Best (and Worst) Values in Links Golf

There is a lot of snow on the ground this week and I have some time on my hands, so here is a somewhat arbitrary compilation of the best and worst values in links golf.

World, GB&I and individual country rankings are all from one of my favorite websites, http://www.top100golfcourses.co.uk/. To qualify as a links course, the courses must be identified as such in George Peper’s great book, True Links. All green fess were converted to $US using the website http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/#.

Links Courses Rated in the Top 100 Courses in the World

There are two overwhelming winners here. Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm (Tasmania, Australia) cost between $72 and $79 dollars to play and rank 28th and 37th respectively in the world. You have to go a long way to play these outstanding links, but once you get there they are a true bargain! The only downside for me is that these are resort courses. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that links golf “feels” better to me when played at a real golf club with an active local membership.

Runners up include Lahinch, Royal Dornoch, and North Berwick. I’ve been fortunate to play all three of these courses and they are all worth the trip. Lahinch is only $130 a round if you play two rounds within seven days. North Berwick, an in-town course like St. Andrews is a mere $145. Royal Dornoch and the Scottish Highland should be on every golfer’s bucket list and, considering it’s ranked 12th in the world, it’s a good deal at $183. These are all courses that have an active local membership and are welcoming to visitors.

Because there are so many great courses in this list, I will add some honorable mentions. The European Club is Pat Ruddy’s masterpiece in beautiful County Wicklow south of Dublin. This is a big venue and a difficult course, especially when the wind is blowing. But the warm welcome from the Ruddy family and the spectacularly beautiful links make it one of my all-time favorites. We played rounds on Monday and Tuesday morning in August and practically had the course to ourselves. The per-round price of $142 (must play two rounds in seven days) is a steal. Next up is Ballybunion is County Kerry Ireland. While a bit pricey at $209 a round, it’s high world ranking (21) makes it a pretty good deal. Another County Kerry course, Waterville ($170) deserves a mention as does Cruden Bay ($154) on the Aberdeenshire coast in Scotland. Though few Americans have heard of it, Noordwijkse (southwest of Amsterdam) is ranked 89th in the world and can be played for $143.

Courses in the middle of the value range here are worth noting- The Old Course at St. Andrews ($259), Royal Portrush Dunluce ($244), Royal County Down ($267) and Royal St. George’s ($259).   All are in the top 20 in the world, two are on the Open rota, and all are well under $300.

The two clear “losers” in this category are both owned by Trump International. They are not losers as golf courses, quite the contrary. Turnberry Alisa is an iconic “must-play” course for many and the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen course, while unlikely to live up to it’s own boasting as the best golf course in the world, has received many rave reviews. Yet at $384 and $331, respectively, they are the worst value in this category.

Europeanclub

Links Courses Rated in the Top 100 GB&I

Things get very interesting as we move to courses that rank in the top 100 of Great Britain and Ireland, but fall short of the world’s top 100.

The winners in this category are Machrihanish ($99), Royal West Norfolk ($92), Carne ($79) and Saunton East ($107). All received better than a 5 ball rating on top100golfcourses website and all are very reasonably priced. Even though Saunton East cost more than $100, it made the cut because of it’s GB&I ranking of 35. The only course ranked better in this category is Prestwick ($164) at #34.

The only course among the winners I have played happens to be my favorite course in the world- Carne. Set in the remote western end of County Mayo Ireland, Carne has recently added a new 9 holes to complement the original 18 designed by the late Eddie Hackett. You will see Carne talked about a lot on linkswanderer because I am an overseas member.

Machrihanish makes many world top 100 lists and if played along with Machrie ($99) on the “whiskey isle” of Islay would make for a wonderful golf trip that is on my short list for sure.

The four runner-ups in this category are even better deals but didn’t make the winners because they are only ranked as 5 ball courses. This is still an excellent ranking and you might like them even better than the winners. They are Silloth on Solway ($75), Royal St. David’s ($85), Rosapenna Sandy Hills ($79) and Aberdovey ($76).

I played Pat Ruddy’s Sandy Hills course at Rosapenna a few years ago and loved it. It is a difficult course, however. But Rosapenna also has the Old Tom Morris course which is a very nice 5-ball course for the same price. This part of Ireland probably has the best deals in all of GB&I for great links golf. Royal St. David’s and Aberdovey would make a very nice combination if you ever have the opportunity to head west into Wales. Aberdovey is the home course of the great golf writer Bernard Darwin and Royal St. David’s sits by the beautiful small village of Harlech. Silloth on Solway is proof that many of the best links deals are found in relatively remote locations. But you are close here to the famous Lake District and also to Southerness, a fine links course in far southwest Scotland. If you drive from Manchester to Silloth, you also can play the likes of Royal Lytham & St. Annes ($275) and Royal Birkdale ($298) on the way!

The losers in this category are those that cost more than $190 to play. They include Formby ($191), Rye ($192), Royal Cinque Ports ($198) and Western Gailes ($206). These are all fine courses, just too expensive.

The rest of the courses in this category include lots of really great courses that are a good value. A few examples include Enniscrone ($102), Ballyliffin Glasheedy & Old ($113), Prestwick ($164), County Louth ($136) and St. Enodoc ($115).

Links Courses Rated in the Top 100 Country Lists

This last list includes courses that aren’t in the world top 100 or GB&I top 100, but they are in the top 100 courses for Scotland, England, Wales, or Ireland.

The only bad values here are Murcar ($154) and Southport & Ainsdale ($161). To price your courses above $150 when you aren’t ranked in GB&I suggests you don’t care about receiving visitors. These are private clubs, so that is their prerogative. But I don’t see much reason for paying these prices to play them unless you happen to be in the area for other reasons.

