You don’t need a membership to tee off on these world-class greens.
As the late summer’s clement weather kicks in, the golfing season is in full swing, and the easing of various lockdown restrictions means we’re free to delight in the good old game once again. However with membership prices reportedly through the roof right now, pay and play courses are a more attractive option than ever. Maybe you don’t want to tie yourself down to one club, or maybe you’re looking to try out various greens before making the commitment. Whatever the reason, there’s no need to pay big annual fees at these top clubs, which welcome all golfers at just about any time of the year.
Set among the 200-acres of Hertfordshire countryside The Grove calls home, this sprawling 18-hole golf course is perhaps best known as host of the 2006 Amex World Golf Championships, when Tiger Woods easily dominated the field to claim the illustrious title. Just a short drive from London, the 7,152 yard course caters to all golfing standards with its four large teeing areas on each and every hole, plus a number of appealing short holes and a particularly testing 3rd with its approach over ‘Hell’s Lake’. The surrounding picturesque Hertfordshire countryside makes for a serene backdrop, too.
From £155 off peak, thegrove.co.uk/golf
A popular 36-hole club near the Brands Hatch race circuit, London Golf Club offers pay and play on its International Course, an equally-impressive sister to the club’s Jack Nicklaus-designed members’ only Heritage Course. While beginners may want to look elsewhere – the rolling Kent countryside provides challenging elevation changes for all but the very best golfers – a peaceful terrain and beautiful view make London Golf Club one of the most well-regarded in the south. Need more convincing? Its designer Ron Kirby describes the 532-yard 4th, which features a fairway split in half by a huge bunker, as “the best par 5 hole I have ever created”, and its regulars would most certainly agree.
From £130, londongolf.co.uk
Having recently undergone an extensive renovation in June 2020 which culminated in the opening of a completely new par 3 called Smugglers’ Landing, the acclaimed Princes Golf Club promises hole after hole (27 in total) of first-rate links golf. As host of the 1932 Open Championship and neighbour to the much-celebrated Royal St Georges, the course is rich in history, and attracts golf connoisseurs from all over the world with its perfectly manicured greens, unrivalled attention to detail and Prince’s Clubhouse, which is the perfect pitstop for a quick post-putt drink.
From £100 off peak, princesgolfclub.co.uk
The Belfry is a name that needs no introduction – its Brabazon course has played host to more Ryder Cups than any other on the planet, after all. Offering a taste of world-class golfing in a resort-style setting, expect a mire of perilous bunkers, lakes, strategically placed sand-traps and immaculate greens that are a pleasure to navigate. Both the PGA National and Brabazon courses are currently open for business, and if you enjoy a round at either you’ll be in good company, too – The Belfry is a place that has put the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods well and truly put through their paces.
£175 for the Brabazon course, £95 for PGA National and £45 for the Derby course; thebelfry.com/golf/
A regular feature in the top 100 courses in the UK, this timeless English club that often falls under the radar. Short but tough, what it lacks in size it makes up for in surroundings – the course lies on an idyllic tract of purple headland where birch and fir trees abound. As for the game, the layout is configured in two loops (the front nine being the outer loop and the back nine the inner loop) with five par threes and only two par fives against a par of 69. Sandwiched between the North and South Downs, with easy access from Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire, Blackmoor most certainly defines hidden gem status. Green fee rates for both County Card Holders and casual visitors.
From £55, blackmoorgolf.co.uk
It would be a sacrilege to talk about the UK’s best pay and play golf courses and not mention St Andrews Links, where the game has been played since the 15th century. Arguably the most famous golf resort in the UK with seven courses to its name, its Old Course might be most popular but it’s also the most difficult to nab a tee time, so opt for the New Course instead. Opened for play in 1895, it’s one of the oldest ‘new’ courses in the world, often referred to as the local’s favourite thanks to its tighter layout. Expect a par 71, 6,625 yards and 18 holes with shared fairways and a double green at the 3rd and 15th holes. She really is a beauty to play.
From £98, standrews.com/play
Written by Naomi Chadderton