I played at Swinley Forest last week. Sitting in the clubhouse after the round, I reflected that I was hard pushed to think of a round of golf I had enjoyed as much. The course wasn’t quite going to score a Doak 10 or appear in a top 10 list of the best courses ever designed, but for pure joy it was pretty unbeatable.
That got me thinking about my top 10 favourite courses. I also thought about those in the game I really respected and wondered what their selections would be. Not the courses they rated highest technically, but those they simply enjoyed playing the most. So I asked them!
You will hear from players, writers, architects, teachers and critics. A huge thanks to them for giving up the time to share their thoughts and rationale. I hope you find them as fun to read as I did.
I start with someone who has pretty much fulfilled all of those roles at one time or another. Mike Clayton played on the Australasian and European Tour in the 1980s and 90s - winning 8 times. He set up Mike Clayton Golf Design in 1995 which has developed into the design firm Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking, Mead and whose resume grows impressively with every year. His creation (with Tom Doak) at Barnbougle Dunes is lauded the world over as one of the very best courses built in the last 50 years.
Mike also is a very important voice in the development of the game. His thoughtful approach, drawing on years of experience and an appreciation of the game at all levels, makes him one of golf’s most sought-after commentators. The State of the Game podcast, which he co-hosts with Rod Morri and Geoff Shackleford, is unsurpassed when it comes to thinking about the challenges in the game today and a potential path for the future.
So here are Mike’s Top 10 choices, his reasons for selections and some links from me that you may enjoy:
SWINLEY FOREST GOLF CLUB
Geoff Ogilvy calls this his favourite course because he can play it with his Mum and his Dad and they all have an interesting round, answering the varying questions the course asks. It’s beautiful, masterfully built by Colt and one of the game’s great treats. And it’s the ultimate proof there is no need to make golf difficult to make it great.
UK Golf Guy Review, Swinley Forest Website, Graylyn Loomis
GOLF DE MORFONTAINE
It should be no surprise that the best 18 hole course in France was elegant. Perhaps it’s the game’s most elegant course. The rolling terrain on perfect sand amongst birch and pine makes Tom Simpson’s masterpiece one of the game’s most sought after rounds. And arguably the big course isn’t even the best course on the property. Simpson’s extra little 9 shows off some of the game’s boldest, and greatest, greens.
UK Golf Guy review, Top100golf blog, Geoff Shackleford Article
PRESTWICK GOLF CLUB
Golf before people thought it should be fair.
Golf Club Atlas feature, Planet Golf
ROYAL MELBOURNE GOLF CLUB
The best and the most fun in the Southern Hemisphere.
No Laying Up Tourist Sauce, Shackleford Golf Channel Analysis
PARAPARAUMU BEACH GOLF CLUB
Not New Zealand’s best but the most affordable and accessible first class golf there.
Golf Club Atlas feature, Paraparaumu Wesbite
NORTH BERWICK GOLF CLUB
UK Golf Guy review, Scottish Golf History, Planet Golf
ROYAL WORLINGTON AND NEWMARKET GOLF CLUB
The best 9.
Top100golfcourses.com, Royal Worlington website, Fine Golf
NOTTS GOLF CLUB
Great inland English golf.
Notts Golf Club website, National Club Golfer, Top100golfcourses.com
A big thanks to Mike for these selections. His love of traditional golf courses which can be enjoyed by all shines through.
Darius Oliver, host of the ‘Planet’ golf series and designer of the highly acclaimed Cape Wickham Links shares his favourite courses tomorrow.