On the other hand, there are lots of very good links tracts here that are a bargain. For example, you can play the following courses for under $75: Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Dingle Golf Club, Laytown & Bettystown, Strandhill, Rosslare, Portsalon, Perranporth, Seapoint, Ashburnham, Portrush Valley, Connemara, Brora, and Gullane #2. Of these courses, I have played Brora, Connemara and Portsalon. Portsalon is a lovely, peaceful course and seldom crowded. Brora was a favorite when I took a group to Scotland to play. We played Dornoch twice, but Brora three times because of the friendly members and old-fashioned (in a good way) links where sheep and cattle graze on the course and people walk their dogs across the course to the beach.

Details

 The charts below lists all of the “true links” that can be found in the top 100 courses of the world, the top 100 courses in GB&I and the top 100 courses in the individual countries of Ireland and Great Britain. On the left is a score (lower is better) that adds the ranking number to the daily green fee for that course. And determines the best and worst values. I used summer green fees but occasionally used special offers when they were easy to get- for example two rounds within a seven day period. The “Country Top 100 rankings are ranked only by price.

Best and Worst Links Course Values

Score (Lower is better)  Course                                      Ranking                     Price ($US)

World Top 100

107                                      Barnbougle Dunes                               28                                $109

116                                      Barnbougle Lost Farm                        37                                $109

165                                      Lahinch                                                 35                                $130*

195                                      Royal Dornoch                                     12                                $183

196                                      North Berwick                                      51                                $145

225                                      European Club                                     83                                $142*

225                                      Ballybunion                                          21                                $204

231                                      Waterville                                              61                                $170

232                                      Noordwijkse                                         89                                $143

245                                      Cruden Bay                                           91                                $154

253                                      Portmarnock                                        44                                $209

259                                      Royal Portrush Dunluce                      15                                $244

263                                      St. Andrews Old Course                       4                                  $259

270                                      Royal County Down                             3                                  $267

277                                      Royal Porthcrawl                                 86                                $191

278                                      Royal St. George’s                                19                                $259

294                                      Royal Troon                                          63                                $231

299                                      Kingsbarns                                            40                                $259*

324                                      Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s                49                                $275

326                                      Pacific Dunes                                        16                                $310

327                                      Royal Birkdale                                      29                                $298

331                                      Muirfield                                                 9                                 $322

354                                      Royal Liverpool                                    85                                $269

355                                      Castle Stuart                                         65                                $290

369                                      Bandon Dunes  Bandon Dunes         59                                $310

382                                      Bandon Dunes Old MacDonald        72                                $310

402                                      Trump Turnberry Alisa                      18                                $384

424                                      Trump International Aberdeen        93                                $331

GB&I Top 100 (5+ ball rating)

136                                      Machrihanish                                        37                                $99

137                                      Royal W. Norfolk                                  45                                $92

141                                      Carne                                                       62                                $79

142                                      Saunton East                                         35                                $107

162                                      Enniscrone                                            60                                $102

168                                      Ballyliffin Glasheedy                           55                                 $113

172                                      Machrie                                                 99                                  $99

182                                      Tralee                                                    46                                  $136

190                                      County Louth                                      54                                  $136

198                                      Prestwick                                             34                                  $164*

211                                      The Island                                            58                                  $153

213                                      Ballyliffin Old                                      100                               $113

218                                      Hillside                                                 42                                 $176

234                                      Fomby                                                  43                                 $191

239                                      Royal Cinque Ports                             41                                $198

242                                      Western Gailes                                    36                                $206

GB&I top 100 (5 ball rating)

132                                      Silloth on Solway                                  57                                $75

134                                      Royal St. David’s                                   49                                $85

138                                      Rosapenna Sandy Hills                       59                                $79

140                                      Aberdovey                                              64                                $76

152                                      Pennard                                                  75                                $77

153                                      St. Enodoc                                              38                                $115

173                                      Donegal                                                  93                                $80

191                                      County Sligo                                          50                                $141

194                                      Machrihanish Dunes                           79                                $115

213                                      Nairn                                                      44                                $169

217                                      Portstewart                                            92                                $125

219                                      Gullane #1                                             68                                $151

227                                      Doonbeg                                                63                                $165

248                                      Rye                                                         56                                $192

Country Top 100 (5+ ball rating)

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links                                                                                     $51

Dingle                                                                                                                                     $62

Elie                                                                                                                                          $118

Country Top 100 (5 ball rating)

Laystown & Bettystown                                                                                                    $34

Strandhill                                                                                                                              $40

Rosslare                                                                                                                                 $40

Portsalon                                                                                                                               $45

Perranporth                                                                                                                          $55

Seapoint                                                                                                                                $57

Ashburnham                                                                                                                        $62

Portrush Valley                                                                                                                    $65

Connemara Championship Links                                                                                    $68

Brora                                                                                                                                      $75

Gullane #2                                                                                                                             $75

Southerness                                                                                                                          $77

Tain                                                                                                                                        $77

Rosapenna Old Tom Morris                                                                                              $79

Montrose                                                                                                                               $81

Leven                                                                                                                                     $84

Narin & Portnoo                                                                                                                 $90

Glasgow Gailes                                                                                                                   $92

Crail                                                                                                                                      $100

Prestwick St. Nicholas                                                                                                      $100

Dooks                                                                                                                                   $103

Trevose                                                                                                                                $107

Monifieth                                                                                                                            $107

Dunbar                                                                                                                                $107

Saunton West                                                                                                                    $107

Castlerock                                                                                                                          $115

Lundin Links                                                                                                                    $123

Moray Old                                                                                                                         $123

Ardglass                                                                                                                             $130

Murcar                                                                                                                               $154

Southport & Ainsdale                                                                                                     $161