Scotland is known throughout the world as “The Home of Golf” and for good reason. Golf originated there and Scotland is home to many of the finest courses in the world including St. Andrews. There are five golfing regions in Scotland and each is worthy of one's attention. The off course activities in the country are second to none and it’s the perfect choice for a long visit. Once you’ve played links golf in Scotland, you’ll be yearning for your next visit!
Brora was known for years as a hidden gem but that moniker no longer fits. In the last 5-years, Brora has become a “must play” course in the Scottish Highlands. The club was founded in 1891 as a 9-hole track and later extended to 18-holes before some additional tune-ups with a final redesign in 1923 by James Braid. Brora is a great example of why the courses that aren’t championship caliber are able to create the buzz they do - it’s their character.
The first thing you’ll notice at Brora is just how natural the course is. Nothing seems contrived or ill placed. It feels as though the layout simply fits into the landforms that have been there through the millenia. We first played here while it was still relatively unknown and we ambled through the course amongst sheep that outnumbered the golfers. Greens have short electrified fences to keep the livestock off the putting surfaces and our first thought was that this is a quirky links. And while that is true, it is also part of the charm of Brora and it’s what makes it a unique experience.
Brora lies 16-miles north along the coast from Dornoch and the drive is just delightful. This part of Scotland is quite remote and the people here are very welcoming. We love the gentle opening first hole, “Ardassie”. It’s a bunkerless, 297-yard par-4 dogleg right. The smallish green is elevated slightly with steep runoffs at the front and to the right which makes a right side flagstick placement a sucker pin. This is a green with enough movement to cause more than its share of 3-putts.
The par-3 sixth is a favorite one-shotter with 3 deep pot bunkers greenside to punish shots that come up short. At 174-yards into the predominant wind, this par-3 is a real test of golf. The round ends at the 18th unusually with a par-3. This long hole travels uphill for all 201-yards paralleling the 1st fairway with views of the firth on the left and the clubhouse just beyond the right of the green. Three bunkers add to the tension of playing to this tough to hit green but not more so than the eyes peering down from the clubhouse windows watching you negotiate this difficult hole. It’s a lovely finish to a wonderful links!
Golf is very much a part of life in the burgh of Carnoustie with records of golf having been played there as early as 1560. The club was formally founded in 1839 and in 1842, Alan Robertson fashioned a 9-hole track for the members. Fifteen years later, Old Tom Morris designed an 18-hole layout and in 1926, James Braid was called in to make sweeping changes allowing for the club to host Open Championships,
Carnoustie is a big, natural brute of a course on an organic, undulating piece of ground. The course has many memorable holes, not the least of which is the 6th hole, Hogan’s Alley. This is a par 5 playing 573 yards from the tips with OB left and two bunkers in the middle of the fairway. Playing to the right is the safe choice but in the 1953 Open, Ben Hogan, in his only Open appearance, played all four days down the precarious left side between the bunkers and the OB - hence the name, Hogan’s Alley.
At the 16th, you will likely play the hardest par-3 of your life - 236 yards to a turtle shell-shaped green with bunkers short both left and right. Imagine trying to get a 3-wood to stop on this slick, domed green! It’s a wonderfully designed hole that can become diabolical in the wind. It’s typically best to miss just short and left that allows for a run-up with your putter. It’s a very tough hole but fun, as well.
The 18th hole is their most famous hole because this is where Jean van de Velde collapsed on the 72nd hole of the Open in 1999. Most remember the iconic image of him taking his shoes and socks off and standing in the burn’s ankle deep water. Standing on the tee and knowing he needed a double bogey or better to win, he took 7 strokes to force a playoff that he eventually lost. Several years later, Padraig Harrington doubled bogeyed 18 to force a playoff that he eventually won but still, he apparently didn’t learn anything from Jean van de Velde’s misery.
To be fair to both men, this is a real par-4 over 510 yards that crosses the Barry Burn twice. From the member’s tees, a drive to 200 yards gets you over the first crossing. The next crossing comes at roughly 75 yards from the middle of green. I remember parring this hole the first time I played it in a very heavy wind but I played it like a par-5 hole - driver, 5 iron, 9 iron, and 1 putt.
The members here are wonderful and the facilities are top-notch. This is one of those must-play Open venues that you’ll never forget!
Cabot Highlands GC
Cabot Highlands is a modern-day wonder of a course. Conceived by American businessman Mark Parsinen and designed by architect Gil Hanse, Cabot Highlands opened for play in 2009. The links at Cabot Highlands appear as though golf has been played here for hundreds of years. It’s a beautifully natural setting that starts high on a hill and drops down to the shores of the Moray Firth.
Mark Parsinen created Cabot Highlands but he also developed another Scottish masterpiece at Kingsbarns in Fife. At Cabot Highlands, Mr. Parsinen wanted a course that could host professional tournaments but could also accommodate the average golfer. Realizing that the majority of play and revenue would come from amateurs, he built the course based on what he called “Errors & Recovery” - the basis of which is that every golfer hits errant shots but the course shouldn’t be so penal that the player becomes disengaged from the round and ultimately, has an unpleasant experience. Rather, he wanted players to spend more time enjoying the golf and the spectacular views, and less time searching for lost golf balls.
Every hole here is memorable but we particularly like several of the par-3s. The fourth hole is the signature par-3 with the actual Cabot Highlands as the backdrop. Playing at 175-yards to a generous saddle-shaped green, it's a fun introduction to the par-3s here. The eighth hole is a quirky par-3 that plays downhill over 208-yards to a punchbowl green were depending on the tee and pin location, the tee shot can be blind but the contours allow run-up shots to collect onto the green. The par-3 11th is a short hole playing slightly downhill with the firth long and left and heavy gorse long and right. The only bailout here is short and right.
The finishing hole is our favorite. Playing from an elevated tee with the art deco clubhouse in the distance as your guide, this par-5 plays to 598 yards from the back tees along a dogleg right fairway where everything falls to the right. From the guest tees, the green can be reachable in two but there is hell to pay if any of your shots are too far right. Approaching the putting surface is a tricky proposition with steep fall-offs right and back left. It’s a great risk and rewards home hole. Par here is a fine score.
Phil Mickleson won the Scottish Open at Cabot Highlands in 2014 the week before going on to win the Open Championship at Muirfield for his 5th major title. The experience at Cabot Highlands is first-rate from the time you drop your clubs at the front of the clubhouse to when you empty your final post-round pint of Guinness. You’ll love playing Cabot Highlands.
Cruden Bay GC
Cruden Bay is one of those must see to believe golf courses. Set amongst towering dunes, this links feels more Irish than Scottish. While the club was officially founded and built in 1899, evidence shows the golf was being played here in 1791. The courses was laid out by Old Tom Morris and in 1926, Rom Simpson and Herbert Fowler were brought in for a renovation They left the routing and green sites largely intact, and little has changed since then. Cruden Bay is one of many coastal courses that benefited from the advent of the train. Rail cars carried wealthy folks from around the UK to seaside spots just off the rail lines. A luxurious hotel nicknamed “The Palace in the Sandhills” was built by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company beside the links but sadly, the hotel was demolished in the 1950s.
The course meanders over and through the huge dunes with some holes playing from atop the dunes while others seem to have been dropped into place perfectly in valleys. The course plays off a par of 70 over just under 6,300 yards. Golfers should not be deceived by Cruden Bay’s modest length, it’s a real test of golf. Like many courses of that era there are several blind shots on the links that come into play both on drives and approaches.
The wind here can be ferocious particularly when playing from atop the naked dunes. The par-4 ninth is a perfect example. Playing from a teeing ground well above the fairway floor, this 462 yard hole played into the wind is a real monster of a hole. I’ve played here twice and have never been close to the green in regulation. Our favorite hole is the beautifully designed 400 yard, par-4 fourteenth. The best feature of this hole is the long, narrow green that sits below the fairway like a sunken bathtub. The approach here seems difficult but remember it's shaped like a bowl so any ball that reaches the green is typically in fine shape.
