Open Championship venues are amongst the most famous golf courses in the world. The Open is the oldest of golf’s Majors and is the arguably the most coveted prize in all of golf. Whilst some may wish for a green jacket, the Claret Jug is the most important piece of silverware a golfer can get his hands and name on.
Over the years, fourteen courses have hosted this great event. These courses make up the ultimate bucket-list of places to play before you die. You can recall the shots played by Open Championship greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson as you experience these links gems for yourself.
This year, we will see the 148th playing of The Open and it marks the long-awaited return of the championship to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. We will take a look at the courses that make up the famed Open Rota and host this most wonderful of tournaments. These are the venues where champion golfers are crowned and chapters of golfing history are written.
In 1860, Prestwick Golf Club became the very first Open Championship Venue. Yes, this is where it all began and the clubhouse has the incredible memorabilia to prove it. The first playing of The Open was played over a twelve-hole layout which was repeated three times. The Open was held at Prestwick 24 times between 1860 and 1925 making this the second most played Open Championship venue.
The course has some unique features thanks to its age, Old Tom Morris was responsible for the layout of the course and the 2nd, 4th and 5th holes are still in their original form. The 5th hole is a 500-yard dogleg par five that runs out of fairway around 300 yards from the tee. It is replaced by the feature that provides the hole a name, the ‘Cardinal’ bunker. This immense hazard is reinforced with railway sleepers and is a place on the course to avoid at all costs. If you truly love golf and its captivating history, you simply must play here at least once. This is a golfing venue of such importance, it is the birthplace of major championship golf.
From 1872 – 1892, there was more than one Open Championship venue as The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers joined adding their courses to the rota. In 1873, The Old Course at St Andrews hosted its first of 29 Open Championships. As “The Home of Golf”, The Open is held here every five years and the 150th edition of the tournament will be played on the famous links in 2021.
St Andrews was the first 18-hole course in the world and the reason we play that number of holes to this day. There are seven double greens and four single greens on the course, this unique design can leave you facing some colossally long putts but is great for those who track greens in regulation stats. The 17th hole is one of the most iconic holes on the course. Teeing off over The Old Course Hotel, you aim for a narrow strip of fairway on a left to right dogleg par four. The approach to “The Road Hole” is a tricky one with the incredibly penal that shares a name with the hole and a wall that demarcates the hole. This is all well and good but the green is a thin and wildly undulating strip of dancefloor. A really tough hole and a place where many potential Open Champions have lost their grip on the trophy.
This was once the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG) and the course they put forward to be an Open Championship venue. The 9-hole course hosted six Opens between 1874 and 1889. This is a course that has left a fundamental and indelible mark on the game, it was the first club to cut holes at four-and-a-quarter inch, the standard size we still use today.
The course still exists in its 9-hole form and is unchanged from its days as an Open Championship venue. This is a very old-fashioned course, however, it remains a fun test of golf especially if the winds get up. One of the best holes on the course is the par three 8th. This was the final hole added to the course in preparation for hosting The Open in 1870 and is a challenging hole at 240 yards. The green is slightly elevated and shots going long may end up in a hidden bunker behind the green. A par here is a good score to take onto the final tee.
This course was also built by the HCEG and remains where the club play their golf. This, for many golfers, is the greatest Open Championship venue of them all and last held the tournament in 2013 when Phil Mickelson was crown Champion Golfer of the Year. This course was originally 16-holes and was designed by Old Tom Morris. It is thought that when two more holes were added then Harry S. Colt and Tom Simpson refurbished it, Muirfield became a truly special links course.
Fifteen Open Championships have been held at Muirfield a course which broke the ‘nine-out and nine-back’ mould. This masterpiece is made up of two rings of nine holes that start and end at the clubhouse. One of the best holes across the entire Open Rota is the 191-yard par three 13th. The deep green slopes severely back to front meaning that you need to leave your ball short of the flag for any hope of a good putt. However, five of the most dastardly links bunkers await anything off-line and finding any of them will make getting par a formidable task.
In 1894, Royal St George’s Golf Club became the first Open Championship venue out-with Scotland. This course is set in some very dramatic dunes and used to have many blind holes. Over the years, the course has been tamed somewhat but it still has the tallest and deepest bunker in the UK. Royal St George’s is still the only course on the Open Rota in southern England and it is a perfect example of wild natural links. The Open Championship will return here in 2020, the first time it has hosted the event since Darren Clarke won here in 2011.
Royal St George’s is one of those memorable rounds of golf with each hole standing out on its own as a truly great hole. The fairways here are one of the biggest challenges as they undulate their way through the course. As you go to play your second shots, often with a long-iron, you can be faced with a tricky sloping lie which will test your creativity. This is a shot-makers course, one that requires bold and well-struck golf shots. The 15th hole is incredibly easy on the eye and a really classic links hole. This long par four is arguably the hardest hole on the course at 493 yards from the championship tee. There is a wonderful symmetry about the hole as fairway bunkers await tee shots lost to the left and right. Your approach shot entices bravery as anything short will face a tough bunker shot. Take your par, or even a bogey, and be happy with yourself.
Like many of the clubs mentioned so far, Royal Liverpool, or Hoylake as it is more commonly known, has had a significant role in the history of golf. It was here that the rules of amateur status in golf were decided and also where The Amateur Championship and Walker Cup was born. Harry Colt is largely responsible for the wonderful course that we see today and Hoylake will be an Open Championship venue for the 13th time in 2022. This is the second oldest links course in England and the terrain is very flat for most of the round which means that the coastal winds play a considerable part in the round. Tiger Woods won here in 2006 and Rory McIlroy followed him in 2014.
