However, what this article will attempt to do is provide the true hidden gem golf courses of Great Britain - in fact an entire treasure chest full of them!
Often we see the phrase used to describe a golf course which in fact already has a really fine pedigree and, whilst maybe not a top bracket course, is very well known to the serious golfer. As an example; Brora is NOT a hidden gem. It is regularly featured in top 100 lists, has been lauded by Tom Watson, Peter Thomson & others and has had much magazine coverage over the years. Overshadowed by Dornoch? Yes. Hidden Gem? Certainly not.
Silloth or Goswick isn't one either, neither is Elie or Southerness, nor Pennard or Tenby. We totally agree that these courses should certainly be given more credit than they receive and they can be seen in our most underrated, highly rated golf courses... but they are not hidden gems.
What we are looking for here are golf courses that you may have never heard of but still offer excellent golf and whilst they are not the type of courses we would recommend travelling a very long distance to specifically play they would make a fantastic addition to a longer golf trip and offer good, fun golf over interesting terrain. It must be emphasised that the below courses still offer very high quality golf though.
Golf Empire founder, Ed Battye, has played extensively throughout Great Britain and below he gives his real hidden gem golf courses. These don't appear in any of the usual rankings and in many cases are well and truly off the beaten path... maybe even to locals. Indeed any course that features in any of these lists was excluded from consideration.
Strandhill Golf Club is a links course that often lives in the shadow of its GB&I Top 100 near neighbour, County Sligo, and that is doing it a real disservice because this befuddling good golf course delivers with a bang and offers great value at the same time.
North West Golf Club, a founder member of the Golf Union of Ireland located on the Inishowen Peninsula at Buncrana, is a hugely underrated links course laid out on a narrow and compact tract of land.
There’s a deceptive quality to the humble yet alluring links course at Arbroath which would not only make an excellent companion when playing at Carnoustie, or en route to Aberdeen from the South, but is well worthy of a play in its own right.
Cleveland is one of a small handful of true links golf courses on the North-East coast of England; the only one in Yorkshire and the oldest too.
I heard the squelch first. The gentle sinking sensation soon followed. However, it was a few seconds before I felt the warm, moist trickling sensation around my ankle. The smell arrived shortly afterwards.
It may have only been February when I played Dunstanburgh Castle but I strongly suspect this will be the biggest surprise of 2015. What a gem of a links course.
Enville is an extremely intriguing 36 hole golf complex located in deepest Staffordshire countryside that is slowly but surely building a reputation as one of the country’s most respected venues.
Walking off the 1st tee at Golspie towards a featureless, flat fairway it might not be immediately apparent about all the golfing goodness that lies in store and just how terrific it is…. but by the time you have reached the turn you are acutely aware of the spectacular nature of this fascinating and varied links.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.
There are over a dozen fine links golf courses on the Ayrshire Coast. The Irvine Golf Club stands proudly as one of the best but perhaps the most unheralded.
Kirkistown Castle is a true links golf course near Cloughy on the Eastern shore of the Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland.
The Dunskey course at Portpatrick is one of the most fun and enjoyable I have played in Scotland.
Prestwick St. Nicholas is one of those links courses that you just cannot fail to fall in love with.
I’m easily pleased. All I ask for is good turf, natural movement in the land and engaging greens. Simply give me all of those on a golf course and I’m a happy bunny.
Castlerock also has a superb relief 9-hole layout called the Bann Links, designed by Frank Pennick in 1986.
Corballis Links is a real head-spinner of a golf course around a 30 minute drive north of Dublin.
The St. Olaf, a par-32 nine-hole relief course, is well worthy of mention when discussing Cruden Bay.
They say that life’s all about the journey and not the destination but playing golf at Durness is without doubt both a journey and a destination.
No less than three courses, ranked by number reflecting their age, constitute Gullane Golf Club.
Firstly, I need to state I personally don’t think that tight, tree-lined courses generally produce the best of golf. Strategy is diminished, playing surfaces can be affected and repeatedly asking a golfer to simply keep his ball on the straight and narrow, and punishing them if they don’t, doesn’t really do it for me. I prefer angles and wide open spaces.
Designed by an experienced Harry Colt the Old Course at Leckford opened for play in 1929 and the layout has largely been preserved since then. This is a good thing, for the nine-holes at this under-the-radar venue deliver a beguiling round of golf.
