Golf World Top 100: Best Golf Holes in Great Britain and Ireland


What are the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland? The Golf World Top 100 panel has its say of the par 3s, par 4s and par 5s that you simply have to find time to play.

JUMP TO: 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1

Compiling the ranking of the best golf holes in Britain and Ireland was almost as epic as playing any of the golf holes in it.

It was, needless to say, a mammoth exercise as a result of the astonishing variety of options. So, we won’t pretend this is the definitive list, because clearly another 200, 300, 400, 500 truly wonderful holes exist in GB&I. That said, I do think we have identified 100 of the very best, with every one an absolutely memorable experience.

We have some obvious choices, yes, but also lots of left-field ones, and holes from courses you might well not have heard of. The more I worked on it, the more I liked it.

RELATED: Best Golf Courses in Britain and Ireland

Old Head has some of the best golf holes in Britain and Ireland.

How did we do it? We expanded our usual panellists to this time include architects, with everyone simply mooting their favourites in order of preference. The most popular were then collated into this order. Sounds so simple!

In addition to myself, the panel was: Michael Bailey, Stuart Bendoris, Kevin Brown, Eric Carrier, Sam Cooper, Olle Dahlgren, Tony Dear, Nick Dungay, Nigel Furniss, Jim Hartsell, Clyde Johnson, Tim Lobb, Paul MacMichael, Kevin Markham, Ally McIntosh, David McLay-Kidd, Ross McMurray, Alan McPherson, DJ Russell and Jeremy Slessor. Thanks to every one of them for helping with this enormous task.

Enjoy discovering 100 brilliant holes and please do let us know where we’ve got things right or wrong. We’d love to hear from you via email, on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

And make sure you check out all of our other rankings, here.

Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor

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Golf World Top 100: Best golf holes in Britain and Ireland – 100-76

100. The Belfry: 10th, Par 4, 311 yards

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, England

The par-4 10th at The Belfry is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Seve made it famous by driving this short par 4 which is protected by water – and what better way to conclude our countdown with an X Factor hole we’d all love to have a go at…

99. Eyemouth: 6th, Par 3, 167 yards

Eyemouth, Borders, Scotland

‘A Still No Ken’ translates as ‘I still don’t know’… with good reason. Slightly uphill, played over a rocky inlet of the North Sea to a green that is barely visible from the tee. Anything short to the two-tier small, narrow green is a reload. Refreshingly, the club invites all to play off the back tee.

98. Appleby: 15th, Par 3, 175 yards

Appleby, Cumbria, England

Hilton Beck swerves in front of a rise hiding a raised, bathtub green guarded by pots. From the tee, a marker post offers the only line, although a far right pin might just poke out.

97. Gairloch: 8th, Par 5, 526 yards

Gairloch, Highlands, Scotland

The par-5 8th at Gairloch is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Don’t let it be said we make only obvious choices… A huge sandhill must be cleared by the second shot to avoid a difficult long third. “Would be the best par 5 on any other links in the UK,” says one panellist.

96. West Sussex: 6th, Par 3, 226 yards

Pulborough, Sussex, England

Controversial choice – some prefer the old two-shot hole. But enough like its risk-reward aspect; do you dare take on water?

95. Ardfin: 11th, Par 4, 396 yards

Ardfin Estate, Jura, Scotland

Would get more nominations if more panellists had been. So would other holes here, especially on the stretch along the shore. This is a sweeping dog-leg down to the water that is simply breathtaking.

94. Isle of Harris: 2nd, Par 4, 299 yards

Scarista, Isle of Harris, Scotland

Enjoys a beautiful setting and climaxes with a skinny half-pipe green high above crashing waves and golden sands.

93. Trump International Golf Links Aberdeen: 14th, Par 4, 445 yards

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The par-4 14th at Trump International Golf Links Scotland is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

The 13th is a superb short hole across the site towards the North Sea, then you walk through a gap in the dunes to the most spectacular scene from a tee that feels like it’s in the clouds. Wow factor and then some.

RELATED: Best links golf courses in Britain and Ireland

92. Royal Cinque Ports: 6th, Par 4, 356 yards

Deal, Kent, England

As with the 6th at Hunstanton, the tee shot appears very simple but you need to give your approach a lot of thought beforehand. The second shot is the ultimate examination of one’s wedge game.

91. Huntercombe: 8th, Par 4, 427 yards

Nuffield, Oxfordshire, England

We love the green on the 4th here, with its heavy segmentation and contouring, but this just tops it; a long par 4 characterised by a huge, two-tiered green complex. With the pin on the top tier it’s tantalisingly hard to reach, but always great fun!

