Royal Aberdeen - Larry Lambrecht

The 8 Best Links Courses to Never Host the Open Championship

This article originally appeared on

This course is NOT in the Open Championship rota. Nevertheless, it's an absolute must-play. (Larry Lambrecht)

You’re probably familiar with all of the courses of the Open Championship rota by now.

You know the ones: The Old Course, Carnoustie, Royal St. George’s, yadda yadda yadda, not to mention jolly old Royal Birkdale, which hosts the Open this week.

But what about the “best of the rest?”

In this case, many of "the rest" are better than the Open venues themselves.

These links courses in the Isles will never host an Open, but they are "must-play" courses for your next UK golf trip.

We’re going to limit this list to bona fide links courses because there are so many great courses in the U.K. That includes England’s incredible heathland courses, which we covered here.

Royal County Down Golf Club

Northern Ireland's Royal County Down is regarded by many as the world's finest links. (Slieve Donard Resort)

The Open’s 2019 return to another Northern Irish gem, Royal Portrush, makes us feel particularly good about mentioning Royal County Down, which may be the world’s greatest links. Spectacular scenery, a wild dunescape and a consistent, engaging, fun challenge makes County Down one of our favorite places to play golf anywhere. The long par-4 ninth, with views of both mountains and sea, is worth the greens fee alone.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club

Royal Dornoch is one of the great links courses of Scotland, an inspiration to two of history's great architects. (Visit Scotland)

Few golf courses can claim direct influence on two of history’s greatest all-time golf course designers, but Royal Dornoch can. Donald Ross grew up playing the course and Pete Dye’s pilgrimage to Dornoch early in his career proved critically influential. If that isn’t enough to convince you to go, consider the course’s tremendous seaside setting.

Kingsbarns Golf Links

Kingsbarns is architect Kyle Phillips' masterpiece. It is one of the host courses for the Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour. (Golf Scotland)

Situated as it is in the middle of the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, this Kyle Phillips-designed modern links is a must-play course for anyone visiting the area. Even more so than the polarizing Castle Course at St. Andrews, Kingsbarns is a beloved modern course that serves as a wonderful complement to all the ancient links tracks nearby. Half a dozen holes border the North Sea, highlighted by the cliff-hanging par-3 15th.

Rye Golf Club

Rye is one of the most historic courses in the U.K. outside the Open rota, which it will never join, although it has hosted Open qualifying many times in the past. In particular, it is a haven of alternate-shot play. The course is a par-68 layout, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the course is easy. It’s a great challenge, sleeper-lined bunkers and all.

Cruden Bay Golf Club

Cruden Bay is one of the many wild and wonderful courses on Scotland's east coast. (Visit Scotland)

A ways north and east of Aberdeen lies Cruden Bay, a Tom Morris/Archie Simpson design that dates back to 1899. The original 5,300 yard course has grown to just shy of 6,300 yards, which makes it far too short to host an Open Championship but plenty long enough to delight any visitor.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

The European Tour (especially winner Justin Rose) loved Royal Aberdeen (pictured at the top of this article), which has hosted the Scottish Open and was the site of the 2005 Senior Open Championship, won by Tom Watson. It features one of the golf world’s best and toughest front nines, and the inward half is no slouch, either.

Royal West Norfolk Golf Club

Royal West Norfolk, also known as Brancaster, features a unique entrance road in the world of golf. The long-ranging tides on the nearby beach have been known to inundate cars traversing the road at the wrong time of day, and golf balls can suffer similar fates on a number of holes.

North Berwick West Links

North Berwick is perhaps most famous for its Redan hole, but the other 17 are pretty delightful, too. (Visit Scotland)

One of the world’s most fun and quirkiest courses, North Berwick is something of a pilgrimage site for golf course architecture buffs in particular, but everyone gets a kick out of the course that is known as the birthplace of the Redan hole (the 15th), with its banked green and fearsome flanking hazards.

What are your nominations for the top courses in the British Isles that have yet to host an Open Championship? We know we left some great candidates out; help us round out the list in the comments!

