The excitement is mounting for golf lovers on both sides of the Atlantic as the 2016 Ryder Cup approaches. It's the United States' turn to host this year at the Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis, Minnesota between September 30th and October 2nd.
While travel to the tournament will be too far for all but the most dedicated golf fans, much nearer to home in Europe we're lucky to have countless superb courses where you can perfect your skills - and here are five of the best.
Royal Birkdale, Southport, England
Situated just to the north of Liverpool city centre, Royal Birkdale is a links course that has played host to the men's British Open no less than nine times and is due to again in 2017. It has also been the venue for the Ryder Cup itself in the past, in 1965 and 1969. Surrounded by large dunes it's a classic links course, and even the most accomplished players do well to keep out of the bunkers there.
Unlike Royal Birkdale, there are very few genuine links courses in continental Europe but Falsterbo is one of them. Situated at the far south of the country it presents a real challenge - even for professionals like Sweden's Henrik Stenson. The standout hole is the par 3 11th, where the small green is surrounded by water just waiting to claim the ball of unwary players.
Royal County Down, Northern Ireland
The Royal County Down course sits in the shadow of the mountains of Mourne and provides a wild and exhilarating golfing experience, where hazards are not just bunkers and water features but also the many gorse bushes that line the fairways. Once you do reach many of the small greens, putting is made more difficult by their contours and unexpected dips. Contestants in the Ryder Cup are also going to find these features a common occurrence at Hazeltine.
Sotogrande, Costa Del Sol, Spain
There are so many great courses in this part of southern Spain that it's well worth hiring a car to experience as many as you can. One course that's really not to be missed is the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande. Every single hole is challenging in its own way, and the wide fairways are very deceptive - making it all too easy to drift off into the trees that line many of them.
One of Germany's greatest courses, Falkenstein sits on undulating and easy-draining heathland which makes a round there a pleasant and peaceful experience close to the busy city of Hamburg. That's not to say it's easy to play, as every hole presents a different challenge and the dogleg holes are particularly fiendish.
So next time you're feeling like a new golfing challenge, why not give one of these courses a go? After all, your handicap might be a tad higher than the McIlroys and the Garcias of the world, but you'll get just as much pleasure from tackling the kinds of courses they play on.