Best Golf Courses In London
The best golf courses in London rivals that of any city, and even if you devoted an entire week just to golf, you would just scratch the surface of the city’s brilliant playing fields. A bundle of top-100 layouts lie within an hour of the city center; most are within about 30 minutes of Heathrow Airport. The courses range from parkland eighteens to heathland tracks with scrubby vegetation on spring, and often rippled sand-based turf that mimics seaside links. Two outlying counties, Surrey to the south and Berkshire to the west, comprise London’s sandbelt where heathland golf rules the landscape.
The best golf courses in London are found at private clubs that are much more welcoming toward visitors than exclusive private clubs here in the US. Though the members are happy to share their playing fields with visitors, most London clubs place limitations on visitor tee times. Many also require a handicap certificate and adhere to strict dress codes (formal attire man be required for clubhouse dining). Each club has its unique culture and ambiance. The chance to experience a bit of those cultures is one of the joys of playing in London.
The three best golf courses in London are Wentworth, Sunningdale, and Walton Heath. While ultra-glamorous Wentworth, an intensely social club that is home to three eighteens, stopped allowing unaccompanied visitor play three years ago, Sunningdale, which has much superior golf, is very welcoming. Golf is the heart and soul of Sunningdale. The club’s two eighteens are considered the pinnacle of heathland golf. The Old Course was originally laid out by Willie Park in 1901 but Harry S. Colt, who was the club secretary, recast it and planted the pine trees that give the holes their secluded look and add so much atmosphere. A veritable “who’s who” in golf has won on this storied championship course. Like so many other great London layouts, the starker, more rugged, and more penal New Course is a Harry S. Colt creation. Note that visitors must play from either the Yellow or Red Markers (roughly 6,100 and 5,850 yards, respectively). Sunningdale’s green fee includes breakfast or afternoon tea, depending on your starting time. Those playing both courses on the same day get breakfast and tea.
Walton Heath, which is south of London in Surrey, features two Herbert Fowler eighteen routed over rugged heathland. Though perched on high ground, the two playing fields command a stark, flat and firm landscape that resembles seaside linksland. The Old Course opened in 1904 with a match between its newly appointed pro James Braid, J.H. Taylor, and Harry Vardon, a triumvirate that dominated golf for from the late 1890s to the late 1910s. The equally stark and exposed New Course, completed in 1913, is another tough examination. Braid’s tenure at Walton Heath lasted 45 years, and the clubhouse is filled with Braid memorabilia. The club has been a favorite of royalty (King Edward VIII and George VI) and Prime Ministers (including Winston Churchill). Playing at Walton Heath is like being in a large park, as you will likely see joggers, dogs, horseback riders, and even golfers accompanied by their dogs.
Another jewel in London’s orbit is Berkshire Golf Club, located in Ascot, just 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport and 15 minutes from Sunningdale. Berkshire boasts two 1928-vintage Herbert Fowler eighteens that are among the best inland courses in England. While the Blue Course in notable for the stern par threes that open each nine, the more memorable Red Course sports splendid variety with its six par threes, six par fours, and six par fives.
Swinley Forest Golf Club in Surrey has a reputation for privacy and exclusivity, but if you can get on, don’t pass it up. Harry S. Colt considered this short, charming, and fun-to-play layout his “least bad” design. Barely over 6,000 yards, it rambles through stretches of pine and birch woodlands as well as areas of open and barren heathland inundated with scrub vegetation. The highlights of this par-68 jewel are the five par threes and the short par fours.
St. George’s Hill, another Harry Colt masterpiece in Surrey, was Britain’s first housing community-cum-golf course. Grand mansions sit well back of the hilly 27-hole playing field that features rumpled fairways and bears a resemblance to Pine Valley (Colt was a consultant to George Crump at Pine Valley). Since St. George’s Hill is less penal than Pine Valley, a round delivers undiluted pleasure.
Just 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport, Stoke Park Golf Club, aka Stoke Poges, features 27 parkland holes by Harry S. Colt. The elegant, gently rolling parkland course is a companion to the club’s grounds and gardens, designed by the illustrious landscape architect Capability Brown, and the Palladian-style clubhouse, the most opulent in all of England, which doubles as a luxury hotel.
The Addington Golf Club, considered to be J.F. Abercromby’s masterpiece, is a haven of heather, bracken, silver birch, and pine located just 13 miles from the center of London. This very challenging course features blind shots, thick rough, and steep elevation changes. The legendary golf writer and commentator Henry Longhurst called it the finest inland course in Britain.
Royal Ashdown Forest GC in East Sussex is notable because there are no sand bunkers. The course occupies common land, and the terms of the lease prohibit any altering of the terrain, so this is as natural a layout as you will find. In the absence of bunkers, long forced carries, rugged terrain, dramatic elevation changes, gorse, bracken and heather, and tilted greens provide a stout defense of par.
Finally, an outlier amongst the best golf courses in London s is The Grove. Kyle Phillips built this immaculately groomed layout in 2003, and in 2006 Tiger Woods won a World Golf Championship tournament here. The course is the headline attraction of a luxury resort just north of London in Hertfordshire.