United States or Great Britain & Ireland: Which is Better for Golf Trips?
We’re very excited for the addition of international courses to our golf travel website! In this first release, we’ve added over 600 courses in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. There are so many great courses in these countries, and we’re excited to help inform and inspire you to travel to these places.
Our first look at golf courses on a global scale offers a high-level analysis comparing top-ranked courses in the United States to those in Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I), two of the most concentrated areas for great golf courses in the world. For our study, we looked at Golf Magazine’s recent Top 100 U.S. and Top 100 GB&I lists alongside information from the Open Links database. We thought this would provide a good apples-to-apples comparison since the courses were chosen by the same source and there are the same number to compare.
The purpose of this comparison is to provide insights that might be most useful as they pertain to golf travel. At the end of the day, we’ll let you decide whether the U.S. or GB&I is better!
When we say top-ranked golf courses in our study, please note that this is referring only to the two Golf Magazine Top 100 lists. To see a side-by-side list of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 U.S. and Top 100 GB&I, please scroll to the bottom of the article. We hope you enjoy this comparison and possibly gain some inspiration to visit these great golfing destinations!
The state of Wisconsin offers one of the best golf trips in the United States due to it’s high concentration of top-ranked courses, such as Sand Valley (pictured above). Photo: Evan Schiller
In the past, we’ve written about key considerations when it comes to planning a golf trip, and this applies whether you are traveling to the U.S. or GB&I. The three key factors to consider when planning a golf trip are where you’re going (location), where you can play (accessibility) and the cost (budget). Let’s take a look at each.
Figuring out where your group is going is one of the first steps in the golf trip planning process. The U.S. is a much larger geographical area than GB&I so the top-ranked courses are more spread out. For example, it’s over 3,000 miles from Eastward Ho! in eastern Massachusetts to Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast versus 700 miles from Royal Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands to St. Enodoc in South West England.
Luckily, there are clusters of top-ranked courses in both the U.S. and GB&I, and we’ve created our Open Links Regions to identify these and make trip planning easier. Our Regions are curated based on areas that make the most logistical sense for a multi-day golf trip. To that aim, the courses we’ve highlighted are within a two-hour drive of each other and typically within a single metro area that you may use as home base.
Greater London & Heathlands is the Open Links Region with the most top-ranked courses in the entire world (18). Viewed on our website – free registration available at www.openlinksgolf.com
Below are the Open Links Regions with at least five top-ranked courses. Please see our website to view the top-ranked courses by Region.
Western Oregon (5)
Columbus & Cincinnati (5)
California – Central Coast (5)
Greater London & Heathlands (18)
NW Ireland & East Northern Ireland (7)
Manchester & Liverpool (7)
Fife & Perthshire (7)
South-West Ireland (6)
Scotland – West Coast & Isles (5)
South West England (5)
South East England (5)
Scottish Highlands (5)
Since the U.S. encompasses such a large area, it offers greater opportunity for peak weather throughout the year (e.g. Central Florida in the winter and Western Oregon in the summer). However, GB&I is a much more compact area with a peak travel season concentrated mainly in the late spring through the fall.
St. Patrick’s Links is the newest addition to the already stacked region of Northwest Ireland & Eastern Northern Ireland. Photo: Clyde Johnson
Another important factor is determining which courses you can actually play! Astonishingly, 97 out of the top 100 ranked courses in GB&I are open to outside play! The three private courses on the GB&I list are Loch Lomond, Renaissance Club and Wentworth (West). In the U.S., you’ll need to know a member to play most of the top-ranked courses. Less than one quarter of the clubs on the U.S. list (21 out of 100) are open to outside play. Below are the Open Links Regions in the U.S. with at least two top-ranked public courses:
Western Oregon (5) – all five regulation courses at Bandon Dunes Resort
Wisconsin (3) – Lawsonia (Links), Sand Valley and Whistling Straits (Straits)
CA Central Coast (2) – Pasatiempo and Pebble Beach
The California Central Coast is on the short list for best golf trips in the United States. Photo: Evan Schiller
Establishing a budget is a key consideration when planning any golf trip. We collect the max fee for all publicly accessible courses in our database, defined as the maximum peak season walking rate. On average, top-ranked publicly accessible courses in GB&I cost 227 USD/189 GBP/219 EUR and courses in the US cost 401 USD/335 GBP/387 EUR. There are four top-ranked courses in GB&I that you can play for 100 USD or less but none in the U.S. The cheapest top-ranked course in the U.S. is Lawsonia (Links), with a 110 USD peak season walking rate. There are 43 top-ranked courses in GB&I that you can play for under 200 USD, versus two in the U.S. (Lawsonia (Links) and Bethpage (Black)). On the other end of the spectrum, there are four top-ranked courses in the U.S. (Whistling Straits, Pebble Beach, TPC Sawgrass, Shadow Creek) that have a max fee of over 500 USD, versus two in GB&I (Ardfin, Turnberry Ailsa).
The Scottish Highlands offers one of the best values of any golf trip in the world. There are five top-ranked courses, highlighted by Royal Dornoch (pictured), and the median max green fee per course in the region is only 70 GBP. Photo: Patrick Koenig
Your Next Golf Trip
If you are planning a golf trip, the U.S. and GB&I arguably offer the most top-tier courses in the entire world. If you live on the U.S. East Coast, it certainly makes sense to consider GB&I as your next golf trip destination. As you can see in the flight time grid below, it is actually closer in some cases than taking a golf trip to the U.S. West Coast.
For assistance planning your next golf trip, check out our free website. We have a global database of courses across the U.S., GB&I, Australia, and New Zealand (and will be adding more countries soon). You can filter courses based on your preferences (e.g. Max Fee, Location) and save them to a wishlist. Our website also allows you to look at reviews of courses from others who are as passionate about golf courses and golf travel as you are!