The North

The North

Scotland’s’ far north is remote, beautiful and home to a surprising number of outstanding golf courses. The jewel in the crown is majestic Royal Dornoch – a must play for any serious golfer. Throw in a backdrop of stunning Highland scenery and it’s easy to see why Scotland’s north country has a special place in the heart of so many golfers.

Royal Dornoch Championship Course, Dornoch
Par 70, 6,748 yards

The course: How did one of the world’s great courses come to be built in a sleepy village on the same latitude as southern Alaska? Who knows? Who cares? Royal Dornoch is golf’s ultimate hidden gem.

Dornoch’s remote location means it will never host major events, but no golfer who makes the journey doubts its quality. Ask Tom Watson – a vocal Royal Dornoch fan.
The layout is a classic ‘out-and-back’ links. The outward nine is traced along higher ground, while the back nine skirts the shores of the Dornoch Firth.

One of Dornoch’s features is the raised greens, which will only accept a purely-struck approach and emphasise the penal nature of the greenside bunkering.
While the links feels entirely natural, Dornoch is also less idiosyncratic than many of Scotland’s great courses; there are few blind shots or forced carries and the golfer is always presented with options as to how to build a round.

Signature hole: The short 6th from a raised tee to a tiny, well-guarded green.

What makes it special? Everything! A visit to Royal Dornoch feels more like a pilgrimage than a mere round of golf.

Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness
Par 72, 7,009 yards

The course: Opened in 2009 and co-designed by Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse, this highly acclaimed modern links set on the Moray Firth affords striking views of the Kessock bridge and Chanonry lighthouse. It has, despite its infancy, hosted the European Tour’s Scottish Open on a number of occasions, and is well-placed as one of the world’s best new courses.

Signature hole: At 305 yards, the third hole plays straight towards the water’s edge. Throw in a couple of well-place pot bunkers and you have one of the finest short par 4s in the UK.

What makes it special? Alongside spectacular views, the wild looking waste bunkers give clear definition to a wonderful test of golf.

Nairn Championship Links, Nairn
Par 72, 6,774 yards

The course: Nestling on the shores of the Moray Firth lies one of Scotland’s finest links. Home of the 1999 Walker Cup and the 2012 Curtis Cup, the course comprises over 100 bunkers guarding subtle greens and gorse lined fairways which demand accurate ball striking.

Signature hole: The 435-yard 13th has deep trouble lurking both sides of the fairway in the shape of gorse and out of bounds, an accurate approach is played into an elevated green with plenty of subtle undulations.

What makes it special? The waters of the Moray Firth can be seen from every hole making for an enviable setting.

Moray Old, Lossiemouth
Par 71, 6,717 yards

The course: A traditional 9 holes out and 9 holes back course at the end of the Morayshire whisky trail offering wonderful views of the Coversea Skerrie lighthouse. The revetted bunkers, running fairways and fast greens make it exactly what links golf should be. Previously hosted a Walker Cup and numerous professional golf events.

Signature hole: A round over the Moray Old culminates with a classic finishing par-4 demanding an accurate tee-shot to a heavily bumping and rolling fairway and then an approach to a deep and raised plateau green guarded by a gaping bunker.

What makes it special? The course is memorable and so too is the hilltop granite stone clubhouse that overlooks the rugged links and the contrasting beautiful coastline.

Boat of Garten, nr Aviemore
Par 70, 5,876 yards

The course: Set alongside the River Spey in the heart of the Caringorms National Park, the ‘Boat’ is unequivocally one of Scotland’s hidden gems. Braid’s design features 18 completely individual holes set against birch trees, heather and broom.

Signature hole:  ‘Avenue’, the par-4 sixth hole, requires a good drive down a narrow tree-lined fairway, leaving a mid-iron approach to a plateau green guarded by bunkers on both sides.

What makes it special? Aptly named the ‘Gleneagles of the North’ . Great scenery and a fair test of golf.