Jul 18, 2017

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PhilCT's avatar
PhilCT wrote at 2017-07-19 13:28:30+00:00:

I loved that someone mentioned Brora! You would have to remove the sheep and the electric fence around each green. Don't think the pros will like that. I agree Royal Porthcawl is very worthy. But like Royal Dornoch, i don't think these venues have the capacity to handle the types of crowds the Open Championship draws. Too bad it can't be held in Ireland. Lot's of great courses there!!

Brendan's avatar
Brendan wrote at 2017-07-19 10:07:13+00:00:

I considered playing Kingsbarns but the 400 quid green fee rather put me off. That 400 quid (500 dollars) would pay a considerable chunk of the annual membership fee in a lot of links clubs in Ireland and ALL of the fee in my club (a publicly owned links course) For those with deep pockets by all means play the likes of Kingsbarns and Doonbeg, and enjoy them! But for the rest of us there are plenty of excellent courses you can play for under 50 euro and many more in the 80-100 euro bracket. Dooks, Carne, Ballyconeely (Connemara) Enniscrone, St Annes (right in the centre of Dublin City) Baltray, Bettystown, the Island and many, many more. As for the name of my club, well that will have to remain a secret, don't want the place over-run with bargain seeking Yanks!

Hugh Grant's avatar
Hugh Grant wrote at 2017-07-19 09:33:06+00:00:

Machrihanish has to be experienced . 30 mins from Glasgow (inexpensive flight/package)-quintessential wild Scottish links on the edge of the world . Next stop Montauk . .Old Tom may have got the idea for the short 4th from the 10th at Pine Valley .. or maybe it was the other way round and at least there's sand in the front bunker !

You can't build, buy or design charm but it can be found readily at Elie , North Berwick , Shiskine (where's that ?)and always always at Western Gailles .

Nina Davidson, Sydney Aus's avatar
Nina Davidson, Sydney Aus wrote at 2017-07-18 23:54:35+00:00:

Love Don McBride's comment! My husband has recently passed away - just before he got sick a few years ago we did amazing Scotland/Ireland golfing Mecca trip.... faves were, LaHinch, Ballybunion (old), Waterville & Castle Stuart, Turnberry (Ailsa) & 2 not mentioned but poss the best as we were the ONLY people on this pristine gorgeous course (& had to shut the gate behind us!) was Machrihanish Dunes. The other was Pitlochry in Scottish Highlands (not Links but fantastic) I'll be going back sometime to do unfinished 'business', Old Head + Nth Ireland & Royal Dornoch, Gullane & Nth Berwick

Nina Davidson, Sydney Aus's avatar
Nina Davidson, Sydney Aus wrote at 2017-07-18 23:51:44+00:00:

Love Don McBride's comment! My husband has recently passed away - just before he got sick a few years ago we did amazing Scotland/Ireland golfing Mecca trip.... faves were, LaHinch, Ballybunion (old), Waterville & Castle Stuart, Turnberry (Ailsa) & 2 not mentioned but poss the best as we were the ONLY people on this pristine gorgeous course (& had to shut the gate behind us!) was Machrihanish Dunes. The other was Pitlochry in Scottish Highlands. I'll be going back sometime to do unfinished 'business', Old Head + Nth Ireland & Royal Dornoch, Gullane & Nth Berwick

Wrdag's avatar
Wrdag wrote at 2017-07-18 22:58:24+00:00:

Can't believe I read that many comments and a true links gem was never mentioned once...Machrihanish.

Links golf at it's best and the best opening tee shot in the entire UK right over a public beach.

Royal Dornoch is my favorite course in the world and Cruden Bay not far behind.

Portmarnock deserves more love. Carne needs some cash and a tad more care but it's an amazing track.

Trump's work on Turnberry with the new ocean holes and overall upgrade of the course makes it one of the best in the world. Shocking that they have yet to give it a date for another Open.

Peter Deem's avatar
Peter Deem wrote at 2017-07-18 22:50:06+00:00:

Anyone play a course in Scotland called Ladybank? A friend recommended it.

I played Carnoustie and St Andrews a number of years ago and it's nice to have them on my list of have dones.

Trying to plan a trip to Ireland/Scotland next year. All your suggestions are great and it looks like I need to spend a couple of months to get them all in.

Mike Jackson's avatar
Mike Jackson wrote at 2017-07-18 22:41:42+00:00:

A vote for Hillside.

