The Independent Golfer
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  Descriptions of 111
Scotland Golf Courses
 
"Unless otherwise stated, the descriptions below were written after my personal play of the course. For the remainder, I have included comments submitted by the club or its members." – The Independent Golfer
 
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Fife Hub

Ladybank Golf Club
In the Kingdom of Fife
18 holes; par 71, 6641 yards
link to course website

 
Ladybank golf course, Scotland

As a qualifying course for the British Open, Ladybank is one of the upper tier of courses in Fife. Though The Open is traditionally played on a links style course, Ladybank offers a good test because of the unusually sandy soil on which this inland course is built. With the slight undulations of its fairways, which run on well and truly, its patches of gorse and fields of heather along the margins, its style of bunkering and its firm greens that present pronounced breaks and tiers, the course almost plays as a links course would. Yet, it is situated in a beautiful forest of pine, silver birch and flowering bushes, populated by red squirrels (the club mascot) and far from the sea.

The first course of 6 holes was laid out in 1879 by the venerable Old Tom Morris with another three holes being added in 1910. The other nine weren’t added until 1958. Since then, the course has been a favorite venue for various Scottish championships and professional exhibitions. One memorable such exhibition pitted Jack Nicholas against Seve Ballesteros in 1983. This match was to have been played on the Old Course at St. Andrews but, midway through the planning, it was pointed out to the promoter that, on the scheduled day, the University students at St. Andrews had priority on the course and such priorities couldn’t be violated. The exhibition was moved to Ladybank, to the great delight of the local “Fifers” who thronged the course to see these legends play.

The most distinctive playing quality of Ladybank is the narrowness of its tree-lined fairways that demand accuracy off the tee. The course does not have a 4- or 5-par hole that presents a straight line from tee to green. Instead, you are challenged with a wonderful variety of bends, dog-legs and angles -- left and right -- that reward the golfer who can shape the tee shot with accuracy. Further, because of this variation in direction, a number of holes are best played with a fairway wood or long iron off the tee by the golfer who wants to avoid hitting through the fairway. Yet, with well-placed tee shots, approaches to the greens are reasonable and can result in achievable pars and occasional birdie opportunities.

 
 

Oban Hub
Southwest Hub

Lamlash Golf Course
On the Island of Arran
18 holes; par 64
link to course website

 
Lamlash golf course, Scotland Described as a "heathland" style course, I have not played it and can thus make no recommendation.
 
 

Ayr Hub

Largs Golf Course
In Ayrshire
18 holes; par 70, 6115 yards
link to course website

 
 

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

"Largs Golf Club is a long-established private golf club with a superb 18-hole parkland course, situated in front of Kelburn Castle overlooking the Firth of Clyde with the islands of Cumbrae, Bute and Arran in the background, with Arran's Goat Fell and the 'Sleeping Warrior' dominating the landscape.
The course is enduringly popular with visitors, who return regularly year after year. The well-balanced layout offers an interesting and challenging experience to golfers across the broad spectrum of enthusiasm and ability, with positional play rather than big hitting paying better dividends."

 
 

Fife Hub

Leven Links Golf Club
In the Kingdom of Fife
18 holes; par 71, 6436 yards
link to course website

 
Leven Links Golf course, Scotland

The Leven Golf Course, which is played by both the Leven Golfing Society and the Leven Thistle Golf Club, occupies the western portion of the “green at Leven”, a narrow strip of links land on the north shore of the Firth of Forth that, in the mid-1800’s, nestled between the sea and the railway line that ran along the coast. The eastern part of this wonderful links land was and still is occupied by the Lundin course. These courses are separated by the “Mile Dyke” a low rock wall that runs inland from the ocean.

The older holes, those that run nearest the ocean, are said to offer some of the finest true links golf play in Scotland. These fairways, populated by classic wiry and tight bent and fescue grasses, almost demand the bump-and-run game. The other holes, added in the early 20th Century, contribute their own individual character by demanding a variety of shots and rewarding bold and imaginative play. The combination is a truly wonderful “Scottish” golf experience.

The members of the Leven and Thistle Clubs are rightly proud of being the hosts of the oldest open amateur strokeplay championship in the world, the “Standard Life Assurance Medal” which was first competed in 1870.

An interesting feature of the course is that, while their neighbors on the Lundin Course to the east opted to retain the features of the railroad that split both courses until the 1960’s, the members of the Leven and Thistle Clubs have erased all the physical features of the railroad on their course that would influence play. Still, one can occasionally glimpse its effects on the course layout.

In its continuing effort both to preserve the rich traditions of links golf that have distinguished the Leven Course for 100 years and to stay competitive in the face of the new equipment technology, the Leven and Thistle Clubs have cooperated in the installation of a number of new bunkers on their course. Carefully and thoughtfully placed, their aim is to reward skillful play and thoughtful imagination over power and length.