Carnegie Links, Dornoch
Par 71, 6,833 yards

The course: This relatively modern links is part of the exclusive Carnegie Club complex near Dornoch. Architect Donald Steel was handed a gorgeous pocket of land between Loch Evelix and the Dornoch Firth and created a subtle gem which grows in reputation with every passing year. A well struck shot is almost always rewarded while poor golf is routinely punished.

Signature hole: The 17th is a short par 4 where eagle is a distinct possibility – but a threatening combination of beach, bunkers and a cleverly-contoured green could destroy a good round, too.

What makes it special? A relatively modern links in a spectacular coastal setting, the Carnegie Links is refreshingly subtle and immaculately presented.

Brora Golf Club
Par 70, 6,211 yards

The course: So many modern courses are carefully sculpted to look as ‘natural’ as possible but Brora is the real deal. Sheep patrol the fairways (electric fences keep them off the greens) while the course itself feels as if it has been laid out on gently undulating linksland with barely any earth-moving or landscaping. While short by modern standards, any kind of wind increases the challenge considerably.

Signature hole: The 13th, ‘Snake’, is barely 120 yards long but is a real test of touch thanks to five pot bunkers and a winding burn which gathers anything short.

What makes it special? Communing with nature has never been so much fun.

Ayrshire and the west

Ayrshire and the west

Scotland’s Ayrshire coast is home to a truly incredible number of great links courses – including three Open Championship venues. Turnberry’s redeveloped Ailsa course, Royal Troon and Old Prestwick understandably grab most of the limelight in this part of the country but several less-heralded layouts deserve attention, too. Meanwhile, a trip ever further west to the spectacular links at Machrihanish and Machrie is an unforgettable adventure.

Ailsa Course, Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire
Par 71, 7,448 yards

The course: The Ailsa course has staged four Opens and shaped some of the most remarkable moments in the Championship’s history, including Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson’s epic ‘Duel in the Sun’. Running alongside the glorious Ayrshire coastline, with Arran and Ailsa Craig as a stunning backdrop, it is one of the finest golfing destinations in the world.

Signature hole: The 238-yard par 3 9th, ‘Bruce’s Castle’, is something special. Both tee and green are peninsulas and it’s all carry over a stony ridge and the Irish Sea below.

What makes it special? The Ailsa was already a great links. Recent changes which bring the coast in to play in a thrilling way, have made one of the world’s great courses even greater.

Royal Troon, Troon, Ayrshire
Par 71, 7,208 yards

The course: Troon’s Championship Links is one of the world’s finest golfing tests, having hosted the Open on nine occasions. It skirts along and tussles with the rugged coastline, and displays graceful views of the Isle of Arran and the famous Ailsa Craig. Make your score on the friendly front nine as the returning holes into the prevailing wind are relentless.

Signature hole: Royal Troon’s 8th hole, the ‘Postage Stamp’, is arguably the most famous par 3 in the world. Just 123 yards in length, the narrowness of the green and the severity of the bunkers make it a daunting task.

What makes it special? Royal Troon has both the longest and shortest holes on the Open circuit. The other 16 are just as memorable.

Prestwick (Old), Ayrshire
Par 71, 6,908 yards

The course: This time-honoured links hosted the Open on 24 occasions – including the inaugural Championship back in 1860. Most of the original features remain including cavernous bunkers buttressed by railway sleepers and the menacing Pow Burn which twists across several holes. With stunning sea views and rippling greens, Prestwick is a spectacular setting for a momentous game of golf.

Signature hole: The 3rd is a par 5 dominated by the legendary Cardinal bunker which cuts across the fairway at around 250 yards from the tee.

What makes it special? With its unrivalled history, charismatic course and warm welcome, there are few places like it in the world of golf.

Machrihanish, Campbeltown, Argyll
Par 70, 6,462 yards

The course: With firm, fast and true greens positioned in the most varied of locations, Machrihanish is a joy to behold. Blind tee shots, fabulous sea views, undulating fairways and rugged dunes all add up to a magical experience.

Signature hole: Standing on the raised 1st tee, a golfer’s opening shot must carry a corner of the Atlantic Ocean to reach a fairway which dog legs to the left. An exhilarating start to the round.

What makes it special? Arguably, the most natural, romantic and enjoyable place to play golf.