The beauty of Cruden Bays radiates out from the course, up and down the coast. Just north of the course itself is a castle in ruins. Slains Castle is in plain view from several holes and legend has it that this castle was the inspiration for Bram Stroker’s Dracula. Apparently, Bram Stroker was staying in the town of Cruden Bay, could see the hotel from his room window, and wrote Dracula in his hotel room. Cruden Bay is quirky and fun and we recommend everyone give this beautiful links a shot!
Dumbarnie Links is simply brilliant! Designed by former Euro Ryder Cupper Clive Clark and opened during the pandemic in 2020, this is a beautiful layout that is reminiscent of other modern links like Cabot Highlands and Kingsbarns.
The modern, comfortable clubhouse sits on the highest point on the property and offers terrific views over the course, out to sea and across the Firth of Forth. What was once a farm is now a world-class golf course and one that will certainly factor in the top 10 best courses conversation for Scotland. What we love about this course is that each hole reveals itself as you approach its tee box from the previous green. This happens because as each hole plays through valleys created by the dunes, the other holes aren’t visible for more than a moment or a sliver. Each hole is visually stunning and I can’t recall saying “wow” more often on any golf course. This courses’ routing is superb. When you reach the 18th and look back at the course from high above it, you can’t believe you traversed this entire property.
The course features a wonderful mix of par 3s that vary in length from short to very long. The par-5s seem to have smallish greens but were contoured to accept longer approaches. And there are 3 drivable par-4s. It would be hard to pick a signature hole here but here are some of our favorites.
The opening hole is a beauty. Playing downhill to a par of 4 from 400-yards and the blue tees, it sets the stage for the round you’re about to experience. The greens here are truly superb and mature beyond their youth, and the greensite at the first is just that as it gently undulates just enough to get your attention. The par-4 eleventh is drivable from the blues at 263-yards but one must accurately drive over a nest of bunkers. Even if one does that, if the ball doesn’t make the green, you’re left with an awkward distance to pitch from and the 2-tiered green makes an accurate approach a must.
We also love the par-3 sixteenth that played from 215 yards downhill into a stiff wind to a green with massive contours on the right side that are only encountered on links layouts. The par-4 seventeenth is drive-able but the hole’s defining feature is the 300-year old stone wall that dissects the fairway. A golfer can choose to play safe to the left and not take on the wall or the green, or they can hit over the wall with their drive and go for the putting surface. There is a steep run up to the two-tiered green and even with a great drive, par is not a guarantee.
This course is a real gem and that we thoroughly enjoyed and know you will as well. After the round, grab a seat with a view of the sea, enjoy the vista, share a beverage and enjoy the banter of a great round played!
The small settlement of Southend lies at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula and it’s in this idyllic location that you’ll find the lovely little seaside course of Dunaverty, where the fairways are laid out along the coastline between Dunaverty Bay and Brunerican Bay. As it occupies a seaside setting like the nearby courses at Machrihanish and Machrihanish Dunes, Dunaverty is a links course in the true sense of the word , with firm and fast playing conditions that allow play all year round.
The overall length of the 18-hole layout is a shade less than 4,800 yards and it features seven par threes, with half of the par fours measuring under 300 yards. Playing to a par of 66, it’s easy to see that Dunaverty doesn’t quite have the same championship credentials as its more famous golfing neighbors. That however, doesn’t mean that the golf that's played here is less engaging than the golf played up the road.
The opening few holes are laid out close to the clubhouse, with small electric fences set around the greens to keep the grazing animals away. Most of the holes are very short allowing for many birdie opportunities. The only par five of the scorecard, the 466-yard par 5, allows for another great scoring opportunity. The 17th green lies behind water and the 18th is a short par four that allows you to potentially end the round in style. Regardless of score you’re bound to walk off the green with a big smile, having just played one of Scotland’s true hidden gems.
The North Sea coastal town of Dunbar is steeped in history, its ancient ruined castle stands guard over the town’s twin harbours. Golf has been played in and around Dunbar since the early part of the 17th century, but the Dunbar Golf Club wasn’t formed until 1856 when a rudimentary fifteen-hole course was laid out and the course was later extended to eighteen holes.
In 1894, Old Tom Morris was called in to alter and to further extend the course. Extra land, part of the ancient deer park of Broxmouth estate was acquired at the turn of the 20th century and four new holes were built. Finally, in 1923, Ben Sayers and James Braid were called in to advise on bunkers, resulting in the installation of sixty-one new sand traps. The course is laid out on a narrow strip of land with the best holes hugging the rocky coastline affording resplendent views across the North Sea Bass Rock, a huge lump rising up out of the water.
Dunbar East Links is a relatively short course, measuring 6,597 yards from the medal tees, but the wind generally makes the round thoroughly challenging and immensely entertaining. There is so much history to be absorbed in East Lothian and a visit to Dunbar will help to complete the history lesson.
Dundonald translates to “Fort Donald” and fortifications have been located near here dating as far back as 200 BC. A golf course existed on the site in the 1900’s but this was later turned into a military station named Dundonald Camp. It was here that D-Day landings were rehearsed during the Second World War.
Lying next to the long established courses of Kilmarnock Barassie, Glasgow Gailes and Western Gailes, Dundonald is obviously situated in prime golfing country. The course yardage can vary from 6,400 to 7,300 yards so it can be a comfortable members course or a championship venue. Having opened in 2005 you would think Dundonald still would have something to prove, but they quickly proved their worth hosting the 2017 Scottish Open, which Rafa Cabreera-bello won in a play-off. If you like the pampering of a millionaire’s type feel golf course then this is the place to enjoy that at a modest green fee.
The Dundonald experience begins at the gatehouse when the security man lifts the barrier to let you in. Seems everyone knows your name from there-on. The course here on the Ayrshire coast is a true links layout and ranked #30 in Scotland and #60 in the British Isles. They are awaiting your arrival.
Fortrose & Rosemarkie
Fortrose & Rosemarkie GC is a remarkably beautiful course that plays over the Chanonry Ness Peninsula that juts out into the Moray Firth which means water is in view from virtually every hole. The links is situated on the Black Isle, just two-and-a-half miles across the Moray Firth from Cabot Highlands as the crow flies but a full 20 miles by road. Evidence exists of golf being played here as early as 1702 although the formation of the club that played over 6-holes occurred in 1793 making it the 15th oldest golf club in the world.
It wasn’t until 1924 that the course was extended to 18-holes and further lengthened and strengthened in 1932 by James Braid. His work formed the foundation for future enhancements over time and make no mistake, the 5-time Open Champion left his indelible mark on this links. While the course is short by today’s standards at 5,881-yards, it is by no means an easy examination of golf. The links primary defenses are its small greens, heavy gorse, deep pot bunkers, the occasional blind shot and the wind off the firth.
The signature hole is the gorgeous little par-3 fifth that plays down near the lighthouse at 133-yards. The wind can be treacherous here and on some days you’ll play a knock-down gap wedge and other days will ask you to remove a head cover. We love this hole and we love the par-3 ninth that plays to over 200-yards. Lined down the left by heavy gorse and surrounded by 4 bunkers, this green is a difficult one to hit. We also enjoy the challenge of 11 of the 14 par-4s that all play over 400-yards. Everyone we know who has played Fortrose & Rosemarkie has enjoyed the experience. The friendly membership, the strength of the golf holes and the relative remoteness of the club make this an unforgettable golf experience.
Records show that golf has been played at Fraserburgh since 1613 and the club was officially formed in 1777, making it the 7th oldest golf club in the World. The club moved to its current location at Philorth Links in 1891 and much of the present course was laid out by James Braid in 1922.
Fraserburgh lies some 40 odd miles north of Aberdeen and the course is lined by dunes to the north of where the River Ugie meets the North Sea. The course is affected by winds that come off both the Moray Firth and the North Sea, and when the wind is blowing, it can be a difficult game especially on top of Corbiehill at the 2nd green and the elevated 3rd tee box.
We love short par-4s and Fraserburgh has several. Perhaps our favorite is the 310-yard third hole that plays from an elevated tee to a fairway with a single bunker right and twin bunkers left and right greenside that protect the putting surface. The green features a false front so it’s best to land in the middle of this green or you could be faced with an exasperating chip or putt back up the hill!
Our favorite par-3 is the 17th which plays at 154-yards for members and just shy of 200-yards from the back tees. From the tee, a lone bunker front right appears to be the green’s only defense but as you walk to the green you realize that the green has 360-degree runoffs and if your approach doesn’t hold the green, it will require all of your short game skills to save par.