 
 

Dornoch Hub
Inverness Hub

Loch Ness Golf Course
In Inverness
18 holes; par 73
link to course website

 
Loch Ness golf club, Scotland

Loch Ness is typical of the courses built in the past twenty years by the recreational industry near major cities in Scotland. It is well designed, well maintained and interesting to play but with its wide fairways, even rough, slightly contoured greens and shallow bunkers, it lacks the novelty, charm and subtlety of Scotland’s old courses. It plays like any good course in America. One thing that distinguishes it from most other Scottish courses is its par 73 which it achieves by having three par-5s on the back nine.

The course is built on a gently rolling hillside on the edge of the city of Inverness and has been planted with many trees that will need a few years to mature. The first few holes feel like you are playing in Inverness suburbia, but as you work your way up the hill you come upon expansive views of the city and its environs.
 
 

Fife Hub

Lochgelly Golf Club
In the Kingdom of Fife
18 hole; par 68, 5491 yards
link to course website

 
 

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

“This parkland course is situated in the heart of golfing country in the Kingdom of Fife, the place known round the world as the 'Home of Golf'. Visitors have described it as a must play course when in the area. The superb views over the Lomonds and the Ochils are worth the price of the green fee alone and the course itself, despite being relatively flat and easy walking, is a challenge to all categories of golfers. The pro shop is well stocked by the resident PGA professional, who will be delighted to provide lessons and useful pre-round tips.”

 
 

Oban Hub

Lochgilphead Golf Club
South of Oban
9 hole; par 31
link to course website

 
Lochgilpead golf course, Scotland This small course is maintained by the local folks for their own golfing pleasure. They do, however, invite visitors who are looking for a pleasant golfing experience in a beautiful setting. It features a considerable rise and fall in elevation over 9 holes. Each hole is substantially different from its mates. This is a fun course to play that puts a premium on your short game.
 
 

Ayr Hub

Lochgreen Golf Club
In Ayrshire
18 hole; par 74, 6819 yards
link to course website

 
 

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

“Lochgreen, the best of the trio of municipal courses in Troon, offers an excellent golfing experience and at a fraction of the royal fee charged at its more aristocratic neighbor. Playing at Par 74, it runs parallel at points to Royal Troon and has been used a qualifier for the British Open. Jack Nicklaus shot an 82 here in an Open Qualifier followed by a more appropriate 68 making the cut buy one shot.”

 
 

Oban Hub
Southwest Hub

Lochranza Golf Course
On the Island of Arran
18 holes; par 70
link to course website

 
Lochranza golf course, Scotland Described as a "parkland" course, I have not played this course and thus cannot recommend it. I have, however, heard good things about it.
 
 

Fife Hub

Lundin Golf Club
In the Kingdom of Fife
18 holes; par 71, 6371 yards
link to course website

 
Lundin golf course, Scotland

The Lundin Golf Club’s course occupies the eastern portion of the “green at Leven”, a narrow strip of links land on the north shore of the Firth of Forth that, in the mid-1800’s, nestled between the sea and the railway line that ran along the coast. The western part of this wonderful links land was and still is occupied by the Leven course on which the Leven Golfing Society and the Leven Thistle Golf Club play. These courses are separated from Lundin by the “Mile Dyke” a low rock wall that runs inland from the ocean.

The full 18 holes of the Lundin course were completed in 1909 following the design of the venerable James Braid, consummate Scottish golf course architect. To add a second nine to the original, Braid extended the course inland, thus creating the unusual situation of having a railroad running lengthwise through the middle of the course. Though the railroad was abandoned in the 1960’s, its features remain in play, including the raised embankment along which the train ran and the earthen platform where the station stood. Legends remain as well. The Lundin members firmly believe that theirs is the only course in the world on which a golfer was struck and killed by a train while playing golf.

Though the railroad passageway is a dominate feature of the course, its most memorable quality is the whimsical combination of links and parkland golf that it offers. The first five holes are classically “linksey”. Separated from the sea by an ancient sand embankment, these holes play under the influence of the elements along undulating, fast running fairways lined by deep fescue, marram grass, gorse and broom. But the following nine, which lie landward of the railway, feature fairways that feel like a cross between linksland and parkland turf. These holes eventually run up and along the hillside through forests of conifer trees, offering a delightful change of atmosphere as well as an extensive, elevated view of the Fife coast and the environs of Edinburgh across the water. For the last four holes the golfer returns to sea-level and finishes in the genuine links tradition.