For most who have played here, the stretch of holes along the shore around the turn is the highlight of the round. At this point in the course the land is more dramatic which lends itself to more exciting golf. Standing at the tee on the 9th, you get a glorious panorama before you drive on this 391-yard par four. The 10th is a lovely dogleg that tempts you to cut the corner with the placement of three fairway bunkers awaiting those who go too safe. The 11th is a great links par three with dune-laden terrain and a distracting view. This is one of the highlights of the round and one of the iconic images of the golf course.
England (1909 and 1920)
Given the coastal nature of links courses, weather can play a huge role in the shape and playing experience of Open Championship venues. However, the weather was not the friend of Royal Cinque Ports and actually caused it to be removed from the Open rota. Having held the great event in 1909 and 1920 this beautiful course looked set to host many championships. Royal Cinque Ports was scheduled in 1938 and 1949 to hold The Open but nature wasn’t having it. Abnormally high tides flooded the course and meant that Royal St George’s had to host the event on these occasions, The Open never came back. The Great Wars also caused a lot of damage to the land and James Braid was brought in to restore and improve the course.
Royal Cinque Ports is widely regarded as one of the most challenging of all links courses in the UK. You inevitably spend the first eleven holes creating a buffer of shots so that you can finish the final seven holes in ‘damage-limitation mode’. This closing stretch tends to play into the wind and can be relentless. Of these closing holes, the 16th can actually be a good birdie chance to help you finish strong. The newly revamped hole is now a par five with a split fairway which tends to suit a three-shot strategy. Enjoy the brief rest here before you play out the final holes.
In 1923, Royal Troon became an Open Championship venue and golfing lore suggests that this is because the HCEG members did not want the tournament at Muirfield that year. James Braid was drafted in to modify the course for the most prestigious tournament it had ever held. In 2012, one the greatest moments in modern Open history took place at Royal Troon as Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson played an epic head to head round in the final pairing. In the end, a 62 from the Swede was enough to make him a major champion for the first time.
Braid’s alterations created the most famous par three in Open Championship golf, the ‘Postage Stamp’ 8th hole. This devilishly tricky hole is the shortest hole on the Open Rota but one that can really make the best players in the world struggle. This hole is all about accuracy. A miss short or onto the false front of the green will roll down the hill into a tough position for an up and down. If you miss slightly right you are in a narrow coffin bunker that will kill your hopes of par. Royal Troon is a wonderful links course with top-class golf holes in droves.
This is the most northerly English Open Championship venue and, although unmistakably a links, this course is not by the sea. Thanks to 167 bunkers, this course is an incredibly challenging golf course, only Carnoustie is thought of as more difficult. The splendour of the Victorian clubhouse behind the final green is one of the iconic images of the club. This is a course that is kept in immaculate condition and seems to be forever ready to host The Open at a moments notice.
To play well at Royal Lytham & St Annes takes sound strategy and execution, this is not a course you can scramble around. There are many great holes on the course and the highlight would probably be the 17th. This long par four was the sight of a phenomenal shot that won Bobby Jones The Open as an amateur in that first Open at Lytham. It is also worth noting that the first hole is the only par three starting hole on the Open rota too. The course is a unique and charming place to play and it is packed with history for you to drink in.
It was clear that Prestwick was no longer the Open Championship venue it had once been, this was a big name to replace and so it took something special to do that, in stepped Carnoustie Golf Links. A course, to this day, thought to be the most difficult of all Open courses and maybe of all major venues. Carnoustie has hosted eight Open Championships, most recently in 2018, when Francesco Molinari won. More famously, who could forget Jean Van De Velde losing The Open to Paul Lawrie on the 72nd hole in 1999?
There is a great feeling of understated class on the Championship Course at Carnoustie. The course is just a joy to play and one that requires your best golf over nearly every shot. The closing holes at Carnoustie make for an incredibly tough finish. The Barry Burn weaves through the 17th and 18th holes creating a hazard from the tee and to your approach shots just as you are clinging onto whatever score you have. This is one of those courses that, when all is said and done, you can be proud of whatever score you have finished with as you probably had to work very hard for it. Don’t be put off by the challenge, accept it and enjoy it, this is the truest of links tests.
The year after Carnoustie held its inaugural Open, another new course was given a chance at being an Open Championship Venue. Prince’s Golf Club only had the honour of hosting one championship due to the damage done by the Second World War. However, that solitary Open was to be the unveiling of a piece of technology that still occupies a place in virtually every golf bag. The winner that year was Gene Sarazen and much of his victory is credited to his secret weapon, the sand wedge. This was the first time such a club was used and the original club was held at the club until recently.
After the war, seventeen of the original greens were saved and the course now exists as three sets of nine holes. Many regard the combination of the ‘Dunes’ and ‘Shore’ loops to be the best but the ‘Himalayas’ has recently been refurbished and is an incredible nine. The 5th hole on the ‘Shore’ loop is the old 18th green and where Sarazen won The Open in 1932. This is a solid par four that requires two well-hit golf shots on to the sloping and historic green.
Northern Ireland (1951-present)
The eyes of the golfing world will turn to Royal Portrush this year as it hosts the 148th Open. Like Prince’s, Royal Portrush is the only other club to have been an Open Championship venue once, although that is about to change. This is the only course on the rota that is outside of mainland Britain and, for many, it is long overdue a return of the great event.
The drama of the venue builds before you even arrive at the course. The coastal drive is captivating and then, suddenly, a world-class links course just appears! The course that will host The Open this year is a new configuration as two holes from the Dunluce Course have been replaced by land from the Valley course. The sixteenth hole is a signature hole and one that will cause some drama on the final day if the tournament is tight. Aptly called ‘Calamity Corner’, this 236-yard par three plays uphill with a ravine awaiting anything short and right. This tee shot will test the nerve of any champion in waiting as troubling mounds await tee shots that are overly bold. This will be a truly wonderful open championship venue.