Fraserburgh has a wonderful membership who will always make visitors feel welcome. For golfers traveling to the northeast of Scotland, we always recommend Fraserburgh.
Glasgow Gailes Links is home to the Glasgow Golf Club, founded in 1787 and the 9th oldest golf club in the world. In those days, golf was played some 30 miles away, in Glasgow City. It was surely an absolute joy for the members to play when the Gailes course opened for play in 1892 - at last, no more muddy parkland golf. The opening of Gailes made Glasgow Golf Club unique, with two courses, 30 miles apart. Willie Fernie originally designed the course, but Willie Park Junior revised the layout in 1912.
Glasgow Gailes is a classic links, with wonderful velvety greens. There is no doubt that the turf ensures tieless play, and it’s just as well, because there are plenty of courses to play on the West Coast. Notorious for its whin (gorse) and healthier-lined fairways, Glasgow Gailes is a tough cookie. It’s a final qualifying course for when the Open is at either Turnberry, or Troon. Needless to say, it tests the very best professionals.
Many of the holes are fraught with danger, with out-of-bounds lurking beyond the railway line and the perimeter of the course. Straight and solid driving is required to card a good score. Beware of the wind - it can be a serious hazard.
Glasgow Gailes is kept out of the limelight by the other legendary links courses situated along this stretch of coastline. But you will be hard-pressed to find a better unsung layout than Glasgow Gailes Links. It really should be included on any must-play list.
Golf House Club Elie
Elie is one of those special places that is not widely known outside of Scotland but is a marvelous links experience. The playing of golf can be traced back to 1589 on this land and the club was founded as the Elie and Earlsferry Golf Club in 1832 making it one of the oldest golf clubs in the world. In 1875, the name was changed to the Golf House Club Elie and the clubhouse was erected, and opened in 1877. Originally a 9-hole layout, Old Tom Morris extended it to 18-holes in 1895.
Playing golf at Elie today is like playing golf here a hundred years ago - not much has changed and that's just the way we like it. Elie is a quirky course and that starts at the first where, from the starter’s hut, one peers through a periscope from a WWII submarine over the large hill in the middle of the fairway to ensure that it’s clear to hit one’s opening drive. The course lies on the Firth of Forth and there are stunning views for miles. The links opens with a blind tee shot up and over a mountain of a hill with two bunkers, and OB down the right. As one of Elie’s signature holes, this long par-4 gets your attention right from the start. The green is large and protected by 4 bunkers but the most difficult part of making par is not 3-putting this green. We love the drivable par-4 seventh hole. As a matter of fact, when we most recently played this hole, our drive nestled into the left side of the greenside bunker requiring us to chop out from a kneeling position alongside the bunker. We love the risk/reward nature of drivable par-4s and this is a fun one.
The very next hole is stroke index #1 - the par-4 eighth hole is a lovely par-4 that bends softly left as your drive from an elevated tee. A dusty road bisects the fairway and runs immediately beside the green. At the right front of the green is a pot bunker you want no part of in your round and with the green being so generously large, the smart play is to play to the middle of the green with your approach. Our favorite holes are the eleventh and twelfth holes which are back to back stunners. The eleventh is the short par-3 that plays to just 131-yards with the green hard against the sea with a devilish pot bunker between the green and the beach. There is plenty of room right so aim right and let your ball gather to the center of the green. Eleven is just a beautiful golf hole. The twelfth tees off alongside the eleventh green to a crescent shaped fairway that hugs the beach for all 466-yards. Faders of the golf ball will need to start their ball out over the ocean and drawers of the ball will need to beware of the hook. Be careful how much you try to bite off on this hole because the shoreline will bite back on shots poorly struck.
The green is heavily guarded by tall fescue on the left and three bunkers right. Another beautiful hole here at Elie!
Elie is in the Kingdom of Fife and there are more than a dozen links tracks here including those at St. Andrews. When in Fife, don’t forget Elie!
Just shy of Dunrobin Castle on the road from Dornoch to Brora lies the Golspie GC. The club was founded in 1889 and what makes Golspie so interesting is that it is indeed a hybrid course - a mix of links, heathland and parkland holes. Golspie is just a beautiful layout that is enhanced by these mix of holes.
We love the opening hole which is a short but well bunkered par-5 that gently sweeps from right to left with sea views off your right shoulder. Four sand traps defend your layup and approach making for a tight entrance to the green. One cannot afford to be long here because there is a road just steps off the back of the green. The first par-3 is the second hole and it’s a wonderful short hole that plays to a very well bunkered green over 166-yards. Three bunkers front the green and line from the tee box is over the right edge of the left bunker. Hit the ball true to the correct distance and avoid the deep bunker at the back of the green that isn’t visible from the tee.
For a stunning change of pace, holes eight through ten turn inland and you play three wonderful heathland holes. From there, the next two holes are parkland, tree-lined holes before you return toward the sea. The mix of holes is somewhat unique however it is reminiscent of the wonderful golf club in England, Formby. The finishing hole here is top notch. A long par-4 that plays to a large hill in the middle of the fairway that makes the approach to the green a blind shot. Scamper to the top of the hill before hitting your approach to get your bearings and swing away. Locals caution that the view from the hilltop makes the green appear closer than it actually is so take plenty of club on your approach. It’s a lovely setting for a closing hole and on a sunny day, the view from the hill on 18 and even from the green are simply stunning.
This part of Scotland is rich in history and golf. There is much to see and do in the Highlands, and while Dornoch is a championship test of golf, Tain, Brora and Golspie are all excellent complimentary experiences.
Gullane is a small town that lives and breathes golf. There are five superb golf courses in this location, including the mighty Murifield. The Gullane No.1 course was laid down in 1884 and is the most senior of all the courses at Gullane Golf Club. Records dating back to 1650 show golf being played over these links, though it is unclear who originally designed the No. 1 course. Therefore, until we can confirm someone otherwise, we'll put it down as Mother Nature.
Gullane is blessed with the most divine turf - winter rules are not needed here. If you hit the fairways, a perfect lie awaits, even in the depths of winter. The opening hole, cunningly called “First”, is a relatively short and gentle par four. The 2nd hole, called “Windygate”, begins the march up Gullane Hill. The 3rd hole is called “rarecourse”, a short par five which plays along what was once an old 18th century rarecourse and it continues to take you onwards and upwards, now at a canter, until you reach the 7th tee and the 200-foot summit of Gullane Hill.
The 360-degree views from the vantage point of the 7th tee are simply breathtaking. In the foreground, all around, are the fluttering flags of Gullane, Murifield and Luffness New. The Lammermuir Hills lie to the South, while the Firth of Forth wraps up the panorama to the north, west and east. And now, it’s time for the 7th hole and its inviting downhill drive and the scurry home down Gullane Hill. This club has hosted many important events so don’t take it lightly. Also following a round or before a round you must visit the club’s fascinating museum, put together by past Gullane captain, Archie Baird.
Kilspindie built its reputation as a warm and welcoming club from the very start, and that legacy continues today. Formed as a club in 1867, Kilspindie is the 35th oldest golf club in the world and one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. In an area rich with golf clubs, Lothians is blessed with the sheer variety of courses that dot the landscape east of Edinburgh - we count 15 courses along the coast in the 35 mile stretch of road between Edinburgh and Dunbar!
Kilspindie is a short, traditional course that is the perfect opening round for any links golf trip. It’s a great course to acclimate one’s game to the nuances of links golf. The opening hole is a stunner of a par-3 that plays to a green back by the firth and over 158-yards to a heavily undulating green. Long is dead here but so is short with 5 bunkers protecting this elongated green. Middle left of the green is the smart play here.
The par-3 eighth may well be Kilspindie’s signature hole. Playing across the water of the firth on the right over 167-yards to a green fronted by two pot bunkers short make long and left the shot to play here. The closing hole called “Home” is a driveable par-4 at 250-yards. It sounds simple enough but there is OB all down the right and the fairway bisects an 80-yard gap in an ancient stone fence. Bunkers left near the green and a cavernous bunker right at 70-yards short of the green all make this one tough green to get at with your tee ball.
