FedEx St. Jude Championship

TPC Southwind


Courses

Travel

These might be the 7 best trips you can book to play all The Open rota courses

1068296844

David Cannon/R&A

July 20, 2022

If you’re like us, watching The Open Championship last week made us antsy to plan our own golf trip to the Old World. Though we’re told by booking operators in Scotland that many popular venues are booked pretty solidly for 2023, Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR has some availability. The Golfbreaks by PGA Tour team have curated trips to the Open rota courses, including other great options around each area.

Here are seven trips you should book now, all revolving an Open rota course:

Northern Ireland

Royal Portrush, on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, hosted the first Open Championship outside of the mainland UK in 1951 and returned to the Open rota in 2019, when Ireland’s Shane Lowry cruised to victory. Currently ranked eighth on our World’s 100 Greatest Courses, the Dunluce Links (one of two courses at Portrush, along with the Valley) is scheduled to host the 2025 Open. Royal Portrush is a must-play on any trip to Northern Ireland, which is a favorite destination among golfers for the stunning visuals and topography that characterize the country’s many links. Here are some other Northern Irish gems worth visiting:

Royal-County-Down-Third-Hole.jpg

Getty Images

The top-ranked course on our World’s 100 Greatest Courses, Royal County Down’s Championship course is just down the road from Ardglass and is bordered by Dundrum Bay to the east and the Mountains of Mourne to the south. Rugged terrain, blind shots and impressive bunkering characterize this links that was originally designed by Old Tom Morris, though many have refined the top-ranked layout since.

Ardglass sits on the southeast coast of Northern Ireland and boasts what is believed to be the oldest clubhouse in the world, part of which dates back to 1405. The Irish Sea can be seen from every tee and green, with the back nine running all along the water.

Situated along the country’s northern coast not far from Royal Portrush, Castlerock was altered by Harry Colt in the 1920s and has been one of Northern Ireland’s must-plays ever since.

Portstewart sits on the country’s northern coast and offers three links golf courses: the Strand, the Riverside and the Old. The Strandranked fourth in Golf Digest’s most recent rankings of the best courses in Northern Ireland—is the best known of the three and plays among towering dunes with stunning views of the sea and countryside.

Royal Belfast, formed in 1881, is the oldest golf club in the whole of Ireland and presents a scenic parkland layout designed by Harry Colt. The course—like each one mentioned on this list—is also ranked inside our top 10 in Northern Ireland.

Interested in booking one of these trips? Click here to start pricing out your trip with our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, or call them: (+1) 843.779.7134.

East Lothian

Dating back to 1744, Muirfield is the world’s oldest golf club and has hosted 16 Open Championships, the second-most of any course still in the rota. With the likes of Vardon, Hagen, Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo, Els and Mickelson all winning The Open at Muirfield, the links boasts perhaps the most illustrious list of past champions of any course in the Open rota. Though it’ll require some advanced planning to secure a tee time due to the limited supply available, playing a round at the storied course currently ranked seventh on our World’s 100 Greatest Courses will make for one of the best golf days one can have. And, with some of the country's finest links layouts just down the road from Muirfield, a trip to the East Lothian coast should be a priority for any Scotland golf getaway.

Gullane sits just down the road from Muirfield and offers three courses, appropriately named Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Gullane No. 1, a past host of the Scottish Open, is a seaside links that overlooks the Firth of Forth and has plenty of pot bunkers and heather to penalize wayward shots. Past Open champion Willie Park Jr. laid out Nos. 2 and 3 at Gullane, which play shorter than No. 1 but offer enjoyable rounds nonetheless.

North-Berwick-Golf-Club-14.jpg

David Cannon/Getty Images

North Berwick, No. 23 on our latest World’s 100 Greatest Courses, is a favorite of many and presents an unusual layout. The 13th green sits behind a stone wall, the par-3 15th presents a blind shot to a Redan green and the narrow 16th features a large Biarritz-like green.

Old Tom Morris had a hand in redesigning this classic seaside links, which plays along a narrow strip of coastal land hugging the rocky coastline.

A historical gem on the East Lothian coast that has been relatively untouched since the late 1800s, Kilspindie plays just 5,500 yards with seven par 4s measuring less than 300 yards.

Interested in booking one of these trips? Click here to start pricing out your trip with our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, or call them: (+1) 843.779.7134.

St. Andrews

The Old Course doesn’t need much of an introduction. Yet, at the same time, it has the most history of any course on the list. It’s the Home of Golf. It has hosted the Open Championship a record 30 times. The list of Open winners is a who’s who of golf greats: James Braid, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Peter Thompson, Bobby Locke, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods, among others. Golf has been played on this historic ground since the early 15th century, though it was then banned by James II from 1457 until 1502, when James IV removed the ban.