90. Yelverton: 16th, Par 4, 421 yards

Yelverton, Devon, England

This Herbert Fowler design is a mixture of the most natural of landscapes combined with man-made mine workings which make incredibly dramatic features around the greens, illustrated at the downhill 16th.

89. Porthmadog: 12th, Par 4, 351 yards

Porthmadog, North Wales, Wales

The highlight of what is a special, linksy back nine is the visual treat, played uphill to a beachside green. Ticks all the boxes.

88. Old Head: 4th, Par 4, 402 yards

Kinsale, Cork, Ireland

The par-4 4th hole at Old Head of Kinsale is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

It could have been the 2nd, a similarly awesome dog-leg par 4 along the bluffs. A green site next to rocks with the lighthouse above sees the 4th edge it.

87. Swinley Forest: 8th, Par 3,  146 yards

Ascot, Berkshire, England

We couldn’t resist a second Swinley par 3. This one is set on a ledge with a big drop to the right.

86. Carnoustie: 17th, Par 4, 433 yards

Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

‘Island’ is the equal of the 18th for many, the Barry Burn a constant menace. Takes its name from the way the burn affects the landing area for drives.

85. Prince’s (Dunes): 6th, Par 5, 506 yards

Sandwich, Kent, England

The par-5 6th on the Dunes at Prince's is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

This former Open venue has some superb greens and surrounds and this reachable, strategic three-shotter on the Dunes loop is a terrific example.

84. Rosapenna (St Patrick’s): 9th, Par 4, 460 yards

Downings, Donegal, Ireland

This brand-new links has so many contenders – not least the epic opener and downhill, dog-leg 14th – but we went for this all-world two-shotter to a fabulous green.

83. Knole Park: 6th, Par 4, 409 yards

Sevenoaks, Kent, England

One hole to explain everything you need to know about strategic golf architecture.

82. Seacroft: 13th, Par 5, 499 yards

Skegness, Lincolnshire, England

Plays down from a high ridge, back up to the green perched high on another. Your drive must fight the camber to hold an inside line to shorten the hole and leave an angle more down the length of the green – or face a shot from well below the green. For those playing it as a three-shot par 5, there is plenty of adventure in carrying over a blind ridge and trio of bunkers to leave the second/approach fairway blind.

81. Alwoodley: 13th, Par 4, 403 yards

Leeds, Yorkshire, England

The sweeping 10th and short 11th were nominated, but it is the 13th that made the cut, the most pure of heathlands holes. Attractive bunkering, blankets of heather, a solitary oak by the green and just the right amount of challenge.

80. Aberdovey: 16th, Par 4, 286 yards

Aberdovey, Mid Wales, Wales

A short and tight par 4 with the railway line running hard along the left. The funky terrain makes it enormous fun. We could go back and play it again and again.

79. Isle of Purbeck: 5th, Par 4, 404 yards

Swanage, Dorset, England

Incredible setting for ‘Agglestone’. The grand scale of the landscape and vista make the hole look small, yet it isn’t and is a difficult challenge to conquer.

78. Royal Porthcawl: 7th, Par 3, 122 yards

Porthcawl, South Wales, Wales

The shortest hole on Wales’ No.1, but your target is narrow and surrounded by small hummocks and bunkers.

77. Royal Liverpool: 11th, Par 3, 134 yards 

Hoylake, Cheshire, England

The par-3 11th at Royal Liverpool is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Classic Colt again. The new par-3 15th may have got the pre-Open headlines, but the 11th with its elevated angled green is the most impressive. Not just the best par 3
on this links, but one of the most beautiful examples you’ll find anywhere.

76. Broadstone: 14th, Par 4, 365 yards 

Bournemouth, Dorset, England

The par-3 14th at Broadstone is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Harry Colt used the topography brilliantly here. It looks simple, and is relatively short, but it requires real thought.

RELATED: Best golf courses in England

Golf World Top 100: Best golf holes in Britain and Ireland – 75-51

75. Narin & Portnoo: 7th, Par 4, 325 yards 

Narin, Donegal, Ireland

A short, downhill par 4 driving at Ireland’s beauty. The tee shot is dynamite, the approach to a green on the edge of the rocks epic.

74. Muirfield: 13th, Par 3, 193 yards

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

Uphill par 3 to a narrow green sloping from back to front. Scene of Ernie Els’ memorable recovery from sand in 2002.

73. Castle Stuart: 2nd, Par 5, 550 yards

Inverness, Highlands, Scotland

An unbelievably dramatic and strategic par 5 with the green sculpted into the ground. A modern classic already.

