George Stead
By George Stead

First things first, its important to explain how this works. This is not just a random collection of great golf holes, instead we like to think of it as being almost like a virtual 18 hole golf course.

Each hole number is the actual hole that it would be on it's own course - we've not just stuck any old hole anywhere. As much as we'd like to put the 17th at St Andrews as our first hole (what an opening tee shot that would be...), we've been strict with our choices and the outcome is what we believe to be the best 18 holes of golf in the UK & Ireland.

There's a number of credentials that the holes in this list have to have, when designing this course I was bearing in mind the following: beauty, difficulty, enjoyment levels, history, scenery, hazards, length, and course management.

A Par 72, playing a whopping 7,071 yards in total (we've taken the yardages from all of the Championship tees on each course), this golf course is what we believe to be the 'Ultimate 18' in the UK & Ireland.

1st Hole - Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Where? Southport, Liverpool, England

Length? Par 4, 448 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

The first hole at Royal Birkdale is regarded as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, opening holes on the Open Championship rota. It's also regarded as one of the toughest at Birkdale itself.

A long and testing par 4 at 448 yards off the back tees, this is a hole to test any golfer's first tee nerves. Like any opening hole on any golf course, the drive here is key. However, out of bounds all the way down the right and a well-placed bunker on the left that sits at about 237 yards from the tee, make this nightmare-worthy opener one of the hardest tee shots a golfer can face. Not to mention the thick, scary stuff that lines the narrow fairway.

Longer players may well easily carry it straight over the bunker, but the landing area then becomes a small one. Lay-up off the tee short of the bunker and you'll find yourself with a lengthy, potentially blind, second shot depending on the pin position.

Three bunkers guard the front of the 28 yard long green from front to back. Par here is a very, very good score. To be honest, I'd take a 5 now.

The Golfalot Tip: Be confident off the tee and go for it over the bunker. If you hit a good one - you're in a great position to make a par 4.

2nd Hole - Castle Stuart Golf Links

Where? Inverness, Scotland

Length? Par 5, 550 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

All 18 holes of Castle Stuart Golf Links are stunningly picturesque. The second is no different. By modern day par 5 standards, it's not the hardest hole in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a beautiful one.

The hole's biggest defence is the Moray Firth which stretches the full length of the opening three holes at Castle Stuart. Once you have negotiated the obvious yet well placed bunker in the centre of the fairway, the fairway itself slopes from left to right for the majority of the hole before flattening out on the approach to the large green.

Like many of the holes at Castle Stuart the green is raised slightly from the fairway and well protected with large dropoff areas around it. It's beauty is shown in full as the 'infinity green' never seems to stop overlooking the stunning Moray Firth.

With a safe tee shot that puts you in play, this hole is very playable. Enjoy the views.

The Golfalot Tip: There is slightly more space to the right of the fairway bunker than you make think. If you're bold enough you can lay up to the side of it with a 3 wood or hybrid. Don't be too scared of it.

3rd Hole - Trump International

Where? Aberdeen, Scotland

Length? Par 3, 205 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

This is just an unbelievable looking hole. From every single angle, it really is stunning. If this was a global list of all the best holes in the world, there's a pretty good chance it would have made it into that list too.

The elevated tee shot (or should I say tee shots, given the fact that there are seven different tees to choose from on this hole) is one of beauty with the large green being framed by a tall, steep sand dune on the right and in stark contrast, the North Sea on the left.

As you walk from the tee to the green, there are few walks in golf that conjure up excitement like it. As you emerge from the sunken path, you are greeted by a raised green with a testing deep bunker on the right and the crashing waves of the North Sea just a few feet from the green on the left.

The Golfalot Tip: Take an extra club. From the tee this doesn't look a very long hole but trust us, the green is bigger than you think and you'd rather be long than short.