Sat on the east coast of Scotland, St. Andrews makes the perfect home base for a golf trip as it has now expanded to host seven golf courses, most notably the New Course. If it was anywhere but in the shadow of the Old Course, this classic links layout would receive a lot more attention.

Farther down the coastline, Crail Golfing Society is one of the oldest golfing societies in the world and home of two brilliant courses: the Balcomie Links and Craighead Links. The clubhouse is a highlight, perched above the Balcomie’s 18th hole, looking out onto the ocean.

Sticking on the Fife coast, golf has been played on the land Kingsbarns Golf Links occupies since the late 18th century, but the course visitors will play today wasn’t opened until 2000. Kingsbarns is grouped with Carnoustie and the Old Course in the rotation for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Dumbarnie.15.08.19.MKIII.2.2

Mark Alexander

About 20 minutes south of St. Andrews, on the south coast of the Fife peninsula, overlooking the Firth of Forth, Dumbarnie Links is one of the newest additions to links golf in the British Isles. What it doesn’t offer in history, it more than makes up for in fun. Twelve sets of tee boxes allow the course to be stretched to 7,600 yards, or played with a variety of setups, including up to three drivable par 4s, depending on the conditions.

Also on the south coast of the Fife peninsula, but a bit farther west, Leven Links started as nine holes until Old Tom Morris expanded it to 18 in 1868. Leven regularly hosts Open Qualifying.

When the Open is played at St. Andrews, Scotscraig Golf Club is a Final Qualifying site, as it sits just twenty minutes north of the Old Course. The 13th oldest course in the world, Scotscraig plays more like a heathland course, despite its proximity to the River Tay.

Fans will know Gleneagles for hosting the 2014 Ryder Cup and 2019 Solheim Cup. An hour inland from St. Andrews, this is a great place to play on the way in or out, as it’s roughly equidistant to major airports in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Interested in booking one of these trips? Click here to start pricing out your trip with our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, or call them: (+1) 843.779.7134.

Troon

On Scotland’s west coast, south of Glasgow, Royal Troon boasts both the longest and shortest holes in the Open rota. The par-5 sixth, Turnberry extends to 601 yards, while the world-famous par-3 eighth is a mere 123 yards. Its name, Postage Stamp, comes from its diminutive green, measuring just 2,635 square feet. From 1962 to 2004, six straight Americans won the Open there. When the Open returned in 2016, Henrik Stenson shot a final-round 63 to beat Phil Mickelson.

Just 10 minutes south of Royal Troon sits the site of the very first Open Championship. Prestwick hosted 24 Opens between 1860 and 1924. A railway line is very much in play off the first tee, creating one of the most intimidating opening tee shots in all of golf. Remember a jacket and tie if you’re going to stop by the bar or dining room after your round.

Turning around and going back 10 minutes north of Troon, Western Gailes Golf Club is similarly situated between the Ayrshire Railway and the Firth of Clyde. Born out of an idea of a group of friends to build a course in the industrial fog of Glasgow, Western Gailes more than holds its own against the Open-hosting giants of the region, but at a more affordable price point.

Right next door, Dundonald Links was formerly known as Southern Gailes before new management took over in 2003. Host of the 2017 men’s Scottish Open, Dundonald and its above listed neighbors are only 40 minutes from Glasgow.

Speaking of Donald, Turnberry hosted four Open Championships between 1977 and 2009 before Donald Trump bought the property in 2014. Two of the most memorable Opens in history took place here, both featuring Tom Watson. In the 1977 “Duel in the Sun,” Watson outlasted Jack Nicklaus to win by one. He wasn’t so fortunate in 2009. Then 59 years old, Watson held a one-stroke lead over Stewart Cink before making bogey and getting boat raced in a playoff. The R&A has announced that it had no plans to stage any of its competitions at Turnberry and would not do so "until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself."

Stephen Szurlej

Machrihanish is tough to get to, but well worth the effort. Nearly a four-hour drive from Glasgow, the revered links is set on the Kintyre peninsula with views of the North Sea. Jack Nicklaus has called the 424-yard par-4 first hole the best in the world.

Carnoustie

Widely regarded as the toughest course in the Open rota, Carnoustie has a propensity for final-round drama. The brute—currently ranked 24th on our latest World’s 100 Greatest Courses—is perhaps best known for Jean van de Velde’s 18th-hole collapse in 1999, when he found the Barry Burn and coughed up a three-shot lead, allowing Paul Lawrie to emerge in a three-way playoff along with Justin Leonard. In 2018, Tiger Woods’ final-round charge to put pressure on eventual champion Francesco Molinari also added to the course’s allure. A visit to Carnoustie, situated on Scotland’s east coast just outside Dundee, pairs well with some other nearby gems:

675736199XX00012_General_Vi

David Cannon

Ben Hogan famously spent two weeks at Panmure—an Old Tom Morris design that sits right next door to Carnoustie—in preparation for the 1953 Open at Carnoustie where he went on to win his only claret jug (by four strokes).

