It's a puzzle that will never be solved because it's such a subjective question. However, what is certain is that St. George's Hill will always be a contender. And a very strong one at that.
St. George's Hill - undoubtedly one of the best inland golf courses - has three loops of nine holes; the Red, Blue and Green. On my visit here in late-August I played the better-known Red & Blue course. It was an absolute pleasure and easily one of the best courses I've ever played.
Harry Colt has once again created a golf course that takes the golfer on an amazing journey throughout the 18 holes. At times the pace quickens and sets the pulse racing. At other periods the exploration of the course slows but only to once again intensify to another crescendo.
The course winds its way through a very exclusive neighbourhood and gets off to a flying start, under the shadow of the magnificent clubhouse, with a thrilling drive across a valley to a rising fairway before you play to a green tucked away at the top of the climb.
The second is a demanding hole where a good drive will still require a medium to long iron to the well-guarded green and favours an approach from the left. The third is a wonderful par-three which falls away sharply to the left in the form of a huge bunker. The next, a par four of just 272 yards at its maximum, is designed to tempt you into unleashing the driver and is one of those holes that will often leaving you scratching your head at just how you made a bogey.
The uphill sixth plays longer than its yardage but this is repaid slightly at the next, a par four of 468 yards that gradually descends. The long 7th offers the opportunity of a birdie but only if you hit it straight twice and tangly spots of heather around the green can come into play at this par five. The eighth is a fine short hole played to a slightly upturned green which will only accept a true shot and the ninth is a fitting way to complete the front-nine as you play back towards the splendid clubhouse.
The first and 10th tees almost join but play in opposite directions and the latter is a much tougher shot with an angled ridge running across the fairway hiding the blind landing area. The next shot, preferably from the right, is played to a lovely and private green complex.
The 11th is perhaps the best hole under 120 yards that I've come across. It is played across a mass of heather to a green bunkered left and right but also with a huge fall-off to the right. It's only short but it creates a nervy tee-shot. The 12th has a blind drive but when the hole comes into view it's a great sight with a tumbling fairway that eventually rises up to the green. The next is an impressive hole too but this time you can see everything that is required as the fairway shapes to the left and up to the green. Hole 14 is a long par three played over a small pond and has a unique ridge running through the heart of the green.
The 15th offers the possibility of a birdie but is likely to require three shots to reach the green before three flavoursome par fours bring the round to a close. The 18th isn't perhaps the most demanding hole to reach the green but the slope from right to left will catch the unwary and if you have negotiated the 16th and 17th successfully then you probably deserve some little respite at the last.
It's difficult not to wax lyrical about how good St. George's Hill is. And it's aptly right up there with the best England has to offer.
In many ways it's poetic golf. The setting is bordering on surreal and the route the course chooses takes you on a fascinating journey through the pines and heather.
Waterville provides a fantastic mix of championship golf & more quirky duney fun.
Dingle Golf Links, sometimes referred to as Ceann Sibéal Golf Club, is one that is trending in the right direction.