The layout of Royal Birkdale has a unique backstory as three generations of the Hawtree family have shaped the course. The current set-up is mainly the work of Frederik Hawtree. Birkdale was supposed to become an Open Championship venue in 1940, however, the Second World War caused the event to be cancelled and it was fourteen more years before it had the honour. It has since gone on to host ten Opens and is regarded by many as the finest Open course in England.
The course, with its high dunes and flat fairways, is great for watching and playing, respectively, and has many great golf holes to boast of. The final hole is arguably the best on the course especially thanks to the drama it has been the setting for through the years of Open history. This long par four requires two perfectly struck shots, especially when the wind is up. Plenty of bunkers will punish waywardness whilst a wild tee shot can end up OB. This is a fitting end to one of the world’s finest links experiences.
The most recent course to be added to The Open Rota, this is a course that has been home to some of the highest drama on and off the course in the history of the tournament. 1977 was the first time that Turnberry was an Open Championship venue and it put itself on the map with the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’. Much like Stenson vs Mickelson at Royal Troon in 2012, this was a head to head between two of the best of all time as Nicklaus and Watson battled it out in the fourth round. Watson would walk away with the Claret Jug that year. In 2009, Watson, 59 years old at the time, was runner-up as Stewart Cink defeated him in a playoff to become, unfortunately, the most unwanted Open Champion in history.
In recent years, the course was purchased by Donald Trump and due to political issues and problems during The Ladies Open Championship, the course was temporarily suspended from the rota, it is still on it though. The newly reimagined course is one of the best courses in the world and a fine example of dramatic coastal links. With the famous Turnberry lighthouse as a focal point and views of Ailsa Craig and Arran as part of the backdrop, this is a special place to play golf. The 10th hole is hard to beat as a highlight of the round. Teeing off beside the lighthouse, this par five doglegs along the shoreline, brave golfers can cut the corner, and down to a green sitting on a peninsula of sorts. A wonderful hole that sums up the quality of the property.
The Open Championship has a history that no other event in professional golf can compete with. It is the only major played on links land and is still a chance for golfers to show how modern technology and skills match-up to the original land upon which the sport should be played.
We are on the cusp of another episode of the great golfing drama and another chapter in the annals of golf will be written. With such great courses hosting the event, it is no wonder that some of the best tales of golfing heroism have been born from this championship. One thing is clear, becoming Champion Golfer of the Year is the highest honour in golf and these wonderful links venues should be cherished.
It is hard to think of a contemporary course designer creating more interesting courses than Tom Doak. In the last decade or so he has crafted some of the most astounding and most talked about golf courses in the world. Head of Renaissance Golf Design, Doak believes that every course he creates should develop its own identity. He feels that courses need character whilst his minimalist philosophy ensures that he uses the land in front of him to its greatest potential without moving too much earth.
East Lothian, Scotland
One of Scotland’s newest golf courses and one that is already renowned globally. This is a spectacular golf course on a special piece of land. The East Lothian coast is packed with some of the best links courses in the world and to have created a name for itself in such a short space of time with such famous neighbours, this is the biggest accolade the course can boast of. 2019 was the year that both the men’s and women’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open took place at this remarkable golf course. It is amazing that a course so young will host such a prestigious event, but that exemplifies how good The Renaissance Club is.
This is the only course that Doak has done in Scotland and an opportunity that he cherished. It is very hard to put your finger on why, but this course is different. It feels like a links course and certainly fits in as part of the club of the courses that it is around, but it feels very different at the same time. It almost feels like it isn’t real and like one of the courses that EA Sports would have made up for the Tiger Woods game. It is just so picturesque and somehow, at times, seems to defy reality.
The par 71 course is not short, at 7,345 yards this course can be long but plenty of teeing options mean that you will be able to find a course length you can enjoy. Some talk of the early back nine holes as “the finest three-hole stretch” in links golf, but these are a newer addition. When the course first opened, there were no true seaside holes. When Doak altered the course for the second iteration, he used a magnificent coastal ridge to create the signature 13th hole and bracketed this by two wonderful par threes.
The Renaissance Club has quickly become a beloved addition to the Scottish golfing family. Doak very respectfully built a course that is a wonderful tribute to the historic links courses of Scotland with a luxurious modern twist. This is a round of golf to savour.
Few golf resorts have created global excitement and gained critical acclaim as quickly as Streamsong has. The story of this now a wildly revered piece of land is fascinating. It is a true ‘phoenix from the ashes’ tale and isn’t even a decade old yet. When the old phosphate mine was shutting down, they were given a bill to restore the land to its pre-mining condition. This estimate was colossal and the owners knew that they needed to do something else, one genius decided that they could build a golf resort and the rest is history. The land left by the mining operations has been moulded by the weather and left some wonderful elevating changes and dramatic terrain perfect for sculpting some golf courses.
Tom Doak teamed up with Bill Coore to create the first two of these devastatingly gorgeous golf courses. Three courses now exist at Streamsong Resort and each has a distinctive character. The Blue and Red courses by Doak and Coore, respectively, came first and were subsequently joined by the Black course, by Gil Hanse, more recently. A little nugget of golfing lore for you to share in the clubhouse, Doak made his original sketches for the course with a blue pen, Coore used a red pen and you get no points for guessing the colour of pen that Hanse used.
The Blue Course sets its stall out early with the first tee set atop a 75-foot sand dune, something quite unique to its ever-flat Central Florida location. Doak has also created some incredibly dramatic green complexes here with shelves and drops awaiting mishit approach shots. The 7th hole on the Blue Course at Streamsong Resort will leave you flabbergasted. A lagoon sits in front of the par-three green and a huge sand dune sits behind. This is one of the iconic images of this great course and one to really appreciate when you are there. The course is littered with risk/reward opportunities to tempt and test you, just as way golf should be. Bold. Dramatic. Fun. You will love the Streamsong Blue Course.