4th Hole - Old Head Golf Links

Where? County Cork, Ireland

Length? Par 4 - 427 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

Old Head Golf Links may well be the least famous of golf courses included in this list, but the fourth hole there is, without doubt, one of the best looking.

This is no straight-forward par 4. Playing alongside the Atlantic Ocean some 300 feet below on your left, obviously the trick here is to stay up the right hand side and use the contours of the hole to feed your ball back to the centre of the fairway.

The second shot is tough as you play up the hill to an elevated green - an extra club is advised here to avoid two bunkers on the front corners of the green that will gobble up anything that doesn't quite have the legs. However - go long and your'e dead - so club selection and ball striking is key when playing this testing second shot.

The Golfalot Tip: For longer hitters, a slight draw just to the right of the lighthouse tower in the distance will see you right off the tee.

5th Hole - Prestwick Golf Club - 'Himalayas'

Where? Prestwick, South Ayrshire, Scotland

Length? Par 3 - 231 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

This is a world famous blind par 3 and probably one of the best fifth holes on the planet - not to mention one of the toughest. At 231 yards off the Championship tees, it's length speaks for itself.

To add to your problems, it has a staggering six bunkers guarding the green, five of which are situated just off the left, leaving one front right.

The green slopes from back to front, so leaving it on the front will give you an uphill putt. However this hole is all about a good, clean strike off the tee as it's all carry until you get to about five yards before the green.

You don't even want to know about the cabbage you have to play over to get there. Some things are best left unsaid.

The Golfalot Tip: Yes this hole is long, but it's downhill so don't be too disheartened by the eye-opening yardage.

6th Hole - Championship Course, Carnoustie Golf Links - 'Hogan's Alley'

Where? Carnoustie, Dundee, Scotland

Length? Par 5 - 512 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

Stroke Index 2 on a course regarded as one of the toughest in links golf - especially when the weather isn't playing ball - this hole is bound to be tough. As soon as you've teed up your ball, it's hard not to see anything other than potentially card-wrecking-driver-over-knee-putter-in-the-gorse-bush-wow-I-can't-believe-it's-only-the-sixth-get-me-a-drink-already trouble.

Immediately on your left, golfers will see a white picket fence marking out of bounds all the way up the left side of the hole. Two sets of well-placed pairs of bunkers are golfer's next negotiation off the tee. Considering the prevailing wind, hitting the fairway here is some shot. The accuracy remains paramount as a burn begins to cut into the right side of the hole, which tightens the landing area as players lay up for their third shot into the green.

The green itself is angled from left-to-right, with three bunkers short right, one long left, and one in the front.

The Golfalot Tip: Yes, this may seem like a daunting prospect but if you plot your route properly and stick to it - you'll be just fine. That's why this hole is such a good one - there is so many different ways to play it. Not for the first time, course management is king.

7th Hole - Dunluce Course, Royal Portrush Golf Club

Where? Portrush, Northern Ireland

Length? Par 5 - 592 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

This hole was recently re-designed for the 2019 Open Championship.

Off the tee it's one of those spectacular holes where everything is just straight out in front of you. It's a monster. That being said, visually it can be intimidating thanks to two well-placed bunkers on both sides of the fairway. The first of which, longer players will carry without any trouble, however the second on the left side of the fairway comes into play much more.

The hole is cut through the dunes quite spectacularly, giving off the illusion that it has been there for centuries. A huge dune on the right offers the hole some shelter but apart from that, the wind will kill a lot of golfers playing this hole.

The chances are you are going to be playing a lengthy third shot into a green that luckily tends to feed balls into the middle.

Ball striking is key on this breath-taking, long and modern par 5.

The Golfalot Tip: If the pin is back left, don't get greedy - a severe run off area will see you with a nasty chip back to the green.

8th Hole - Royal Troon Golf Club - 'The Postage Stamp'

Where? Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland

Length? Par 3 - 123 yards

The shortest hole in Open Championship golf, and one of the shortest holes in the world, we couldn't leave out the Postage Stamp could we?