72. Machrihanish: 4th, Par 3, 132 yards

Machrihanish, Argyll, Scotland

The par-3 4th at Machrihanish is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Almost any hole on the peerless front nine here could have joined the 1st in our 100. ‘Jura’ got the nod, a gorgeous par 3 among dunes to a table-top green.

71. Sunningdale (Old): 5th, Par 4, 419 yards

Sunningdale, Surrey, England

Just an enchanting heathland hole. One of the true timeless classics.

70. Hopeman: 12th, Par 3, 150 yards

Elgin, Highlands, Scotland

The par-3 12th at Hopeman is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

A wonderful drop hole with its green alongside the beach. You play from an exposed high tee with a drop of around 100 feet to a small beach-side green surrounded by gorse, the beach and OOB. Regarded as one of Scotland’s best par 3s and also one of its most photogenic. Good for the soul.

69. Moray (Old): 18th, Par 4, 408 yards

Lossiemouth, Highlands, Scotland

Out of bounds lurks all the way down the right and although there’s ample room on the left, the further left you go off the tee the more a cavernous bunker protecting the left front of the green comes into play.  The green is elevated, making the second shot play a lot longer than it looks and the hole is overlooked by a hotel, houses, a road and the clubhouse.

68. Ganton 3rd, Par 4, 349 yards 

Scarborough, Yorkshire, England

Every course should have a short par 4 and Ganton’s 3rd has great bunkering and an enormous and beautifully contoured green surface.

67. Waterville: 11th, Par 5, 506 yards

Waterville, Kerry, Ireland

The par-5 11th at Waterville is one of the best golf holes in Britain and Ireland.

A serene par 5 with a sweet and low valley steering you on towards the green.

66. Royal St George’s: 14th, Par 5, 545 yards 

Sandwich, Kent, England

Sits on a relatively flat ground that’s dissected by ‘Suez Canal’ at 330 yards. That isn’t the key to the hole though. It’s the out of bounds on the right that makes it so intriguing, especially because, if you play safe off the tee, the further left you go, the tougher your second shot will be… degree by degree, you’re aiming towards the white stakes with your approach or lay-up.

65. Sunningdale (New): 6th, Par 5, 515 yards

Sunningdale, Surrey, England

Harry Colt and John Morrison returned to design the 6th hole in 1939 after Tom Simpson’s redesign of Colt’s original course was criticised. This swinging left-to-right dog-leg par 5 to a two-level green is a masterpiece.

64. St Enodoc: 4th, Par 4, 323 yards

Rock, Cornwall, England

A seminal, sporty, two-shot hole which twists its way over undulating terrain and oozes risk-reward potential.

63. Royal Troon: 7th, Par 4, 405 yards 

Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland

How much dare you cut off with your drive to leave a short approach to a green wedged between two sand hills? From a dune-top tee, the fairway dog-legs sharply right around a mound and bunker, then up to a narrow green. Some prefer it to 8th…

62. Royal Cinque Ports: 16th, Par 4, 416 yards

Deal, Kent, England

Looking across the 16th and 17th holes at Royal Cinque Ports. The par-4 16th is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

“I’ve often thought that this hole has the best green in the world,” says one panellist. Its tremendous contouring, including some forbidden hollows, provide much feature and fun.

61. Cruden Bay: 6th, Par 5, 531 yards

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

One of several holes at Cruden Bay that could have made the list, this three-shotter is relatively short and can just as easily yield a birdie or a card-wrecking seven thanks in large part to the Bluidy Burn, which winds around the front of a plateau green that is hard to find even with a short iron. The burn and green are both pretty much blind if you stray down the left.

60. Royal County Down: 9th, Par 4, 493 yards

Newcastle, Down, Northern Ireland

So many holes could be on the list from RCD, but the 9th epitomises the drama and exhilaration of walking over the huge sand hill in front of the tee to see the hole and surrounds ahead. Overlooked by the Mountains of Mourne, this picture-perfect par 4 lives long in the memory. Very few reach the green in regulation off the backs never mind the whites.

59. Durness: 9th, Par 3, 108 yards

Balnakeil, Highlands, Scotland 

“I’d argue this hole is more memorable than the 7th at Pebble Beach,” says one panellist, “and you get to play it twice in the round on this glorious Sutherland nine-holer.” A heroic par 3 played across the cliffs.