There is probably no course in the world more jaw-droppingly stunning than Cape Kidnappers, that is quite a claim but one that is made confidently. While some car-enthusiasts put pictures of Ferraris and Lamborghinis on their wall, this Tom Doak course in New Zealand is the golfing equivalent wall candy. New Zealand is home to some of the most spectacular golf courses in the world and Doak has been instrumental in this.
Opening in 2004 on the cliffs 400 feet above Hawkes Bay in Te Awanga, this was once a sheep farm. The land of this course looks like ripples on a calm sea which is fitting given the prominence of water in the vistas of this resort. Many of the holes sit on their very own ridge and are flanked by valleys on either side, so a bad day with the driver will test your leg muscles.
How do you pick a signature hole on a course with eighteen of them? Well, it is a challenge but many would agree it is the 15th hole, named Pirates Plank. This hole is one of the highest points on the course and is around 800 feet above the Pacific Ocean. With drops on either side of the hole, you will need to hold your nerve and a ball going long will take around 14 seconds to actually hit its watery grave!
It is fair to say that the Cape Kidnapper Resort has put New Zealand on the map as a golfing destination. With new additions such as Tara Iti, another Doak creation, it is also fair to say that the Kiwi golf industry owes a debt of thanks to Tom Doak.
Oregon has become one of America’s most talked-about golf destinations in recent years and much of this is due to the area of Bandon. Tom Doak has been a busy man here and, much as he did in New Zealand, he has used his Midas touch to drive the attention of the golfing world to this destination. Pacific Dunes opened in 2001 and one of the biggest challenges for Doak and his team was to focus on one design as this land was some of the best terrains in the world and could have been configured in a myriad of ways.
Pacific Dunes is the sister course of the world-renowned Bandon Dunes and so had to be special to live up to this role. One of the key features of the design of this course is that, in true Tom Doak style, you would think that it has been a part of this land since the dawn of time. Every effort has been made to ensure that this course seamlessly blends into the gorgeous land upon which the course was shaped.
The fairways on this course seem to ripple with an effortless natural flow. Of the many highlights of this round, the short par three 11th is a real stand-out. This is a classic, short postcard hole with stunning views and a requirement for well-executed golf. The gorse and tall grass seem to close the green in and build the tension on the tee whilst the wild bunkers help frame the hole perfectly. Take a picture from this tee and don’t try to be a hero, it may be a short hole but a three is a good score.
In terms of the team at Renaissance Golf Design, Pacific Dunes is a really important course as they say that this is what they measure all of their projects on. This is a design that they are rightly immensely proud of and arguably the one course that showed the world they were among the best in the game.
South Carolina, America
It is clear that the work of Tom Doak is strongly-routed in the classic golf courses of the world. He has studied those vintage tracks that have existed for well over a century and used the details of them to shape the way he creates his contemporary masterpieces. Myrtle Beach is one of the world’s busiest golfing destinations as every year over 60,000 people travel to South Carolina to tee it up. In 1990, Tom Doak decided to add a tribute to where it all began and designed a Scottish-links style course to the already strong course repertoire in Myrtle Beach. Inspired by the Old Course at St Andrews, Doak added his flair to these famous features and created the Heathland Course at Legends Golf Resort.
One of the main parallel design features you will notice are the large green complexes that are synonymous with links golf. These have the benefit of allowing the greenkeeping staff the ability to place the pin in an almost endless array of positions to suit both tournament and regular resort play.
It’s not just about St Andrews though, golfers with a keen eye will also notice features of Lahinch and Cruden Bay. The course is flat with subtle undulations that keep your round interesting as you are always being challenged to make a shot from ever-changing lies. The flat nature of the terrain means that the ever-present coastal breezes are unhindered and will affect your round. As you would expect, from a course modelled on links, the bunkers here are deep and properly penal. The rough is also lush and can bring trouble to those who find it. American “links” courses are often a let-down as they seem like cheap imitations, this is not in that category though. This is a wonderful tribute to the origins of the sport and a course you will love.
It is hard to think of any golf course designer who is making golf courses more dramatic and glorious as Tom Doak. He is being given some great terrain to use as his canvas as he creates some of the best new courses in the world. Thanks to Doak and his team, countries are being added to the golfing map and new areas of already famous golf nations are being discovered.
It is safe to say that Tom Doak is one of, if not, the most influential golf course architects of our age. His courses are as much of a joy to take in visually as they are to play. By paying unsurpassed attention to detail to accentuate the land on which his courses blend into their surroundings, he creates courses that are utterly timeless.
Playing a Tom Doak golf course is a truly joyful experience. His golf courses have a uniqueness to them that is somewhat ethereal. Looking through the projects that Renaissance Golf Design have delivered through the years, one thing is clear, golf is lucky to have Doak and his team.
It is clear that Tom Doak is a classicist and looks to the great courses of the past to help develop his modern masterpieces. He builds courses that tempt skilled players to take be bold by punishing those who play overly safe. Creating holes that are packed with hazards leads to unrelenting rounds for golfers of all levels, this is not how golf should be. By using intelligence to thoughtfully form his courses, Doak prides himself in an ability to create tough but fair courses that allow players to truly enjoy the essence of our great sport.
The world of golf has many pioneers who have left their mark on the game we so enjoy. Whether this is Alister MacKenzie sculpting out landmarks in the iconic golf courses of Augusta National and Cypress Point or 18-time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus taking his legendary on-the-course experience into creating memorable playing tests at Monte Rei, Gleneagles and St Mellion, designers both new and old are leaving an indelible impression across the golfing world.
We’re going to take a look at the designs of many famous golf course architects, from Colt to Player and almost everyone in-between. Whether new or old, Championship monster or local municipal, the great layouts that have been left for us golfers to enjoy are a great talking point and a key reason in where and why we decide to go on our next golfing trip.
The Golden Bear. Holder of a record 18-major titles and a designer of dozens of golf courses across the world. Mr Nicklaus’ playing style and desire to test the best is clear to see across many of his golf courses in the UK and Europe.
