heathland-golfWhen golf began to expand in Europe, leaving the shores of Scotland behind, inland courses started to crop up away from the vaunted ‘links lands’. A number of golf courses were first built on impervious clay soils with very poor results which lead the likes of Willie Park, Jr., Harry Colt, Herbert Fowler and J.F. Abercromby to begin searching for suitable well drained soils on which to build their golfing creations.

What they settled on was the ‘heathlands’ which are fast draining, sandy soils often spanning areas with gently rolling terrain. Like the classic links courses such as the St Andrews Old Course, Royal St Georges and Ballybunion,  heathland boast firm, sandy turf that is simply perfect for golf. In fact, many view heathland courses as a middle ground between links classics such as Turnberry, Royal Porthcawl and Royal Birkdale and parkland gems like The Belfry’s Brabazon Course. Other heathland characteristics include swathes of heather which flashes purple in the summer months, devilish gorse, colourful rhododendrons and towering Scotch fir and pine trees. These heathland ingredients combine to form some of the most visually stunning golf courses in the world.

Heathland golf courses are most closely associated with the UK, specifically England and the area surrounding London including the great Surrey Sandbelt. Although the links courses that share the hosting of the Open Championship get the most press, it is the heathland gems in this area of the country that should be considered the signature courses of England as, apart from Pine Valley, the world’s highest ranked golf course, the finest heathland courses in the world all reside in this part of the country.


Hindhead is one of the most spectacular heathland courses in the UK and well worth a visit.

Among these southern gems are famous names such as Sunningdale, Wentworth, Swinley Forest, Walton Heath and West Sussex. While these courses are widely considered to be the finest examples of heathland courses, there are plenty of lesser known examples that simply cannot be overlooked and, conveniently, will be much easier to secure a game on!

Courses such as Hindhead Golf Club, East Berkshire, Royal Ashdown Forest and Liphook are all roughly an hour’s drive from London and easily accessible from major motorways. Securing a game on one of these courses will ensure an amazing day’s golf. Secure a game on one of the big hitting heathlands such as Sunningdale and you will never want to leave!

Heathland golf though, is not only found in and around England’s capital as there are many fine examples further north including arguably the finest heathland course in all the land, the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa.


The Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa ranks as one of the very best in the world.

The firm heathland turf of Lincolnshire on which the course sits is the basis for the Hotchkin’s character, where the majestic holes are lined by towering birch pine and broom. The predominant hazards, apart from the woodland, are the bunkers; around the greens in particular, the Hotchkin is known for its cavernous sand traps…bring your bucket and spade if you struggle with sandy escapes! Recently ranked as the 25th best course in the world, this inland gem is without doubt a classic, and although those in the know are well aware of its qualities, for a course of such quality it has gone largely unnoticed compared with its cousins in the south. Any serious golfer should make a Woodhall Spa Golf Break a high priority.

Push even further north towards West Yorkshire and you will stumble across the stunning Alwoodley which, like the Hotchkin at Woodhall Spa, is without a doubt one of the finest inland layouts in the whole of the UK. The Mackenzie Course here was the first to be completed by Dr. Alister Mackenzie, who went on to compile a portfolio including immense names such as Augusta National. The club itself is traditional, and has resisted any temptation to alter Mackenzie’s original design. Open Championship regional qualifiers and countless national amateur events are among the high profile events to have graced Alwoodley, so why not follow in some famous footsteps during a golf tour of Leeds’ outstanding championship gems?


Royal Ashdown Forest is an outstanding golf course; a truly quintessential English layout.

There are also heathland courses further south than the Surrey sandbelt and Isle of Purbeck in Bournemouth is a real gem. The Purbeck may only measure 6,295 yards, but there is no shortage of menace in the shape of the heather and devilish bunkers. Arguably the most picturesque course in the area, the Isle of Purbeck is a firm favourite on Bournemouth’s excellent golfing trail.

While you may not be able to secure a game at world number 1, Pine Valley, we have surely armed you with the information necessary to locate a fine heathland course in England and if you have not yet sampled the delights of such a layout we strongly suggest you pick one from the hat, dust off the clubs and hit the fairways!