Overall, we love the ambiance of Kilspindie and appreciate the quirky nature of a traditional links layout- and you’ll love it, too!
Kingsbarns is one of those courses we play every time we visit the Kingdom of Fife. Inspired by Royal Dornoch and built in 2000 by American architect Kyle Phillips, Kingsbarns looks as though it’s been there for centuries, and on some level it has as golf has been played on the property since 1793. This is a full service luxury-style golf course with a proper driving range, pro shop, modern locker rooms, a N. American-like restaurant and a great post-round bar with views out to the sea.
This is a spectacular course with amazing views and testing golf holes. The property is just 6 miles from St. Andrews and this stretch of coast is dotted with many fine links courses. There are many standout, memorable holes we could share but here are two of our favorites. The 12th hole is a long par-4 that plays along the water's edge as dogleg left. At 606 yards from the back tees and 566 yards for us mere mortals, there is no shortcut here - you have to play the full yardage. The aiming point is a prominent bunker down the right side with the second shot laid up to a generous area at the right side of the fairway, leaving you a proper angle and an approach of under 140 yards. From there, the right side of the green is the smart play to avoid a left greenside bunker and further left, the beach.
The par-3 15th is a visual stunner that plays for us at 158 yards with the sea front and right of the green. Check the wind before selecting your club because the wind here can be deceiving due to the stand of trees on the left. Aim short of the deep left bunker to get your ball on terra firma avoiding the trouble on the right. This is the signature par-3 at Kingsbarns and a favorite of all our guests who play here.
Annually, the course hosts the Dunhill Links Championship, a European Tour event that is played over St. Andrews and Carnoustie, as well. Kingsbarns always delights and we cannot think of a finer addition to a links golf trip to the Kingdom of Fife.
Just 20 minutes south of St. Andrews is Lundin GC which was founded in 1868. Until 1908, Lundin GC shared course land with Leven Links GC and James Braid went about laying out a new and wholly separate course.
We love the start here - four straight holes along the shoreline out to the furthest point on the links. The fourth hole is a brilliant par-4 playing as stroke index #1 and over 450-yards from the back tees. A straight drive is essential here as the sea is on the left and high fescue is on the right. The approach must cover a twisting burn that mirrors the shape of the green and the turtleback putting surface is further protected by 2 small but deep pot bunkers left of the green. Beyond the green is the stone fence that separates Lundin from Leven Links.
We also love the controversial 3-hole stretch that starts at number 12. Twelve is a short uphill par-3 that takes you to holes that seem out of place as you climb to land above the links and a more heathland setting. This par-3 has seven bunkers and a steep runoff right defending the green against attack. From there, we go to the par-5 thirteenth which is the highest point on the course. At 499-yards, it’s not a terribly long par-5 but those yards are deceptive. The approach to the green is through a narrow opening through a stand of evergreen trees so accuracy is at a premium on this hole. From the 14th tee, there are wonderful sea views as you look down to the green of this lovely par-3 that covers 177-yards. The tee shot is steeply downhill and is over a sea of shrubs to a green that abuts the stone fence that is at the end of the property. Six bunkers guard the green from aerial attack and it’s a great example of the differences between parkland golf and links golf.
Retire to the stately clubhouse for a post-round beverage and enjoy the banter with locals discussing their rounds, and you telling them how much you enjoyed their links!
If a picture is with a thousand words then this picture of Machrihanish Dunes says it all - eighteen holes on a glorious plot of linksland with skyscraper dunes and marvelous views. The links opened in 2009 but feel as though it’s been here for 200-years. Set on 270-acres and designed by renowned architect David McLay Kidd, Machrihanish Dunes is a worthy neighbor to the original Machrihanish Golf Club.
Machrihanish Dunes is renowned for its large undulating greens and the overall, meticulous conditioning of the layout. Our favorite stretch of holes here is 4-6. The short par-4 fourth plays almost entirely blind to a cross for a target that points the way to a narrow green embedded in a dune. The primary defense against par at this hole at this 307-yard hole is the omnipresent fescue that nearly surrounds the green complex. Accuracy at the 4th is a must and this hole is just pure fun. At the fifth, the first of back to back par-3s you’ll find a beautiful hole with a magnificent sea view. Two pot bunkers guard the left front of the green as your tee shot approaches from 165-yards and the member tees. The 6th hole is shorter at 134-yards and plays from an elevated tee over a deep gully to a green that slopes sharply left to right away from the sea towards a huge bunker on the right side of the putting surface. This 3-hole run is one you’ll not only enjoy, you’ll never forget!
With the addition of Machrihanish Dunes, the area has come up in the minds of many as a true golf destination with wonderful accommodations and restaurants. For the whisky aficionado, there are 3 distilleries in Campbeltown with Sprinbank being the standout. And don’t forget to play Machrihanish Golf Club and Dunaverty when visiting the Kintyre Peninsula.
Machrihanish GC is a magical links with a tremendous history. Set on the remote Kintyre Peninsula, Machrihanish GC was founded in 1876 as the Kintyre Golf club and opened as a 12-hole layout. In 1879, Old Tom Morris put his indelible stamp on the links and lengthened the course to 18-holes. By 1888, the club formally changed the name to Machrihanish and the rest is history.
Machrihanish GC is recognized as having the best opening hole in Scotland and perhaps, in all of golfdom. The opening tee shot is one that starts out over the beach and drops down into a generous fairway. Playing at stroke index 3 and at 424-yards, this par-4 is a stern examination for the first hole. Named “Battery”, the first plays as a long dogleg left with a prominent left to right wind out of the west. The drive is a classic risk/reward shot but remember, the beach is in play so if your tee ball doesn’t reach the fairway, you shall play it as it lies.
This course is as natural a links as you will ever find. The land is rumpled from start to finish, the fairways are lined with tall fescue and the bunkering is superb. The putting surfaces are among the best in Scotland and always run fast, and true. There are many fine holes here and no bad ones. You will be tested from start to finish at Machrihanish GC.
The club has a new clubhouse after a fire destroyed the original structure in 2018. The replacement is a 2-story beauty with excellent views and a welcoming bar, and restaurant. This is an unpretentious club with a friendly membership who are always willing to play with a visitor. While you’re in the area, please make sure to play Machrihanish Dunes and the very fun Dunaverty at the bottom tip of the Kintyre Peninsula.
Golf has been played over the links at Monifieth for more than 400-years – parish records show that in 1639, a local citizen was admonished for golfing before noon on a Sunday when they should have been in church. A formal 9-hole layout was built by Alan Robertson in 1845 and in 1880, the Monifieth course was extended to 18-holes. The Ashludie course, a second course at Monifieth, was built in 1912.
Monifieth is famous for being the course where Tom Watson played his first links golf. As the story goes, Watson showed up at Carnoustie in 1975 expecting to turn up unannounced and play the course. He was turned away by the captain but not before the captain suggested he give Monifieth a try. As luck would have it, Watson drove his ball straight down the middle on the first hole and his ball was never found. At that moment, Tom hated links golf because it seemed unfair. Of course, he learned to love links golf at Monifieth and went on to win 5-Open Championship titles.
The course is known as a stern test. Playing at 6,655 yards and to a par of 71, the opening holes play along the Aberdeen to London railway line with out of bounds always lurking nearby. Perhaps their signature hole is the par-4 fifth hole that stretches out to over 455-yards where the green is sited amidst towering dunes on all sides with a very narrow entrance to play your ball through towards the green. The par-3 sixth comes next and this long par-3 with a beautiful green complex and several bunkers waiting to swallow errant tee shots. The course guide has a pro-s tip for this hole that suggests, “Say a prayer before tackling this hole.”
This is a wonderful and underrated links that has hosted the 1986 Scottish Amateur and the 2008 Girls Amateur. When in the Angus & Dundee area, we highly recommend playing the medal course at Monifieth.
The 1562 Course at Montrose bills itself as the 5th oldest golf club in the world and golf has been played over this turf since 1562 (hence the name) but the club wasn’t formed until 1810. Originally a short course, in 1863, Old Tom Morris fashioned an 18-hole layout making Montrose the 2nd oldest 18-hole course after the Old Course at St. Andrews.
