The Best Golf Courses in Scotland
Those who play golf for the love of the game have likely been beckoned by Scotland’s siren song at some point. Yes, pros and amateurs flock to this tiny nation of just over five million people for its rich and storied links tradition. Golf has existed here since at least the Middle Ages, and in 1457 was even banned by an act of parliament ordered by King James II. The spany pro will tell you, the conditions are what sets Scottish golf apart. So with that in mind, here are some of the top spots out of many famous courses.
The Old Course, the one that started it all. Anything that is noteworthy about Scottish golf originated here, probably way back in the 12th century. On top of being a sort-of spiritual home to the sport, it’s hosted nearly 30 Open championships and has been graced by nearly every legend to play the game. No less an icon than Bobby Jones listed St. Andrews as his No. 1 course if he could only play one for the rest of his days.
The country’s third oldest golf course, Royal Dornoch has been active since the early 1600s. This course is known as much for its timeless beauty — complete with colorful summer blooms and white-sand beaches — as it is for its isolation. (Even those living in Glasgow can expect to drive five hours to reach it.) On paper, the out-and-back layout may seem straightforward, but approach play can be markedly challenging when taking into account the raised plateaus.
According to surveys, this course is generally regarded as one of the toughest in Britain and Ireland. Dating all the way back to 1527, this ancient monster is known primarily for its brutal finishing holes and abundance of formidable bunkers. The gaping mouth at the sixth hole, for example, is a truly foreboding obstacle, measuring some 520 yards.
The HCEG (Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers), the world’s oldest official golf club, call Muirfield their official course. Originally designed by Tom Morris in 1891, it has gone through a bit of an evolution over the years. Many historians believe it came into its own in 1928 when Tom Simpson and Harry Colt were hired to alter the layout. The result was the first golf course to feature two concentric rings of nine holes, designed to ensure that the wind hits from every angle.
With its picturesque views of offshore Scottish isles, Turneberry may just be the most idyllic of Open championship golf courses. It also contains its fair share of notable 20th century history as well. Twice military forces commandeered these links during the World Wars. When the fighting ceased, Philip Mackenzie Ross refurbished Turnberry, bringing it back to its former glory. It even played host to the classic ’77 Open, which saw Nicklaus and Watson engage in epic battle.
When it comes to booking these courses, it’s not always as simple as putting down a credit card. Some of them, especially the smaller ones, have been around for generations and are often run by members for members. Having said that, visitors can usually get in at certain times of certain days. The best thing to do is check with the pro at a larger resort, as these folks will likely know exactly which options are available and when.
Daniel Banner is a professional blogger that shares the advice and information on the best golf courses and golf tours worldwide. He writes for GolfDigestScottishTours.com, where you can create your custom Scottish golf package and golf trip