Tags: Golf, Golf course in St Andrews, Golf courses, golf courses in Scotland, golfing in Scotland, Hotels with golf courses, outdoor sports, Scottish golf courses, Sport, St Andrews, Things to do in Scotland
I’ll be honest from the start. I’ve played golf on many courses around Scotland, but I don’t play golf. Not really. I’m not a member of any club, nor have I ever been and at one point I was with Mark Twain on golf being ‘a good walk spoiled’. Over the years, though, I’ve come to appreciate what Scotland has to offer and even to love the game that Scotland invented. We really do have it all across over 500 courses, from world famous links, right through to tiny wee 9-hole courses that anyone can play.
Golf is big news at the moment following Europe’s stunning success in this year’s Ryder Cup and it will soon be even bigger in Scotland as the world’s top players descend on Perthshire’s Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup in 2014. It will be a thrilling contest, a match where the Americans will be hell-bent on revenge.
I’m not good enough to be hell-bent on anything when I play golf, but that is the beauty of the game. Yes at some courses you have to be a member and at others they are a bit snooty about handing out slots, but there are also myriad courses where anyone can have a go. Even at St Andrews the people who operate the largest golfing complex in Europe, which includes big hitters like The Old Course, can also be more liberal. The St Andrews Links Trustlet most people on the fairly forgiving Strathtyrum Course and even families on the nine-hole Balgove, which I happily hacked around a couple of times this summer.
If you do want to do it in style my favourite place for golf has to be Ayrshire and in particular Turnberry. The iconic Ailsa course regularly hosts the British Open and is spectacular with breathtaking views of Arran and, of course, that iconic lighthouse. The Kintyre and the nine-hole Arran courses are on hand too. Turnberry is also the site of the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy, where you can brush up on your game.
There are golf courses dotted around the country, but one really neglected area I think is the Borders. Opened in 2001 the gorgeous par 72 at Cardrona is the highlight for me. It rests in the Tweed Valley and boasts a spectacular mix of parkland and woodland. It offers a real test and the highlight is the 7th as you have to hole out on an elevated green. I like the golf friendly Cardrona Hotel too and their restaurant makes for a great 19th hole stuffed as it is with local produce.
Even on Scotland’s islands myriad courses shine. Twenty mile long Arran is remarkably home to no fewer than seven golf courses! There are the nine-hole courses at Lochranza, Corrie and Machrie. Tougher tests await at the 18-hole courses at Brodick, Whiting Bay and Lamlash, with my favourite the highly unusual 12-hole Shiskine Golf Club at Blackwaterfoot. Golf passes are a great way to cut the costs of a Scottish golfing holiday and Arran has its very own, the Arran Golf Pass.
Another island has probably my favourite course in the country. Machrie on Islay is stunning, a gem that unfurls by a windswept Atlantic beach. You play with epic views of sand and surf to one flank and rolling hills tempting on the other. Then you have eight distilleries to check out afterwards. Now how could you call that a walk spoiled!
For more on the Ryder Cup 2014 see the dedicated Welcome to Scotland guide to the big event at Gleneagles.
And check out Welcome to Scotland’s top ten courses too.