There is a reason that the Postage Stamp has the reputation it has - it seems so easy, yet so many golfers make it look so hard. It's essentially a flick off the tee, but if you're not accurate, you're in trouble.

Extremely testing bunkers at the front, right and left of the green will also test your recovery and short game if you go in one of them. Not only are they hard to get out of in the first place but once you're out, not going into the next bunker is a tough task. The trap on the right can make even the best of golfers look silly...

The Golfalot Tip: Go for it. Aim small, miss small. This 'should' be an easy hole so be confident and play it like an easy hole.

9th Hole - Ailsa Course, Trump Turnberry

Where? Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland

Length? Par 3 - 242 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

Is this the greatest golf hole anywhere in the world? The greenkeepers at Augusta may have something to say about that statement, but to be honest I think anyone arguing would be clutching at straws. It truly is one of the golfing greats, a special, special golf hole.

Up until it's redesign back in 2016, the ninth hole on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry was a long par 4 with a semi-blind tee shot. A great hole yes, but nothing on what it is today. It's now a long par 3: 242 yards from the back championship tees, with stunning scenery, a huge green, amazing views of the famous lighthouse and the small matter of having to hit over the Atlantic Ocean in front of the tee and to the left of the hole.

Given where this hole is situated, the wind usually plays a huge factor. Make sure you know which direction it's blowing in before you select your club as it will affect things massively.

The Golfalot Tip: As long as you're past the bunker, there is quite a large bailout area to the right of the green which you can still get up and down from.

10th Hole - The Brabazon, The Belfry

Where? Sutton Coldfield, Midlands, England

Length? Par 4 - 311 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

Creating a short par 4 that still tests the modern day golfer can be tough. With players hitting the ball so far in this day and age, short driveable par 4s have somewhat lost their edge in the professional game. If you make the hole too tough with water and hazards, no-one will take the gamble, however too easy and there is no choice to be made - there will be birdies there all day long.

Thanks to some serious course design skills from Dave Thomas, the 10th on the Brabazon has no doubt stood the test of time however and much, much more.

The Ryder Cup has made this hole famous, or should I say, the players that have played in the Ryder Cup have made this hole famous. Seve, Torrance, Garcia - too many moments to list but one thing is for sure, when you're teeing it up at the 10th on the Brab - you're bound to get that special feeling of golfing history coursing through your veins. This had to be our 10th hole.

The Golfalot Tip: Lay up. You don't hit it 300 yards. Pitch up to the green. Two putt par 4. Thank you. Fist pump. On to the 11th...

11th Hole - Hillside Golf Club

Where? Southport, Liverpool, England

Length? Par 5 - 509 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

The 10th hole at Hillside very nearly made it into this list, but we couldn't really say no to the Brabazon. So it's the next best thing - the 11th hole at Hillside, and what a hole it is. The 10th and 11th combine to be one of the best starts to a back nine of golf anywhere in the world. Legend has it that 2-time Open Champion Greg Norman said that Hillside is "the best back nine in golf." I suppose there is worse praise...

The 11th hole is regarded as the signature at Hillside and for good reason. The tee shot is worth lingering over and having your phone nearby. You're in new phone screen saver territory here. On a clear day, from the back elevated tee you can see the hills of the Lake District as well as the famous Blackpool Tower - trust us, it doesn't look as ugly from this far away.

The hole meanders gradually downhill to start with, before taking a slight dog-leg to the left as the fairway then rises to a picturesque green surrounded by stunning pine trees.

The Golfalot Tip: Well placed pot bunkers litter the fairway. Make sure you know your yardages before tackling this relatively straightforward, yet beautiful par 5.

12th Hole - The Old Course, Sunningdale Golf Club

Where? Sunningdale, Berkshire, England

Length? Par 4 - 417 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

You may argue that there are better holes on the Old Course at Sunningdale, but none are as good test of golf than the 12th. The fact it's Stroke Index 1 proves that. This is a tough hole no doubt.