Western Gailes, Irvine, Ayrshire
Par 71, 7,014 yards

The course: This glorious links, superbly located between the railway and the sea, is up there with the best. Large dunes, cunning burns, fast greens and terrific views of the Isle of Arran combine to make it a beautiful challenge. An Open Qualifying venue.

Signature hole: The 7th, a medium-length par three played from a beach-side tee to a green enclosed by sand dunes and protected by six devilish pot bunkers.

What makes it special: While the links run hard and fast, the clubhouse should be played slowly as it is a classic, with a great locker room and a memorable club museum up the stairs.

Kilmarnock Barassie, Troon, Ayrshire
Par 72, 6,852 yards

The course: At least three different tracks can be played from the 27 holes available. By far the most challenging is the Barassie Links, which is used when the club hosts competitive events. This classic links has everything – great conditioning, humps, hollows, undulations, blind shots, penal rough and lightning-fast greens. An Open Qualifying venue that is definitely worth a visit.

Signature hole: The 18th is a short par 4 which may seem innocuous from the tee, but clever fairway cross-bunkering means it can be a card-wrecker.

What makes it special? Great condition, great golfing challenge, great people.

King Robert the Bruce Course, Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire
Par 70, 6,921 yards

The course: Opened in July 2017 on the site of the former Kintyre course, Martin Ebert’s design makes full use of a spectacular coastal setting to create a track which perfectly compliments the Ailsa course. Wide fairways and expansive greens can lull you into a false sense of security here. Playing to the well-protected green systems from the wrong position can be deadly while the undulating, ultra-slick putting surfaces demand respect.

Signature hole: The 9th is a spectacular par 4, featuring an approach shot over a valley to a green which seems like it is suspended in mid air above the ocean.

What makes it special? The King Robert the Bruce gives keen golfers a compelling reason to stay an extra day at Turnberry.

Dundonald Links, Irvine, Ayrshire
Par 72, 7,100 yards

The course: An exciting addition to one of links golf’s classiest neighbourhoods when it opened in 2004, Dundonald Links has matured into a championship-quality test. Squeezed into a compact pocket of land between Western Gailes, Barassie and Gailes Links, and designed by Kyle Phillips of Kingsbarns fame, this modern links stands comparison with its illustrious neighbours.

Signature hole: A decent tee shot at the par five 18th will bring the green into range but the narrow burn which wraps itself round much of the green has broken many a heart and wrecked many a scorecard.

What makes it special? Pristine fairways and hard, fast greens make for a challenging links test.

Gailes Links, Irvine, Ayrshire
Par 71, 6,903 yards

The course: Gailes Links does not have the seaside views of neighbouring Western Gailes. What it does have is velvety greens, tight fairways and acres of gorse and heather. One of the features of Gailes is its fairness; there are fewer random bounces than is usual on a links course and a good shot is almost always rewarded while the greens are wonderfully true.

Signature hole: The 12th is a par 3 to a plateau green which is flanked by an ocean of gorse. It’s a particular test of nerve when played in a cross-wind.

What makes it special? An Open qualifying venue and home of the Tennant Cup -the oldest amateur strokeplay event in the world – this classic links is graced with tight fairways, well-placed bunkers and an abundance of gorse and heather.

Machrihanish Dunes, Campbeltown, Argyll
Par 72, 7,082 yards

The course: Located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, this rugged links mirrors architect David McLay-Kidd’s love of the land, evident from the routing, as well the positioning of its tees and greens. Set on a Site of Special Scientific Interest, restrictions on the use of irrigation, fertilisers and drainage mean that you have to take your luck with fairway lies. What’s more, the rough is relentless. It’s like playing golf in the 19th century.

Signature hole: The 165 yard par-3 fifth hole has more than a hint of the signature hole at Royal Portrush about it.

What makes it special? Of the 259 acres on which the course sits, only seven were disturbed during course construction. As such, the fairways are just as they were found, making this an earthly experience.