Mulranny is simply joyous, a place where you could learn all the lessons of the links.
On a visit to the South-West that entailed no less than seven links courses Newquay proved to be the surprise package of the lot.
They say that nice things come in small packages and that is exactly what Reigate Heath is and does.
I’m going to buy Spey Bay a drum. They obviously haven’t got one... because nobody is banging it for them. And they should be!
Strathlene was the final Scottish golf course I played that features in the True Links book by George Peper and Malcolm Campbell – a publication that details all the genuine links golf courses in the world.
Tain Golf Club, founded in 1890 and originally laid out by Old Tom Morris, is a captivating moorland-links course that delivers a number of very fine holes and should be an essential play for any golfer travelling to The Highlands.
I’ve never known an inland golf course play as firm and fast in March as Thetford did on my first ever visit to this lovely Norfolk venue.
Located in the very heart of the Lake District, Windermere Golf Club must be one of the most adventurous golf courses I know and I make no apology for loving bamboozling layouts like this.
There’s a real feel-good factor about playing golf at Yelverton. It’s great for your soul and can also be a confidence booster for your golf; that is if you catch it on as benign a day as I did.
Flempton is a lovely, tucked away, nine-holer close to the market town of Bury St. Edmunds in the sleepy Suffolk countryside.
The modest 6,000-yard, par 69 course at Bungay & Waveney Valley Golf Club, established in 1889, is yet another Suffolk treat in a county that continually delivers fine inland golf.
A recent trip to compete in the annual Gold Medal, a 36 hole open competition, at Frilford Heath Golf Club consisted the playing of their Green and Red courses.
Firstly, a confession. We only added Inverallochy to our recent Scotland trip itinerary because of its close proximity to Fraserburgh, located just a few miles down the coast.
The Isle of Harris Golf Club at Scarista is a cracking little nine-hole golf course that delivers a true links experience.
A minibus of American golfers is not the first thing I expected to see on arrival at Reay Golf Club; the most northerly 18 hole links on mainland Scotland!
It’s a long time since I have walked off a golf course with as big of a smile on my face as I did at Rosehearty!
The adjacent Jubilee course at Rye was also a real surprise, not only in terms of the quality but also the unusual configuration.
The Darley links is one of three courses emanating from the starters office at the Troon Municipal golf complex which is owned, managed and run by South Ayrshire Council.
Wilmslow is one of the many fine wooded parkland courses to be found in the tranquil Cheshire countryside. It’s also one of the oldest, the club having been founded in 1889 and relocating to its present site in 1903.
The Channel Course is virtually the same as the main course but in miniature.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
Just off the A75 in Dumfries & Galloway you will find one of the most genuine and authentic links courses in Scotland; Wigtownshire County.
I was very interested to see Alnmouth Village following a reader’s recommendation after the publication of our article about the best nine-hole golf courses in the United Kingdom.
HIDDEN GEM ALERT!! Oh my word, what a discovery Anglesey Golf Club was on a recent trip to North Wales.
Located high up on the moors, just outside the City of Bradford, Baildon is a stunning 18 hole moorland course with views over Ilkley Moor, the Yorkshire Dales and beyond.
Church Stretton Golf Club sits atop the stunning Shropshire Hills above the historic market town of the same name. Please believe me when I say the panoramic views from the summit of the course are as good as you’ll find anywhere in England.
It’s not until you are willing to venture a little bit off the beaten path that you are able to discover such golfing gems as Dunnerholme.
Glencruitten is a fascinating golf course I whole-heartedly recommend anyone should play.
Hartlepool is a slow burner of a golf course. It takes three or four holes to really warm up but once it does it produces some excellent true links golf.
Right on the edge of the City of Aberdeen lays the charming Kings Links golf course which is owned by Aberdeen City Council and also the playing arena for three golf clubs; The Northern, Caledonian and Bon Accord.
The Monifieth Golf Links Trust manage two wonderful golf courses that are the home to a trio of golf clubs.
Tucked away on the Moray Firth between Lossiemouth and Hopeman the nine-hole layout at Covesea Golf Links remains a true hidden gem.
In my quest to play all the true links golf courses in Great Britain & Ireland I thought I had just about seen everything but then along comes St. David’s City Golf Club!