Beautifully carving through the iconic trees of Sunningdale, length off the tee will help golfers here as the second shot is as hard as they come. Most golfers will be hitting around a 4 or 5 iron into the sloping (from left to right), elevated green with a very large drop offarea to the right and heather to the left.

Stunning looking, heather-hooded bunkers cover the fairway making position off the tee again extremely important if you want to walk off the green having made par. And the trees? Don't get me started... Luckily they are that thick that if you do spray it left or right, the chances are they'll spit your ball back out - back out into the heather that is. So good luck finding it. Special looking 'old-school' golf hole.

The Golfalot Tip: Although you may not feel it as you're sheltered by the trees, if you hit a high ball, the wind will still play a factor on this hole. So be mindful of it especially when playing into the green - don't look at the pin for judgement, check the tallest trees instead.

13th Hole - The West Course, Wentworth Golf Club

Where? Surrey, England

Length? Par 4 - 470 yards

The scene of the Seve vs Nick Price 'Fruitcake Incident'. If you know, you know.

This is an absolute brute of a par 4 and it has a little bit of everything. Like most holes on the West Course at Wentworth it's absolutely stunning. As with most long par 4s - a good drive is all-important here if you want to make par, but even good drives can be punished. A sloping fairway from left to right can mean that golfers who think they've found the right side of the fairway may just run off into the rough or a very well placed bunker at about 250 yards.

With this being a slight dogleg to the left, if your tee shot is too far up the left hand side, you face an almost impossible second shot requiring a high, long draw over the trees. This being said, most golfers will play this hole as a 'three-shotter' hoping to get lucky with a good putt. A bogey 5 would not be a bad thing, but if you're laying up - be careful of the ditch that runs diagonally across the fairway.

The Golfalot Tip: The large and tiered green is protected by four bunkers to the front left and right - even pitching in from around 50 - 100 yards is tough depending on the pin position - don't leave it short or you're looking at double...

14th Hole - Twenty Ten Course, Celtic Manor

Where? Surrey, England

Length? Par 4 - 413 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

Your classic risk and reward par 4, one of the shorter par 4s on the Twenty Ten Course, but one of the hardest. The tee-shot is a daunting one - water on the right and water on the left as you look down the fairway so straight away you have a choice to make: do you go for it over the water and take on the 230 yard carry? Or do you play safe and knock an iron up the left hand side?

If you take the latter, you'll have about a 6-iron left to the green and here comes the hard bit. The second shot. With water running all the way up the left side of the hole, if the flag is at the back of the green, the chances are you will be hitting over the corner of the water so the obvious bail-out is front right - however there's a bunker there too. Obviously.

If you go for it and manage a good drive, you'll probably only have about 110-120 yards in to the green and you can really enjoy what is a beautiful, well thought out par 4 at Celtic Manor. The choice is yours...

The Golfalot Tip: Go for it off the tee. If you have the distance and you make decent strike, you've got a birdie chance which is hard to come by on the Twenty Ten Course.

15th Hole - Kingsbarns Golf Links - 'Rocky Ness'

Where? Surrey, England

Length? Par 3 - 239 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

Kingbarns was a golf course that had to feature in the list. Although it doesn't have the history and memories of a lot of the other holes that feature within this 18 holes, as far as par 3s go - this is one the best and most enjoyable to play.

On the tee, the trees on the right will shelter you from the wind, but at such an exposed point of the course the wind will definitely be there. To reach the green and have a chance of making a two-putt par, you need to take the wind into account. The green is absolutely huge. 55 yards from front to back to be exact. Therefore getting the right yardage for the pin position is vital here, otherwise you're in three-putt territory all day long.

The Golfalot Tip: Long and left is better than short and right here but be careful of the wind. Again, the tee is sheltered but the green is very exposed so bear that in mind.