Nicklaus’ designs in the UK and Ireland include Cornwall’s St Mellion. An utterly unique design which utilises the undulating and mature terrain to create a golf course that is regarded as one of the toughest in England. As a past host to the European Tour on no less than 7 occasions, St Mellion’s quality is underlined by the golfers who have triumphed here. 1990 saw Jose Maria Olazabal win with a -9 72 hole total, beating Ian Woosnam by just 1 shot. The 1991 Champion was Bernhard Langer who managed to hold off Vijay Singh with a 4-round total of -2. 1994’s Champion was Seve Ballesteros who finished 3 shots ahead of Sir Nick Faldo to win 1 of his 50 record European Tour Titles.
Nicklaus’ championship credentials can be seen in Perthshire at The PGA Centenary Course, the jewel in the golfing crown at Gleneagles. As the host of The 2014 Ryder Cup, the Nicklaus designed course at Gleneagles was the scene of a memorable European victory. The PGA Centenary golf course is revered as one of the most testing driving golf courses anywhere in the world with precision off the tee required as well as accuracy to ensure you can get the best angles into the large greens.
Additional Jack Nicklaus designs can be found in Murcia with numerous golf courses on offer including the hugely impressive Alhama Golf Course. Alhama is considered to be one of the best in the region with fast and tricky greens complemented by numerous water hazards. Those heading slightly north from here are sure to enjoy the resort golf on offer at the very popular Melia Villaitana near Benidorm, Alicante. Whilst the Levante is perfectly suitable for mixed handicap groups, it can provide an amazing test of the championship markers for even the very best of golfers.
One of Nicklaus’ designs that has received the most acclaim in recent times was that done at Monte Rei. This luxury resort provides the very highest quality of accommodation and food which is more than matched by what’s on offer on the golf course. Set through mature Portuguese countryside, the course takes advantage of natural valleys and provides an excellent challenge off the tee. The final hole is a great example of risk and reward. The par-5 18th hole provides a great opportunity of a birdie but the risk is clear with a large water hazard in play on the majority of the right-hand side of the hole.
Colt could easily be considered to be the world’s great golf course architect. As the designer of not only Sunningdale’s New Golf Course, he was also the club’s 1st secretary, but also of Pine Valley in New Jersey, a club that has been considered 1 of the best golf courses in the world since such rankings began, Colt’s quality and achievements are absolutely without question.
Colt’s work also extends to The Open Championship as the designer of the 2019 Open Championship venue, Royal Portrush. The Dunluce Golf Course at Portrush is noted as being one of the most dramatic links golf courses anywhere in the world with a stunning setting and incredible dunes framing much of the front 9.
Another Open Championship golf course with Colt’s work on it is the only course on The Open Rota which starts with a par-3. Royal Lytham and St Anne’s can boast Open Champions such as Bobby Jones and Gary Player so the quality of course of there for all to see.
Considered by many to be the pioneer of modern golf. Arnold Palmer left a great legacy both on and off the course. His annual event at Bay Hill on The PGA Tour, 7 Major Championships and 90 professional wins show a legend of the game who will be remembered for his professionalism, incredible golf and charity work off the course.
Golfer’s wanting to experience an Arnold Palmer designed golf course can head to some of Europe’s top golf courses. Whether it is at the incredibly popular South Course at La Manga Club which has held the Spanish Open and also entertains thousands of golfers taking holidays in Murcia each year, the testing Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in The Algarve which is a staple on The European Tour as host of The Portuguese Masters where winners have included Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington.
Palmer’s work is also praised in Ireland as the designer of an incredibly spectacular links layout in the South West at Tralee. Palmer’s work at The K Club has become one of Europe’s top golf courses. As a regular stop on The European Tour (more than 10 times) as well as host to The 2006 Ryder Cup, The K Club is a lush green parkland layout that provides a thoroughly rewarding round of golf, regardless of the standard of play.
With numerous other greats of the game from Gary Player to Alister MacKenzie having created memorable golf courses, it’s easy to see why so many want to play these type of golf courses year after year as they’re guaranteed to provide a great golf experience.
Golf is a special sport with a rich history and a deep connection to its heritage. The sport has been played for centuries and was once banned in Britain as it was seen as a distraction to archers. Whilst many other sports have been played for centuries, the unique thing about golf is that many of these historic courses still exist and are fairly unchanged.
One of the main features of old golf courses is the fact that they tend to have smaller greens. This is a feature that will test you more than you think as it puts real pressure on your short game and approach play. As you may have witnessed during the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links, tight old courses with small greens can wreak havoc on modern tour players. Today we will look at some golf courses over 100 years old that you must play to experience classic golf at its very best. Experience the history of our great sport for yourself and take a step back in time on some of these timeless courses.
East Lothian, Scotland
Situated out on the Berwick coast, near Edinburgh, this is a stunning Old Tom Morris golf course and one that has stood the test of time. The West Course is the third oldest golf course still being played on in the world and is still on its original fairways! This course is, like most of the ones that will be discussed in this article, a nine outward and nine inward holes set-up. You never want to lose 10 & 8 but it’s much worse on an old links course as you face a harrowing and long walk back to the clubhouse. One of those courses that when you are playing downwind for the front-nine, you feel the pressure of making birdies as you know the back-nine will be about damage limitation.
The greens at North Berwick are immaculate and just seem to blend into the surrounding fairway. Like many golf courses over 100 years old, there are some great quirks that come into play during the round such as a wall that sits in front of the green at the 14th. The 15th hole “Redan”, a wonderful par three, is the most replicated hole in the world and there is an unsurprising familiarity when you tee up on this hole.
Walking around the clubhouse of Prestwick is an experience in itself. This is one of the greatest collections of golfing memorabilia on earth and all because this is the birthplace of The Open Championship. Only The Old Course at St Andrews has held more Opens than the twenty-four played here. Prestwick is a monument to the history of golf. This is a unique playing experience and this is down to the fact that changes to the course through the years have been minimal.