58. St Andrews (Old): 4th, Par 4, 419 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

The par-4 4th at St Andrews Old Course is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

‘Ginger Beer’ is all about the preferred angles that make the Old so good. The mound at the front left corner means a brave drive down the right is rewarded with a much easier approach. Most head left, and have to fly it with a long, soft-landing approach.

RELATED: Best Golf Courses in Fife

57. Hoylake: 12th, Par 4, 454 yards

Hoylake, Cheshire, England

This dog-leg left teases with the chance to carry the bunkers on the corner. Played as the 14th in the 2006 Open Championship, Tiger holed out for eagle.

56. Sunningdale (New) 5th: Par 3, 167 yards

Sunningdale, Surrey, England

The par-3 5th at Sunningdale New is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Starts a three-hole stretch the equal of anything in England, played slightly downhill to an undulating green cuddled by sand and heather. Picture perfect.

55. Moortown 10th: Par 3, 173 yards

Leeds, Yorkshire, England

Alister MacKenzie designed ‘Gibraltar’ to entice members to this new club across the road from his first creation at Alwoodley. It worked, and it remains as captivating today as it was when built 113 years ago. The plateau green was beautifully sited by MacKenzie in a slope, the natural contours encouraging anything less-than-pure into the waiting traps.

54. Ballybunion: 11th, Par 4, 473 yards

Ballybunion, Kerry, Ireland

‘Watsons’ is an awesome two-shotter. The prevailing wind naturally comes in off the sea so you aim your drive on the edge of the bluffs, and your second is no less dramatic.

53. Swinley Forest: 4th, Par 3, 185 yards

Ascot, Berkshire, England

Swinley is renowned for its one-shot holes – Harry Colt’s speciality – and this is probably the pick. One of the finest one-shotters in Britain, it plays to a Redan green with so many visual factors to consider that you can be as many as two clubs out when all is said and done. Exquisite.

52. Hunstanton: 6th, Par 4, 335 yards

Hunstanton, Norfolk, England

A short par 4 that hasn’t been ruined by modern technology and often plays as one of Hunstanton’s toughest holes. The approach shot to a plateau green requires great precision and confidence that you’ve chosen the right club.

51. Prestwick: 17th, Par 4, 394 yards

Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland

The par-4 17th at Prestwick is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Comparatively short by modern standards but the approach to the green on ‘Alps’ is totally blind and must avoid ‘Sahara’, possibly the largest bunker in Scotland – any bunker with a 13-step staircase demands respect. It’s blind from the fairway – but you know it’s there waiting!

RELATED: Best golf courses in Scotland

Golf World Top 100: Best golf holes in Britain and Ireland – 50-26

50. Rye: 7th, Par 3, 158 yards

Rye, Sussex, England

The par-3 7th at Rye is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Five terrific par 3s at Rye, and one had to make it in. It could have been the brilliant 5th but we chose this one, which plays into the prevailing wind towards the piles of sand in the distance.

49, The Addington: 13th, Par 3, 230 yards

Croydon, Surrey, England

We agree with Henry Longhurst. It’s a scary long shot on a par 3, but a brilliantly crafted hole which does compare well with the revered 5th at Pine Valley.

48. The Machrie: 5th, Par 4, 448 yards 

Islay, Argyll, Scotland

‘Foirfeachd’ means perfection in English. We agree it’s pretty close. It plays downhill towards Laggan Bay, setting
you off on a red-and-white marker post but (now you’ve read this) safe in the knowledge that, as is happily the case at the new Machrie, the fairway is wide. It’s also crumpled and set beautifully in a horseshoe dune.

47. Royal Lytham: 17th, Par 4, 467 yards 

Lytham, Lancashire, England

Scene of Bobby Jones’ greatest shot, and a fearsome challenge. A small landing area among the bunkers, especially on the inside of the right-to-left dog-leg. The plaque by the third drive bunker on the left commemorates Jones’ approach in the 1926 Open.

46. Lahinch: 9th, Par 4, 400 yards

Lahinch, Clare, Ireland

The tee box on the 9th is one of the highest spots on the course and allows a survey of the back nine terrain.  You can also see that the ninth is a great par 4. While it looks like the upper right side of the fairway would give the best view of green, greenside bunkers and a sharp right-to-left ridge make it difficult to hold the green from the right. A drive that finds the lower left side gives a better angle into the elevated green.