 
 

Oban Hub
Southwest Hub

The Machrie Hotel and Golf Links
West of Oban on the Island of Islay
18 holes; par 71
link to course website

 
Machrie golf course, Scotland

The Machrie offers a links golf experience at its best. Fairways of classic links grasses roll between ancient shrub-covered dunes that separate holes from each other and from the nearby sea. Holes test you with blind shots to unseen fairway landing areas or greens hiding beyond hummocks covered with wisps of marram grass. Undulating greens challenge your ability to read their break but putt truly. And, of course, there are the elements, wind, sun, and perhaps rain, to bring variety to your game. The Machrie has it all. Further, The Machrie also offers a great bonus, especially for the golfer new to links golf. It sports fairways that are exceptionally wide compared to most links courses. Most holes also offer a generous first cut of rough that, though shortening your ball’s roll, will probably allow you to find it and continue play. There is even an absence of gorse thickets on The Machrie! All combine to make The Machrie the ideal place for an introduction to true links play.

Don’t be fooled, however. The Machrie is no push-over. At 5903 yards/par 71, it is a decent length for a links course. As the locals are quick to point out, the bad golf shot certainly will be punished and each hole presents a different challenge of length or placement. Also, though links golf is often characterized by the occasional blind shot, The Machrie has more than its share. Depending on the length and placement of your tee shot, you may play to as many as six landing areas that can’t be seen from the tee and you may need to hit as many as twelve blind approaches to hidden greens!

This is an old course that has succeeded in retaining an historical sense of connection to the early days of golf in Scotland. Notwithstanding a few minor changes made in the 1970’s, it appears substantially as it did in 1901 when “The Great Triumvirate” of Harry Vardon, John Henry Taylor and James Braid joined others in playing the first Machrie Open for the then unheard-of purse of £100 to the winner.

Even today, the course and its lone hotel sit seemingly apart from civilization on links land along the Bay of Laggan on the relatively remote island of Islay. The nearest buildings, a few white farm houses, nestle in the distance on the flanks of the Islay’s hills. No automobile sounds, no power lines, no noisy factory neighbors impinge on your solitude or interrupt your concentration on the game. Best of all, largely due to its isolation, few people play The Machrie. If you are not unlucky enough to happen on a pre-scheduled competition, you can simply walk on and play one of the great links courses of the world, and at a fraction of the cost that other more famous links courses charge. The price you pay for playing The Machrie is getting there. Air-fare from Glasgow is quite expensive. By car, you face a 110 mile drive from Glasgow and then a 2-hour ferry ride. But, once you arrive, the effort of the trip drops away as you encounter the serenity of golf as it was meant to be played. This is a course that you must play in your lifetime.
 
 

Oban Hub
Southwest Hub

Machrihanish Golf Club
South of Oban near Campbeltown
18 holes, par 70
link to course website

 
Machrihanish golf club, Scotland

The course at Machrihanish is quite simply one of the finest links courses in the world. It and Royal Dornoch anchor the two ends of the magnificent crescent of highland and island courses described in this book. Machrihanish is largely unknown to most golfers, and those who know it want to keep it a secret. Located on the far southern tip of the long Peninsula of Kintyre, it is five miles from the nearest town, has no large hotels and only three bed and breakfasts nearby. Thus, despite the magnificence of the course, Machrihanish can never hope to be the site for any major, world-class competitions. It must remain the best unknown course in Scotland.

The course was originally laid out in 1876 as a 10-holer, but Old Tom Morris was brought across from St. Andrews three years later and extended it to a full 18-holes. Many of the holes have been changed over the years, but Old Tom must be given credit for placing the first tee where it is today, offering an incredibly challenging first swing. It is said, however, that Old Tom’s primary motivation for locating this tee where he did was to give golfers easy access to a local inn where they could avail themselves of a brew or a “bump of the bog water” before or after a round.

Machrihanish is a classic links course. The fairways wind through and over ancient sand dunes that have been overgrown with links grasses, and shrubs. Though there are never any large changes in elevation, many shots are blind, over hummocks tufted with straw and gorse or out of depressions that offer shelter from the winds. It is nine holes out and nine holes back, the outbound nine running very near the sea which you can often hear over intervening dunes when the wind is right. The fairways roll, dip and curve, often rewarding the well-aimed runner. Bump it up to the greens if you have the skill, unless, of course, they are guarded by bunkers that can be large and deep. Above all is the joy of hole after different hole, each offering its own particular obstacles and openings to success.

For those who like to practice, a large area between the road and the 18th fairway and another between the 2nd fairway and the dunes are set aside for anything up to a mid-iron. Bring your own balls.
 