16th Hole - Dunlunce Course, Royal Portrush Golf Links - 'Calamity Corner'

Where? Portrush, Northern Ireland

Length? Par 3 - 236 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

This hole became famous in the 2019 Open, named Calamity Corner for good reason.

236 yards, uphill, all carry and you're playing over a cabbage chasm that only your worst golfing nightmares could imagine. Trouble short, long, left, right, everywhere you look there is problems on this hole and it takes some serious skill to play it properly.

Graeme McDowell famously said last year when describing the difficulty of the hole, if it was downwind he could hit as little as 6-iron, but if it was hitting into wind - he could hit driver!

The green is one of the highest points on the course so you're well and truly at the mercy of the elements by the time you reach the 16th on the Dunluce making it just that little bit harder. The green angles left to right so for a right-hander, a slight fade is best suited here - however not many of us can really afford the loss in distance on such a beast of a hole, especially against the prevailing wind howling in from the west.

The Golfalot Tip: Aim left. Hope. Pray. Aim further left. Hope and pray.

17th Hole - The Old Course, St Andrews a.k.a 'The Road Hole' (but for the golf purists 'Road')

Where? St Andrews, Scotland

Length? Par 4 - 495 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

It couldn't have been any other could it? Iconic, world-famous, and bloody tough. There's no other hole like it, never mind any other 17th hole like it.

As golfers navigate the 17th on the Old Course, each shot faces it's own unique challenges that aren't replicated anywhere else in the world.

To start with, the tee shot is one of the most unique in golf as you hit over the out of bounds mark and back onto the fairway - just to the left of the iconic Old House Hotel. The further left you go, the more room you have. Take the 'Tiger-line' further to the right and you'll have a much shorter approach to the green. How brave are you?

Because of all the different features of this hole, you'd be forgiven for forgetting one the major ones - it's length. At nearly 500 yards off the back tees - it is long. After a well hit tee shot, the majority of golfers will still find themselves with a 4 or 5 iron into the narrow and well-guarded green.

The Road Hole bunker, 'The Sands of Nakajima' also has to be mentioned here. It is the gathering area for every golfer's ball who takes the obvious bail-out short and left - away from Oscar Bravo and the dreaded road.

Amateur golfers - play this hole as a par 5. You don't hit it as far as you think so don't bite of more than you can chew. Enjoy it.

The Golfalot Tip: Pick a letter on 'The Old Course Hotel' logo on the green fence in front of you and follow this key based on how far you hit the ball. Short hitter: aim left of the logo, average hitter: aim for the 'u' in course, longer hitter: rip it straight over the 'l' in hotel.

18th Hole - Trump International Golf Links

Where? Aberdeen, Scotland

Length? Par 5 - 651 yards

The Ultimate 18 Holes: UK & Ireland

It's not the most famous hole in the world right now, but to be honest that doesn't matter, and in time there is no doubt it will be. Trump International Golf Links only opened in 2015, which when you see the layout of the course, is quite staggering. It looks as though it's been there for a thousands years.

Along with the aforementioned 3rd hole, and countless other around this stunning track, the 18th hole is nothing short of magnificent. With six different tees to play from, playing from the back makes this this monster par 5 even longer. To say the back championship tee is 'elevated' would be a huge understatement, you feel like you're in the clouds and the fairway is on a different planet.

The fairway is littered with 13 pot bunkers that can stop any good layup or drive in its track, leaving you chipping out sideways. Although the fairway is wide, with knee high thick rough left and right, if you go off line - you're dead.

With the soon-to-be iconic clubhouse and 50 foot Scottish flag in the background as well as the waves of the North Sea to the right, this 18th hole is just a masterpiece and a worthy finish to any golf course - even one as good as this.

The Golfalot Tip: Don't give up - you'll reach the front of the green eventually. Even if it takes you 5 of your Sunday best 3 woods.

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