45. St Enodoc: 6th, Par 4, 378 yards

Rock, Cornwall, England

The par-4 6th at St Enodoc is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Famous for its Himalaya bunker, which is touted as golf’s biggest sand trap and to the naked eye certainly seems to dwarf other notable candidates. It used to be bigger, too. At driving distance the hole turns left and the enormous sand crater sunk into a dune – like a scoop of ice cream out of a tub – obstructs the view to the uphill green. A hidden fairway bunker can snare longer players seeking a view for their approach unobstructed by Himalaya, whose fame was extended by the Joshua Smith painting of it featuring on the cover of Tom Doak’s waspish Confidential Guide.

44. Skibo Castle: 17th, Par 4, 304 yards 

Dornoch, Highlands, Scotland

The par-4 17th hole at Skibo Castle is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Skibo is often a seriously exacting test, but here it gives you a LOT back. This classic risk-reward hole sees the green reachable with a good drive – but there are numerous bunkers which need to be avoided. And then there’s the setting…

43. North Berwick: 14th, Par 4, 375 yards

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

‘Perfection’ had to make it in, didn’t it? Sandwiched between ‘Pit’ and its dyke and ‘Redan’ is this par 4, turning left towards the loveliest green site imaginable on the edge of the linksland. Ranging between semi-blind off the tee and blind on the approach (a marker post guides you), walking up to see where your iron shot has ended up is a genuine thrill.

42. Turnberry (Ailsa) 9th, Par 3, 248 yards 

Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland

The par-3 9th on the Ailsa course at Turnberry is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

What was one of the Ailsa’s weakest holes, a par 4 that didn’t work, is now an exhilarating short hole across the rocky inlet with the lighthouse watching on. The new 11th could also easily have made the cut.

41. Old Head: 12th, Par 5, 554 yards

Kinsale, Cork, Ireland

The par-5 12th at Old Head is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

A blind drive and a scary walk to the fairway along an exposed cliff before turning to fire towards a narrow raised green between sandhills. ‘Epic’ is an overused word, but not here.

40. Woking: 4th, Par 4, 352 yards

Woking, Surrey, England

A seminal piece of design by John Low and Stuart Paton which inspired their fellow member Tom Simpson to take
up course architecture. You don’t need to be a golf course architecture aficionado to love this short par 4 with its centre-line bunker. Controversial then, inspired now.

39. The Island: 15th, Par 5, 515 yards

Donabate, Dublin, Ireland

Could have been the 13th, where one of the narrowest fairways imaginable concentrates the mind, but this is just an awesome links hole.

38. Kingsbarns: 15th, Par 3, 185 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

Shades of Pebble Beach here. Many a ball finds the Firth of Forth waiting on the right, rather than the green.

37. Portsalon: 2nd, Par 4, 457 yards

Portsalon, Donegal, Ireland

Fortune favours the brave (and long) driver on this swinging dog-leg around the sea inlet. The view from the high tee to a fairway running diagonally along the bay is fabulous. Then comes the strategy; do you go for it and try to clear the river and find the well-guarded green? Or lay-up short and wedge on…

36. Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg: 1st, Par 5, 567 yards

Kilkee, Clare, Ireland

The par-5 1st hole at Trump International Golf Links Ireland (Doonbeg) is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

An elevated tee shot from under the window sills of the clubhouse with the green 567 yards in the distance and cuddled by the biggest dune you’ve ever seen. Not much nuance but oceans of X Factor.

35. Royal County Down: 4th, Par 3, 229 yards

 Newcastle, Down, Northern Ireland

After the 3rd alongside the water, you turn round and play this exquisite short hole. Now, Slieve Donard dominates the skyline, the dark background perfect for watching your ball arrow (hopefully) towards the green. Bunkers, run-offs and undulations on the green make it a typically exacting test.

34. Pennard: 7th, Par 4, 351 yards 

Swansea, South Wales, Wales

The par-4 7th hole at Pennard is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

An entertaining fairway ripples between the castle and church ruin before ending on a punchbowl green that runs away to the sea. A par 4 bursting with character.

33. Royal Worlington & Newmarket: 5th, Par 3, 155 yards 

Newmarket, Suffolk, England

No need for bunkers. The flat surface of the green, described as a “vaulting horse” by Donald Steel, is only eight yards wide and falls off to ‘Mug’s Hole’ on the left and a steep bank to the right. So easy to miss this raised green and end up chipping from side to side.

32. Prestwick: 13th, Par 4, 458 yards

Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland

Its beautifully undulating fairway with all sorts of ridges and hollows results in an uneven stance for your second – assuming you’ve avoided ‘Willie Campbell’s Grave’, a hidden pot on the left. ‘Sea Headrig’ plays alongside the water, so your approach is buffeted by the wind as it tries to find an angled green.