 

Northeast Hub

Montrose – Medal Golf Course
In the Northeast
18 holes, par 71, 6496 yards
link to course website

 
Montrose for Scotland Golf

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

The Medal Course at Montrose is a majestic layout in the true traditions of Scottish Links golf and has hosted many important events in its history including the Scottish Professional Championship in 1967 and 1970, the Scottish Amateur Championship in 1975 and the British Boys' Championship and Internationals in 1991.
Because of all these factors the Links was honored by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in being chosen as a Final Qualifying Course for the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999 and again in 2007.

 
 

Northeast Hub

Moray Golf Club
In the Northeast
18 holes, par 71, 6578 yards
link to course website

 
Moray Golf course, Scotland

The members of the Moray (pronounced Murray by the locals) Golf Club play a grand old Victorian dame of a course. Originally a destination for well-heeled summer vacationers from the south, it was laid out by none other than Old Tom Morris near the beach on the southern banks of the beautiful Moray Firth, an area known for averaging more days of sunshine than any other in Great Britain. Moray has all the characteristics of a classic Scottish links golf course. It’s gorse-lined, undulating fairways sport tight links turf with a spring that encourages attention to the ball’s roll as well as it’s flight. Its well-maintained, fast greens, some of which are best approached by balls that are bumped sort to roll on, are all guarded by deep bunkers. The sea wind is an ever-present if changeable factor in your game. Yet, in spite of its venerable past, Moray has kept up with the times. It’s 6228 yards include only three par-3s and one par-5, leaving length for four par-4s over four hundred yards and another four that are over 390 yards. These long holes are complemented by shorter challenges that feature strategically placed bunkers, fairway mounds and dog-legs that put a premium on strategic planning and confident shot-making

As an indication of both the Club’s prosperity and its location near the center of one of Scotland’s premiere whisky-distilling areas, the members began a tradition in 1900 of laying down hoghheads (54 gallon barrels) of single malt whisky for their own use. Continued to this day, their current club whisky is a 12 year old Macallan. The members also enjoy one of the great old clubhouses of Scotland. Eschewing the recent trend followed by many Scottish clubs to re-build their clubhouses into modern, functionalities, Moray has taken pains to preserve its grand Victorian, stone-block structure from which members can look down in genteel comfort upon fellow golfers on the 1st tee and 18th green.


 
 

Dornoch Hub
Inverness Hub

Muir of Ord Golf Club
East of Inverness
18 holes, par 70
no website

 
Muir of Ord, Golf course, Scotland

Though this course claims to have been designed, at least in part, by James Braid, it actually has little of the magic that one would expect from the master. It is an old course, established in 1875, that runs on both sides of the rail line that goes north out of Inverness. Railway lines are common near Scottish courses and the quiet electric trains that run on them do not seem to interfere with the quality of the golfing experience.

Muir of Ord is a course of two distinct types. The first six and the last four holes are flat and relatively uninteresting. The middle eight holes are anything but. They are built on a prominent hill and take you on alternating up- and down-hill routes.
 
 

Northeast Hub

Murcar Links Golf Club
Near Aberdeen
18 hole; par 70, 5875 yards
link to course website

 
Murcar Links for Scotland golf

Murcar is one of the great links courses of Scotland. Though it may not be as familiar to Americans as are the other links tracks on Scotland’s northeast coast, this course stands as tall as any. A network of grass-covered sand dunes runs the length of the course just in from the beach, separating the golfing grounds from the North Sea which is often just yards away. Other gorse and maram-grass topped ancient dunes shape and separate the fairways, creating a winding and undulating trek, alternatively taking the golfer down into wonderfully isolating aloneness and up onto teeing grounds with sweeping views of the sea, the rugged coast and Aberdeen, the “Granite City”, in the distance.
The members believe that the design of the course and the direction of its holes has changed little since its layout in 1909. However, not to be out-paced by developments in the game, a series of improvements have recently added both distance and difficulty (in the form of strategically placed bunkers) to many holes. The result is a course that plays in the old links style while offering a firm test to the modern golfer.
Recent improvements have not been limited to the course. Members and visitors now enjoy a beautifully appointed new clubhouse and an expansive practice area with chipping and putting greens and a large driving range. All this ia apparently  attractive to many of the best golfers in the area. An impressive 20% of the membership boast a handicap of 5 or better, a clear testimony to the quality of golf at Murcar Links.

A striking feature of Murcar is its vast expanse of gorse. On most links courses, gorse bushes are the bane of any golfer whose ball strays even a bit from the fairway. But on Murcar, the fairways are typically bordered by generous expanses of grass rough which serve to hold the gorse back at a distance from the fairway. Under these conditions, one doesn’t experience the gorse as a spike-horned demon, defining the golfer’s level of hell. Rather, it becomes a stunning visual background, bringing great beauty to the golfing experience, especially in the Spring and early Summer when its glorious blooms flow through the golf course in rivers of yellow.
   