For great fun and a spectacular setting Nefyn is fantastic, but no where near the conditioning as an open alternative.

Robert Thomas's avatar
Robert Thomas wrote at 2017-07-18 22:29:03+00:00:

You should also consider Southerness and Silloth - both on the Solway.

Chris Kirby's avatar
Chris Kirby wrote at 2017-07-18 21:32:38+00:00:

Gosh, have played all 8 and every single one mentioned by others, including Cabot Links (fab!) with exception of Dunbar and Tain. I did complete all Top 100 in British Isles in 2009. I think you nailed it in UK - as for commentary, County Down is tops, North Berwick and Western Gailes the best 'gems', Rye doesn't cut it (despite four superb par-3s), Dundonald may be up for review after the Scottish Open, and two 'fun' links not mentioned are Nefyn & District for spectacular scenery and Pennard for the 'purity' of the Links experience, like Brora in that regard.

Murray Newham's avatar
Murray Newham wrote at 2017-07-18 20:53:52+00:00:

Saunton in north Devon. 36 holes of pure links heaven .... I love the Scottish links, but if you're looking for something different & special, try it.

Doc McBride's avatar
Doc McBride wrote at 2017-07-18 20:52:19+00:00:

In 1996 I went to Ireland for 2 weeks with my two boys (Tim,33 & Pat,32). We played 18 rounds of golf in 12 days: Connamara; Carne & Rosses Pt; Just loved Carne. It was about a year old; Royal Portrush; Royal County Down (36 holes) could not just play it once; Portmarnock; Druids Glen & European Club; Tralee (a fun course, great back 9); ballybunyon Old & New (old much better); Waterville & Killarney loved Waterville); Lahinch (loved this one). Would have played Old Head, but didn't know anything about it. Just opened. Royal Portrush our #1 pick. We left home a father and 2 sons and came home 3 brothers. It was awesome.

Brian Martin's avatar
Brian Martin wrote at 2017-07-18 19:36:00+00:00:

Kingsbarns, I think, is overrated, especially for the price paid to play. While certainly tournament-caliber, I am not sure up to Open standards.

Cruden Bay - absolutely a gem - though again I'm not sure Open caliber a tremendous play and super-friendly club to visit - highly receommend.

Dornoch - my #3 all-timer. Just love it, it's location and it's layout just befit an Open IMO.

Lahinch - my all time #2 but not eligible as in the Republic - winner winner.

County Down - my all time fav and #1. if you have not been, put it on your bucket list. Forget Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Augusta...this is truly a stern yet fair test of golf in some of the most beautiful settings you're likely to find. I've played it 2x and can not wait to go back.

Kevin Wylie's avatar
Kevin Wylie wrote at 2017-07-18 18:39:52+00:00:

Two years ago on a buddies trip played Gleneagles Queens, Cruden Bay, Royal Dornoch, Trump Int'l, Castle Stuart, Nairn, Carnoustie, St. Andrews Old and New, Kittocks and Kingsbarns. We loved them all in their own way. The surprise of the bunch was Trump Int'l, which was just magnificent...St Andrews/Carnoustie for their history, Castle Stuart/Kingsbarns for their newness and playability but a bit more Americanized links style, Royal Dornoch for its nostalgia, charm and difficulty and Cruden Bay for its beauty, quirkiness and fun.

Scott Yard's avatar
Scott Yard wrote at 2017-07-18 18:36:42+00:00:

Just returned from first trip to Scotland after three trips to Ireland. Loved Kingsbarns. Prestwick a bit too quirky, especially the back nine. Troon was a joy and much better than the Old Course. "Carnasty" was indeed nasty (in 9 pot bunkers). Ireland favorites are Ballyliffen, Waterville, Llahinch and RCD. Hope to get back to Ireland to play Carne, Inniscrone, and Roses Point again. Love the Northern Ireland swing and the farming B&B s.

Peter T's avatar
Peter T wrote at 2017-07-18 18:21:37+00:00:

great list! two friends and I went over in 1972 and played 42 rounds in 28 days on 34 different courses- all in for flights, golf, food, lodging.....$1500. Played all of the Open courses except St Georges, which wasn't in the rotation then.

