We spend a lot of time between us here at Your Golf Travel comparing the Best Courses we have played, each of us trying to top each other’s lists because each of us rarely top each other’s scores.
‘The Best’ can be dependent on a lot of different factors, depending on what ticks your boxes, but we as a team we have managed to agree and compile a list of The Best Hidden Gems Per Region.
Keep reading to find out which courses made the cut. Think you know a better hidden gem? Drop us a comment below telling us what you’d replace & why.
South East & London
We all like to be beside the seaside… and Littlestone in Kent lies on the coast with views of the English Channel at every turn. If, like us, you follow a few famous course designers, you’ll know that their masterpieces have features that define them. The bunkers here were crafted by the legendary James Braid and Alister MacKenzie helped with the rebuild in 1924 after the war. The undulating links course has hosted the Qualifying for the Open Championship and is a challenge for all handicaps – so makes for a great round with friends. But most importantly, it’s conditions are PURE all year round.
Clifftop golf – yes please. Royal Cromer in Norfolk was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1888 and was later granted Royal status by Queen Victoria herself. The location is incredible; with views out to sea and sandy beaches and the golf is a mix of links and heathland, with awesome elevation changes. You’re often playing the first hole straight into the wind to set you off with a challenge early on and the greens are tough to hit too, but when is golf not a challenge?
A beautiful combination of parkland and heathland have come together to make Broadstone Golf Club. Back in the day the course went by the name of Dorset Golf Club but was renamed after the rejuvenation by the legendary Harry Colt in 1914. Colt is well known for delivering traditional style courses and this is what you can expect at Broadstone. It is said to has similarities between both Sunningdale and Walton Heath. It’s got the elevation, it has long holes (although only two par 5s) and it’s got views. That’s a lot of ticks in my book.
Saunton Golf Club tops our list down in Devon as it has not one, but two of the best links courses in England. It’s also vintage, with our favourite sport having been played here for over 100 years. Is Saunton the best course never to have hosted The Open?
Trevose had to make this list. If you didn’t know by now, we’re big fans of a Harry Colt designed course as he is renowned for his memorable architecture and Trevose plays up to this for sure. It feels as though you battle the elements on your way around, with the rugged seaside and openness surrounding each hole of the Championship Course. Big Bunkers, quick greens and views for days.
Where do we start with Little Aston. It is championed by everyone who has played it as proved by winning our Golf Course World Cup on Twitter, smashing the likes of Carnoustie and Royal Porthcawl. It has the most aesthetically pleasing putting green of dreams and has hosted the some of the best amateur events including the English Amateur and Brabazon Trophy. The greens may be large but the bunkers are deep; it’s a tough parkland number we can’t wait to visit again.
Notts Golf Club is often described as one of the finest inland courses thanks to its beautiful mix of heathland, woodland and moorland attributes. It sounds a little odd, but it really works – hence why the course has been around since 1887. It’s firm and fast in the summer months, it’s undulating, a decent lot of bunkers and it’s long. Basically, it’s tough, but it is truly enchanting. So much character awaits that you don’t even mind inevitably playing your ball out of the heather on many occasions.
Ganton Golf Club in North Yorkshire could easily be mistaken for a heathland course when it is in fact a links course (albeit an inland links courses) thanks to its sandy site situated only 9 miles from the coast. The reputation of this course comes down to its fine quality, especially noted since the restorations made by designers James Braid, J.H. Taylor and Alister Mackenzie. It’s in keeping with its surroundings and the bunkers here make you think strategically about every shot – it demands accuracy. It’s a treat to play but not for the faint hearted.
Maybe for some of our examples you’re thinking, ‘that’s not a hidden gem’. And maybe Hillside Golf Club being top of this list for the North West would urge you to say that, thanks to it being in the limelight hosting the British Masters in 2019. But this glorious course is right next door to Royal Birkdale and can so easily be overlooked unless you’re playing a Southport tour (which by the way we highly recommend, as Southport & Ainsdale is also only a 5 minute drive away from Hillside too). The fairways are lined with pine trees which is unusual for a course next to the coast and the 11th hole, often considered the signature hole, takes your breath away.
When we talk about golf in South Wales, the brain automatically flicks to moments of glory from The Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, the Twenty Ten course. There is no denying the resort is fantastic, the golf is pure and it’s fun attempting to recreate famous shots that claimed Europe their victory. But we’re not here to talk about Celtic Manor… Pennard Golf Club is the course we’re putting forward here. A James Braid design, with rolling humps and mounds, found on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. It’s one of the oldest courses in Wales and has been moving up the rankings on the Top 100 Courses, so perhaps won’t be a hidden gem for much longer.
Nefyn & District in North Wales is often described as the twin of Old Head in Ireland. Set on a peninsula with water surrounding the course on 3 sides; it is simply stunning. There are three 9-hole loops at Nefyn and the ‘Old Course’ loop has holes right on the edge of the cliff. If the views and incredible course condition aren’t enough, on the 15th you can opt for a beer and a quick bite at the Ty Coch Inn on the beach just below – just follow the path, swig some Birdie Juice and you’re all set for the last three holes.