 

Dornoch Hub
Inverness Hub

Nairn Golf Club
East of Inverness
18 hole; par 72
link to course website


 
Nairn golf club, Scotland

Key features of this seaside links course are its meticulous maintenance, modern clubhouse, links land setting along the Moray Firth and the members’ ability to promote their course as a site for numerous national and international championships. Nairn has a long and influential history beginning in 1887 when a group of London and Edinburgh businessmen brought in some of the greatest golfers of the time to design and then redesign their course, including Old Tom Morris and James Braid. The result is a wonderful links golf experience.

Variation is the theme at Nairn. Though the wind might be constant, the changes in direction of the holes at times, require you, to play cautious and, at other times, allow you to be bold with your tee shots and approaches. While some holes, especially those along the sea shore, are flat and long, others ask you to climb hills or hit down to delightfully placed greens situated among tumbling hummocks. You play some holes on open, gorse-lined fairways and others near stands of large trees.

A hallmark of Nairn is its raised greens with tight fringes that allow your ball to run off into difficulty that is at least moderately punishing. Further, each hole seems to hold its own singular challenge for the golfer to meet, whether it be a narrow fairway here, an unusually undulating green there, or a radically bunkered approach over that way. Nairn has, understandably, become a popular stop for tour operators who want to give their clients an excellent highland golf experience. It should be on the list of every Independent Golfer who makes it to the Inverness area.

 
 

Dornoch Hub
Inverness Hub

Nairn Dunbar Golf Club
East of Inverness
18 holes; par 72
link to course website


 
Nairn Dunbar Golf Course, Scotland

Nairn Dunbar is labeled by its members as a links course. Yet, though it plays like one, it doesn’t have the classic links appearance. Rather than being wide open and treeless, the fairways are often bordered by beautiful stands of deciduous trees. The course is quite near the sea with its fresh breezes and fragrant smells, but the ocean is not visually a part of the Nairn Dunbar experience. Still, the tight and bounding fairways reward attention to roll as well as flight. The characteristically small, deep bunkers are well-placed to punish the errant shot. The fast and true greens are generally raised and feature at least one side down which errant balls will roll. And the wind must always be factored into your shot selection. Thus, Nairn Dunbar offers a golfing experience that is both unusual and delightful.

Built in 1899 along the sandy shores of the Moray Firth east of Inverness, this course offers a superb opportunity to experience links golf play in a park-like setting. Though relatively flat overall, the gorse bushes, grass-covered ancient sea ledges, burns and pond, and birch and willow trees all combine to offer substantial variation from hole to hole.

If you are in the area it would be hard to justify not playing this course.

 
 

Ayr Hub

New Galloway Golf Club
Southeast of Ayr
9 holes, par 66, 4560 yards
link to course website

 
 

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

"New Galloway Golf Club is a delightful 9 hole golf course located in South West Scotland. It is a gem among rural courses in Scotland. The members of New Galloway Golf Club are proud of the golf course and feel it is arguably the best 9 hole golf course in Scotland. The golf course is kept in great condition and it is noted for its superb natural greens. The quality of the turf on the fairways and greens is brilliant with an abundance of bents and fescue type grasses. Golf can be very rewarding for an accurate golfer with a sound short game.
The course climbs from a woodland setting up the first two holes to a more open moorland where views and sounds of Loch Ken and the surrounding Galloway Hills can intoxicate the golfer."

 
 

Northeast Hub

Newburgh-on-Ythan Golf Club
In the Northeast
18 holes, par 72, 6423 yards
link to course website

  Newburgh on Ythan for Scotland Golf

Built near the estuary of the River Ythan (pronounced EYE-than) and next to the Forvie National Nature Reserve, no course can boast a more inspiring natural setting for links golf than Newburgh-on-Ythan. In 1996 the members added a second nine to the original layout on which the club had played since 1888 and, in so doing, created two sibling nine-hole courses that nicely complement one another while offering two different links-golf experiences. The newer nine, which now plays as the outward-bound side, rambles upward, over and through ancient, maram grass covered sand dunes, providing a variety of changes in elevation and direction as you shoot down from elevated tees or up-hill to terraced greens. With its changes in elevation and inspiring sea-side vistas, this nine reminds one of links play at great courses like Machrihanish and Crail. The second, older nine works its way over flat terrain near the river which supports tight, shot-demanding fairways that ask you to think as much of the ball’s roll as its flight. Here, you have more the links-feel of the Old Course at St. Andrews or Carnoustie’s championship track.

Thus, in one stop, the Independent Golfer can experience a little bit of everything that Scottish links golf has to offer, and at a fraction of the cost charged by the more well-known courses. As an added bonus, Newburgh-on-Ythan boasts a wonderful little practice area in which you can work on your links-style short game.

