Top 100 Golf Courses of England 2016
Our latest English Top 100 ranking list is unveiled
This 2016 Top 100 Golf Courses of England release is the last of five national ranking updates within Britain and Ireland. Only three countries (USA, Japan and Canada) have a greater number of golf courses than England, so there’s some real kudos for the hundred English courses that have made it onto this very competitive ranking list.
We’re proud to reiterate that we were the first publication to produce an English Top 100 back in 2006, so this is our 6th edition and we think it’s our best ever list. Why? Because we’ve received way more input from many more contributors than ever before, and we know that the more opinions we get the better the rankings become.
Ranking golf courses is still a subjective business, so no list should ever be regarded as definitive. However, no English Top 100 ranking chart would be credible if it omitted any of the six English venues (Royal St George’s, Royal Liverpool, Royal Cinque Ports, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Prince’s and Royal Birkdale) that have proudly hosted the Open Championship down the years. Nor would it be a believable ranking list if it didn’t include the nine English courses on which the Amateur Championship has been played. Incidentally, only Prince’s from the six aforementioned Open venues has not hosted the Amateur – Royal North Devon, Formby, Ganton and Hillside are the four other Amateur Championship venues. After all, the R&A are not in the habit of selecting second-tier courses on which to play these flagship tournaments.
Many other English venues have hosted Open Championship Qualifying; Northamptonshire County is one of the clubs that can stake that claim and this centurion is a brand new entry in our 2016 English Top 100 (in at position #91). Originally fashioned by Harry Colt and located in Church Brampton to the north of the county town, Northamptonshire County has glided below the radar since we first featured it as a gem back in 2008. A recent reviewer commented: “For those who play golf in around London and especially in Surrey and Berkshire, then the County course will have a familiar feel, sandy soil and established trees all around are standout features.”
The Red course at Frilford Heath is another course that has been bubbling under for many years (largely due to its isolated location to the south of Oxford) and it too makes its first appearance in the Top 100. With 54 holes, it’s surprising that so few golfers have played here, especially given that Bernard Darwin made the trip more than 100 years ago: “Frilford is essentially one of those places where it is good to be alive with a golf club in one’s hand.”
The pretty-as-a-picture Heath course at Woodbridge re-enters the Top 100 at position #89 after narrowly missing the cut last time round. Darwin reckoned: “Woodbridge has everything in the world that one could desire except the sea. It has sand and bracken and gorse, beautiful turf and the smoothest of greens.”
Royal Cromer was founded in 1888 and it's certainly positioned close to the sea, but it's never appeared on any of our previous English Top 100s, until now (in at position #100). New bunkering and improved course maintenance has injected quality and modernity into this elderly club, which has been around for some time, even in Darwin’s day: “Cromer, like Felixstowe, makes me feel a very old golfer, because, when I first played there, there was a little ladies’ course along the edge of the cliff, which has many, many years since toppled peacefully into the German Ocean.”
Sandiway completes the quintet of new entries, but it’s officially a re-entry (in at #99), having featured on our English lists back in 2008 and 2010. A relative youngster (1920), compared to the aforementioned new entries, Sandiway is a Ted Ray design that Harry Colt improved upon five years after it opened. In the local Cheshire area, Sandiway competes with its near neighbour, Delamere Forest (up 7 to #48). Both courses are heathland in character but Sandiway is more heavily wooded than its counterpart down the road. If you haven’t played either course yet, you’re missing a wonderful duo that will raise a smile as wide as the Cheshire Cat’s grin.
The biggest moves in the top half of the table are unfortunately downward ones with the Brabazon course at The Belfry dropping out of the Top 50 for the first time and Wentworth’s West course falling fourteen places to 26th. Both these former Ryder Cup venues split opinions and neither was well supported in our recent English county poll. Wentworth’s issues are well known (mentioned in our recent Britain & Ireland Top 100 release) and the Brabazon course tends to garner positive feedback if played in the summer and negative during the winter months. The Belfry’s unremarkable former farmland tends to suffer in the winter months before returning into a remarkably dramatic golfing stage during the summer months. I’ve seen both sides of The Belfry over the years but this list would be much poorer without the Brabazon course on it.
Crowborough Beacon makes an almighty leap up the table, rising twenty-three places to #70. This undulating heathland track sits on the southern slopes of the East Sussex High Weald and from its lofty 800 feet elevation there are panoramic views over the South Downs. Incredibly well liked by all who responded to our Sussex Best In County survey, Crowborough Beacon also has a modicum of provenance due to the club discovering a rare book written by Bernard Darwin. Originally designed by an unknown architect, Crowborough can now attribute its lineage to a Dr Alister MacKenzie re-design and is now listed as one of the clubs associated with the famous architect.
Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to let us know what you think of our latest 2016 England Top 100. Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top and bottom of the page if you’d like to share your opinion. Additionally, if you’ve played an extensive number of England’s Top 100, please get in touch. We’d love to hear your story and include your view within our future English rankings.
Over the next few weeks we’ll publish an England second hundred for the first time. Keep an eye out for this release as it promises to shine a light on many hidden gems.
Click to explore in detail our new 2016 England Top 100For those interested, the five courses that made way for the new entries are: Chart Hills, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Luffenham Heath, Manor House and Ilkley.
23 November 2015 Respond to this article