No place can inspire golfers quite like Scotland. The home of golf, visitors will encounter extraordinary golf courses wherever they decide to travel. The heart of a Scottish experience is a visit to the country’s hallowed links and from St Andrews to Turnberry golfers will be spoilt for choice.
We countdown the best golf courses in Scotland:
Trump International had a controversial start, but there can be little debate that the layout is one of the best new golf courses in the world. Plotted through mammoth dunes in an area of scientific interest, the course caused a furore among environmentalists.
To a certain extent, the layout is what you’d expect from a Trump-owned property. Even the dunes are larger-than-life. Nonetheless, designed by Martin Hawtree and located on a beautiful stretch of Aberdeen-shire coastline between Murcar Links and Cruden Bay, the course is an exhilarating place to play golf, winding through the massive dunes to afford tantalizing glimpses of the North Sea.
Located a few miles from Inverness, in the Northeast of Scotland, Castle Stuart is a fabulous addition to the region’s collection of world-class layouts.
It’s hard to believe that Castle Stuart has been open for less than a decade. With each hole played in splendid isolation, and large sandy waste areas bordering many of the greens and fairways, the course appears astonishingly natural. The first class experience is enhanced by the panoramic views of the Moray Firth from many of the tees. The course is only set to get better and better as it matures.
To appreciate just how great a course the Old at Royal Troon is, you simply need to glance at the list of champions who have won the Open Championship here. Henrik Stenson, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer are among the household names to claim the Claret Jug over the ancient links.
The 8th hole, Postage Stamp, is the shortest hole on the Open Championship roster and the signature hole at Royal Troon. Played over a gully to a tiny green surrounded by deadly pot bunkers, including the infamous Coffin Bunker, the hole is as much a test of nerve as it is of skill. Be sure to select the right club. Plenty of great players have been undone on this infamous one-shot hole.
Golf doesn’t come quirkier than at the fabulous North Berwick. Founded in 1832, the club is the 13th oldest in the world, and the 3rd oldest still playing over its original fairways.
Situated on the Firth of Forth with fantastic views of the iconic Bass Rock, a volcanic rock akin to Turnberry’s Ailsa Rock, golfers will need to negotiate stone walls, punishing bot bunkers and humps and hollows galore.
Nonetheless, there’s nothing gimmicky about this fabulous test. While little has changed at North Berwick in almost two centuries the course still poses an exacting test for the modern day golfer. It is above all immensely fun to play, with fabulous sea views on almost every hole.
Dubbed ‘Carnasty’, Carnoustie is considered the toughest test on the Open roster. Some would go as far as to say it is Scotland’s most fearsome test, with burns weaving across the layout, including on the 18th where Jean van de Velde’s major dreams would find a watery grave at the 1999 Open Championship.
Carnoustie may be an exacting test but the course is also one of the most authentic examples of links golf and a round rite of passage for all lovers of the game.
It’s unusual to find a new course that can hold its own alongside Scotland’s ancient links but that is exactly what Kyle Phillips has managed to achieve at Kingsbarns. Situated just six miles outside St Andrews, the course is a markedly different challenge from the Old Course. Nonetheless, despite huge swaths of earth being moved in the building process, there is no disputing that Kingsbarns is an authentic links test. The course has already played host to the Ricoh Women’s British Open and will surely attract more professional events in the near future.
A round at Kingsbarns certainly doesn’t come cheap. Those prepared to splash the cash will be treated to one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world.
Muirfield is home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the world’s oldest golf club. The club may have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years, but there’s no disputing that this is one of finest golf courses on the planet.
Host to fifteen Open Championships, most recently in 2013, many pros consider Muirfield to be the best course on the Open roster.
It is certainly one of the toughest. With small and deep bunkers positioned to perfection, penal rough lining the fairways and smallish greens necessitating exceptional ball positioning, Muirfield is a true test of a golf.
The Old Course needs little introduction. The home of the game, St Andrews makes this list as much for its iconic setting and unparalleled history as for its championship test.
An experience on the Old Course is like no other in golf. There are seven double greens on the course, with the original layout routed in the opposite direction. A public course, the Old is closed on a Sundays when the fairways become filled with tourists and walkers.
Meanwhile, the course starts and begins in the town itself, and the walk over the iconic Swilken Bridge is a bucket-list experience for all golf-lovers.
Royal Dornoch would surely have hosted numerous Open Championships if not for its remote location. No journey, however, would be too far to play Royal Dornoch and golfers travel across the world to get a glimpse of this revered championship test.
With pot bunkers, fast running fairways and plenty of humps and hollows Royal Dornoch serve up authentic links golf at its very finest. Nestled between the mountains and the North Sea, the classic out-and-back layout winds its way along the shoreline, affording fabulous views across the coast.
Always a course to be reckoned with, a major overhaul unveiled by renowned architects MacKenzie & Ebert last year has transformed the Ailsa at Trump Turnberry into arguably the best golf courses on the planet. The most notable change is the former par-4 9th, now one the most spectacular par-3’s in golf. Played over the edge of the ocean and with the iconic lighthouse as the backdrop, the setting is guaranteed to take your breath away.
While the course may now be drastically different, the venue is still cloaked with golfing history. Turnberry has hosted four Open Championships, including the iconic duel in the sun, an epic battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.
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