This course was designed by Old Tom Morris and now plays at 6,900 yards from the championship tees. Famous features at the course include an opening tee-shot with a railway line awaiting anything missing to the right. The 17th hole “Alps” was originally the 2nd hole in 1851 and is the oldest existing hole in championship golf. The 5th hole “Himalayas” is also a famous challenge on the course as it is a blind par three. A small disc gives you a target but with five greenside bunkers protecting the left side of the green, a par here is a great score! The clubhouse is famous for a drink called kummel which has had its part to play in golfing history. Grab a drink of this rare spirit at the bar and ask a member about the club’s favourite tipple.
South West, England
This is the oldest course in England and is over 150-years old. It is yet another one designed by Old Tom Morris, he was prolific in the early days of golf. Those who know this place affectionately know it as Westward Ho! and don’t forget that exclamation mark. The course sits right on the coast and the playing experience is enhanced by the waves crashing against the rocks as you make your way around. This course is, incredibly, still played on its original fairways and the soft rolling terrain is links golf at its finest. It is the oldest links course outside Scotland and the second oldest ladies golf club in the world. A fine example of true golfing history.
If you are an animal lover, you will be pleased by the fact that sheep and horses freely walk the old course. There is a real issue with Royal North Devon though, it is running out of time. This course is on a precarious piece of coast and in February 2018 the 7th green was washed away in a storm. We aren’t over-exaggerating when we say that time is not on the side of this famous course. There are no plans to reinforce the cliffs upon which the course is built either. Don’t waste time and make sure you get a round in here soon before it is too late.
South West Wales
Golf has been played at Tenby Golf Club since 1888 and it is the oldest course in Wales. This course was designed by James Braid, the other prolific Scottish course architect of this era, and has many of the features that his courses are loved for. Here you will find tight tee shots requiring accuracy, many holes dogleg too which is a common feature on a Braid course. There are also plenty of pot bunkers awaiting stray approaches to the small greens. At 6,300 yards, this is not a long course, especially on dried-out and fiery summer links turf. However, the challenge of this course lies in the need for touch and control.
It is rare to find someone who has played at Tenby, despite the history and pedigree of the course, this is one that only discerning golfers seem to appreciate. Playing here is also an absolute bargain and the welcome that you get at the course makes you want to keep coming back.
This is the youngest course on the list as it only qualifies this year. Pebble Beach Golf Links opened in February 1919 and has gone on to be among the most famous golf courses in the world. Having held a record six US Open Championships and hosting the annual celebrity pro-am on the PGA Tour, this course is steeped in golfing history. At just over 7,000 yards, the course is certainly not long by modern standards, however, it is tricky and doesn’t need length as a defence.
At Pebble Beach, you will play some of the most famous holes in golf including the short par three 7th that plays downhill to the tiny green and tests your mettle. The finishing hole is one of the most famous in golf too and keeps you honest right until the end of the round. There is no doubt that a round on this centenarian is a real treat, make the pilgrimage to the Monterey Coast you won’t regret it.
North Carolina, USA
One of America’s golfing icons, Pinehurst Golf Resort dates back to 1895 and provides as great a challenge today as it did when it was first created. Having held a remarkable amount of professional and amateur golf tournaments, Pinehurt has a history that few can match. Those lucky enough to play here are going to enjoy a range of tree-lined layouts with fast-running fairways and sandy waste areas ready to snare any offline shots.
Recent past winners to have claimed the title on the world famous #2 Course at Pinehurst include an emotional Payne Stewart win in 1999, a classic victory for Michael Campbell who fended off Tiger Woods to claim New Zealand’s 2nd ever Major title and most recently Martin Kaymer who destroyed a stellar field to claim his 1st US Open title in 2014. Kaymer romped to an 8-shot victory and a -9 total. 2014 was a unique year for both Men’s and Women’s golf with Pinehurst also hosting The Women’s US Open which was won by Michelle Wie.
South West Ireland
Opening in 1892, Lahinch Golf Club is one of the most enchanting golf courses in the world and a playing experience you will not forget. The Dubai Irish Open will be played over the Old Course at Lahinch in 2019 and it is sure to be a wonderful spectacle. Over the years, this course has been reconfigured a number of times and the architects that have worked on this land include Old Tom Morris, Dr Alister MacKenzie and Dr Martin Hawtree. The gentle undulating links land is one of golf’s greatest delights.
As you make your way around this course you may meet the local ‘weathermen’. The goats that roam the course freely are an integral part of the course, they are even on the club crest, and it is said that if they are taking shelter at the clubhouse you are in for a wet round. The short par five 4th hole “Klondyke” is one of the highlights of the round and a quirky hole you will love. An accurate tee shot between sand dunes leaves you a blind second shot which is where the hole got its name. Klondyke is the name of a giant sand dune that sits in front of the green and creates the obscured approach shot. A classic Old Tom Morris hole to be savoured.
South West Ireland
The 1890s were a great time for Irish golf as just one year after the opening of Lahinch Golf Club a twelve-hole course opened up nearby in Ballybunion. This course is regarded by many as the best course in Ireland and one of the very best in the UK. It is eighteen holes of pure joy and a true timeless classic that you cannot miss. Tom Watson, the legendary American golfer, instantly fell in love with the place when he visited and returns regularly for his fix.
Every hole on the course is excellent and there are a few that are exceptional. The 2nd is a long and tough par four which can be incredibly challenging when the wind gets up, there is no gentle start to your round at Ballybunion. The 11th hole is also an absolute stand-out and probably the signature hole on the course. Named “Watsons”, this is a 472-yard par four that will certainly find its way onto your “best 18”. Ballybunion has a wild quality about it that adds to the character of the place. The main challenge at this course is only playing it once.