South West Scotland (Ayrshire)
Ayshire is our first stop in Scotland and Western Gails got the majority vote of the Best Hidden Gem from us here at Your Golf Travel. Many of the holes on this course play both between a railway line and the coast. Wind is a big factor here and can make the 6700 yard course seem a lot longer… The layout of the course is a little different to anything nearby, playing around the centrally located clubhouse. It feels very in keeping with its surroundings, a natural course rather than man made which adds to the beauty of it.
South East Scotland (East Lothians & Edingburgh)
North Berwick tops our list for East Lothians and Edinburgh. The course dates back to 1672 with updates and the current layout established in 1832 – so it’s got the history and the links course stretches along the coast, meaning it’s got the views too.
You’ll instantly recognise the par-3 15th hole here – or at least a version of it, as it’s the most copied hole design; one shot, off an elevated tee with a bunker just short of the green and either side. This club has a unique collection of holes, is challenging but not too punishing with even a few similarities to The Old Course, St Andrews.
North East Scotland (Aberdeenshire)
We have quite a few links courses on this list don’t we. And here’s another: Cruden Bay. The layout as we know it now was first developed in 1899 although there is evidence in the form of a plaque in the clubhouse stating the course had opened over a hundred years earlier ‘Cruden Bay Golf Club 1791’. Each hole here feels sort of hidden from the rest with hills and dunes protecting them from one another and therefore makes for a really serene round. With blind shots and tricky greens aplenty, Cruden Bay is an exciting test for any golfer.
Castle Stuart is one of the best modern era golf courses to date since Kingsbarns. Views over the Moray Firth are available on pretty much every hole and create an extremely memorable round. The course uses the surrounding elements and the ‘lie of the land’ to give each hole a different feel. It is magnificent and absolutely adds to the wealth of awesome courses in the Highlands, a completely different experience to Royal Dornoch which isn’t too far away.
Rugged cliffs, a battle of the elements and a whole lot of character await at Ardglass Golf Club in Northern Ireland. Just a few miles from the better know Royal County Down, Ardglass offers huge elevation changes between each hole, views that just go on and on and true, fast greens. This course is an absolute delight to play and especially great to add to a Northern Ireland Golf Tour. Be prepared for it to be windy, and be prepared to be blown away by the landscape.
County Louth Golf Club (also known as Baltray) in the East of Ireland was brought into the limelight in 2009 when it hosted the Irish Open where Shane Lowry made history and won the European Tour event as an amateur golfer. The fairways here are a decent width but don;t let that fool you, as the revetted bunkers play mind games around each hole and defend the greens well. From the back tees it measures over 7000 yards… a test for all level of golfer for sure.
South East Ireland
Parkland course lovers near to Waterford, rejoice. Tramore Golf Club is for you. Originally a lot closer to the coast and a links style course, players of Tramore were worried that their course was disappearing into the sea and so, they moved it inland and this stunning parkland track was born. The fairways here are undulating and there are plenty of old, beautiful trees lining each hole towards quick tricky greens and bunkers galore. If you’re accurate off the tee, you’ll reap the rewards, otherwise expect to shoot way over your handicap.
If you’re still reading, you heard me mention Old Head further up the page. Set on a peninsula which sits around 2 miles out into the ocean, you’ll recognise this course in Southern Ireland thanks to the picturesque lighthouse at the tip – it is one of the most photographed holes ever. The whole course is spectacular, offers luxury accommodation and it being so close to Kinsale and Cork, is perfect for a golf tour.
South West Ireland
A firm favourite and one course that YGT Rory always bangs on about (“Makes my Top 3 in the world list”); Tralee Golf Club in County Kerry is designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. It is his first course in Ireland of which he is famous for saying “I have never come across a piece of land so ideally suited for the building of a golf course.”
The land here is relatively flat but on the front 9 especially, you are playing all your shots targeted towards the sea. The views are so stunning that they are distracting and often the cause for a wayward shot (or so we’ll blame).
Enniscrone Golf Club in Sligo is pure natural links. There are 27 holes of dunes, sand, natural grass and seaside views (Scurmore beach is known as one of the best beaches in the country) – and we owe a thank you to Donald Steel for adding those extra 9 holes and to Eddie Hacket who actually extended the original track to a 18 hole layout in 1974. Measuring 7000 yards, Enniscrone does require a little accuracy off the tee, which is no doubt a challenge because of the wind. If you love panoramic views from elevated tees this course is for you.
North West Ireland
Narin & Portnoo Links is a pretty hidden course in Donegal, providing the most stunning views of Gweebara Bay and has undergone a very recent course refresh in 2019 which added a little drame to the track. Even after this work, it’s layout is pure and unspoilt, blending nicely into the surroundings. It’s a challenging hidden gem and a great course to end our list with, especially when you consider holes like the 7th with a two tiered green.
As we mentioned at the start, this blog started from a long discussion between us golf geeks about what we thought the Best Hidden Gem in each region was… and we’re open to being challenged on this. We’ve gone pretty links heavy with our picks and we love a cracking view. Course condition is of course very important and we love to know the history too. Share your thoughts with us…