Scotland's Top Golf Courses
This personal selection of great courses will whet your appetite for golf in Scotland.
Any personal Top 10 list is by its very nature subjective! Depending on how you played, the weather that day, your companions and of course your score, all these things and more have an influence on your regard for that particular course.
A consensus would surely put Scotland’s Open Championship venues high on such a list but there are many smaller courses that golfing vacationers would find just as accommodating and possibly more enjoyable for their level of play. The list is not overly biased towards the big names and includes some of the country’s lesser-known favourites. One or two of the major venues that you might expect to see are not easily accessible to visiting golfers and have therefore not been included.
- Carnoustie Championship
- St Andrews Old
- Gleneagles Kings
- Nairn Golf Club
- Turnberry Aisla
- Royal Dornoch
- Boat of Garten
- Cruden Bay
- The Machrie
1. Carnoustie Championship
For its sheer quality and audacity as a test, Carnoustie’s Championship course could well be our overall winner. But the Championship course is for adept golfers who know how to play in varying links conditions. When the wind blows and the rough is up, Carnoustie can beat you up as witnessed by many of the competitors during the 1999 Open.
2. St Andrews Old
Scotland’s First Lady of Golf has to be high in any Top 10 list though she now has considerable competition. Yet this is a course every serious golfer must play at least once in his or her career. And you will not be disappointed; the Old Course is the historic cornerstone of this game while remaining one of the best golfing challenges.
Fife’s New Kid on the Block is a slight anomaly on the Scottish golf scene. Being just a few years old, these rolling fairways, hardly a venue of antiquity, are already considered a ‘classic’. Its American developers have created a links masterpiece on the Fife coast sitting cheek by jowl with early courses. No matter its vintage, Kingsbarns is now one of golf’s finest experiences.
4. Gleneagles Kings
James Braid commenced his golf course architect’s career with what many consider to be his finest achievements, Gleneagles’ Kings and Queens courses. While the Queens is subtler and usually less busy, the Kings is indeed the monarch of these glens, a magnificent heathland challenge in quite a spectacular setting.
5. Nairn Golf Club
Host to the Walker Cup of 1999, Nairn Golf Club is a test for the best golfers. Delicate in appearance and perfectly presented, it scoffs at everything but your finest efforts. And what you might gain off the tee or along the fairway you will most often lose on its incredibly spacious and silky greens.
6. Turnberry Ailsa
Turnberry’s Ailsa course is a class-act in every way, not just for its design and constant challenge but for its magnificent setting looking over the Clyde Estuary to Arran, Kintyre and Ailsa Craig. Through the years Turnberry has witnessed some memorable moments, none more so than the battle waged between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus for the 1977 Open.
7. Royal Dornoch
Like any first class golfing venue, Royal Dornoch does not give up its secrets easily. With its raised, superfast greens and deep protecting bunkers, golfers can find it frustrating for the first two or three outings. But like any great course, once you appreciate and understand the character and methods of approach, Royal Dornoch soon finds its way into your heart.
8. Boat of Garten
Once the main Open Championship courses have been encountered, many second or third time golf visitors set about discovering the real ‘hidden gems’ of the Home of Golf. Boat of Garten is one of the loveliest Highland courses with silver birch trees, heather and gorse lining the fairways, backed by the magnificent Cairngorm Mountain range a few miles to the south. And it is a considerable golfing challenge.
9. Cruden Bay
Cruden Bay was discovered in recent decades by the touring golfer and is now a regular fixture on most itineraries. This is an epitome of Scottish links golf. Set next to the Bay of Cruden and overlooked by Slains Castle, the flavour is tangy and testing as you play through those great, exaggerated dunes.
10. The Machrie
There are probably other great links or inland courses that should be included ahead of The Machrie but there are few that offer such unique golfing properties. The Machrie, on the Isle of Islay, is still in its original box, a relic of golf’s earlier days, be it driving over a hill or a blind approach. Not easy to get to but the experience is eminently worth the effort.