Opened in 1891, Brora Golf Club is one of the golf courses above 100 years old that you absolutely must play. If you ask anyone who has played Brora they will almost certainly have it at the very top of their list. The course was designed by James Braid and has remained relatively untouched through the years. Situated in the Scottish highlands, you can be assured of incredible golf and a warm welcome to the club.
The course remains relatively unchanged since 1923 which is when Braid was responsible for a large refurbishment project. At just over 6,200 yards from the back tees, this is a short course by modern standards but to let that bother you is to completely miss the point. This is a golf course for the true discerning golfer, one that oozes class and quality on every hole. The view from the 2nd tee is one of the greatest panoramas in all of golf. Raised above sea-level, the right side of the tee looks out onto the North Sea and an expanse of coast which is to be enjoyed by the eye but avoided with the golf ball. To the left you can see almost all of the historic course that awaits you. This wonderful dog legged par four makes for a strong start to the course and sets the tone for an unforgettable round.
If you know the history of golf, you will know that links land was where golf began and it took some time for the sport to move away from the coast. Here is the only inland course from The UK on our list and it is one of the finest in all of the world. The Old Course at Sunningdale was designed by Willie Park and Harry S. Colt, two of golf’s greatest architects. When you think of Sunningdale, the first thing that comes to mind are the ancient trees that line and decorate the heathland fairways. Like all of the courses on this list, Sunningdale has withstood the test of time incredibly and even new technology can’t help you overpower the sumptuous turf.
These famous trees don’t just provide a hazard for those struggling with accuracy, they create a wonderful intimate atmosphere as you make your way around the course. They enclose you into the course and make you feel like it is just you and the course and nothing else exists beyond that. The 10th hole is revered world-over especially for the incredible view from the tee. Looking down onto the perfectly cut fairway, you will be struck by the simplicity of the hole as you try to avoid the fairway bunkers that are poised to gobble up an errant shot. One of the wonderful quirks of this course is that the halfway house sits behind the 10th green. Enjoy this hole and then stock up on fuel before you finish off your back nine.
Spending some time in the clubhouse at Sunningdale is an absolute must. It’s rich history from Bobby Jones’ perfect 66 to more recent moments from The Seve Trophy or the annual Sunningdale Foursomes, golf at Sunningdale is as magical today as it was since the club was created.
Gran Canaria, Spain
Due to golf being made popular by the British, it will be no surprise to learn that as the sport spread around the world it did so via France and Spain. Real Golf Club de Las Palmas is Spain’s oldest club and where it all began for this now golf-loving nation. Although the club was founded in 1891, the current set-up was actually built in 1950. This move was a stroke of genius though as the course now sits beside a volcanic crater and gives phenomenal views over Gran Canaria.
This course, known to the locals as “Bandama” is a tricky one and despite a sparing use of bunkers, the raised greens aren’t easy to get to. This course will test your shortgame so be sure to sharpen those feel shots before you play. This is one of the most spectacular ranges you will ever practice on as you fire balls into the crater! The opening holes run alongside the rim of the crater whilst some the deep ravines and nearby mountains provide an incredible backdrop to your round. This course is a real treat on the eye and one that will keep your camera busy.
South of France
The Cote D’Azur is one of the world’s great summer playgrounds so it is fitting that a golf course over 100 years old calls it home. Opening in 1891 through funding from the Russian royal family, this seaside course is one of France’s most delicious golfing treats. Harry S. Colt is largely responsible for the course that we see today and the enduring quality of the playing experience. The course weaves its way through ancient trees that provide some shade for those playing in the afternoon sun, or difficulty for those who are struggling from the tee.
One of the quirks of this course is the need for two ferries during your round. You play the first two holes, grab a ferry over the river Siagne to play the next ten holes, then hop on another to finish your round. This course is only 6,300 yards but the trees, the intelligent design and tricky Colt bunkering creates a tricky course. The 16th hole is a great hole. A short par three with an island-type green surrounded by huge bunkers. Your tee shot heads toward the railway line that dissects the course as you try to find the lush green dancefloor surrounded by colossal bunkers. A unique playing experience that is a joy for all golfers.
Golf has a relationship with its history in a way that no other sport can really compete with. We are lucky that around the world there are still so many opportunities to play golf courses over 100 years old and the list above is only a few examples of what is out there. Technology may have changed and revolutionised our sport, however, most golfers are aware of the humble days of the game and the journey to what we see today.
Playing historic courses is a magical experience as you consider those who have gone before you and the famous golfers who may have hit a shot from the spot you are on. Modern courses are great, of that there is no doubt, but nothing beats a round on one of those living museums of our sport.
We’re back in Masters week and it feels so good; just two days until the world’s biggest golf tournament kicks off and golf fans are beyond excited for The Masters at Augusta National.
With so much media speculation on who will win and what will happen over the next few days, we thought we’d draw on some nostalgia to get us ready.
Everyone remembers their first Masters, some have even attended with Your Golf Travel but it seems the best Masters moments are somewhat agreed on.
However, with so many to choose from, some will have to miss out – here’s our Top 5 Masters Moments.
With a Brit yet to don a green jacket, Sandy Lyle was tied with Mark Calcavecchia on the 18th hole. His drive landed him in one of Augusta’s famous fairway bunkers, making for a nervous approach. Lyle flushed a seven iron from the sand, rolling it back from the ridge to give himself a birdie putt for the win. Take a look at how it unfolded below.
In his first Masters appearance as a professional, Tiger Woods blew the field away at Augusta National, putting in one of the all time great performances in a major championship. As the youngest ever major winner and breaking records left, right and centre, Woods ended up 12 shots better off than the rest. A truly iconic victory.
It’s that man again and probably the most famous shot in golfing history. On the 16th and looking like relinquishing his one shot lead over Chris DiMarco, Woods landed in the rough on the edge of the 16th green. Not many gave him a chance of getting it close, even the commentators, but he executed a masterful wedge shot which rolled precariously towards the hole, before giving Nike some of the best advertising you’re likely to see.