Went to Ireland a couple off years ago, focusing on links courses, and on a budget. Most of the courses mentioned by you cost an arm, leg and first-born child. We went "on the cheap", and loved the 36 at Ballyliffin, Castlerock (semi-links), Portmarnock Links course (under $100 and fabulous), and a favorite of all of us, Ardglass (near Belfast), which is on the water, but not really a links course.

We played a couple of funky little links courses that were fun, cheap and challenging - Layton and Bettystown and County Louth.

There are hidden gems everywhere!

peter farrell's avatar
peter farrell wrote at 2017-07-18 17:31:56+00:00:

How can you pass on ARDGLASS GOLF LINKS. Just 20 minutes from Royal County Down, 18 holes on the water and one of the greatest opening holes in golf. The clubhouse, a former castle, was built in 1405. Don't miss this absolute beauty.

Mike Pierce's avatar
Mike Pierce wrote at 2017-07-18 17:31:25+00:00:

Returned from my first trip to Ireland for golf, played LaHinch, Doonbeg,

Ballybunion, Kilarney Fish and Golf Club, Tralee and Old Head. Maybe it had something to do with the weather which was absolutely perfect but Old Head to me was far and away the most visually spectacular course I have ever played or for that matter seen. It was truly unbelievable. I also think Doonbeg is very underrated and with a bit more seasoning will be truly wonderful, I did love it and it can be a very stern test if the wind is not favorable. Loved them all and am anxious to return to check a few more off the bucket list to play.

Roger Johns's avatar
Roger Johns wrote at 2017-07-18 17:31:01+00:00:

A few years ago we play st Andrews old. Loved the history and the undulations around the greens, but it's to flat with to many straight holes and few dog Legg's. Doesn't hold a candle to one of my old favourites St Enodoc mega hilly so interest always great condition well linksy

Rob Bernstein's avatar
Rob Bernstein wrote at 2017-07-18 17:30:29+00:00:


Burnham & Berrow


Dermot Murphy's avatar
Dermot Murphy wrote at 2015-01-20 14:45:30+00:00:

I have played many of the courses mentioned in the list and by your correspondents, While not in the running for the Open as Ireland is Ireland, I'm amazed that there is no mention of one of the true gems of Links Golf - Waterville, Co Kerry. Spectacular and breath taking scenery compliments one of the greatest, toughest and natural links courses in the World .

Rob Brown's avatar
Rob Brown wrote at 2014-12-30 22:00:01+00:00:

Connemara, Enniscrone and County Sligo (Rosses Point) Must be included on this list. I haven't played Carne (Belmullet) but I have heard great things... :)

Alan Holland's avatar
Alan Holland wrote at 2014-08-20 12:59:59+00:00:

I really enjoyed the following "hidden gems":

St Enodoc, Cornwall

Trevose, Cornwall

Saunton (both East and West courses), Devon

Royal St David's, Wales

Aberdovey, Wales

Nefyn, Wales

Porthmadog, Wales

Conwy, Wales

Royal Jersey, Channel Islands

All cracking courses and fun to play. Alternatives to all the usual, more well known links!

Jan Gronqvist's avatar
Jan Gronqvist wrote at 2014-08-19 05:45:42+00:00:

I have played many of The mentioned courses. Links courses are outstanding and if I have to picknick out three favourites it will be Royal County Down, Hillside (Southport, just north of Liverpool and Kingsbarns.

Joe Whisnant's avatar
Joe Whisnant wrote at 2014-08-12 23:22:10+00:00:

I have played them all and I agree, they are all great courses. My favorite, Dornoch.

Dave Carse's avatar
Dave Carse wrote at 2014-08-11 09:09:51+00:00:

I'm in complete agreement re North Berwick. It is a simply magical course, with a range of fascinating holes that you will never forget.

It was nice to see a mention for Southerness. I suspect that it is little known because it is a little off the beaten track ... about 20 miles west of Dumfries on the coast of the Solway Firth. It is wild and rugged and a great test.

Marc Klein's avatar
Marc Klein wrote at 2014-07-22 12:51:56+00:00:

Played five of them and couldn't agree more, especially Royal County Down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Les ONeal's avatar
Les ONeal wrote at 2014-07-22 12:48:10+00:00:

Played most of these agree Royal County Down &Ballybunion old top of list. I thought Lahinch was a really fun great course. Qualified for Bristish Senior Open At Royal Portrush it was fantastic . Turnbery Ailsa awfully good as well.

