It’s interesting to see how many golf clubs throughout the world have the ‘Royal’ designation. Sports clubs (golf clubs in particular) can become ‘Royal’ for many reasons. The crown generally designates the title, though it can differ from country to country. To become a ‘royal’ golf course:
- the golf club must be of eminence,
- with a long standing and secure financial position,
- the golf club needs to exist for a long time (varying from 50 to 100 years),
- should refrain from dissemination of sensitive political beliefs
- and a few royals as a member or as a patron will also help
In this blogpost we highlight the best royal golf courses in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In a next blogpost we will highlight the best royal golf courses in Continental Europe.
How many of the courses below have you played? Which one was the best? Let us know by writing a review!
Top 10 Royals – UK and Ireland
Updated from golfer reviews in January 2020.
Royal County Down Golf Club – Northern Ireland
Royal County Down is located in one of the world’s most naturally beautiful links settings in the Murlough Nature Reserve. Against the magnificent backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne, the links stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay. The fairways are surrounded by purple heather and golden gorse. So beautiful to look at but so punishing for any who may stray from the prescribed path. The ‘bearded’ bunkers are world famous and feature overhanging lips of marram, red fescue and heather. Make sure to play the Old Course at Royal County Down. The Annesley Links is nice as well, but the Old Course is the real deal.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club – England
Situated on the golden links of the North West coast in Southport, Royal Birkdale is possibly the finest of all courses in England. Royal Birkdale has held more Championship and International events since World War 2 than any other course in the world. Royal Birkdale was founded in 1889. The original 9 hole course was on Shaw Hills, behind Bedford Road. In 1897 the Club moved to the Birkdale Hills where an 18 hole course was constructed. It held the Ryder Cup here in 1965 and 1969.
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club – Wales
The golf course of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club has a magnificent setting sloping down to the seashore. The absence of sand hills usually found on links courses enables the golfer to see the sea from every hole and to enjoy memorable views south to Somerset and Exmoor, and northwest across Swansea Bay to the Gower Peninsula. The course has holes facing into every point of the compass, so the player will be tested by the wind and an undulating course and will probably need every club in the bag.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club – Scotland
Royal Dornoch Golf Club, formed in 1877, has been a Royal golf course for over 100 years now! The actual designing of the Championship course fell to the legendary Old Tom Morris, who used the unique links-land features to create a magical golfing experience. The Championship course has been tweaked and enhanced over the years. Open Champion George Duncan added new holes after the war ensuring that the course has remained a challenge in the face of ever improving equipment.
Royal Portrush Golf Club – Northern Ireland
Royal Portrush Golf Club is home to a very challenging links golf course, the Dunluce Links, and the hidden gem, the Valley Links. Harry Colt designed both courses. The Dunluce Links is home to one of the most stunning par fours in golf, the 411 yard 5th hole. A dogleg hole played from an elevated tee towards the ocean, it rewards the daring shot across a wide expanse of rough. Calamity Corner, the 210 yard par 3 16th Hole is a must play for any follower of the game.
Royal Troon Golf Club – Scotland
Royal Troon lies at the southern end of that beautiful stretch of Ayrshire coastline. Golf was played here long before the Troon Golf Club was founded in 1878. The Club became Royal in its centenary year of 1978 and was the last of the royal clubs to be so honoured. The Open first came to Troon in 1923 and since then it has become a regular venue. It has hosted the Championship on nine occasions. Accurate shot making is essential with the wind to contend with, and deep rough interspersed with gorse and broom, . This is majestic links land with the back nine holes as demanding as any in championship golf.
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club – England
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club is a Championship Links course of the highest standard with a classic out and back layout. Located in the south east corner of England it offers superb golf all year round. Its fast rolling fairways and superb greens have stood the test of time and provide a stiff challenge to lovers of links golf. In a prevailing wind, the last seven holes at Deal are reputed to be amongst the toughest in golf.
Royal St. George Golf Club – England
Royal St George’s is home to a great course, designed by William Laidlaw Purves in 1887. It is characterised by humps and swales, dunes, wild rough, fast-running fairways and deep bunkers. Demanding carries put a premium on strong driving, but even with such uncompromising terrain properly flighted and directed shots will always find their target and leave a clear line to the green. Nice fact: the course was host for a most famous fictional match, the contest between James Bond and Goldfinger.
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club – England
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club was founded in 1886 and the present course was constructed in 1897. The Clubhouse celebrated its Centenary in 1998. It is one of the premier links courses in the world, host to ten Open Championships, two Ryder Cups. The course is not very long, it has 174 bunkers and it’s a links course that is a long way from the sea yet close enough for the sea breeze.
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club – Scotland
In the league table of golf course antiquity, the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club stands at number ten. By right, it should be known to a much wider audience around the world than it is. The club was founded as the Society of Golfers at Aberdeen in 1780 and is one of the most testing and spectacular links courses of Scotland. The club became the Aberdeen Golf Club in 1815. Edward VII awarded the ‘Royal’ designation in 1903. Aberdeen has two 18 hole courses. A championship course, the Balgownie Links Course (this is the one you want to play) and a short 18 hole course, called Silverburn course (a par 64).