Machrie, Isle of Islay
Par 72, 6,782 yards

The course: Set in the dunes of Islay, Queen of the Hebrides, Machrie Links is one of the most beautiful locations in world golf. Recently upgraded to 18 holes, the amazing positioning of the greens has virtually negated the need for bunkers. Playing it is a bewitching and exalting experience.

Signature hole: The par-5 2nd doglegs sharply to follow the path of a fast flowing burn that later forms one flank of a tight entrance to the green.

What makes it special? There are many reasons to relish the prospect of playing at Machrie Links, not least of which is the stunning surrounding scenery. When allied to the quality of the course, the natural hazards of the links game, a number of blind holes and the sense of history that effuses from the venue, any day spent here will be a memorable one.

Askernish, Isle of South Uist
Par 72, 6,259 yards

The course: This extraordinary, and on-going, project has seen an Old Tom Morris links that had been abandoned brought back to life. They are doing a good job as the course has been acclaimed as the most natural golf course in the world. For anyone with a love of links golf and its history, this is a must play.

Signature hole: The 410-yard par-4 7th is named Cabinet Minister after the fictionalised ship featured in ‘Whisky Galore’ that sunk in the bay between South Uist and Eriskay during the war. The hole has two drops in elevation towards a valley between the dunes.

What makes it special? In effect you are playing on a living museum, following in the footsteps of Old Tom Morris and playing golf as it used to be.

Southerness, Dumfries & Galloway
Par 69, 6,728 yards

The course: Tucked away in a quiet corner of Scotland’s south coast, the stately links at Southerness is a beguiling mix of tight fairways and well-protected greens. Designed by MacKenzie Ross, more famous for his work on the Ailsa course at Turnberry, the challenge at Southerness seems gentle until a wayward tee shot finds a tiny fairway pot bunker, or a slightly errant approach leaves a devilish difficult chip to negotiate. Southerness is a subtle test – but not one to be underestimated.

Signature hole: The 12th is a dog leg par four to a green perched on sand dunes above the Solway Firth.

What makes it special? Thoughtfully-designed Southerness proves that a links course does not need outrageous slopes or towering dunes to provide a captivating test.

West Kilbride, Ayrshire
Par 71, 6,523 yards

The course: The links at West Kilbride comes to life on the back nine with a thrilling succession of outstanding shoreline holes. Players get their first experience of the coast at the par 4 10th, where a hooked drive will find the beach. The routing returns to the coast at the 13th and a memorable stretch continues to the 16th with the beach to the right a constant menace.

Signature hole: Players must flirt with the beach on their approach to the long par 4 15th – a thrilling shot.

What makes it special? A chance to play along the shore, accompanied by stunning views of the Isle of Arran.

The North East

The North East

Scotland’s North East region, centred round bustling Aberdeen, is often overlooked by visiting golfers. Big mistake!

The area is home to some truly stunning links including Royal Aberdeen, Trump International Golf Links and unique, brilliant Cruden Bay – one of Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the world.

Cruden Bay
Par 70, 6,609 yards

The course: Cruden Bay is great fun on a grand scale; towering sand hills, cavernous bunkers and dramatic plateau greens abound. Shooting a good score relies on getting the right feel for the bumps, hollows and blind shots which must be negotiated, while the raised putting surfaces put a particular emphasis on the short game. The huge dunes come into play often; tees are perched on the top of some, greens are hidden behind others. No golfer ever forgets playing Cruden Bay – it’s an 18 hole rollercoaster.

Signature hole: The 6th is a stunning par 5. A good drive leaves the enticing prospect of a long approach over sandy wastes and a burn to a raised green.

What makes it special? A yardage book is no help to you here – trust your game and use your instinct to make a good score.

Trump International Golf Links, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire
Par 72, 7,428 yards

The course: This modern championship track,designed by Dr. Martin Hawtree, follows a classic pattern of two out-and-back nine hole loops. All 18 holes thread their way through mighty dunes. Add drives from elevated tees, heavily contoured greens with a profusion of run-offs, rivetted bunkers and lush green fairways lined with heavy fescues – the course is aesthetically stunning. Select your tees carefully in line with your game and the weather as the wrong choice would do nothing for your soul!