Paul Ranck's avatar
Paul Ranck wrote at 2014-07-22 12:10:14+00:00:

I've played several of the courses mentioned. I wasn't impressed with Kingsbarn. I know it's a favorite of a lot of people, but not mine. Castle Stuart is a great links course. Royal Dornoch is great. but I don't know where people would stay. Cruden Bay is short and if I remember they have a poor practice area.

PeterB's avatar
PeterB wrote at 2014-07-22 11:56:47+00:00:

Glad to see my local club Saunton Golf Club recommended under comments. To challenging 18 hole courses by the wonderful North Devon coast. Not one to be missed.

JM88's avatar
JM88 wrote at 2014-07-17 13:30:09+00:00:

I've played most of these courses as well. I would add Castle Stuart and the Castle course at St. Andrews as must plays. Royal County Down is an all time favorite.

Walter's avatar
Walter wrote at 2014-07-17 02:00:53+00:00:

Played Royal Dornoch several years ago. Two interesting notations: It is the or one of the northern most golf courses. Play 9 with the wind then back 9 agin it...2 club wind.

Dave from England's avatar
Dave from England wrote at 2014-07-16 20:00:45+00:00:

I totally agree with the comments on North Berwick and Rye. Other favourites of mine are Saunton in North Devon and St Enodoc in Cornwall. Must play courses if you're in South West England!

Richard's avatar
Richard wrote at 2014-07-16 19:06:56+00:00:

love Love LOVE Royal County Down!!!!!!!! #1 on my list. Other than the last two holes, Royal Portrush is a very strong and enjoyable test as well.

Keith's avatar
Keith wrote at 2014-07-16 17:19:31+00:00:

Royal Dornoch is my all-time favorite. Too bad they won't hold the Open there due to a lack of hotels, etc. in the area.

I've played Nairn, Tain, Brora, Moray (Lossiemouth), Crail Balcomie, Lundin Links, Leven, Carnoustie, Troon, St. Andrews Old & Jubilee, Kingsbarns, Carnegie Club and probably a few others I'm forgetting.

But my favorite is Gullane No. 1 because I aced the ninth hole a few years ago! My biggest thrill in over 40 years of playing golf. Oh, and it's a pretty good course too!

KB Meagher's avatar
KB Meagher wrote at 2014-07-16 16:08:14+00:00:

Connemara. Today, tomorrow, and the next day, the next day, the next day,...

Rich's avatar
Rich wrote at 2014-07-16 14:27:17+00:00:

I also love Enniscone in northern Ireland along with Rosses Point.

Rich's avatar
Rich wrote at 2014-07-16 14:25:51+00:00:

Played many/most of these. Just got back recently from 2 week trip to Ireland (this time). Agree with Gullane, don't miss if you are playing North Berwick. Also agree with Preswick - another unique one. I'd suggest to anyone stay away from Ballybunion Cashen. If you play take a cart and you also need a guide, as far too many blind shots into very narrow playing areas. Old Course great. I guess for 20 Euro extra, Cashen not that bad ;) I need to get to Royal Dornick. As far as "the" Old Course (St. Andrews) besides history not a great course; Kingsbarn MUCH better. Old course you can hit it anywhere, greens can be tough. Shot 74 so maybe should not complain. BTW I hear now that Turkey is now the place to go for best prices.

Jim Mackrell's avatar
Jim Mackrell wrote at 2014-07-16 13:55:25+00:00:

I would add Siloth - north west of the Lake District, on the Irish Sea. - a real challenge in the wind or not.

Dr Rob's avatar
Dr Rob wrote at 2014-07-16 12:58:07+00:00:

Agree with all. I have played many on the list. For a muni it's hard to beat Gullane. For a fun and windy walk try Royal North Devon- one of the oldest courses in the UK

BigAl's avatar
BigAl wrote at 2014-07-16 05:41:58+00:00:

Augusta could learn a thing or two from these gems. No over watering, no over fertilizing, no heating/cooling systems under the greens.........