The 1562 course is a true, traditional, Scottish links that plays over firm, undulating fairways, lined by gorse that blooms in Springtime and dunes covered in tall, wavy grass. Known for its fast and true greens, Montrose is a joy to play. For links purists, it’s a throwback to the way golf started and the way it was meant to be played. For players new to links golf, they’ll find the 1562 course to be a very challenging track that compares favorably to its more modern contemporaries.
The prevailing East wind here is pivotal to the experience, and it seems to be ever present. The front 9 plays beside the shore before turning inland for holes 10-13 before turning back along the coast. This is a rugged links that will test every aspect of one’s golf game. Located just 30-minutes north along the coast from Carnoustie, Montrose is a must play when in the area!
Moray GC is our home club in Scotland and has been since 2010. Moray is one of those hidden gems in Scotland that should not be missed. The club was founded in 1889 with many of the founding members being whisky distillers. Lossie, as it’s known by the locals, was laid out by Old Tom Morris on a lovely piece of land that allows for a traditional out and back layout. Moray’s Old Course has a rich history including having had two British Prime Ministers as members and being the scene of an attack on one of them by a suffragette with her umbrella in 1913 - comical today but serious stuff early last century.
Moray’s clubhouse is a beautiful old structure that sits high above the 18th green with the hill leading down to the green providing a natural amphitheater and backdrop for your approach shot into the green. The 18th hole is recognized as being the best finishing hole in Scotland and it would be a fine addition to nearly any championship links.
There are many fine holes at Moray including #7 and #8. Both are long par 4s that play as dogleg rights and each features strategic fairway bunkering. Typically, one will be played downwind and the other upwind, and when the wind is up, these holes can be terrors. They are the hardest holes on the course and come back to back. The Old’s two par threes are brutes. The par 3 fourth hole plays to 193 yards to a small, narrow, kidney shaped green with several difficult bunkers and difficult green site. The par 3 fifteenth plays to 180 yards with bunkers surrounding the green. I played it on back to back days once in howling winds and very luckily made birdie each day. The first day I hit eight iron downwind and the second day I hit two iron into the wind - on the same hole!
Moray also has a second course, known as the New Course, that was laid out in 1979 by 3-time Open Champion, Sir Henry Cotton. It is very nice in it’s own right and makes for a very enjoyable second round at Lossie. Moray has a wonderful pro, a very friendly membership and a welcoming bar for your post-round storytelling.
Nairn Golf Course lies in a small town in northern Scotland between Inverness and Elgin. The club was founded in 1887 and the original course was laid out by Archie Simpson. Later the links were touched up by Old Tom Morris, Ben Sayers, and James Braid. More recent improvements in 2018 included adding new forward tees, reshaping twelve bunkers, and building three new greens. The course has been continuously improved through the years and throughout that time, it has played to a very high standard.
In 1999, the US Walker Cup team was hosted by the Great Britain & Ireland team at Nairn with teams that featured a dozen players that went on to play on the US and European tours. Most notable among those players were Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald, and Paul Casey. Unfortunately for us, the GB&I amateurs beat the US that year 15-9 over the very tough but fair track at Nairn GC. The American team’s praise for Nairn was universal and for several of the US players, it was the start of their love affair with links golf.
There are too many wonderful holes here that stand out in our memory but one that is unforgettable is the par-3 eleventh. This is just a fun mid-length hole at 160 yards protected by 5 green side bunkers with steep riveted faces. These faces spill over to add contours around the edge of the green and serve to direct balls toward the putting surface. We also enjoy playing the thirteenth, a tight par four playing at 430 yards along a fairway lined with gorse with a bunker on each side of the fairway. Nearing the green site, there are two bunkers aside the green and two shorter to add further protection. Drive straight here to avoid the trouble on each side and aim for the middle of the green.
The home hole is a brute of a par-5 at 554 yards from the tips with a fairway bordered left with gorse and out of bounds. This hole is literally lined with bunkers - ten in all. Four of these bunkers are directly in the landing zone off the tee for amateur players. These bunkers start wide along the landing area and narrow in as the green becomes near, making an accurate approach to the middle of the putting area an absolute necessity. The hole is usually played downwind so for longer hitters, it's reachable in two but beware, long here beyond the green is out of bounds. The generous green is receptive to good shots so play smart and enjoy the challenge!
Nairn GC has a warm membership and a welcoming bar for post-round toasts. Nearby is another lovely but lesser-known track called Nairn Dunbar and it may in fact be the friendliest club we have ever encountered. Give Dunbar a try when you’re in northern Scotland - it’s a great compliment to the championship course at Nairn.
North Berwick was once an undiscovered gem but over the last 20-years, it has become a mainstay of the must-play courses when visiting the East Lothian-part of Scotland. There is evidence that golf was played here all the way back to 1672 but the club itself wasn’t formed until 1832. Originally a very short course, the course has repeatedly pushed itself west through the acquisition of property. Today, after the final land purchase and the with help of architect Ben Sayers, the west course at North Berwick plays to a par of 71 over 6,400 yards.
The links at North Berwick are pure magic for several reasons. First, raised above sea level, North Berwick is afforded excellent views of the Firth of Forth. Next, the course has an interesting mix of holes that require drives that must negotiate gaps in ancient stone fences to the original par-3 Redan hole. And finally, the links here have a remarkable 3-hole stretch that may well be the best 3-hole straight in golf.
The par-4 thirteenth called “Pit” is arguably their signature hole. Playing at 363-yards from the member tees to a fairway that moves right to left, it is dissected diagonally by a stone wall. The play here is a drive to the right side of the fairway leaving a short iron over the wall to an oblong green with the sea on the left. The fourteenth is modestly called “Perfection” and it’s a beautiful 359-yard par-4 that requires a drive that spits the fairway.
Approaching the downhill green with the sea long is infinitely more difficult from the rough. At the par-3 fifteenth, you’ve come to the most copied hole in golf, “Redan”. A longish par-3 at 178-yards from the member tees, the green slopes hard from right to left and front to back. You must fly the green here because short right is protected by a deep gully and by six bunkers near the green.
North Berwick is a wonderful links with a very friendly membership. Make sure to hoist a post-round pint in the club bar with stories of what was and what could have been!
Peterhead GC has a 9-course called the New Course and their famous 18-holer is called Craigewan. The club was founded in 1841 making it the 18th oldest golf club in the world.The 18-hole course was laid out in its current layout in 1892 by Willie Park, Jr. as a 9-hole course and extended to eighteen holes six years later by Archie Simpson.
The course meanders through the sandhills that lie north of where the River Ugie meets the North Sea. This is a natural and wooly links that is formed more by Mother Nature than by the hand of man. The course makes excellent use of all the natural shapes and contours influenced by the blowing winds and ancient towering dunes throughout the course.
The course starts slowly but surely and by the 7th hole you are in pure links heaven. The 7th is short par-4 at 310-yards and lined with dunes that funnel drives into the fairway while the green is protected by no less than seven bunkers. It is a wonderful hole and a wonderful test of links golf.
I suppose our two favorite holes are back-to-back holes starting at the long, par-4 ninth hole. Playing at 442-yards for the members, the ninth plays through a valley created by the dunes and as the only bunkerless hole in the layout, the hole looks easy “on paper”. However, a very precise approach into the green is required to hold the green and make par. Next up is the 10th which is a short and fun par-3 with a burn dangerously close short and to the right side of the hole. While just 118-yards for the members, the tabletop green is known to repel shots on all sides off the green. A precise tee shot is required to avoid the six bunkers that shield the hole from players making par.
Peterhead is a very scenic course and is a club with a very warm membership. Visitors always feel welcome here and it is a course we highly recommend when in the northeast of Scotland.
Prestwick is a very historic links and one that should be played at every opportunity. Founded in 1851, the links were laid out by Old Tom Morris who was lured away from his job in St. Andrews. Prestwick is the birthplace of the Open Championship having hosted the first twelve Opens and 24 all told. Only St. Andrews with 26 has been the Open venue more often.
It has a special place in our hearts as it was here that we played our first round of links golf. Needless to say, it’s also where we fell hopelessly in love with the original version of golf. Prestwick is a throwback in time to how golf was played in the 1800s with multiple blind approaches, scruffy-faced bunkers, and drivable par-4s.