 
 

Northeast Hub

Newmachar Golf Club
In the Northeast
18 holes, par 72, 6623 yards
link to course website

 
Newmachar for Scotland Golf

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

"Newmachar Golf Club, which has hosted European tour and international events, is on the outskirts of Aberdeen, Scotland and near its international airport. Within a two hour drive are other renowned courses such as St Andrews, Gleneagles, Carnoustie, Cruden Bay and Nairn.
Opened for play in September 1990, this Dave Thomas designed, 6700 yard Championship Course, has been endorsed by Peter Alliss and is a real challenge to all who set foot on the first tee.
With a par of 72 (SSS 74), (US Slope Rating 143), Hawkshill is the toughest of all the courses in the area. With water hazards coming in to play in no fewer than seven holes, mature silver birch and Scots pine trees lining the strategically bunkered fairways and greens, the Hawkshill Course is already acknowledged as one of the true tests of golf in Scotland.
Although some commentators have likened it to an "American" layout, the real character of the course is firmly Scottish, with a similarity to the Kings Course at Gleneagles or Rosemount."

 
 

Inverness Hub

Newtonmore Golf Club
South of Inverness
18 holes; par 67
link to course website


 
Newtonmore golf course, Scotland Fabulous scenery at a distance and devilish bunkering up close are the signature characteristics of Newtonmore Golf. Fourteen of the courses 18 holes meander though the rich bottomland of the valley of the River Spey with dramatic Highland mountains and forests in the distance. Off the tee you will repeatedly need to avoid strategically placed fairway bunkers, left right and center. Though the greens are typically quite large, with only slight changes in elevation, nine are protected by sentinel bunkers that stand guard in the fairways' centers, 10 to 30 yards in front of the greens. You will also need to navigate a strong phalanx of 45 greenside bunkers and numerous grass mounds and declivities that protect the greens. Still, the course, with its lush, riverside fairways and well-tended greens, plays honestly and fairly. An interesting note: because it has an unusually high proportion of left-handed golfers in its membership, every year Newtonmore hosts the Scottish Left Handers Championship.
 
 

Northeast Hub

Peterhead Golf Club
In the Northeast
18 holes, par 70, 6173 yards
link to course website

 
Peterhead for Scotland Golf

Golf had been played around the village of Peterhead for hundreds of years. The Peterhead Golf Club is one of the older clubs in Scotland, being founded in 1841. Play on the current site, however, has continued “only” since 1892 when the legionary Willie Park Jr., twice winner of the British Open, laid out the early 9-hole course there.

Peterhead is one of the magnificent string of courses that populate the formidable links land along Scotland’s east coast. It plays as a classic links course should. The course’s middle stretch of holes are easily among the finest links holes you will find anywhere. After the first three holes, which take a bit of a detour away from the sea, you find yourself playing, with one exception (hole #10), either north or south. You march up and back, redoubling on yourself, taking advantage of, or challenging, the wind as you work your way along the coast through valleys bordered by ancient sand dunes and covered with wild grasses. This is surely golf as the ancients thought it should be played. Yet Peterhead has managed to lengthen and tweak itself just enough to give the modern player all the challenge any golfer would want. It is hard to do much better than a day on Peterhead.


 
 

Ayr Hub

Portpatrick Dunskey Golf Club
Dumfries and Galloway
18 holes; par 70, 5908 yards
link to course website

 
Portpatrick for Scotland Golf

I have not played this course and so cannot offer a personal description. The club describes its course as follows:

“The Club is situated in the picturesque village of Portpatrick in South West Scotland, 7 miles from the ferry port of Stranraer.  The Clubhouse and golf courses command panoramic views across the North Channel to Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Mull of Kintyre.   The area enjoys a temperate climate due to the Gulf Stream and golf is playable all year round.
The Club is renowned for its friendly welcome to visitors with a fully modernised clubhouse including a well-appointed Lounge, Bar and Dining Room. This, together with full changing, showering and storage facilities, ensures that both our members and visitors are well catered for.
The excellent 9 hole, Par 3, Dinvin Course, which takes about an hour to play, is ideal for the golfer looking for a quick exercise or the beginner who feels ill- equipped for the rigours of 18 holes. The 18 hole Dunskey Course, with its interesting and varied holes, is a challenge to the low handicap player but will not intimidate those of lesser ability. Each hole has its own different view ranging from pastureland and woodland, through coastal scenes to stunning views across the North Channel to Ireland from the 13th tee, the Club's signature hole.”

 

 
 

Ayr Hub

Prestwick Golf Club
Center of Ayrshire
18 holes; par 71, 6544 yards
link to course website

 
Prestwick for Scotland Golf

If you want to talk history you have to talk Prestwick. It was here in 1860 that Willie Park won the very first British Open Championship with a score of 174 achieved in three rounds over the then-12-hole course.