Signature hole: The 445-yard par-4 fourteenth is breathtaking. The elevated tee offers a mesmeric vista of the hole as it cuts through the Great Dunes of Scotland with the North Sea and the dramatic coastline to the right and a fairway below plunging into a secluded valley.

What makes it special? Donald Trump, owner and 45th President of the United States, named it the world’s greatest golf course. Would the President lie to you? Play it and decide for yourself!

Royal Aberdeen
Par 71, 6,885 yards

The course: For many years one of Scotland’s under-appreciated gems, Royal Aberdeen’s profile has risen in recent years thanks to successfully hosting events such as the 2005 Seniors British Open (won by Tom Watson), the 2011 Walker Cup and the 2014 Scottish Open (won by Justin Rose). The opening nine holes, stretching away from the clubhouse into a vast network of sand dunes, are unforgettable. The back nine is less spectacular but just as challenging thanks to penal bunker complexes.

Signature hole: The short 8th plays to a green wedged between sand dunes and protected by no fewer than 10 bunkers.

What makes it special? Royal Aberdeen’s stunning outward nine is as good a sequence of links holes as any to be found on the British Isles.

Murcar Links, Aberdeen
Par 71, 6,516 yards

The course: As with neighbouring Royal Aberdeen, the links at Murcar has recently enjoyed a return to prominence, thanks to hosting events on the men’s European Tour. The layout is notable for incorporating several changes of direction which presents particular problems when the wind blows – as it often does in this part of Scotland. The front nine includes a memorable stretch of holes through beach-side dunes, while the back nine includes several sharp changes in elevation, adding to the difficulty.

Signature hole: The 16th is a medium length par 3 to a raised green which is usually played into the prevailing wind. A snaking burn, acres of gorse and deep pot bunkers cause the danger.

What makes it special? An elegant links through undulating dunes, Murcar boasts a multitude of risk/reward shots.

 

St Andrews and Fife

St Andrews and Fife

Golf in the Kingdom of Fife is the game’s ultimate pilgrimage. The Old Course at St Andrews is, of course, the star attraction but the sheer scale and variety of the options for visiting golfers is remarkable. St Andrews itself boasts no fewer than seven championship-standard links while many, many more fantastic challenges are just a short drive from the ‘Auld Grey Toon’.

Old Course, St Andrews
Par 72, 6,721 yards

The Course: Strip away the heritage and history and the Old Course can seem a fairly straightforward challenge. In serene weather a low score is possible but the ancient links bares its teeth when the wind blows. Yardages are rendered meaningless, putting on the enormous shared greens becomes all about feel and the most innocuous-looking bunkers become ball-magnets.
Highlights include the course’s only two par threes, the 8th and 11th, while the long 14th is a strategic masterpiece. The golden rule is to stay out the sand – Tiger Woods didn’t find a single bunker in four rounds of the 2000 Open Championship and won by eight shots.
Signature hole: The 17th – The Road Hole. With railway sheds, out-of-bounds, a road, a stone wall, the devilish Road Bunker and a subtle, narrow green to negotiate, par is a triumph here.
What makes it special? As you walk up the 18th fairway, pause for a moment at the Swilcan Bridge and survey the scene, just as every great golfer who ever played the game has done.

Balcomie Links, Crail Golfing Society
Par 69, 5,861 yards

The Course: Don’t be fooled by the lack of yards – this terrific little course, perched on a small pocket of land jutting out into the North Sea, is no pushover.
The lack of length can be explained in part by the number of par three holes. Balcomie has six of them and they’re all tricky, particularly if any kind of breeze is blowing.
In the right conditions, big hitters who flirt with the shoreline can drive the short par four 4th, and another carry over the beach is required at the long, tough 5th.
The 13th and 14th are back to back par threes which are terrifying and enchanting in turn, while the closing loop of four holes offer a chance to finish with a flourish.
Signature hole: At the par three 14th, you’ll tee off from high ground to a small, tiered green surrounded by bunkers and beach.
What makes it special? A round at Balcomie Links is simply tremendous fun. It’s always in wonderful condition, the views along the Fife coast are superb and the variety of holes means there is never a dull moment.