31. Sunningdale (Old): 10th, Par 4, 488 yards 

Sunningdale, Surrey, England

The view from the elevated tee is simply splendid – and it doesn’t hurt that the Halfway House, while strictly speaking not properly named, sits beside the green with sausages sizzling away. A wonderful, well-bunkered downhill then uphill hole – lined with pines and heather – awaits before then.

30. Royal St David’s: 15th, Par 4, 432 yards

Halech, Mid Wales, Wales

The par-4 15th at Royal St David's is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Typical of Harlech’s wonderful, stringent closing stretch, this fine, bunkerless par 4 rewards two good shots. The first asks for a long carry across sand hills from a raised tee box, the second a semi-blind approach to a green nestled among dunes. Mount Snowdon in the distance.

RELATED: Best golf courses in Wales

29. Ganton: 16th, Par 4, 447 yards 

Scarborough, Yorkshire, England

Par 4s make Ganton what it is and this is the last of a trio of all-world two-shooters. After the sporty 14th and brutish 15th comes this awesome hole, with a blind drive over one of the biggest bunkers – in depth, width and reputation – you’ll ever encounter, onto a downhill fairway flanked by Scots pine.

28. Lahinch: 5th, Par 3, 154 yards

Lahinch, Clare, Ireland

Some would have had ‘Dell’ much higher. It’s an iconic short hole played over a hill with a white stone to guide you. The target is wide but shallow and angled… plus a subtle two-tier contour, from left to right. A huge dune behind is used by those in the know as a backstop, because you don’t want to come up short and play your second from beside the white stone…

27. Carnoustie: 18th, Par 4, 444 yards

Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

The par-4 18th at Carnoustie is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Along with the ‘Postage Stamp’, this might need fewer words of explanation than any in the list. Out of bounds and the ‘Barry Burn’ all the way down the left, with the water hazard also in play for shorter drives on the right and running immediately in front of the green. Hugely intimidating hole; a 250-yard drive still leaves around a 175-yard carry approach. But you just LOVE to take it on…

26. Portmarnock: 15th, Par 3, 204 yards

Malahide, Dublin, Ireland

This short hole has the best setting at Portmarnock, as it plays along the coast. A pushed-up green is defended by a smattering of pots dug into the surrounding slopes and there is no easy second shot if you miss your target.

Golf World Top 100: Best golf holes in Britain and Ireland – 25-11

25. St Andrews (Old): 16th, Par 4, 381 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

You can hit iron off the tee for safety and leave a longer shot in (from a hanging lie), or you can take driver or 3-wood to the corner of the 3rd to stay away from the out of bounds on the right and leave a 9-iron in.

So many elements to consider in terms of strategy and execution – the Old summarised in 381 yards. 

24. Enniscrone: 13th, Par 4, 350 yards

Enniscrone, Sligo, Ireland

Smash it over the dunes downhill to the blind green below, or play safe with a drive over the white stone to leave a short shot to a well-guarded green? A birdie chance but it can easily turn into a seven, and that’s the beauty of ‘The Burrows’.

23. Muirfield: 17th, Par 5, 578 yards

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

A typically classy hole at the home of the Honourable Company. Five bunkers decorate the inside corner of this arcing dog-leg, and then a quartet arranged across the fairway 100 yards out are very much in play into the wind. The green is set back into the dunes through a narrow entrance between traps left and right.

22. Cruden Bay: 4th, Par 3, 196 yards 

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The par-3 4th hole at Cruden Bay is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Cruden possibly loses out on even more entries because it has so many epic holes that split the panel. This was one many liked, enjoying a delightful setting of the village, bridge and sea for what is a really tough but excellent par 3.

21. Turnberry: 10th, Par 5, 565 yards

Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland

The par-5 10th on the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

‘Dinna Fouter’, which means ‘don’t mess about’, is a breathtaking par 5 from tees perched on top of rocks next to the lighthouse. The green complex is equally spectacularly sited. Part of a truly epic three-hole stretch from 9-11 at the reimagined Ailsa. “If you make a mess of it, you want to run back to the tee and play it again,” said one celebrated panellist.

20. North Berwick: 16th, Par 4, 378 yards 

North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland

Off the yellow tees it is just 334 yards. So how can it cause so much befuddlement and entertainment? It’s not the burn that bisects the fairways – that is easily cleared. No, it is a narrow, plateau green and principally the deep gully that bisects it. “They don’t design courses like this anymore,” noted one sagacious panellist. “More’s the pity.”