You can play seven of the original greens today. Bounded by railway lines, the town of Prestwick and the sea, Prestwick has not been able to expand to meet the demands of modern golf equipment as other courses have. It thus has been forced to retain some of the old quirkiness of Scotland’s original classic links courses.

The 3rd hole, a 482 yard, par-5, is bordered on the right by the Pow Burn and the huge Cardinal Bunker that guards the turn of the dogleg. The choice is to try to carry over the Cardinal with your second stroke, or lay up and be faced with a log approach. Hole #5 is a blind, 206 yard 3-par that asks you to aim over a high ridge, actually an ancient sand dune, appropriately named “The Himalayas” to a green heavily guarded by sand bunkers. The 16th “Cardinals Back” is only 288 yards but, without an accurate tee shot, par is next to impossible. The longest par-4 on the course the 10th “Arran” at 454 yards, gives you a magnificent view of the sea, the famous Ailsa Craig and, on a clear day, the Isle of Arran.

Each of these holes demands its own, unique strategy for play. Local knowledge is paramount and, thus, playing with a member if you can arrange it, is especially sweet here. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the thunk of hickory on gutta percha and the exclamations of the past greats of the game as they worked their way around this wonderful course.

 
 

Ayr Hub

Prestwick St. Cuthbert Golf Club
Center of Ayrshire
18 holes; par 71, 6470 yards
link to course website

 
Prestwick St Cuthbert for Scotland Golf

This rolling parkland course behind the town of Prestwick was built in the mid-1960’s to satisfy the growing need for affordable golf in the area. The huge number of trees that were planted then have now nicely reached maturity and define the fairways and generous greens.

Nine of the fairways are doglegged, putting an extra importance on your accuracy off the tee. Though there is not much change in elevation, numerous bunkers make life interesting. Further, six of the greens boast cleverly sloped aprons that deceive the eye and require extreme care in your execution of your approach shots. Add to that occasional multi-tiered greens and you have a delightful course that presents a legitimate golf challenge.

 
 

Ayr Hub

Prestwick St. Nicholas Golf Club
Center of Ayrshire
18 holes; par 69, 5952 yards
link to course website

 
Prestwick St Nicholas for Scotland Golf

Just down the coast from its more well-known sister, the St. Nicholas course is as old as Prestwick and benefits from the same wonderful links land on which it is located.

Like many of the older Scottish links courses, it is short and tight, with a demand put on the accuracy, not the distance of your tee shots. The course plays to a par 69, having only one par-5 to counter its four par-3’s. Don’t be disappointed by the length. This course is great fun to play and, in the weather that often blows off the Firth of Clyde, can be very demanding.

 
 

Dornoch Hub

Reay Golf Club
Far north of the Scottish mainland
18 holes; par 69
link to course website


 
Reay golf club, Scotland

The renowned golf course architect Donald Steele is quoted as saying of Reay, “In a different location, it would enjoy worldwide acclaim.” But it is precisely the location that gives the course at Reay its great distinction. As the most northernly18 hole course on the British mainland it presents views across the Pentland Firth and to the nearest Orkney Islands that are breathtaking. But more importantly, it takes advantage of wonderful seaside links land set among great sand dunes along Sandside Bay.

The course itself is a wonderfully true example of a links course, as you would expect when James Braid had a hand in its design. Your round will start with long but relatively straight-forward holes but will soon change as difficult elements begin to appear. Great long par-5’s, and par-3’s that are all carry will alternate with holes on which the ball’s roll in the fairway is key and holes that present blind shots to difficult greens. By the end of the round you will have needed every shot in your bag, and you might have developed one you did not know you had.
The greens are typically large, oval in shape and very well maintained. The fairways are composed of wiry links turf that encourages the use of bump and run shots that might be quite useful if the wind is a prominent factor as it often is.

It does take an effort to travel this far north but Reay certainly repays that effort with a classic links golfing experience. It’s hard to do better.

 

 
 

Northeast Hub

Royal Aberdeen Golf Course
In the Northeast
18 holes, par 70, 6415 yards
link to course website

 
Royal Aberdeen Golf Course, Scotland

Royal Aberdeen is everybody’s idea of the exemplary Scottish links golf course. Built near the sea among ancient sand dunes and hills covered by fescue and marram grasses, gorse and heather, it marches two miles out to the northeast, up the coast for nine holes then returns for the back nine to the clubhouse. Each hole presents a different challenge but all must be played in the wind and elements, in true links golf fashion. The course has its share of blind shots, rambling and undulating fairways, greens with imaginative tiers, slopes, knobs and swales, and, of course, bunkers. They combine to require a thoughtful approach to the game that rewards inventive execution over raw power and diversity of play over mechanical repetition.