Bubba Watson is an extravagant golfer; from the pink driver to the incredible way he drives the ball, it’s entertaining to follow his round. In 2012, he found himself in front of the world’s eyes as he and Louis Oosthuizen found themselves in a play-off. A wayward drive saw Watson deep in the pine straw on the 10th hole, leaving a corridor of spectators seemingly narrowing his exit. The innovative Watson found a way to escape though with a simply incredible rope hook onto the green, a shot which effectively won him The Masters.
The long illusive first major for Sergio Garcia finally arrived in 2017 as he ended the weekend in the coveted green jacket after 74 attempts at major championship glory. On Masters Sunday, a thrilling day of action culminated in a sudden death play-off between European giants Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, but Garcia prevailed with a birdie on the 18th….all on Seve’s 60th birthday as well.
Although, just because you choose to attend the world’s greatest golf tournament, it doesn’t mean you can’t play some golf of your own.
Whether you stay local and discover more great courses within Augusta or opt for a road trip across states, there are so many options to get your fix on Masters week.
Here’s our breakdown of courses you can play near Augusta National.
The hometown of the golf legend Bobby Jones and with Augusta National’s influence prevalent from each corner, Augusta GA is a truly special place.
Each April thousands of fans arrive to witness the special tournament, but the thing with The Masters is that it makes you want to play golf, so why wait till you get home?
Just 15 minutes from Augusta National, West Lake Country Club is a great option for those wanting to play a quintessentially American golf course.
With exceptional playing conditions, a huge amount of water and some of the fastest greens you’re likely to putt on, it’s no surprise that West Lake has hosted several regional championships.
Nearly at 7,000 yards from the back tees, its length won’t be the issue, but in fact, the sheer quality of the Ellis Maples design will be the underlying obstacle to overcome, ensuring your golf is strategic in order to score well.
The name is quite self-explanatory, but The River Golf Club will test your mettle around a plethora of water hazards just a few minutes from The Masters host.
Displaying perfectly the midas touch of renowned course designer Jim Fazio, the course rewards bravery but is equally punishing if you spray it off the tee.
The mature track offers a welcome contrast to the other courses in the area, making it perfect for anyone wanting to bolt on some golf to their bucket list trip.
Reynolds Lake Oconee is a one of a kind destination, boasting an unbelievable five-star resort which itself features five world-class golf courses.
At 70 minutes from Augusta National, the location is perfect for balancing tournament spectating and some holes of your own, but experiencing all five courses might be tight during your trip.
Despite having such great variety, the resort doesn’t compromise on quality with each and every course offering a genuine championship challenge in unique settings.
As the capital of South Carolina, there is naturally a huge golfing spotlight on Columbia and with a transfer time of just over an hour, it makes for one of the best golfing destinations in and around Augusta.
The city is buzzing with sporting life, thanks mostly to a strong college football presence and embraces the flocks of golfers each year with open arms.
Columbia Country Club is a simply spectacular course which acts as a brilliant gateway between the layouts of Augusta and the Carolinas.
Expect wide fairways littered with large fairway bunkers, a heavy presence of water and any stray shots landing in the pine straw.
Naturally, everything from tee to green is in impeccable condition which only adds to the difficulty of this course, but a variety of tee boxes make it playable for all standards of golfer.
Aside from its capital Columbia, South Carolina has so much more to offer, especially down by America’s stunning southeastern coast.
These all offer unforgettable golfing experiences just three hours from Augusta, making it a popular add-on to any trip to The Masters.
Not many people would argue that the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is the pinnacle of golf in South Carolina.
With huge championship pedigree behind it, the famed course which is steeped in history is potentially the closest test you’ll get on a golf course, behind Augusta National, of course.
However, if you’re looking for the best possible option for playing golf on a Masters trip, then this is where you’d go.
Harbour Town Links plays host to the RBC Heritage the week following The Masters, but for anyone heading to the US early for the tournament, you’ll be able to experience this iconic golf course at its best.
With the touch of both Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, the course is equally challenging as beautiful, however, it’s the lighthouse which overlooks the 18th green which really puts it on postcards.
Getting in a round here before heading to Augusta is only going to heighten the excitement for seeing the world’s most unique golf course; a truly remarkable destination.
Myrtle Beach is vibrant, busy and bold, just like the man who revolutionised the King’s North course in 1996, showing every inch of his personality in the design.
And in typical Arnold Palmer fashion, you must play with style and strategy to get the most out of your round, especially with bunkers and water in play throughout.
For a fun, exciting and enjoyable part of your Masters trip, a round at King’s North is sure to hit the spot.
Slightly further out at a four and a half hour drive, but of course more than achievable with a rental car, Alabama has everything you could wish for in a golf holiday to America.
Not only is it hugely popular with golfers due to the renowned Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, boasting over 11 golf courses, but also has so much to offer away from the fairways.
This is a fantastic bolt on to any Masters golf holiday and gives you the chance to play some seriously challenging golf courses.
Ross Bridge is the latest course to be added to the RTJ Golf Trail and is already one of the most sought after courses in Alabama, thanks to its monster layout.
Anyone brave enough to take on the course from the back tees will be faced with nearly 8,200 yards of golf course in front of them, but don’t fear, us mere humans can tee it up much further forward to make it playable.
Another on the trail is Oxmoor Valley; not quite as long as Ross Bridge at 7,000 yards but equally as impressive, with brilliant level changes and stadium style water hazards throughout.
Expect some of the most spectacular par-5’s in Alabama, with accuracy off the tee pivotal with devastating punishment for wayward shots.
However, as with any course with a Robert Trent Jones influence, you’ll enjoy the challenge regardless of golfing ability and enjoy the innovative design, testing new parts of your game each time.