At this time of the year, the golfing media is full of top 100 lists, designed to highlight the very best courses in a region, and ultimately to gain views or sell magazines.
Scan any top 100 in England list and you will see many fabulous courses, full of Open venues, some of the very best heathland layouts in the world and also some very exclusive members only tracks.
The majority of these courses are accessible by the average golfer – but at quite a price. Most of the green fees will be over £100 per round, with some much more expensive.
There is good news however – delve a little deeper into the English golfing stock and you will find a wealth of unique layouts that feature some historic and golden age architecture at incredible value. In this blog, I will feature 10 such courses that I have visited in the last few years – all available to play in the summer for under £40.
10. Ryston Park Golf Club
£25 for 18 holes
Ryston Park is a picturesque 9-hole course in West Norfolk, designed by James Braid and opened in 1932.
The holes wind between mature trees and there are a number of water hazards to avoid. The design is clever and fun, with most holes containing good width, but with angles important into the greens. For a Club with a limited budget, the conditioning is most often excellent, particularly the greens.
The course loses marks as there is only one set of tees and so choice and variety is limited. This is particularly marked as there appears plenty of space to add more options.
9. Sutton Bridge Golf Club
£20 for 18 holes
There is no doubt that Sutton Bridge put the Q into Quirky.
The 9-Hole course was established in 1914 in and around an abandoned late 19th Century dock basin adjacent to the River Nene in South Lincolnshire. The dock was abandoned soon after its opening in 1881 as the walls began to collapse.
Some (insane?) locals had the foresight to picture the land as a golf course some 35 years later. The benefit of the engineering disaster that beset the dock is that the course is well-drained! The original 15 foot walls of the dock form an intrinsic part of the design.
This course is probably the only course of its type in the world. Bring your sense of humour and enjoy the unique challenge.
8. Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club
£30 for 18 holes
The green fees that Clubs can charge has as much to do with geographical location as it does with quality of the course. Many of the courses on this list are geographically remote, with the difficulty to get there and the lack of chimney tops in the vicinity leading to relatively low prices.
And so it is with Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club, set on the top of one of the great beauty spots at the Southern end of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. It is an arduous climb to reach the course, but once there stunning views await.
The course opened in 1889, designed by Arthur Hoare. It maintains its old-school feel to today, with the difficult journey required to get there and the simple design making you feel that you should be wearing tweed and playing hickory.
7. Ilfracombe Golf Club
£30.00 for 18 holes
Golfers visiting North Devon naturally head to the famous links of Westward Ho! and Saunton. No problem with that, but whilst there you can do worse than stop off at the cliff-top delight that is Ilfracombe Golf Club.
Boasting spectacular views over the coast and an eclectic bunch of holes across wildly undulating terrain, this is a traditionally quirky British course. In which other country would you be expected to tee-off the Par 4 17th before playing the short 16th and then walking across to play your approach to the penultimate hole?
6. Great Yarmouth & Caister Golf Club
£40.00 for 18 holes
Founded in 1882 and the oldest club in Norfolk, GY & CGC offers a stretch of links golf between the 4th and 16th holes that matches many of its more illustrious neighbours.
Often overlooked as a golfing destination due to its geographical remoteness and the ‘honey-pot’ courses further around the East Anglian coast (Royal Cromer, Sheringham, Brancaster & Hunstanton) this course is the definition of under-rated.
Framed by ugly caravan sites and run-down housing, it is not aesthetically pleasing, but if you can look past these details, high-class links golf is available at a knock-down price.
5. Burnham & Berrow Golf Club (Channel)
£25.00 for 18 holes
The famous Championship course at B & B has a little sister in the 9-Hole Channel course and it contains many holes that would sit well as part of its more illustrious sibling.
Designed by Fred Hawtree and opened in 1977, this has to be the best value links experience in England. It is, however, not without its drawbacks, with some holes lying on low-level marshland suffering in wet conditions and the narrow fairways and penal rough /marsh taking some enjoyment away.
Overall though superb quality and a true links test.
4. Painswick Golf Club
£20.00 for 18 holes
Regular readers of this site will know that Painswick Golf Club has been featured before, and it truly is an antidote to the generic American style courses with steep price tags that have been developed in almost every County in England.
Layed out in 1891 atop a narrow ridge on the Malvern Hills in Gloucestershire, it contains a liquorice all sorts of wacky holes, many of which play around, up, over and within an ancient iron-age hill fort.
For £20! What an experience.
3. Bramshaw Golf Club (Forest)
£25.00 for 18 holes
Bramshaw Golf Club in Hampshire contains two distinctly different 18-hole courses. The original course is the Forest course, was built over New Forest heathland in 1865 and is one of the most natural courses in England, with humps, hollows and meandering streams untouched for over 150 years.
The roaming New Forest ponies, deer, pigs and cattle give the course a special appeal. This is a truly unique SSSI and one to be shared and cherished.
2. Woodbridge Golf Club (Forest)
£19 for 18 holes
Another addition to a Championship course, the 9-Hole Forest course at Woodbridge was built in the late 1980’s. It offers superb heathland golf in an extremely fun design, with some of the architecture arguably superior to its Championship cousin.
At under £20 for 4 great hours of fun and challenge, this is incredible value. If it was not viewed as the ‘second’ course at Woodbridge, this course would undoubtedly attract more plaudits and no doubt a higher price tag.
1. Cavendish Golf Club
£35.00 for 18 holes
My discovery of 2018, and a course that jumps straight to the top of my value list, is Cavendish Golf Club, in Buxton (Derbyshire) – see featured image.
This course was created in 1926 by Dr. Alistair Mackenzie, who just 7 years later went on to design the home of the Masters, Augusta National. The two courses share many design features, with Cavendish often labelled the ‘inspiration for Augusta’.
The holes at Cavendish share a common theme of width, being eminently playable, but angles are important into the large and sloping greens. Whilst Cavendish does not enjoy the budget or location of Augusta, it represents amazing fun and value to share many of the architectural ideas.