• Long Drives

    We sat down with professional golfer David Howell to talk through the greatest courses he’s played on and the reasons why you should too.

High Five for this Handful

I have been lucky enough for 18 years to travel the globe playing golf on the European Tour and I have had the pleasure of playing on many of the world’s great golf courses so picking out my favourite five was never going to be easy.

Of course I could just select courses like Augusta National and Royal Melbourne, but just as some songs are remembered because they are synonymous with a certain stage in your life, with golf it’s the great rounds we all play that stick in the mind along with the courses that brought out the best in us.

So although this seems a little self-indulgent, I have come to realise that just like anybody else, my favourite courses are actually where I have won. Seeing as I have managed to scrape together enough victories to cover the handful needed for this most personal of lists, I will happily put five of them forward as my most loved in the world. The added bonus is that they are accessible for anyone with a handicap and credit card.

The beautiful backdrop, with the waves crashing in, makes this a truly memorable course.

In fifth place is New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney, Australia, scene of my first tournament victory. Perched on the edge of Botany Bay just half an hour from the city centre, with the sea breeze always blowing, it’s as close as a true links course that you will find Down Under. The beautiful backdrop, with the waves crashing in, makes this a truly memorable course. It has some undulation to it which only adds to the views and for me the sixth tee perched out into the ocean is the best piece of golfing ground in the country.

Enjoy the tranquillity on thistee because you may need all your patience when you get to the 17th – a brilliant 130-yard par three that can be a card wrecker. I have hit as much as a 5 iron to this elevated green when the wind is against. The green seems impossibly small in those conditions. Survive without disaster and you move on to the 18th – a par five finisher where a birdie can be easily found to end a cracking day’s golf.

The Emirates Club, 1990

In fourth position we move to the Middle East and the bright lights of Dubai, home to one of the most cosmopolitan populations on earth and the Dubai Desert Classic. The venue for this event is The Emirates Golf Club, itself a fantastic course in the heart of the new city, but, for a couple of years back in the late nineties, the tournament moved to The Creek Golf and Yacht Club, in the heart of the old town.

It was here just three months after my first victory that my first European Tour success came and I could not have asked for a more impressive venue for that breakthrough. The course has been redesigned since then, but only for the better in my opinion. The creek itself comes into play on three holes and the backdrop on the par three fifth is unlike anything else on earth.    Behind the green sits the unbelievably spectacular Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

If that does not impress you then the last two holes surely will with the creek lining the left hand side of the fairway for the daunting, double par four finish with the clubhouse sitting proudly at the end of the run in. Make two pars to finish here and you certainly deserve a sundowner on the terrace. Some courses feel natural and just melt into their natural surroundings but in the desert of Dubai things like to stand out rather more. If you visit the Creek you will know what I mean.

In third place we come back to Europe and to Munich in a country where golf is growing fast. Quite often on tour we play on big tournament courses that quite frankly would not be much fun for the average club member, but now and again we play on what I would describe as a normal members’ golf course. Golf Club Munchen Eichenried is exactly one of those.

 If I described it to you as flat as a pancake with power lines running through the middle of it, I’m sure you would not dash there for a tee time.

It’s clearly not a destination golf course, I wouldn’t suggest a trip just to play it, but should your travels take you to Munich, itself a lovely city, then a game at Eichenried, some 30 minutes from the city, I can certainly recommend. It’s a course that is better than the sum of its parts in reality. If I described it to you as flat as a pancake with power lines running through the middle of it, I’m sure you would not dash there for a tee time. But what I can tell you is that it’s playable for the average player, has been improved year after year and more than anything the phrase that comes to mind when I play there is ‘it’s fun to play’. That’s why I am happy to put it down as one of my personal favourites.

Ernie Els, who helped redesign the West Course at Wentworth.

From the playable to the impossible then for my second favourite course and the beast that is the West Course at Wentworth, near Heathrow on the outskirts of London. This is a track that has had the mother of all facelifts in recent years and is almost unrecognisable from its former more gentle self.  However, if you like your golf challenging then this is the place for you.

I send you there with caution, however, as fun is not a word I would use to describe The Burma Road, as it’s also known. Instead, I would just use ‘hard’ as a one-word description. My advice is this, either let someone else pay or at the very least don’t look at the bill and take loads of patience, order a sausage sandwich at the half-way hut and most importantly hole everything out and keep score – you may need a calculator. When Ernie Els was asked to toughen it up some years ago he did exactly that – The Big Easy made it a tough test.   It’s one of the hardest courses you will ever play, but for that reason alone it makes my list.

And finally, in first place I take you to Scotland and more precisely the town of St Andrews, the home of golf and The Old Course. This is without doubt my all-time favourite and always has been since the first time I visited. I would be astounded if a single golfer has ever stood on the first tee at St Andrews and not felt in awe. And if that is not enough, you get to experience it all once again when you play the 18th five hours later. When you walk over the Swilken Bridge just in front of the tee, it is in the knowledge that all the game’s greats have preceded you.

I could describe every last detail, but it would be a waste of paper, as everyone who plays golf should make their own golfing pilgrimage to ‘the old, grey toun’. Create your own memories and enjoy the most memorable golfing experience on the planet. You might just score well too which is an added bonus, but good golf or not, you are sure to enjoy your round at my favourite course.