19. Royal Portrush: 5th, Par 4, 382 yards

Portrush, Antrim, Northern Ireland

The par-4 5th at Royal Portrush is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

A brilliant risk-reward hole that takes the golfer down from the higher ground of the first four to the edge of the cliffs. Two bunkers in play with the tee shot on this dog-leg right, with the dilemma over how much to cut off… because with a helping wind it is possible to get close. Out of bounds lurks just two or three yards over the back. Offers a birdie chance and a real adventure.

18. Royal St George’s: 4th, Par 4, 496 yards 

Sandwich, Kent, England

The par-4 4th at Royal St George's is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Begins with a semi-blind tee shot over the ‘Himalayas’ bunker – one of the most famous fairway bunkers in the game – to find the ‘Elysian Fields’ landing area. The eccentric, raised green has a huge slope at the front.

17. Kingsbarns: 12th, Par 5, 566 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

The par-5 12th at Kingsbarns is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

A dramatic and interesting par 5 that sweeps in a right-to-left arc, hugging the rocky beach all the way. The green, when you get there, measures 70 yards from front to back. Outstanding views to sea.
The safest routing favours the right side, but makes it an even longer hole.  

16. St Andrews (Old): 13th, Par 4, 418 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

The most underrated hole on the Old Course? The ‘Coffin Bunkers’ lie in wait 200 yards from the tee and the shared green with the 5th is an experience in itself. The bunker to the rear might be unnamed, but it is fearsome if found.

15. The Addington: 12th, Par 5, 486 yards

Croydon, Surrey, England

It takes something to stand out as the most distinctive hole on this eccentric course, but the 12th is it. A blind drive where your bounce on the raunchy terrain leaves you happily in the lap of the gods, then over patches of heather to a green at the top of a hill. Less strategic, more downright fun.

14. Royal West Norfolk: 8th, Par 5, 503 yards

Brancaster, Norfolk, England

Brancaster’s 8th plays over an inlet to a narrow, angled, slightly elevated fairway and then back over the reeds again with the second. The clever play is often to resist the temptation to go for it in two, even after a fine drive; as ever on the best par 5s, it gives you options. A wonderful sight with the tide up, a brilliant hole at any time of day.

13. The Berkshire (Red): 10th, Par 3, 186 yards

Ascot, Berkshire, England

Herbert Fowler always staked out his par 3s first and this is undoubtedly his most dramatic. Its massive green – on the edge of a steep heather-clad valley – seems the size of a handkerchief when you’re on the tee.

12. Carnoustie: 6th, Par 5, 520 yards

Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

The par-5 6th at Carnoustie, known as Hogan's Alley, is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Out of bounds all the way up the left side, a ditch to the right, two centre-line bunkers that bisect the fairway – plus the prevailing wind into you – ‘Hogan’s Alley’ is the only safe place to be.

The angled green means the test continues after the drive, but the beauty of this hole is that it gives you so many options; the brave can attempt to emulate Hogan and seek a birdie, the higher handicap can negotiate its legendary challenges by playing short of the initial hazards, a solid second and neat approach. The tortoise often beats the hare here…

11. Royal Portrush: 16th, Par 3, 236 yards 

Portrush, Antrim, Northern Ireland

‘Calamity Corner’ is now two holes later in the round – something architect Martin Ebert likes – following the addition of two new holes on the front nine. The challenge and the drama remain exactly the same, though.

The green sits across a chasm from the tee, and it’s not a short hit. The green angles left to right, so a fade is best for a right-hander… if you can afford to give up the yardage!

Left of the narrow entrance to the green is ‘Bobby Locke’s Hollow’, a basin from where many nervous chips are hit, given the putts and chips from this elegantly shaped depression are quite delicate. So ultimately there’s nowhere to hide. ‘Calamity’ demands little less than perfection.

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10. North Berwick: 15th, Par 3, 189 yards

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

‘Redan’ might be the most-copied hole in the world. Its cunning is based on military fortifications tactics. The bottom of the pin is blind off the tee and the shot must be long enough to carry to ridge at the front. Being too long is better but it is hardly an easy chip shot back, even though it is uphill.

The green slopes significantly from right to left and front to back, and deep bunkers surround it. An education in course architecture.

9. Gleneagles (King’s): 13th, Par 4, 448 yards

Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland

Scenically stunning and technically demanding, ‘Braid’s Brawest’ needs a long, straight tee shot along a topsy-turvy fairway to have a chance of reaching the green in two. It often plays firm and fast, though, which is both a help and adds to the fun factor. The green slopes steeply from front to back. A great hole and a beautiful location.

8. North Berwick: 13th, Par 4, 400 yards 

Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland

The par-4 13th at North Berwick is one of the best golf holes in Great Britain and Ireland.