Sorry, just couldn't resist.

Brora is special. So is Nairn Golf club. But so are the others listed by readers.

My favorite would not be a Trump course anywhere.

Colin Scott's avatar
Colin Scott wrote at 2014-07-16 05:01:26+00:00:

Played Royal Dornoch in wind and pouring rain in 2001. Can't wait to go back and try it again sometime. If I can't play Augusta National or Cypress Point before I die I just want to play Royal County Down one more time (played it 4 times since 1994) and it is simply the best!

Lee Coppin's avatar
Lee Coppin wrote at 2014-07-16 04:34:56+00:00:

If you are looking to play in the Uk and hidden gem in North Wales is Nefyn and District . This is a cliff top links with 22 holes where you can see the sea from every tee. Wonderful golf and spectacular views not to be missed and only 2 hours from Manchester and Liverpool.

Rick Wake's avatar
Rick Wake wrote at 2014-07-16 03:37:04+00:00:

We played Kingsbarns in the tournament for International seniors about 5 years ago and everyone agreed that it should be on the Open rotation.

George Duffy's avatar
George Duffy wrote at 2014-07-16 01:19:32+00:00:

The most difficult course I ever played was Portmarnock...the two courses at St Andrews Fairmont hotel Kittocks and Torrance are very underrated and fun. I actually though PGA Centenary at Gleneagles was too "American"..Jack designed it.

Playing Kingsbarns next week.

Linkslander's avatar
Linkslander wrote at 2014-07-16 00:46:49+00:00:


Crail (Balcomie)




St. Andrews (New)

St. Andrews (Eden) -- even better before they ruined a few holes for the driving range project

As nice as Old Head is, it is not a links course.

T Nelson's avatar
T Nelson wrote at 2014-07-16 00:46:33+00:00:

Western Gailes needs to be on the list.

Mike Henderson's avatar
Mike Henderson wrote at 2014-07-15 23:51:30+00:00:

The Golf House at Elie is special and worth the drive.

Jim Woods's avatar
Jim Woods wrote at 2014-07-15 22:38:57+00:00:

If you like the sea breeze in your round of golf there is no better course than Dunbar. 14 holes on the sea with delightful sea breezes to make you smile all day long!

Dick Culhane's avatar
Dick Culhane wrote at 2014-07-15 21:48:54+00:00:

To hit toward " the Mountains of Mourne, that run down to the sea" on the ninth hole of Royal County Down is the ultimate in golf aesthetics.

marc madison's avatar
marc madison wrote at 2014-07-15 21:00:27+00:00:

This list must include carne enniscrone and ballyliffin...all under the radar for irish trips by americans...

None's avatar
None wrote at 2014-07-15 20:51:01+00:00:

Western Gailes

Morgan jones's avatar
Morgan jones wrote at 2014-07-15 20:48:59+00:00:

Balcomie, although only 5800 yards was sheer heaven. Right on the point of The Firth of Forth and the North Sea is an absolute must play!

David Corlett's avatar
David Corlett wrote at 2014-07-15 20:36:08+00:00:

Just a ferry ride away from Dublin or Liverpool is Castleton golf links on The Isle of Man!

Jack Hartman's avatar
Jack Hartman wrote at 2014-07-15 20:33:36+00:00:

My wife and I played Royal Dornoch a few years ago. When you walk into the clubhouse, there's a big picture of Tom Watson on the wall and underneath it says something like "Playing Royal Dornoch was the most fun I've ever had playing golf". I thoroughly agree. What a great course. I played Spanish Bay a couple of years later (and very much enjoyed it) and remarked to my wife that it reminded me a lot of Royal Dornoch. When I looked up the designers, there was Tom Watson. RD is a must if you go to Scotland.

John Kearns's avatar
John Kearns wrote at 2014-07-15 20:30:22+00:00:

The Golf House Club at Elie was one of the most delightful rounds of golf I've ever played. It will never host an Open Championship, but for pure fun, and to learn about James Braid, it is unbeatable.

