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Top 100 Golf Courses of England 2018

20 November, 2017

Top 100 Golf Courses of England 2018

Welcome to the latest 2018 edition of our Top 100 for England. Since May, we’ve produced seven regional charts for East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West, South West, East and South East England and these listings now dovetail into the overall national standings that we present below.

We’ve been publishing an English Top 100 for more than a decade now – this is the 7th biennial ranking list that we’ve announced – so we’re pretty confident that we’re giving due recognition to the very best golf courses around the nation, no matter their remoteness or popularity.

At the top of the chart, there’s very little movement in the top ten positions, with only Ganton (at #8) swapping places with Woodhall Spa's Hotchkin course (at #9). In fact, since 2006, only a dozen courses have ever appeared at this elite level. Back then, Royal Liverpool occupied the number 3 position and Wentworth (West) was at number 8 but these two courses have since fallen away, replaced in the Top 10 by Sunningdale (New) (currently #4) and Swinley Forest (at #6).

All of which means Royal St George’s remains the number 1 course in England, a position it’s held since 2012. Venue for the first Open played outside Scotland in 1894 when JH Taylor won the 35th edition of the event, the historic Kent links will host the Open for the fifteenth time in 2020, with Darren Clark trying to replicate his winning performance of 2011 when he became Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal St George’s.

Just outside the Top 10 tier, four courses make significant upward moves. The first of these is the Church course at St Enodoc in Cornwall (up three to number 11), which reviewers in the last few months have described as “a beautiful links and yet another wonderful James Braid design… the most dramatic course in GB&I… a little piece of golfing heaven”.

Rising four places to number 12, the course of West Sussex at Pulborough sits on the edge of the South Downs National Park, where Sir Guy Campbell and Major C K Hutchison laid out the fairways in 1930. The open heath is no longer in evidence due to the growth of trees down the years but new sites for heather regeneration have been identified and a number of strategically placed bunkers have been introduced in recent times to make this one of the most testing par 68 courses you will ever play.

Also advancing three slots to number 19, Notts Golf Club at Hollinwell in Nottinghamshire has worked hard in recent times with the presentation of its wonderful 18-hole layout, managing the rough, removing gorse and trees, developing areas of heather and embarking on a scheme to install heathland-style bunkers, all of which have contributed towards the club’s stated aim of having a tournament–quality course available for play on a daily basis.

The West course at Wentworth in Surrey was roundly criticised for the major alterations made to the layout in 2009. Following another round of extensive (and expensive) renovation work last year, which included the redesign of five greens, the removal of certain bunkers and the installation of a sub-air system on new bent grass greens, the course now reverses a substantial fall of fourteen places in 2014 by climbing six positions to number 20.

Further down the top half of the table, Broadstone in Dorset makes a splendid leap up the list, soaring six places to number 31. Originally set out by Tom Dunn in 1898 then subsequently redesigned at various times by Willie Park Jnr, Herbert Fowler and Harry Colt, the course is in great shape these days, with a recent reviewer stating: “it is obvious that a lot of work is going into the levels of presentation and it is paying off handsomely. The approaches to the greens look fantastic. So too do run off areas which appear to have been introduced on some holes which are a great little touch.”

Rising seven to number 49, the Championship course at Aldeburgh in Suffolk boasts an enviable architectural pedigree, with John Thompson, Willie Fernie, Willie Park Jnr, JH Taylor and Harry Colt all having a hand in its development since the club was founded back in 1894. From the back tees, the par for the course is set at 68, five strokes less than the standard scratch score, so visiting golfers should pay attention to the notice on the club’s website which states: “every hole presents an examination in shot making and accuracy”.

In the bottom half of the Top 100 chart, two courses surge an impressive nine places up the listings: the West course at Saunton in Devon (at number 56), where Tom Mackenzie’s recent makeover has been very well received, and the Colt & Alison nines at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire (at number 72), which have just undergone an outstanding bunker renovation by specialist construction firm John Greasley.

The biggest jump up the chart is made by Stonehamin Hampshire, up thirteen to 81. The club has embarked on “Project 2020” to maximize the full potential of this old Willie Park Jnr track, with Ken Moodie directing operations. Thousands of trees have been removed and a heathland restoration plan implemented by John Nicholson. A complete bunker refurbishment programme is also well under way which will deliver a layout fit for golf in the new millennium, more than a hundred years after the club was founded.

There’s a handful of new entries in our revised table – London Club (Heritage), Northamptonshire County, Frilford Heath (Red), Hallamshire and Royal Cromer all make way – and you might think that all five newcomers would come from the twenty-five main contenders highlighted in an article entitled The Second Hundred Golf Courses of England 2016 that we published two years ago. Well, the first four courses arrive from that shortlist, with the last one making what some might consider to be an unexpected re-appearance ten years after it dropped out.

The highest new entry at number 86 is actually a re-entry because it was previously listed between 2008 and 2014. The course at Berwick Upon Tweed Golf Club (known locally as Goswick Links) in Northumberland is a James Braid remodelled layout from the early 1930s that appears to be accumulating an ever-growing list of admirers if comments from recent reviews are anything to go by: “to miss out on playing Goswick is to miss out on a seriously good course… a must play for fans of serious links golf… an unexpectedly rewarding experience that offers quite exceptional value for money”.

New at number 90, Knole Park in Kent is a John Abercromby design from 1924 which is laid out within a massive 1,000-acre deer park estate near Sevenoaks where Ed Battye, founder of Golf Empire and a regular contributor to this website, paid a recent visit. Ed doesn’t offer plaudits readily but he wrote about the course in these glowing terms: “stumbling across Knole Park was like finding a little golfing treasure trove… I’m not sure where this course has been all my life but I’m so glad it is now a small part of it.”

Another re-entry, having made a fleeting appearance in our 2008 chart at number 100, the course at Royal Wimbledon in London (new at number 92) belongs to the third oldest golf club in England, established in 1865. Willie Park Jnr laid out the club’s first course in 1907 (prior to that year club members had played on Wimbledon Common with members from London Scottish GC) before Harry Colt redesigned the layout in 1924. Tom Mackenzie has just embarked on an upgrade project to remove trees, regenerate heather, re-position bunkers, restore green sizes and install new tees, with the first tranche of work due for completion next month.

A further Willie Park Jnr design, Huntercombe in Oxfordshire, makes it into the Top 100 for the first time at number 94 and the architect actually owned this course, along with surrounding land intended for real estate development that never happened, which lost him a substantial amount of money. Opened for play in 1901, Huntercombe is a historically important course that has entertained golfers for well over a century now, though the playing corridors nowadays are a lot tighter now than they once were.

The last new name in our Top 100 roll of honour for England at number 99 is Royal Worlington & Newmarket in Suffolk, which last appeared in our national chart in 2006 and 2008. Top Dunn laid out this 9-hole course in 1893 and it’s been the home club to the Cambridge University golf team, the Light Blues, ever since then. The ranking merits of this course might be a cause for debate among some golfers who’ve played “The Sacred Nine” but one thing’s for sure, there can be no denying the quality of the putting surfaces, setting this course apart from many others.

We look forward to receiving some feedback when we publish a new national ranking chart so feel free to let us know what you think about our new Top 100 for England. Have we missed out on a course that should be included or maybe we’ve listed one that has no right to be in such a prestigious list? Perhaps a course is riding too high or languishing too low in the standings? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the bottom of the page if you’d like to contact us.


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Englandclick the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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