The first entry for our No.1 Fun course… but it certainly won’t be the last. And this hole sums up why it is so entertaining, part of an epic closing stretch that features strongly in this list. Here, the green is guarded by a drystone wall. Of course it is! ‘Don’t argue with the wall – it’s older than you’ is the local advice.

7. St Andrews (Old): 11th, Par 3, 174 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

Often referred to as the shortest par 5 in Scotland, sitting on the Eden Estuary makes this the most exposed hole on the course. It can require anything from a short iron to a wood, depending on the wind direction of the day.

A large but acutely sloping, devilish green is guarded by two deep bunkers, ‘Strath’ and ‘Hill’, and the pin position alters the hole dramatically. Indeed, the latter caused Bobby Jones to rip up his scorecard.

6. Machrihanish: 1st, Par 4, 428 yards

Machrihanish, Argyll, Scotland

The opening hole at Machrihanish is a par 4 and one of the must-play holes in Britain and Ireland.

One of the ‘must play’ holes in British and Irish golf? We think so. The opening tee shot dares you to bite off as much of Machrihanish Bay as you dare.

It is easy to stay dry and aim right, but that gives you a very long and difficult approach between a ridge of dunes and, yes, the beach. So it is a time to be brave and enjoy the drama on one of the most exciting 1st tees in the game. The fact that it is the opening swing of the day only adds to the anticipation.

5. Royal County Down: 3rd, Par 4, 475 yards

Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

The par-4 3rd at Royal County Down is one of the best golf holes in Britain and Ireland.

A trademark RCD hole, combining the beauty and challenge that makes it our World No.1. You hit from a tee on the edge of Dundrum Bay to rippling fairways, with a left-side shot preferable… although no matter where your drive beds up, the approach to a well-protected, angled green is an exacting one. A beautiful beast. 

4. St Andrews (Old): 14th, Par 5, 530 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

“Options abound on this outstanding hole. I am looking forward to it on about the 12th tee,” wrote one panellist, which sums up the joy of our top-rated par 5.

The drive at ‘Long’ asks you to nudge your tee shot between the ‘Beardies’, a collection of four pot bunkers and an ancient wall. ‘Hell’, ‘Kitchen’, ‘Grave’ and ‘Ginger Beer’ bunkers also await, as do the ‘Elysian Fields’, and if you don’t have a warm feeling inside just reading those evocative names on this strategic par 5, we will never get on.

3. Royal Troon: 8th, Par 3, 123 yards 

Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland

The par-4 8th at Royal Troon, the 'Postage Stamp', is one of the best golf holes in Britain and Ireland.

The ‘Postage Stamp’ is a predictable selection, but any hole that has been played at 99 yards in a Major deserves at least this position. Yard for yard, it is arguably the toughest hole in golf and, a bit like the 1st on the Old Course, will surely set the pulse racing on all who board her elevated tee.

The clue is in its name. The tee shot is played slightly downhill, over a gully to a long and extremely narrow green set into the side of a sand dune. A large and deep bunker protects the front of the green and two more bunkers protect the left side. Any shot slightly right of centre green risks falling off into another two deep bunkers with near vertical riveted faces.

It can, frankly, be completely evil if you miss the target. But, oh, the thrill of trying…

2. Royal Dornoch: 14th, Par 4, 445 yards 

Dornoch, Highlands, Scotland

‘Foxy’ does not need any bunkers to tease and befuddle. She is a relatively long par 4 but really that does not tell anything like the full story. Perceived wisdom suggests you need to draw your drive then fade your approach – like those shots are conjured on demand for us. The real examination is around the green when you inevitably miss with your second shot; it sits on a plateau five feet above the fairway. Time for the Texas wedge or the chip shot of your life.

1. St Andrews (Old): 17th, Par 4, 455 yards

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

The 17th on St Andrews Old Course is the best golf hole in Great Britain and Ireland.

Of all the thousands of holes that could have been our first No.1, this was, incredibly, the clear choice. It was nominated by a majority of panellists, such is the love for an unconventional hole which is penal in its design but an intriguing challenge for all.

The Old’s 17th has it all. A demanding, blind drive that rewards the brave and makes fools of the reckless/wayward, then a hugely tricky second shot to avoid the infamous front-of-green bunker and the road. The green is 50 yards deep but barely 10 wide and sits at a 45-degree angle between the bunker and the road itself.

Factor in the presence of watching crowds, even for amateurs playing for fun, and a par here is to be treasured, even for the elite.

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