There is a risk that this blog becomes slightly fixated on ‘top 10’ lists (fear not, I do have a few other ideas up my sleeve!) but I hope you’ll enjoy this - my top 10 meals at a golf club!
As someone who spent most of his youth playing at municipal courses around the Edinburgh area, ‘great food at golf courses’ isn’t a subject I was introduced to until much later in life. At Carricknowe we’d go through the fence at the back of the third to buy a Wham bar and Irn Bru, and still get change from 30p. But over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to play golf in some wonderful places, and I’ve found that I have been able to combine two of my real passions - great food and great golf - in one visit.
I have no doubt that there are many more great meals to be had on the golf courses of the world, but here are some notable ones from my journey of discovery so far. (Note, this doesn’t cover halfway houses. They have another article all of their own to come!)
If you’re interested in more than just the food, click on the course name to read my course review.
10. Royal Troon
Troon probably wins the award for the restaurant with the closest proximity to the 18th green and has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the putting surface. However, it was the haggis panini that elevated this Open rota course to one of the greats for me. Everything a haggis-based breaded snack should be.
9. Sage Valley I have written before about what an odd, ritualistic place Sage Valley is. Just a few miles from Augusta, it was built by a billionaire whose application at Augusta National was turned down. Not to be put off he decided to give them a run for their money. They play bagpipes across the estate every evening, the members all wear green jackets - it’s odd in many ways. The food, however, is fantastic. The fried pickles were a great way to start and the grouper sandwich, a triumph. For a little peak into the Sage Valley experience have a look at the membership brochure here.
8. Swinley ForestI hadn’t even been sure if, as a green fee payer, I would get to see the dining room. Opulent it is not. Think shabby chic, going light on the chic. But the breakfast muffin with crab, avacodo and a poached egg, eaten overlooking an empty and inviting course, was heavenly. A real hidden gem.
What can I say about the lunch at Muirfield that hasn’t already been said? Not a lot. You sit with strangers, on long tables as if dining at a British public school. Alcohol flows fast and, on the one occasion I didn’t partake of the red wine, I thought I was going to be asked to leave. But the carvery of roast meat from the local butchers (Anderson’s of North Berwick) means it is like Sunday every day here. Half a mark off for using frozen Yorkshire Puddings though.
6. Monte Rei
Jack Nicklaus’s long holes that move from left to right, with penalising rough, defeated me - so much so that after 9 holes we stopped for a proper lunch which was, without doubt, the highlight of my visit. The jamon and other tapas was some of the best I have had and the selection of Rioja was worthy of any top restaurant. I have no memories of the back 9.
5. Yas Links
Yas is one of the modern wonders of the golfing world and Hickory’s restaurant is a fitting place to dine at such a venue. The menu may be the most extensive I have ever seen in any golf club, but everything is cooked beautifully. I was going through a low carb phase on one visit, and the range of options was phenomenal. Oh, and they serve cold beer which in Abu Dhabi isn’t always to be taken for granted. If only the views from the restaurant were better, this would be vying for a top 3 place.
4. Trump International - Doonbeg
Oh dear, just including a Trump property in this list is risking opprobrium. But such is the quality of the food at Doonbeg I just can’t ignore it. The bar is a place you want to linger in. It’s not overly brash but very welcoming with a great atmosphere. And the food was fantastic. Locally sourced oysters, steak, cheese were all presented beautifully. And say what you like about the Donald, he makes a great burger.
This golf course is rumoured to cost $1,000,000 to join and, for that, members get one of the most spectacular views from a clubhouse anywhere in the world - and not just because you can see NGLA. We watched the sun set, with a bottle of savignon blanc and a Kobe Beef hotdog. Or was it Wagyu? I forget. Either way, the food tasted great and the views will live with me forever.
The first time I played at Morfontaine we walked off 18 drenched within an inch of our lives. After a welcome shower we were ushered into the virtually deserted restaurant and revived with one of the very best meals I’ve ever experienced on a golf course. In usual French fashion, the choices were limited, on this occasion the English was non-existent but the quality was immense and the wine historic. On our second trip, the weather was wonderful, so we sat on a busy terrace but the standard of the food was undiminshed. If you get the chance to visit Morfontaine don’t leave without playing the 9 hole Valieres course and having lunch. It would be criminal.
1. National Golf Links of America
Anywhere that serves you a whole lobster an amuse bouche is going to be hard to beat. Strike that, impossible. The lunch at NGLA is unsurpassed for me. Following the lobster, the standard remained high with a wonderful cottage pie and truffled mac and cheese, followed by pancakes, and all washed down with a very well priced bottle of Cloudy Bay. All this in a clubhouse full of history, with a staff who wanted to make sure you had a great time. I’m looking forward to finding out if the sherry in the soup at Pine Valley beats it one day....!