotland earns £200 million each year from golf tourism and even diminutive Northern Ireland collects around £12 million per annum. In a 2010 report, KPMG identified England at position 6 in a list of Hot Spots for golf tourism in the upcoming years. Heading the list was Spain, followed by Portugal, Scotland, Ireland and the USA.

Position 6 seems rather high because most people take England, as a golf destination, for granted. Overseas golfers place English courses on their possible rather than probable play lists. If there’s time after visiting Scotland and Ireland, tourists might try and get to Southport to play Royal Birkdale, or perhaps aim to visit Sandwich to tick off Royal St George’s. Naturally, they’d only head to the links after seeing the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, doing a spot of shopping at Harrods and searching for the ghost of Shakespeare at Stratford upon Avon.

Many English golfers have a take it or leave it approach to English golf courses too. They expect courses to be presented in excellent condition all year round and moan if they are not. Many complain that English green fees are too expensive and then grumble that that they can’t get a game at Queenwood at any price. But most English golfers choose to visit other countries for their annual golf trip. They even choose to visit Ireland, Scotland and Wales rather than planning a trip closer to home.

We thought it high time to bang England’s drum, so we decided to take a long hard look at the golf courses under the jurisdiction of the English Golf Union. In February 2011, we started a project to identify the best golf courses in every English county. We’ve now completed the Best In County project having looked at more than 1,000 English courses, polled hundreds of people and listened intently to what local county golfers had to say about their home courses. The result we think is fascinating.

Never before has any publication, either in print or online, produced a full series of the best golf courses on a county-by-county basis and we now know why it’s never been done before. The reason is simple. It’s an extremely difficult and contentious process that is fraught with a multitude of issues. Nevertheless, we’ve done it and we’re pleased to have completed the process. However, this is just the beginning, as the county rankings will change alongside the country rankings, continent rankings and the World Top 100 rankings.

Please take a look at our dedicated county pages and let us know what you think. We’ll be grateful if you do not assume that the course you know and love is better than the one you’ve not played. We’ve made that mistake time and time again and have found that our preconceptions are simply wrong. Our plan is to change the county rankings on a frequent basis in order to reflect the changing situation as we learn more about the greatest courses in each county.

Here’s the list of every English county and the corresponding, current No.1 course. Many No.1 courses are household names, but we bet there are a few you’ve never heard of, let alone played.

This link below will take you to the England page on the Top 100 website, where you can select and review the current rankings for each separate county:


Bedfordshire John O’Gaunt (John O’Gaunt)
Berkshire Swinley Forest
Buckinghamshire Woburn (Marquess)
Cambridgeshire Gog Magog (Old)
Cheshire Royal Liverpool
Cornwall St Enodoc (Church)
Cumbria Silloth on Solway
Derbyshire Cavendish
Devon Saunton (East)
Dorset Ferndown (Old)
Durham Seaton Carew
Essex Thorndon Park
Gloucestershire Ross-on-Wye
Hampshire Liphook
Herefordshire Kington
Hertfordshire The Grove
Kent Royal St George’s
Lancashire Royal Birkdale
Leicestershire Luffenham Heath
Lincolnshire Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
Middlesex Highgate
Norfolk Royal West Norfolk
Northamptonshire Northamptonshire County
Northumberland Slaley Hall (Hunting)
Nottinghamshire Notts
Oxfordshire The Oxfordshire
Shropshire Llanymynech
Somerset Burnham & Berrow
Staffordshire Little Aston
Suffolk Aldeburgh
Surrey Sunningdale (Old)
Sussex Rye (Old)
Warwickshire Belfry (Brabazon)
Wiltshire Manor House
Worcestershire Blackwell
Yorkshire Ganton

The Top 100 Team

If you play or have played county level golf or are simply passionate about your home county’s golf courses and would like to help us further develop this exciting and first-of-its-kind initiative, then please send an email to [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.


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