Author: Callum Taylor, Managing Director, Golf Concierge Scotland Ltd, Edinburgh.
Famous for links courses, the shores of Great Britain and Ireland also have some of the world’s highest ranked inland layouts. These courses can be fairer tests and more playable for the everyday golfer.
In simple terms on inland courses you will generally find more woodland, less severe bunkering and a clay soil resulting in lusher more manicured conditions than the firmer and faster links counterparts.
Here are a few unmissable courses which Golf Concierge Scotland highly recommends.
Gleneagles Kings and Queens
The Gleneagles Hotel has a 5-star reputation for some of the best hospitality and golf in the world. On-site there are three 18-hole golf courses. The historic Kings and the Queens layouts are both natural to the Perthshire landscape and are a joy to play. Golfers are treated to two James Braid masterpieces, the Kings being the longer of the two. Both are served by the same half-way and Dormy Clubhouse. For the views alone the third PGA centenary course should not be overlooked. It is a modern Jack Nicklaus design and hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup – we would recommend a buggy due to the length and style.
Sunningdale Golf Club
Could there be a better 36-hole club in the world? Sunningdale Golf Club can be found in the exclusive Surrey and Berkshire sand belt to the South West of London, where you will find multiple leading heathland courses. The Old and the New Courses are hard to separate; both with stunning historic layouts with classic heathland turf and purple heather lined fairways. The legendary Amateur golfer and Grand Slam winner Bobby Jones famously said of Sunningdale Old “I wish I could take this course home with me”. The halfway house is renowned too, you cannot resist at least one of their famous sausage sandwiches and admire the peaceful surroundings.
Boat of Garten Golf Club
Situated in the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands and regularly voted as the UK’s No1 hidden gem. “The Boat” is a James Braid design set along the River Spey, which is an area known for its world famous malt whisky. The fairways are firm and bouncy in the summer and lined by birch trees, heather and broom. Along with this wonderful natural landscape you will be treated to views of the iconic Strathspey highland steam trains. The Boat is just one of the seven courses which make up the James Braid Highland golf trail, the others being Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Inverness, Muir of Ord, Golspie, Brora and Reay. So if you are up to a challenge you can attempt the whole trail and explore the Highlands.
Cork Golf Club
Located beside Cork Harbor on Little Island you will find one of Ireland’s premier parkland courses. Cork Golf Club is an Alister Mackenzie design and offers the golfer the perfect blend of coastal and inland holes. The 6th is a standout hole; a short Par 4 of under 350 yards where a blind tee shot is followed by an approach to a green that has been sculpted out of a limestone quarry. Cork Golf Club is only 10 minutes from Irish Open venue Fota Island Resort and a little further down the road is the Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery at Midleton.
The K Club Palmer North Course
The K Club has a history of hosting professional championships including the Irish/European Opens and most notably the 2006 Ryder Cup, where Ian Woosnam’s European team ran riot. The Arnold Palmer designed North course is a dramatic parkland layout dominated by water that will test your game. The River Liffey meanders its way through the whole property, most notably through the 16th Hole(Par 5), resulting in a superb match play hole. It does not get too much easier, with the 17th ranking as one of the hardest holes on the European Tour due to its intimidating tee shot and approach along the Liffey. The other resort course Palmer South is also a lot of fun and like its big brother is always in immaculate condition. The location only 35 minutes West of Dublin makes it an ideal base for exploring Ireland’s East Coast.
Ganton Golf Club
Host to the 2003 Walker Cup and 1949 Ryder Cup, Ganton is often confusing for visiting golfers since it play as an inland links course. It is situated 9 miles inland from Scarborough in England’s North East and has classic links features of sandy firm soil, deep and strategically placed bunkers, and deadly gorse bushes. The natural layout is a must play and is without doubt up there with Sunningdale as the best inland course in England. Gary Player once said that Ganton is the only inland course worthy of holding The Open Championship and we don’t disagree. What is especially appealing about Ganton is that due to the rural location it is rarely busy, which means securing a tee time in peak season is not an issue. Or play 36 in one day and enjoy lunch in between and view the historic artefacts and memoribila on display in the clubhouse Vardon Room, which pays homage to Harry Vardon, professional at Ganton 1896 – 1903.
Ladybank Golf Club
This original Old Tom Morris layout is a delight to play and offers a completely different experience to the St Andrews links courses only 25 minutes away. Ladybank is a challenging inland course which has been used in the past as a Final Open Qualifier and more recently for the Seniors Open. Golfers are treated to a layout of attractive heathland style holes in a beautiful pine forest. In 2019 the club commissioned KimberGlen golf course architects to transform more than 50 fairway and greenside bunkers. The team whose previous projects include Machrihanish Dunes and Dumbarnie Links will improve the bunker consistency and playability while re-shaping the hazards to improve visual effect. A green fee at Ladybank is well under £100, leaving golfers a bit of change in their pockets to explore some of Fife’s more well-known links courses.