Scotscraig Golf Club, Tayport
Par 71, 6,669 yards

The Course: An intriguing mix of links and heathland, Scotscraig has been a regular final qualifying venue when the Open Championship is held at nearby St Andrews.
After a gentle start, the rugged 4th is the first of several testing par fours in the front nine. After the turn, the challenge becomes tougher still with narrow fairways and well-protected greens. The raised green at the short 13th requires careful distance control while the par five 14th is an eagle opportunity – or a potential card-wrecker.
The round is completed with two short but tight par fours, which again place a premium on accuracy off the tee.
Signature hole: At 366 yards, the 4th should be straightforward but the raised green falls away sharply on all sides and will only accept a well-struck pitch. Get it wrong off the tee and all sorts of trouble awaits.
What makes it special? Scotscraig’s combination or links and heathland is unusual – but somehow it just seems to work.

The Golf House Club, Elie
Par 70, 6,273 yards
The Course: The quirky links at Elie is terrific fun in calm conditions – and an altogether more serious proposition when the wind blows.
The front nine includes several short par fours which are in range of a well-struck tee shot but fierce bunkering, sharp undulations and subtle greens offer stern defence.
The par four 9th can be brutal but is followed by a charming sequence of seaside holes, including the terrific dog-leg 12th, where the golfer must decide how much beach to carry for the best approach to a well-guarded green.
The course finishes with another short par four which, fittingly, is another test of feel and wits rather than strength and length.
Signature hole: The beautiful 11th, squeezed between the shore and rocky outcrops, is the shortest hole on the course but devilishly hard in any kind of wind.
What makes it special? Elie is a real shotmaker’s course. Imagination and touch, rather than length off the tee, are required to build a good score.

Lundin Golf Club, Lundin Links
Par 71, 6,371 yards

The Course: After a stunning opening shoreside stretch, the course heads inland and incorporates some parkland-style holes before finishing back among the dunes.
The first tee, perched atop a sand dune by the beach, invites one of the most appealing opening shots in Scottish golf and a terrific run of beachside holes culminates in the spectacular 4th.
Moving away from the coast brings several changes of elevation and water comes into play, too, noticeably at the short par four 7th, where a menacing burn guards the green.
The course reaches its highest point at the par five 11th where, unusually for a seaside course, woodlands need to be negotiated.
The 18th, with its long, narrow green wedged between the dunes, is an appropriately tough finish to this demanding course.
Signature hole: The 4th. A hooked shot will end up on the beach. The approach, usually a long iron, must carry a burn and avoid fierce bunkering.
What makes it special? Lundin Links is tough all the way through but what sets it apart is the variety of the challenge.

Ladybank Golf Club, Ladybank
Par 71, 6,754 yards

The Course: A testing heathland layout which winds its way through forests of pine and silver birch. Ladybank is arguably the best inland course in Fife and has hosted final qualifying for the Open Championship and European Tour events.
The layout puts a premium on accuracy. A tee shot just a few yards off line can be blocked out by the trees, while deep bunkers and relatively small greens add to the menace.
The par five 7th, snaking through the woodlands, is a real test of strategy, as is the dog-leg 9th.
Another dog leg awaits at the par four 16th, where only a perfectly-positioned tee-shot allows the golfer to attack the pin.
Signature hole: The 9th, a par four which sweeps gently from right to left, presents all sorts of options from the tee. A big drive over the trees on the left leaves a short pitch. A more conservative shot leaves a long approach through a funnel of woods.
What makes it special? In a land of windswept links, Ladybank is an entirely different but equally beguiling challenge.

The Dukes Course, St Andrews
Par 71, 7,512 yards

The Course: Opened for play in 1995 and remodelled extensively 11 years later, the Dukes is a challenging heathland layout which commands stunning views across St Andrews and beyond.
The Dukes puts an emphasis on long and straight tee shots – it is one of the longest courses in Scotland from the tips – and there are several excellent driving holes, such as the 7th, 13th and 14th.
The layout finishes with back-to-back par fours which are among the most testing on the course and are capable of destroying a perfectly good score.
Signature hole: The short 3rd is a picturesque but dangerous par three, carved out of mature woodland and with a green surrounded by cavernous bunkers.
What makes it special? Despite its relative youth, the Dukes is a testing layout which feels as if it’s been part of the St Andrews landscape for generations.

