Hilltop courses are situated on top of, or on the slopes of a hill or mountain. They have a lot in common with links courses: they are shaped by nature, not by architects. There are few or no trees, and therefore the course is quite exposed to the wind. Arguably even more than links, because of the elevated location. The fairways are quite barren; sheep are the greenkeeper's best friends.
Low fences guard the greens – these are the only places the sheep are kept at bay. Undulation is an understatement at these courses, so put your legs up after walking up and down the slopes all day. This is hiking and golfing combined. And similarly, you get great views for your effort.
Some of the best hilltop courses can be found in the beautiful area bordering England and Wales, the Welsh Marches. The whole region is a hidden gem, with beautiful towns like Shrewsbury and gastronomical hotspot Ludlow. And the beautiful thing about hidden gems is that they are quiet and often come at a very reasonable price. Just like the golf courses. I played Welshpool, Church Stretton and Kington.
A running gag in our family is that the most narrow, crooked roads, lead to the nicest golf courses. This started with our visit to Welshpool Golf Club. The last stretch to the parking lot traverses the course and it feels a bit like crossing a ski slope. The clubhouse is like your favourite pub, warm and welcoming. With a very friendly barkeeper/caddy master who helped us on our way. The course was as exciting as an adventure movie. But it is the soundtrack that is still playing in my mind: a concert of bleating sheep in the valley below the course.
The next clubhouse, at Church Stretton Golf Club, was closed on the Monday morning we were there. But on the practice green, we were welcomed by a member. He promised us millionaire’s golf. Well, we had the course to ourselves, but it didn’t exactly feel quite luxurious to us. More like sherpa’s with our trolleys pushing up 45 degrees slopes. Going down was quite different though. When I drove a par 4 on the green, I was happier than Bezos, Musk and Gates combined.
Kington is the highest course - not only of these three but with 390m above sea level it claims to be the highest 18 holes English golf course. Don’t worry though: you don’t have to climb to this altitude if you arrive by car. If you don’t care for the golf, you can enjoy the panorama from the clubhouse across all the mountain ranges of the area. We were treated to a spectacular view of all the mustard flowers colouring the hills bright yellow.
But of course, you would be an utter fool to skip the course. Kington Golf Club shows that you don’t need obstacles like trees, bunkers and water hazards to create a challenging course when you have one distinguishing trump in play: elevation.
Try Cleevehill or Painswick in Gloucestershire. There have to be many more elsewhere in Great Britain, and elsewhere in the world: where there are hills and mountains, there must be hilltop courses. If you know of any other hilltop courses, please let us know by sending us a message.
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