Prestwick has a wonderful variety of holes that make for a very fun day of golf. One of our favorite holes is the par-3 fifth, Himalayas. This 200+ yarder plays over a mountain of a dune with a blind tee shot and a marking stone to aim at. The green features 6 bunkers with 5 being to the left. The only play here is the middle of the green with the bailout being long and right. From the elevated par-4 tenth tee, on a clear day, there are wonderful views out to sea including the Isle of Arran and the Ailsa Craig. The tenth plays 454-yards uphill along a fairway flanked with bunkers to a bunker less green that slopes from left to right.
Standing on the 17th tee and looking down at the famous Cardinal Bunker, you are playing a 391-yard par-4 that features a blind approach over a towering dune known as the “Alps”. Beyond the dune and before the green lies Sahara Bunker which is one of the largest sand hazards you’ll ever encounter. This is one tough hole but fears not, the drivable par-4 eighteenth awaits. Aim at the clock on the clubhouse toward the green that sits steps away from members inside enjoying their post-round beverages. This is a hole that should be birdied and is a great finish to a wonderful thrill ride of a links.
Relax in the clubhouse and enjoy the many artifacts that define Prestwick’s important legacy in golf history. You’ll see the original Open prize, a red leather championship belt that was the predecessor to today’s Claret Jug along with clubs and balls from days gone by. Prestwick is a treat to play the clubhouse is a virtual museum to the history of our great game.
Royal Aberdeen GC
Royal Aberdeen GC was originally known as the Society of Golfers at Aberdeen when it was founded in 1780, making Royal Aberdeen the 8th oldest golf club in the world. Playing along the North Sea with working off-shore oil derricks in view, the routing is a traditional out and back layout. The front nine is widely regarded as the finest in Scotland.
The first tee lies below the diners see through the clubhouse windows and heads straight out to sea. The next eight holes head north along the water, weaving their way through and over majestic dunes. As the course turns at the 10th and heads inland, the holes play over higher ground with tremendous views of the sea. At this higher elevation and away from the dunes, the golfer is more exposed to the elements and the easterly winds.
Our favorite hole here is number six. A short par-5 plays along a convex fairway lined with dunes. Into the wind, this 491-yard three shotter can be a tough five. Downwind it’s easily reachable but strategic bunkers have been placed near one’s layup area and the green side traps are devilish. Another favorite is the par-3 seventeenth that plays to a very tough 175 yards from the member’s tees. It plays downhill and downwind as it heads back down to the sea to a green surrounded by 5 bunkers. At eighteen, you turn around and head back uphill, and into the wind, for a very difficult 433-yard par-4. Four bunkers dot the undulating fairway while five more await green side. No easy par here and this is what a finishing hole should be.
The course is always in fantastic condition and it has hosted many national and international matches. Tom Watson famously won the Sr. Open here in 2005 over Irishman Des Smyth and in 2014, Justin Rose won the Scottish Open at Aberdeen for his first-ever victory in Scotland.
Royal Dornoch GC
Royal Dornoch is simply put, one of golf’s cathedrals. Ranked number five in Scotland and number twelve in the world, Dornoch is a championship-caliber golf course that would be a stern test in an Open Championship. However, its remote location and lack of regional infrastructure means an Open is not likely in its future. Still, people travel from all over the globe to try their skill on these hallowed grounds.
Dornoch is full of history and golf has been played on this land since 1616. The club was formally founded in 1877 and Old Tom Morris was hired in 1886 to lay out a proper links. In 1906, Dornoch was assigned its Royal title and dignity from King Edward VII, and championship-caliber golf has been here ever since.
Donald Ross was a son of Dornoch having been born there in 1872. He became the “keeper of the green’ there before moving to St. Andrews to work under Old Tom Morris at Forgan’s where he became an expert clubmaker. He moved on to Carnoustie to refine his skills and then moved back to Dornoch in 1893 when he became the first head professional at the club. We know Donald Ross as the great golf course architect who prolifically designed many of N. America’s great tracks. Once you’ve played Royal Dornoch, you’ll fully appreciate from where Mr. Ross took his inspiration. His signature green complex is a raised green that runs off on all sides with narrow approaches into the green sites.
Dornoch has eighteen magnificent holes, all strong and all beautiful. Playing in early spring is a delight with the fairways lined with yellow, blooming gorse and the mountains to the south topped with snow. Dornoch is not an easy test of golf but it is fair. Following your caddies’ advice is important here because local knowledge of where to aim and where to miss is crucial. Dornoch has a lovely clubhouse with a second story bar that allows for unobstructed views over the course and the Dornoch Firth. We love everything about Dornoch and we know you will as well.
Royal Troon GC
Troon was founded in 1878 as a five hole layout and extended to eighteen holes in 1894. They hosted their first Open in 1923 and in total, the Open has been played at Troon nine times with the tenth coming in 2023. In 1978, Troon was afforded its Royal status by Queen Elizabeth and it’s the last course to receive this prestigious designation.
Troon is on a beautiful piece of linksland that it shares with neighboring Prestwick GC. These two courses are a wonderful one-two punch for any trip to the west of Scotland. There are nearly a dozen very special links courses in Ayrshire and the surrounding areas which makes it a perfect hub for golf in this part of Scotland.
Troon has many outstanding golf holes. One of the more famous is the par-3 eighth that plays to 123 yards from the member’s tees. The green is a narrow slice of land with a hill left and a deep fall off right. It’s dotted with 5 bunkers including a coffin like depression just below and right of the green. This a treacherous short hole where 4 is a good score and 3 is a great score. Our favorite story about this hole involves former Open champion, Gene Sarazen who was 71 years old at the time. Playing for fun in the 1973 Open as a former champion, Sarazen didn’t make the cut but in the two rounds he played, his score on the eighth hole totaled 3. He aced the hole in round one and birdied it in round two. He commented that was his first hole in one in 40 years and the first to be captured on film because he could show Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen the footage because he jokingly thought they wouldn’t believe him!
The final stretch of holes from eleven through eighteen is a wonderful strand of eight holes that culminates with the very tough eighteenth. The eighteenth plays as a long par-4 with the fairway protected by 3 bunkers down the left and a devious bunker on the right. Splitting the fairway here is crucial because landing in one of these bunkers is certain bogey territory. The approach shot isn’t easy either as there are 5 bunkers short and beside the green with OB long. If you’re going to miss, you must miss left and pray you can get up and down.
Troon is an amazing championship links with a very nice second course, the Portland Course, and the club is anchored by it’s beautiful, understated clubhouse. Royal Troon is a must play links in this part of the world.
Scotscraig is the 13th oldest golf club in the world and was formed when several gentlemen golfers from St. Andrews became frustrated with the lack of times available to play the Old Course. The year was 1817 and the rest is, as they say, history. The club also plays the longest continually contested golf tournament dating back to 1818 and the prize is the Golf Medal which is on display at the golf museum that sits beside the Old Course in St. Andrews.
This course is a mix of heathland and links with 15 of the holes being true links. The original layout was redesigned by James Braid in 1923 and there are many of his signature features layered across the course. We love the opening hole. It’s a unique, bunkerless par-4 playing 384-yards from the member tees to a fairway with a long ridge running diagonally across it that tosses golf balls left or right depending upon the side of the ridge on which you land. From there, the fairway narrows in as you approach the putting area which is undulating on the left and mostly flat on the right - a very fine opening hole.
Their signature hole is the 351-yard, par-4 fourth. This short 2-shotter runs out of fairway at 240-yards from the tee and beyond that is a hodgepodge of grass, gorse, heather and hilly lies that are best to be avoided. The green is elevated on a plateau with steep runoffs front and back. Hitting the green is the only option here. We also like the short par-3 sixth hole where the green has a false front, bunkers on either side and plays 137-yards from the members tees - it’s a deceptively hard hole. Our favorite par-5 at Scotscraig is the 14th hole that plays slightly downhill off the tee and slightly uphill to the green at 512-yards. A service road crosses the fairway at 240 yards from the tee box and there is a burn that dissects the fairway 135 yards short of the green. The putting area slopes front to back and is protected by a large greenside bunker on the left and OB long of the green.