There are two courses at Monifieth, just down the road from Carnoustie. The Medal course plays mainly inland and offers a blend of links and parkland golf, while the Ashludie course is just 5,100 yards and presents plenty of tricky short shots to small greens.

The first six holes at Ladybank were designed by Old Tom Morris in 1879. The layout, now 18 holes, plays inland along heathland terrain, and unlike many of the nearby links courses, Ladybank features generally flat fairways and small greens.

Interested in booking one of these trips? Click here to start pricing out your trip with our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, or call them: (+1) 843.779.7134.

Liverpool/Southport

The 2023 Open Championship will be played at Royal Liverpool, known by the locals as Hoylake. The second-oldest seaside links in England, Hoylake was the site of Tiger Woods’ third Open-winning performance, where he famously did not hit a single driver all four days en route to a two-shot victory and a defense of his title as Champion Golfer of the Year. It was his first major victory after the death of his father, Earl. Even a casual golf fan will recognize pictures of Woods embracing his caddie, Stevie Williams, on the 72nd green after the winning putt.

Formby Golf Club is nearly an hour north of Royal Liverpool, across the River Mersey and up the coast. Jose Maria Olazabal won the 1984 British Amateur Championship here. When it returned again in 2009, Matteo Manassero, 16, became the youngest to ever win the event.

Just north of Formby, Hillside Golf Club is right next to Royal Birkdale, another course in the Open rota. One of the finest courses to not host the Open, Hillside’s first nine plays on flat ground along a railway before turning back toward the clubhouse, winding between wild dunes.

Royal-Birkdale-GC-7-6-Staff.jpg

Photo by Stephen Szurlej

Speaking of Birkdale, host of the 2017 Open is widely regarded as one of the favorite courses on the Open rota. With many fairways winding below and between dunes, rarely are balls that land in the fairway thrown elsewhere, as is the case on some other courses. Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Mark O’Meara and Jordan Spieth have all won Opens here.

Royal-Lytham-and-St-Annes-Golf-Club-10-Staff.jpg

Another half hour north, Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club is another Open-hosting venue. It has hosted 11 times, most recently featuring Adam Scott’s collapse, playing the final four holes in four over to lose to Ernie Els by one. Curtis Cups, Walker Cups and other women’s majors have been held here, too.

Back down the coast line, about 40 minutes north of Liverpool, West Lancashire sits in the shadow of giants of the game, but more than holds its own. “West Lancs,” as it’s known by the locals, is one of the 10 oldest clubs in England and features panoramic views across the Crosby Channel to the Birkenhead peninsula and Liverpool Bay.

Interested in booking one of these trips? Click here to start pricing out your trip with our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, or call them: (+1) 843.779.7134.

Kent

1257236666

David Cannon

Royal St. George’s was founded in 1887 with the intention of being the St. Andrews of the south. Sat in Sandwich, on the southeast coast of England, St. George’s was host of the first Open played outside of Scotland in 1894. It’s hosted more Opens than any other course in England. When Collin Morikawa won here in 2021, he became the first player ever to win two different majors in his tournament debut.

Just 10 minutes north, Prince’s Golf Course hosts three nine-hole courses. Prince’s hosted its one and only Open Championship in 1932, with Gene Sarazen taking the Claret Jug back across the pond. It now plays as an Open Qualifying location.

Royal Cinque Ports Jon Cavalier.jpg

Jon Cavalier/@LinksGems

Rounding out the elite trio on the Kent coast, Royal Cinque Ports is another former Open host. Though it last hosted in 1920, there were attempts in 1938 and 1949, but unusually high tides covered the course. Royal St. George’s hosted both times. Today, Cinque Ports is a regular Open Championship Final Qualifying site.

An hour south, but still on the Strait of Dover, Littlestone Golf Club is one of England’s hidden gems. Another Final Qualifying site, Littlestone features views of the white Cliffs of Dover and on a clear day, the coast of France from the 17th hole.

Back north of Royal St. George’s, toward Margate, North Foreland isn’t as high-profile as some other courses in this region, but is equally as beautiful and challenging. Fairways may appear wide from the tee, but hidden bunkers will punish a golfer who feels a bit too relaxed.

Interested in booking one of these trips? Click here to start pricing out your trip with our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, or call them: (+1) 843.779.7134.