Historians can’t determine how far back in time golf was first played on the Aberdeen Town Links but the first club was formed in 1780, making it the sixth oldest golf club in the world. The club moved to its current location, the Balgownie Links, in the late 1800’s and has continued to “sympathetically improve” the course as technology and skill have modified the game. Most importantly, the course has retained the clear characteristics and distinguishing qualities that make it a classic links course in the very best style of Scottish golf.


 
 

Dornoch Hub
Inverness Hub

Royal Dornoch Golf Club – Championship Course
In Dornoch
18 hole; par 70
link to course website

 
Royal dornoch golf club, Scotland

You simply have to experience this course. As you play over classic links land that borders the North Sea at the Dornoch Firth, you will be awed by its wild magnificence of sea, sky, mountains and ancient, grass-covered dunes while having every shot you have in your bag tested. This course saw golf being played long before the establishment of the Club , the first written record recorded in 1616. Golf Magazine recently ranked it the SECOND BEST course in Scotland, only outranked by The Old Course at St. Andrews. Yet, because of its remoteness (45 miles north of Inverness and 8 degrees below the Arctic Circle) Royal Dornoch is relatively uncrowded and retains a personal intimacy long since lost by the more famous courses in the south. Still, though relatively unheard of until recent years, increased popularity among British and American golfers suggests that a call ahead to book a time is wise, perhaps even a few months ahead. Most Independent Golfers plan their trips to the Highlands around a round or two at Royal Dornoch and it is good to pin down this time early in your planning.

 
 

Dornoch Hub
Inverness Hub

Royal Dornoch Golf Club – Struie Course
In Dornoch
18 holes; par 70
link to course website

 
Royal dornoch golf club, Scotland

The Struie course has always been the little sister and alternative-if-you-can’t-get-on to the Championship course at Royal Dornoch. But in the Spring of 2003 a substantial renovation was opened, including the rerouting of many of the existing holes, replacement of some old greens and, most importantly, the addition of five completely new holes. The Struie course may always be the Championship course’s little sister, but she has now blossomed into mature womanhood as a course worthy of considerable respect in her own right.

The Struie is a relatively flat course played over links land covered with wiry grass that allows considerable roll when you keep your ball in the fairway. The rough of unmown grass can be fairly forgiving of errant shots though, of course, you lose considerable distance without the fairway roll. But many holes are also lined with deep gorse that makes finding the wayward ball almost impossible. The bunkers are appropriately, even strategically, placed and the greens all putt fast and true. The five greens of the new holes are exceptionally large, moderately undulating and are an adventure to putt.
 
 

Ayr Hub

Royal Troon, Old Golf Course
In Ayrshire
18 holes; par 71, 7079 yards
link to course website

 
Royal Troon for Scotland Golf

Here is both ancient and current Scottish golfing history. Though laid out in 1878 and extended to 18 holes 10 years later, Troon has continued to expand. It is one of the few classic Scottish links courses that has succeeded in keeping up with the evolution in golf equipment and skill so that it can continue to successfully host the British Open even today. By the time of the 1997 open the course had been lengthened to over 7,000 yards.

This is one of the easiest of the current Open rota courses to gain access to, though you will need to pay a price for the privilege. Once on, you will delight in tramping the same fairways and greens that the “big boys” play. Like them you will need to take great care in judging the wind’s potential effect on your tee shot at the #8 “Postage Stamp” with its green that is only 25 feet wide at its widest. You will need to put the best swing you have on your 2nd shot onto the green of the #10 “Sandhills” that is cunningly protected by a great bank of gorse on your right and a large gully to the left. Can you "keep it together down the stretch" as Justin Leonard did in 1997 to fend off Tiger Woods and reel in Jesper Parnevik to take the Open title?

The first nine holes, with the exception of the 114 yard “Postage Stamp”, march in linked step southeast nearest the sea. The course then doubles back upon itself and, with the exception of #12 “The Fox”, takes you northwest back to the clubhouse. Strategically placed bunkers, multi-tiered greens, rolling fairways, length, weather, Royal Troon offers everything you could ask for in a links golf experience.

 
 

Ayr Hub

Royal Troon, Portland Golf Course
In Ayrshire
18 holes; par 71, 6274 yards
link to course website

 
Royal Troon for Scotland Golf

Sited away from the sea and across the road from the Old Course, the slightly newer and shorter Portland course is a bit more sheltered from the weather. Though one might rightly label it a moorland course, it nevertheless succeeds in offering a links golf experience.

The course boasts a surprising four par-5’s, all on the back nine! This course’s original name, bestowed at its opening in 1895, was the “Relief” course. It would be fitting today to recall that name to service, given the Portland’s function of siphoning players off the Old Course during peak times.

 
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