Best Places to Play in England & Scotland

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on
Old Course at St Andrews. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Old Course at St Andrews. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

In England and Scotland, countries filled with links gems, almost all courses offer public access – the number of genuinely private clubs with no outside access can be counted on one hand. Access to some of the world's most historic and breathtaking courses is readily (most of time) available.
Below are two great venues you should consider playing the next time you are in England and two when you are in Scotland. These four courses are only a small representation of what the United Kingdom offers to golfers worldwide.
Royal St. George's
Warren Little/Getty Images
Warren Little/Getty Images
The easiest way to sum up Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England, is by classifying it as one of the greatest golf Courses in the world. There is no exaggeration in making this statement either. The club was founded in 1887 by Dr William Laidlaw Purves. Dr. Purves intended to create a club that rivaled the Old Course at St Andrews, and I would say mission accomplished on that pursuit.
Royal St. George's place in golf history, specifically in Open Championship history, was its designation as the first Open played at a venue outside Scotland. That happened in 1894, some 34 years from the first rendition of the Open at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860.
Royal St. George's has played host to 15 Open Championships. That is more than any course in the Open rotation outside Scotland.
With a handicap of 18 or below, the any golfer can play Royal St. George's. For more information, go to
Royal Birkdale
(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Cut from a very similar cloth as St. George's, Royal Birkdale – just up the road from Royal Liverpool in Southport, England – is another facility that boasts of the majesty of British golf. Founded in 1889, the original 9-hole course opened for play in October of the same year and in 1894, the decision was made to move the links to Birkdale Hills. In 1897, it was again moved to its present-day location where George Lowe laid out 18 holes. In an interesting twist, Lowe was the golf professional at nearby Royal Lytham & St Annes, another gem holding a significant place in the game's history.
The Open first came to Royal Birkdale in 1954 and was won by Peter Thompson. Royal Birkdale has hosted 10 Open Championships, placing it seventh on the list of most played venues in the Championships history.
Royal Birkdale is open for public play on select dates throughout the year. Visitors to Royal Birkdale will be "Members for the Day" and have access to all facilities. Unfortunately, 2023 is booked fully, so to start planning for 2024, go to
(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Muirfield is the home of The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. This organization's history dates back to 1774, but its current home, at Muirfield, was founded in 1891. Muirfield is a must-play for any golfer visiting Scotland.
Several things make Muirfield, located in East Lothian, Scotland, unique and special, most notably its layout. It is traditional for links courses to run out along the coast and then make its way back in again towards the clubhouse. Muirfield was the first links layout to change things from that traditional routing. Holes at Muirfield are arranged in two loops of nine: one clockwise and the other counterclockwise.
Muirfield has hosted The Open Championship sixteen times, most recently in 2013. The Open will next be played at Muirfield in 2028.
Visitor days at Muirfield are Tuesdays and Thursdays, excluding holidays. As with many clubs in the U.K., players must have a recognized handicap of 24 or less. For more information on playing at Muirfield, go to
Old Course at St Andrews
(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
The Old Course at St Andrews is indeed the original Home of Golf. The history of golf being played on the links at St Andrews dates to the early 15th century.
Located in the quaint town of St Andrews in Scotland, the Old Course was pivotal to the development of today's modern game, and one of the most significant examples of its contribution to the contemporary game comes from the number of holes a regulation round is contested over.
At the start of 1764, the Old Course had 22 holes. By October of that year, authority figures of St Andrews changed the progression of holes, and in doing so, the standard of 18 holes, as we know it today, was created. In 1863, Old Tom Morris separated the first green from the 17th. In doing so, he produced the current 18-hole layout we see today.
The Old Course has hosted The Open Championship 30 times since 1873, most recently in 2022 with the 150th Open.
Visitors can play the Old Course at St. Andrews, but much like with many of the game's most coveted courses in the U.K., it requires some advanced planning. For information on booking a time on the Old Course, go to