The best golf resorts in Britain
The only thing better than a great round of golf is staying the night afterwards. Ben Winstanley picks the best golf resorts in the British Isles
Golfers are spoilt rotten in the British Isles.
Not only are we blessed with some of the finest courses you’ll find anywhere, but there are a number of world-class resorts that mean you needn’t worry about travelling home once the final putt has been holed.
From the palatial country residences of England to the grand institutions of Scotland, now is as good a time as any to stay and play.
Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland
The five-star Ayrshire golf resort that bears President Trump’s name is the location of our current favourite 36-hole set-up anywhere in Europe. Under the watchful eye of visionary architect Martin Ebert, The Ailsa and King Robert the Bruce courses have both undergone incredibly impressive renovations over the course of the last five years – and the significant investment has paid dividends.
Both courses have been rerouted to make better use of the stunning stretch of rocky shoreline that borders the property, while the iconic Turnberry lighthouse is a renewed focal point thanks to the tremendous par-three 9th on The Ailsa and par-five 11th on The Bruce.
Elsewhere, there’s a smorgasbord of world-class golf facilities, including an 18-hole putting course and Martin Ebert-designed short game practice course, that elevate this resort from ‘hotel with course’ to a must-visit destination for those who love the game.
Yes, there’s an air of Trump gaudiness in the hotel’s interiors, but an over-liberal use of gold doesn’t detract from the beauty of the surroundings and the faultless service.
Non-golfers can spend their time 4x4 off-roading, water zorbing or racing around on quad safaris but, honestly, who can visit Turnberry and not feel the pull of the links? Martin Ebert’s renovations confirm the golf architect as one of the game’s modern masters of design – and, better yet, makes Turnberry the golfing mecca it should rightly be.
For more information, trumpturnberry.com
Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire, England
As Stoke Park moves into its 110th year of operation, the Buckinghamshire resort shows no sign of falling behind the times. Over the last three years, the 27-hole Championship course has undergone a seven-figure bunker renovation plan, and extensive reworking of the water features on holes 12, 16 and 17.
The fruit of this investment has already had a profound impact on the golfing proposition, while holes 19 to 27 of the Harry Colt-designed layout recently opened for play in April of this year. Our first impressions were of how much the refurbishment has created a more defined course with better framed hole designs. It’s an exciting, albeit necessary, improvement worthy of such a historic golfing destination – and eliminates the previous criticism that the course lacks the charm of Colt’s other designs.
At the centre of it all is the Palladian-style mansion, dating back to 1788, that stands supreme among its parkland surrounds. Inside you’ll find 21 well-appointed bedrooms (there’s another 28 in an adjacent pavillion) to rest your weary head after a day on the course or Stoke Park’s Wimbledon-perfect grass tennis courts. Elsewhere, a gym upgrade to the tune of £500k has created a 4,000sq-ft space that dwarfs almost any other resort gym in Europe, while Chris Wheeler, head chef of the on-site fine-dining restaurant Humphry’s, is cooking the best food of his career.
Add in the Hollywood glam that comes from the one-time movie set for James Bond, Layer Cake and, er, Bridget Jones, and this is one icon worthy of your time.
For more information, stokepark.com
Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
Few hotels on the planet compare to Scotland’s finest, Gleneagles. Host venue of the 2014 Ryder Cup venue and one of Scotland’s most famous golf resorts, Gleneagles is a fantasy land where luxury accommodation and three 18-hole championship courses serve as the basis for countless bucket-list golf trips a year.
In recent years, however, the experience has been taken to the next level. New owner Ennismore has invested millions across the 850-acre estate, including a drop-dead gorgeous renovation of the main spaces and sumptuous bedrooms. A subtle Scottish theme now pervades throughout the iconic hotel: antiques and photographs line the halls with glimpses into Gleneagles’ past, while bedrooms are furnished with fabrics and tweeds from local mills.
The abiding sensation – and perhaps the component that raises this hotel to the upper echelons of European resort experiences – is one of nuance and good taste. There is refinement at every turn: from the Gatsby-esque cocktail bar that opens for the evenings, to the French brasserie (one of four restaurant options) that effortlessly transports you from Perthshire to Paris without missing a beat. Spaces are purposeful and thought out with guest experience in mind.
The golf is but another string to this hotel’s gorgeous bow. Set within the sweeping Scottish moorlands, with surrounding mountains and the Ochil Hills, there are few settings more perfect for 54 holes of golf. Jewel in the estate’s crown is The King’s course, designed by five-time Open champion James Baird in 1919, while The Queen’s and Ryder Cup venue the PGA Centenary courses are equally well-respected venues.
If one where to grade them, The King’s would be the finest golfing test, The Queen’s the prettiest and the PGA Centenary the most fun. But who are we to judge for you? Take a trip to Auchterarder and find out for yourself.
For more information, gleneagles.com
Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland
It’s not every day that a hotel built in the 1860s states its intentions of becoming a global force in the game of golf, but that is the strange case of County Limerick’s glorious Adare Manor.
The 842-acre Irish property was purchased by racehorse tycoon JP McManus in 2014 – and promptly hidden among scaffolding as it underwent a two-year renovation of absolutely monumental proportions.
The result is what you might expect from a multi-multi-million pound overhaul: stylish touches and ornate furnishings please the eye at every turn, while the castle’s neo-gothic facade, garnished as it is with lancet arches and other Hogwarts-like flourishes, retains its particular brand of romantic Victorian charm. There’s stained-glass windowed lounges for afternoon tea and four-poster beds overlooking the River Maigue in the suites. This is capital ‘L’ luxury, with a price to match.
That is, of course, not even the half of it. Golf-wise, there’s a quaint little story of famed architect Tom Fazio being invited to consult on a bunker restoration project, before he and Open-winner Padraig Harrington decided to redo the entire golf course from scratch.
Local Irish newspapers have speculated about the significant cost to Mr McManus, but the truth of it is this is the most exciting development in Ireland for decades.
It has the Ryder Cup 2026 firmly in its sights (a course length stretching to 7,500 yards and its status as the first course in Europe to feature greens with bentgrass will surely help its chance) and has boldly gone one step further by proclaiming its intentions of becoming the ‘Augusta of Ireland’. Whatever the future holds, for now Ireland has a spectacular new venue that deserves its place on any self-respecting golfer’s bucket list.■
For more information, adaremanor.com