Tony Dear's avatar
Tony Dear wrote at 2014-07-15 20:27:19+00:00:

Great selection Tim, and all certainly worthy of inclusion. But there are several more links I am sure American visitors would really enjoy. They may never host the Open, but most people playing these courses for the first time feel they have discovered a new personal favorite:


St Enodoc



Pyle & Kenfig



Seaton Carew


Burnham & Berrow


Southport & Ainsdale

St Annes Old Links








St Andrews New & Eden


Castle Stuart

and yes...Trump International

Doug Roberts's avatar
Doug Roberts wrote at 2014-07-15 20:14:52+00:00:

Carne's new 9...Insane....Get up to Narin/Portnoo...A real hidden gem...RCD is the best track in British Isles, Period...Old Head is scenic beyond imagination...Make your way to The Machrie if you want to truly experience Links Golf the way it use to be....The European is fabulous....No Berwick is a gem....Ok...Gotta go book my flight...Bye

donald carlson's avatar
donald carlson wrote at 2014-07-15 19:58:42+00:00:

Played them all and agree with David Noble. Need to add Royal Portrush (will have the Open in a few years) and Western Gailes is much better than Rye. But all great. Thanks for the list. Make it 10 and add Gullane #1.

Glasgow's avatar
Glasgow wrote at 2014-07-15 19:57:47+00:00:

All good courses. Out of the additional!! courses mentioned, Carne on the west coast of Ireland and Machrihannish on the west coast of Scotland are truly outstanding, memorable Links courses.

Ian Patrick's avatar
Ian Patrick wrote at 2014-07-15 19:56:49+00:00:

Although not too long, it takes a lot to beat The Machrie on the Isle of Islay

Matt Craze's avatar
Matt Craze wrote at 2014-07-15 19:36:03+00:00:

Porthcawl is a gem -- first three holes hug the seashore, the 18th beautiful downhill shot to the green with the sea behind -- love the place.

John L. Fraser's avatar
John L. Fraser wrote at 2014-07-15 19:29:41+00:00:

These courses all reminds me of the new Canadian Cabot Links at Inverness in Cape Breton. Nova Scotia Canada.

bruce bedard's avatar
bruce bedard wrote at 2014-07-15 19:28:03+00:00:

Played them all ! My favorite is cruden bay! awesome course great caddies just a great experience. Royal dornoch is too hard shot a smooth 92 from the tips and felt like I didnt miss a shot! Royal count downs has the best hotel, sleve donard- had a BLAST!! Great caddies

Mark Jensen's avatar
Mark Jensen wrote at 2014-07-15 19:27:42+00:00:

Cruden Bay - I vant to drink your blood! Get it? Slains castle...

Loch Lomond (yes I know it's not a links course)...but mystical, soulful, enchanting

Brora - just plain fun

Prestwick - see Brora comment & what history!

Machrihanish - talk about getting away from it all

david's avatar
david wrote at 2014-07-15 19:27:29+00:00:

Really old fashioned and true links at Burnham and Berrow GC Somerset.

Larry Henderson's avatar
Larry Henderson wrote at 2014-07-15 19:22:03+00:00:

I agree with some of your choices for alternative links golf. Last summer I played North Berwick (perhaps my fav course in the world) and Kingsbarns which was spectacular.

Also played Dunbar (great links course near North Berwick) and Gleneagles Kings (inland course with great vistas) which are both great courses.

Larry- Oakville, ON Canada

Jack Rahill's avatar
Jack Rahill wrote at 2014-07-15 19:21:05+00:00:

Am glad to see you included Kingsbarns, played it in 2000. Aside from 15, holes 12 & 13 are memorable, especially from the back tees. And last but not least, try playing 18, aiming to the far left of the'll have a once in a lifetime 190 yard shot to the green in two...yes I made it as well as a birdie.

Other courses in the British Isles; Prestwick, West ireand links courses (especially if the wind is blowing hard) such as Lahinch, Tralee, Waterville, and there are many more I have yet to play in due time.