The club has a gloriously rich history in the game of golf and something the members are very proud of at Scotscraig. While the legacy of having been a club since 1817 is impressive, what’s even better is the friendliness of the members and staff. You will not find a friendlier and more welcoming group than those at Scotscraig. Ask us how we can arrange a Ryder Cup-style event between your group and some friendly Scotscraig members!
Southerness Golf Club is aptly named because it is one of the most southern golf courses in Scotland. The course is set on the edge of a remote headland on the peaceful Solway coast and is virtually unknown by the golfing masses. The mountains of the Lake District are clearly visible on the opposite side of the Solway Firth and just across the water, about five miles away, is the other excellent links course at Silloth on Solway. The club was founded in 1947 and the links was laid out by Philip Mackenzie Ross, a former partner of Tom Simpson. Southerness is widely considered to be Ross’s finest 18-hole solo composition. Ross went on to become the first president of the British association of GOlf Course Architects.
Southerness is a fairly short course, but being a par 69 it’s one of the toughests tests in the British Isles. Although it has 2 short par fives that are great birdie opportunities, it also has 8 par fours over 400-yards. You cannot afford to leave the driver in the car. The best of the holes run along the shore starting with #8 with the line to take being the lighthouse in the distance. The area of Dumfries is not the featured place to play golf but you will find a few great challenging golf courses that are a great bang for your buck as well!
St. Andrews Balgove Course
The Balgove Course is a proper links and it is the only nine-hole course at the Home of Golf. The Balgove is real golf and it primarily caters to families, children, and beginners. Featuring well crafted bunkers and a double green, the Balgove is the perfect practice ground for links golf and exemplifies St Andrews Links’ reputation as a destination that caters to all ages and abilities.
The course was constructed at the same time as the Strathtyrum Course and opened in June of 1993 by members of the St. Andrews Childrens Golf Club. The course has proven to be so popular with children and adults, that a special rule had to be written such that on Summer holidays, adults can only play when accompanied by a child.
The wee course plays over 1,520 yards to a par of 30.
St. Andrews Castle Course
The Castle Course at St. Andrews is the newest jewel in the crown that is the St. Andrews Links Trust cadre of 7 courses. Designed by David McLay Kidd and opened for play in 2008. This is a beautifully sited course set on a hill south and above the town of St. Andrews. There are wonderful sea views from its perch and from there down on the ruins of the castle, and the cathedral. The other St. Andrews courses are two miles away back in town, share the same piece of property and are largely flat with views back into town that are completely different and less stunning than those of the Castle Course.
While the links appear as though it’s been there for hundreds of years, the course was initially received with mixed reviews. The routing and shaping of the course is superb but at it’s opening, the severe undulations made the course difficult to play. The greens have been reshaped and softened and it is now a marvelous test of golf.
Two holes that we particularly enjoy are the 9th and the 18th which share a massive double-green complex. The 9th plays as a short par 4 with a slight dogleg right where if you take on the left side you can have a shorter approach. The 18th is a brute of a par 5 playing at over 530 yards into the predominant wind. This is a 3 shotter most of the time but if you happen to catch it down wind it’s reachable in two for most golfers. Our favorite hole is the par 3 seventeenth which is one of the most beautiful holes in Scotland.
Playing over a cliff and cove, the hole requires a full carry for all 175 yards. The green slopes left to right to aiming left and allowing the slope to draw your ball down to the hole is the smart, and safe play.
After play, their post-modern clubhouse is a welcoming respite from the days golf offering wonderful food, a cold beverage and amazing views of the sea, and St. Andrews.
St. Andrews Eden Course
The Eden Course at St. Andrews is a joy to play. At par-70 and 6,250 yards from the back tees, it’s not a brute but it is pure fun. Designed by H.S. Colt and opened for play in 1914, the Eden was built to provide opportunities for the growing golf population in the area to get a game of golf. In the mid-80’s, Donald Steel was brought in to do the masterplan for the Links Trust and he adjusted the 1st & 2nd holes as well as the 17th & 18th holes to allow for a practice area to be built.
The greens here are very strong and are considered to be the most undulating among the 7 St. Andrews courses although the Castle Course gets my vote on this subject. Still the greens are excellent on the Eden. We also like the views here at Eden - the sea views are the best of the courses on the property and the vistas into town, particularly from the 16th hole, are photo-worthy.
We have several favorite holes here. We love the criss-crossing 5th & 8th holes which are in essence, dueling par-3s. The 5th is a short hole with a deep bunker left and dunes back and right. At just 144-yards, it’s short but with the wind, it’s no easy three. The 8th is a longer par-3 at 178-yards with a massive false front that repels balls to 30 yards below the crest. Playing into even a moderate wind makes this hole a real bear.
The par-5 ninth is a solid, get-home-in-two hole at 505-yards. Bunkers dominate the left side of the driving and approach areas on this hole and missing the hole left or right is fine here as there are generous bailout areas alongside the green. Seventeen and eighteen are two more favorites and they both play into a predominant wind off the sea. Seventeen is a brutally long par-5 when it’s played into the aforementioned wind. Bunkers down the left must be avoided and I’ve watched big hitters hit driver, 3-wood into this hole. Eighteen plays to a shortish 351-yards from the back tees but again, into the wind it takes two big shots. The back left of the green is flanked with tall fescue so the only real miss is short right. The green is generous, receptive to good shots and is a flattish putting surface. Par here is a good score.
After the round, retire to the Eden Clubhouse for lunch or a drink, or drive the additional 5-minutes to the Links Clubhouse for the best fish & chips in town (as reviewed by Tina Cohen)!
St. Andrews Jubilee
There are seven courses at St. Andrews and the Jubilee is, in our mind, the most underrated of them all. Jubilee was designed in 1897 by Old Tom Morris to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It was originally a 12-hole layout, a kind of pitch and putt for beginners and children, and it was actually called “the nursery”. In 1900, the course was extended to 18-holes with another revision in 1946 by Willie Auchterlonie. The course as we know it today was completely redone in 1988 by Donal Steel, and it is not a pitch and putt but rather it’s a true test of golf.
Jubilee’s first tee parallels that of the New Course and starts innocuously with an easy-going, opening par-4. From there things pick up considerably. The second hole is a shortish par-4 at 367 yards with a generous fairway and a dangerous green complex. The right of the green is guarded by a bunker, a lone tree and a steep runoff. Best to land on the left side of the green here.
The tee box for the par-3 ninth hole is the highest point on the property and affords you views into town and out over the water. This is a difficult, long par-3 with a predominant breeze off your left side to a green 192-yards away that is slightly downhill running left to right with 2 deep bunkers right of the green. This is one tough par 3. At the 14th, you come to the lone shared green on the links - the 4th and 14th holes share an enormous green with the 14th playing to the left side. It’s a long par-4 that plays harder than it’s length when there is wind.
Our favorite hole is the fifteenth which is a short par-4 that plays at 356-yards to a green where the flagstick can be hidden from view off the tee. The hole bends gently to the right revealing a green tucked on a raised shelf lodged into dunes back and right with steep runoffs at the front and left. Back right on the green is the ideal location for one’s approach.
Jubilee is an absolute pleasure to play and a solid test of golf with the links always maintained to the excellent St. Andrews caliber. After the round, pop into the St. Andrews Links Clubhouse for a great meal and more importantly, a cold beverage!
St. Andrews New Course
The New Course isn’t new by any standard! Designed by Old Tom Morris and opened for play in 1895, the New was built in response to the tremendous demand for golf holidays at the height of the train travel era in Britain. Families “escaped” city life in London, Edinburgh and other UK cities by train for holidays at the beach in those days and St. Andrews with a popular choice. Travelers could enjoy the beach, tennis, golf, fine dining and cultural activities in less populated beach towns like St. Andrews.
The New Course sits between the Old Course and Jubilee, and is a very fine golf course. The New is often compared to the Old and the juxtaposition reminds us of the Cashen Course which is Ballybunion’s second course - whatever sits next to a masterpiece is largely overlooked. Everyone wants to see the Mona Lisa and nearly everyone ignores the other works of art in the same hall. Please don’t make that mistake in St. Andrews as the New (the Jubilee and Castle, too) are not to be missed.