Kittocks Course, Fairmont St Andrews
Par 72, 7,191 yards

The course: The Kittocks is part of the Fairmont golf complex at St Andrews Bay, just outside the town, and makes the most of its seaside location with several cliff-top holes.
After a sedate opening, the course springs into life on the tee of the 7th, a majestic par four which sweeps downhill to a green perched on clifftops above the North Sea. Players must negotiate the shore at the 10th, a dog-leg par four which can be in range from the tee for the very bravest, before facing a monstrously tough closing stretch.
The shore comes in to play again on the 16th and 17th before the golfer turns inland to face the 18th, an uphill par four to a green in a natural amphitheatre underneath the clubhouse.
Signature hole: The 17th runs along with cliffs to the right until, just short of the green, the coast takes a big bite out into the fairway requiring an all-or-nothing approach to a small putting surface.
What makes it special? The string of clifftop holes near the finish.

Torrance Course, Fairmont St Andrews
Par 72, 7,230 yards
The course: Like its sister Fairmont property, the Kittocks, the Torrance Course at St Andrews Bay is set on a spectacular cliff top location but it plays more like a true links than its neighbour.
Receptive aprons which allow for low-running approach shots and steep-sided pot bunkers are a common characteristic.
The par five 3rd, which requires a long drive and an approach over water, is the standout hole on the front nine while the back nine is noticeably longer and features several tough par fours. Notable among them is the 10th, which is threaded through rolling hillocks to a shallow green, and the 16th, which spills down towards the clifftops.
Signature hole: The 11th is the shortest hole on the course, backed by a stunning view overlooking St Andrews.
What makes it special? The designers have resisted the urge to fit in one or two eye-catching holes along the cliff-tops and instead focused on creating a challenging layout that will stand the test of time.

Kingsbarns Golf Course, Kingsbarns
Par 72, 7,224 yards
The course: A stunning modern imagining of what a links course should be, in an unforgettable setting, Kingsbarns has established itself as one of Scotland’s top courses since opening in 1999.
The course is typified by clever bunkering and sharp changes in elevation, nowhere more apparent than the short par four 6th. The green is in range from the tee but the drive must carry a steep plateau and avoid a sequence of deep pot bunkers.
There is a similar risk/reward theme at the 12th, a par five which curls round the sea shore. A long second shot to the green must carry beach and sea to reach its target.
The dramatic 18th, which requires a pitch over a fast running burn to a well-bunkered green, is a tough finish.
Signature hole: The par three 15th, set on an outcrop with the sea on three sides, is an unforgettable one-shotter.
What makes it special? Quite simply hole after hole of stunning links golf.

Eden Course, St Andrews
Par 70, 6,250 yards
The course: The unpretentious Eden course lies in the shadow of three more illustrious neighbours but there is plenty enjoyment to be had from a round here.
The front nine heads down towards the banks of the Eden Estuary and features a pair of charming short holes at the 5th and 8th. The five 9th, with its narrow fairway and strategically-placed pot bunkers, is an exciting short par five.
The back nine is also short but tricky. Unusually for a links course, the main defence of the greens at both the 14th and 15th is a pond, while the long 16th and the sweeping dog leg 17th would not be out of place on one of the neighbouring championship links.
Signature hole: At the par three 15th a pond will claim any underhit tee shots while four devilish wee pot bunkers will swallow up anything wide.
What makes it special? Chasing in a quick round at the Eden is one of the unexpected joys of a visit to St Andrews.