Paul's avatar
Paul wrote at 2014-07-15 19:20:33+00:00:

Never been to Scotland or England, but I have been to Ireland. If we are going to count courses on the Island of Ireland, as being in the "British" Isles (ie. your reference to Royal County Down -- with which I wholeheartedly agree), I would add Ballybunion Old and the Ballybunion Cashen Course as well. Both are fantastic and super fun to play! I wouldn't count RCD without including Ballybunion unless you are making a distinction between the North of Ireland and the Republic, and I wouldn't make that distinction. Neither apparently is Rory! Paul

David Noble's avatar
David Noble wrote at 2014-07-15 19:18:09+00:00:

You have mentioned some great alternatives but please add Western Gailes and Royal Portrush

Rick Kimsey's avatar
Rick Kimsey wrote at 2014-07-15 19:13:33+00:00:

Ballybunion is simply the most spectacular links course I've played. Although not as quirky as North Berwick, Gullane #s 1 & 2 make for a great day of links golf and offer fabulous views of the Firth of Forth. I think that Gullane #1 may have actually hosted a Women's Open.

Randy's avatar
Randy wrote at 2014-07-15 19:08:23+00:00:

I just got back from Scotland and played Nairn(among several others) - very nice golf course and very hospitable members/staff.

Agree on Dornoch(above)...a very special place

phil constable's avatar
phil constable wrote at 2014-07-15 19:03:30+00:00:

Played donoch three times, best setting , great course a real test of your golf

Frank Kelly's avatar
Frank Kelly wrote at 2014-07-15 18:59:25+00:00:

Carne Golf Links on the Belmullet Peninsula in the Northwest corner of Ireland would get my vote as one of the most enjoyable links courses I've ever played. It is very remote and will never host an Open or any major championship, but it is a pure joy to play. Recently an additional nine holes has been added.

Jack Stuart's avatar
Jack Stuart wrote at 2014-07-15 18:56:41+00:00:

Aye, have played them all and your on target, i prefer Kingsd Barn as played second day open as home is Ansthruther . Best game at St Andrews 81 also love Gleneagles. Rider cup should be super!


Rich Kupersmith's avatar
Rich Kupersmith wrote at 2014-07-15 18:56:10+00:00:

I've played five of the eight courses on this list. I have not yet made it to Rye, Berwick or West Norfolk. The ones I have played are all wonderful links courses each with their own character. Aberdeen is rugged and tough. Cruden Bay is fun and quirky. Dornoch has one great hole after another with the last 4 holes rivaling any 4 finishing holes anywhere. It is hard to say which is best but by far the most memorable was Royal County Down. The course sits on land like no other I've ever played. The course is surrounded by water, mountains, farm land and brilliant yellow gorse. The walk up the 9th fairway may provide the greatest views in all of golf. This course ranks #1 on my list and is an absolute must play for anyone who truly loves the game.

vern watts's avatar
vern watts wrote at 2014-07-15 18:46:25+00:00:

One of these days........I want to spend time playing these incredible golf courses.

George Stewart's avatar
George Stewart wrote at 2014-07-15 18:46:09+00:00:

Moray Old

Karl Lutz's avatar
Karl Lutz wrote at 2014-07-15 18:45:21+00:00:

Like your list a lot, probably wouldn't include Kingsbarn (enough of a links?) and don't know Rye or Royal West Norfolk. But, if you consider Ireland, not sure how you would exclude Ballybunion or Lahinch. Or maybe Waterville.

Rob Glisson's avatar
Rob Glisson wrote at 2014-07-15 18:43:18+00:00:

Western Gailles - this place was a magical place with a spectacular golf course.

Jesse Leighton's avatar
Jesse Leighton wrote at 2014-07-15 18:43:08+00:00:

Even though Old Head is a relatively new course, it is a great track with outstanding views that will equal any of the wonderful courses you identified!

John Holbrook's avatar
John Holbrook wrote at 2014-07-15 18:41:52+00:00:

One of the top courses in the U.K. a true links course. This is a hidden gem

that more people should discover.

John Holbrook's avatar
John Holbrook wrote at 2014-07-15 18:40:34+00:00:

Royal Porthcawl

great course this year hosting the Senior British Open

Tim Gavrich's avatar
Tim Gavrich wrote at 2014-07-15 18:40:12+00:00:

GREAT call re: Castle Stuart. Stay tuned for a little bit on it next week!


Livingston's avatar
Livingston wrote at 2014-07-15 18:39:28+00:00:

I have played Castle Stewart. This is a relatively new course, but certainly worth adding to your selection. They have played the Scottish Open on this course

Tim Gavrich

Senior Writer

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.