Understatement and mumbling inaudibly about one’s great assets are particular English traits, so it comes as no surprise to us when our vacationing members are astonished to learn that England is home to more of the world’s highest rated golf courses than any other country except the United States. The Scots and Irish have twigged to the advantages of vigorous marketing and self-promotion to get you to vacation at their fine golf courses. We English simply don’t do that sort of thing, or at least we don’t do it well. If we did, the unique nature and ambience of England and the English-what, quite frankly, makes England uniquely England-would be buried under a bluster of insincere hype generated for tourists. Though two of England’s top ten golf courses, Ganton in the northeast and Woodhall Spa in the Midlands, are somewhat remote from the other great courses, the remainder can be found in three clusters.
England’s Golf Coast
The rolling wild dunes land bordering the Irish Sea stretching from Liverpool to Southport to Blackpool harbours the best collection of links courses in the world. Within an hour’s drive of Southport there are six courses that have hosted the Open, the Amateur, the Walker Cup, and the Ryder Cup with the three Open courses also ranked in the world’s best 100: Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Royal Birkdale, and Royal Liverpool. Hillside features perhaps the best twelve closing holes in golf and is worthy of an Open. Southport & Ainsdale has hosted two Ryder Cups, and Formby is one of the great championship golf venues for amateurs. Though a mecca for golfers, the Lancashire coast offers little to prevent the non-golfer from developing a deep and lasting depression. Southport does have a certain sordid charm that men tolerate reasonably well, but is not a golf holiday destination where one should take a partner who does not golf, as any touring of real interest is nearly two hours away. The likelihood of experiencing a cultural epiphany here is virtually nil.
Unlike England’s Golf Coast, London is an ideal destination for golfers and tourists alike-a veritable paradise for couples on holiday. Suburban London boasts at least a dozen superb heathland and parkland courses ranging from three of the world’s top ranked (Sunningdale Old, Swinley Forest, and Walton Heath Old) to two delightful but obscure gems (The Addington and St. Georges Hill). Exclusive Sunningdale (comparable to Muirfield) features two outstanding golf courses. For seasoned travelers, we need not dwell on the obvious attractions of shopping and touring in and about London, and there is a plethora of impeccable lodging choices for your golf holiday trip-the luxurious Stoke Park Club, the filming location for the famed golf match between James Bond and Goldfinger, comes to mind as an example.
H&B Founder & CEO Sam Baker discussed golf and the good life near London on Making the Turn with host Peter Kessler of Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s PGA Tour Network. Click here to listen to the interview. And here is Baker’s Blog on London Calling.
The Channel Coast
Less than two hour’s drive from London are Royal St. George’s and historic Rye-both links are ranked among the best in the world. We are also quite fond of Royal Cinque Ports. The Kent region is the ‘garden of England”, and contains more English history, castles and manor houses converted to luxurious hotels and inns than anywhere else-a splendid destination for both golfers and their non-golfing mates on their custom planned, Haversham & Baker golfing holiday in England. Click here to read why Sam Baker believes General George S. Patton should have played golf whilst he was posted to the Channel Coast in 1943-44.