The New is more conventional than the Old and many say that it is also prettier AND more difficult than the Old. Nevertheless, the New is an excellent golfing challenge. All of the courses at St. Andrews are maintained to the very highest standard. Oddly, our two favorite holes are two of the more difficult holes on the links.
We love the par-3 ninth that plays the full 225-yards from the blue tees and in a heavy wind, it is a brute of a hole. Playing along the shore to an elevated green that sits in a hollow, the hole has no bunkers to defend itself. The ridge at the front of the green repels shorter shots down and away from the putting surface. The ideal line is to aim for the tenth tee box at the right of the green and allow the ball to feed down to the left and onto the green. Left of the green is simply dead here.
The 10th is a marvelous, long par-4 that plays at 457-yards and starts with a blind tee shot. Aim at the marking post on the dunes in front of you and let it fearlessly fly! Once in the fairway, the long approach requires an accurate shot to a small, bunkerless green set in a bowl framed by dunes on 3 sides. This is simply a tremendous golf hole.
After the round, retire to the St. Andrews Links Clubhouse for a refreshing beverage and share the tales of a well-played round!
St. Andrews Old Course
St. Andrews is the “Home of Golf” and every golfer in the world has it on their bucket list. There really is nothing in golf quite like it. But it’s not just the course itself, it’s the whole experience. It’s the ancient town with cobblestone streets and the University of St. Andrews that looks like a set for Hogwarts. It’s the people and the pubs. The shopping and the eateries. St. Andrews is just a very special place.
The Old Course itself is a magical links full of fun and history. You’ll trod across the Swilcan Bridge and along fairways where every great champion golfer has tested their mettle. You’ll marvel at the 112 bunkers protecting her and smile at their names – Principal’s Nose, Hell Bunker, Lion’s Mouth, Deacon Simes, The Coffins and of course, the Road Hole Bunker. At the Old Course and in Scotland in general, bunkers are actually hazards. They are deep with steep, sod wall faces and at times, pitching out backwards is the only way out. At the Old Course, you will also tee off on the 17th hole over the Old Course Hotel shed.
The Old is unique in so many ways. How many courses have you played where are just 11 greens? At the Old Course, there are 4 individual greens and 7 shared greens with several of the shared greens stretching out to nearly an acre in size. At holes 7 and 11, the holes actually cross over one another to a shared green and the massive sand trap known at Strath Bunker.
Most people who have played the Old say they’ve never been so nervous when standing on the first tee as they were at St. Andrews. But then, we don’t normally tee off in front of the most famous building in golf – the Royal & Ancient. Nor have we teed off with so many spectators milling around the first tee.
We have two important tips for playing well on your trip around the Old Course. First, take a caddie. They are an invaluable resource to help uncover the secrets and history of the links, and St. Andrews. Second, remember the age-old adage, “Left is right, and right is shite”. In other words, on most of the holes, the course is wide open on the left with danger on the right. Only on holes 9, 10 and 12 is this adage poor advice. Heed these tips and enjoy the round of your life!
St. Andrews Strathtyrum Course
If you are looking for a fun test of golf after playing the more demanding links in Fife, look no further than Strathtyrum. Designed to complement the tougher championship layouts at the Home of Golf, the Strathtyrum Course was opened on July 1, 1993 and was the first 18-hole course added in St. Andrews in almost 80 years. Although few in number (15), the bunkers are cunningly placed and there is considerable emphasis on iron play accuracy. The greens themselves are large and have slopes and borrows which can test even the most confident putters.
Designed by Donald Steel, Strathtyrum layout plays primarily east to west and is covered in two loops of nine holes, and plays at 5,620 yards with par of 69.
Tain is a true diamond in the rough, an undiscovered gem in northern Scotland. Located in the town of the same name, Tain is also home to the Glenmorangie distillery. Tain GC was founded in 1890 and the original design was by Old Tom Morris. Originally, it was a 15-holer that was later extended to 18 holes by John Sutherland. Still, Old Tom’s indelible mark is still felt here as 11 of his original green sites are still in use.
Tain is a real member’s club with a small, unassuming clubhouse and a warm, friendly membership. Tain opens with a shortish par-4 with a deep bunker on the left side of the fairway and a single bunker at the right front of the green. Playing at 382-yards and stroke index 13, it’s a gentle beginning to a wonderful course.
Our favorite hole is Tain’s signature hole, the par-4 eleventh that plays at 380-yards and at stroke index 6. From a slightly elevated teeing area, the ample fairway bends to the right and is abruptly stopped just short of the green by 3 very large hills. The placement of these hills makes the approach to the narrow green a blind shot with danger short in the form of a bunker and a darker fate long with a tumble down the green complex to the beach. It’s a rollercoaster thrillride of a hole and one you’ll always remember.
Tain is just a lovely course and the experience is always enhanced by a stop at the Glenmorangie distillery. Don’t miss Tain on the road to Dornoch!
Trump Turnberry is a gorgeous plot of linksland, perhaps the Open Championship course with the most stunning views. It sits tight on the beach with a lighthouse on its edge and a view to the tiny granite island of Ailsa Craig. Founded in 1902, Turnberry has a very storied history. On the site currently occupied by the lighthouse was Turnberry Castle, the 13th century home of Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots. More recently, Turnberry was requisitioned by the military in both WWI and WWII, and used as an airbase. To this day there are remnants of the asphalt runway not far off two of the fairways.
Turnberry has been home to the Open Championship four times including the unforgettable 1977 ‘Duel in the Sun’ between winner Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. Thirty two years later in 2009, at age 59, Watson returned for an epic battle against the entire Open field where he eventually lost his bid to be the oldest Open winner to Stewart Cink. In 1986 at Turnberry, Greg Norman took home his first of two Claret Jugs and in 1994, Nick Price won his second major and only Open, at Turnberry. Turnberry’s Open days are in question due to some controversies with owner Donald Trump.
To Trump’s credit, since taking over the hotel and golf course properties, the changes he has made are brilliant. The course was arguably a magnificent track but Trump and architect Martin Ebert saw opportunities for improvement and embarked on an “extensive but sympathetic” renovation project. The amount of work was so extensive we don’t have the space to detail it here but every hole was improved especially around the greens and the bunkers. Major changes were completed on a handful of holes and two ‘new’ holes were created - the 9th is now a par-3 that plays over the bay at Turnberry Point to a green site next to the lighthouse which now serves as a wonderful halfway house. The 10th now plays as a dramatic par-5 along the water. The final four holes make for one of the most challenging finishes in golf and a memorable to conclude your round.
The second course at Turnberry called the King Robert the Bruce Course has undergone major improvements under Trump and is a wonderful test in its own right. The elegant Turnberry Hotel is perhaps the best luxury hotel in Scotland with a standard of service that cannot be beat. Also on the property, down the hill and closer to the courses, are wonderful self contained lodges that are perfect for visiting groups of golfers. Trump Turnberry is a must add to anyone’s golf bucket list.
Western Gailes GC
Western Gailes Golf Club is wedged between Irvine Bay and the Railway tracks on one of Ayrshire’s narrowest strips of links land. Western and its next-door neighbor, Glasgow Gailes, are the northernmost of the exceptional links courses located on this prodigious stretch of Ayrshire coastline.
Four Glaswegians who were fed up with playing on muddy parkland founded the club in 1897. They recruited the first keeper of the greens, Mr. F. Morris, to lay out the course on land leased from the Duke of Portland.
Western is an unusual layout in that the clubhouse is centrally located. The first four holes head north, parallel to the railway tracks. The next nine holes head straight back along the coastline in a southerly direction, passing the clubhouse along the way, and then the closing five holes head northwards, back towards the clubhouse and once more along the railway line. Be prepared for a westerly wind that can be undeniably ferocious and cunning as it switches direction from south-westerly to north westerly. On occasions it can be soul-destroying. Western Gailes is a suitably fitting name for this golf course.
Western is a very stiff golfing test - expect to use every club in the bag. The layout measures 6,714 from the back tees and Western has hosted a number of important events, including the 1972 Curtis Cup, narrowly won by the USA and the 1964 PGA Championship, won by AG Grubb. Additionally, the course is used for final qualifying when the Open is played at Troon or Turnberry. This course is ranked #15 in Scotland and #37 in the British Isles!