Castle Course, St Andrews
Par 71, 6,759 yards
The course: The Castle Course, which sits on high ground to the south of the town, is the newest addition to the St Andrews Links group of courses – and easily the toughest.
The hallmarks of the Castle layout are generous fairways, penal bunkers and heavily undulating greens which can shred nerves even when the wind is not blowing.
Golfers get an early taste of what to expect at the 3rd, a par three with a billowing green. The wind will dictate which of the back-to-back par fives at the 4th and 5th presents an eagle opportunity, while the cliff-top run of holes from 7 to 9 is unforgettable.
Players return to the shoreline at the spectacular 17th while the closing hole, a dog-leg par 5, is a suitably dramatic finish.
Signature hole: The 17th, requiring a carry over a yawning seaside chasm, will live long in the memory.
What makes it special? The sheer drama of the challenge. The Castle Course is a golfing rollercoaster.

Jubilee Course, St Andrews
Par 72, 6,742 yards
The Course: Spare a thought for the Jubilee Course. In any other Scottish town it would be cherished as a rare gem. In St Andrews it’s hardly given a second look.
This is unfortunate because the Jubilee is a classic links, and a real ball-striker’s course, with a strong emphasis on accuracy from tee and fairway.
The outward nine has some fine holes, not least the short par 4 8th, but the course comes into its on the homeward side. The 12th is a sporty par five which rewards bravery from the tee, the 15th and 16th are par fours shoe-horned through sand dunes and the green at the 18th is perhaps the best-guarded on the entire course.
Signature hole: The 15th is a short par four which can almost be driven in the right conditions. But the small green, perched on the side of a sand dune, is a very hard target to hit.
What makes it special? The Jubilee’s subtle qualities become more apparent as the round evolves. The more you play it, the more you like it.

The New Course, St Andrews
Par 71, 6,625 yards

The Course: ‘New’ is a relative term at St Andrews. This course was laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1895.
The New Course, a traditional ‘nine out, nine back’ format, is a hard-running links with relatively small greens and plentiful amounts of gorse to snare an imperfect shot. The benefits of keep the ball low to the ground, particularly when the wind is up, become quickly apparent.
The first big test is comes at the 6th, a long, bunkerless par four with an undulating fairway which must be found. The 9th is a long par three to a partially-hidden green flanked for its length by the Eden Estuary.
The 11th and 14th are short but testing par fours, the 17th is a par three which can require a driver or three wood in windy conditions, while the 18th, playing back towards the recently-added Links Clubhouse, is a strong finishing hole.

Signature hole: The 9th is the kind of par three which will can only be found on a links course.

What makes it special? The New Course is the archetypal ‘out and back’ links course. It’s a fairer – and some locals would perhaps even say better – test than its famous neighbour.

Edinburgh and the Lothians

Edinburgh and the Lothians

The majestic links at Muirfield, home to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, is the centrepiece to a string of unforgettable courses on the Firth of Forth. The West Links at North Berwick has for centuries been an inspiration to course architects around the world while a growing number of modern links have further added to the area’s appeal.

Muirfield, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Gullane, East Lothian
Par 71, 7,245 yards

The course: Host to 16 Open Championships and 11 Amateur Championships, this classic links rightly holds its place in the list of the world’s best golf courses. Renowned as the fairest golf course on the Open Championship rota, there are few better examples of a course where you must think smartly to score well. The course is laid out in two separate loops, the front none running clockwise on the outer and the back nine going in the opposite direction on the inner.

Signature hole: Considered to be the 1st, a 444-yard par 4 that Jack Nicklaus maintains is the toughest opening hole in golf.

What makes it special? The course changes direction constantly, so you’ll need imagination, a shrewd golfing brain and a comprehensive shot repertoire.

North Berwick West Links, North Berwick, East Lothian
Par 71, 6,506 yards

The course: Undoubtedly, one of Scotland’s finest, the West Links has antiquated charm with walls, burns, challenging bunkers and commanding views out to sea and of the Forth estuary. The golf course is one of the most copied in the world, having had several course designers attempt to recreate its difficult holes.

Signature hole: It’s a close call between the wonderful Redan, par-3, 15th hole and the weirdly wonderful Gate, the short par-4 16th protected by a green that is narrow, raised and dissected by a gully.

What makes it special? The 18th green is unwittingly situated in the middle almost of the quaint seaside town of North Berwick.

Dunbar Championship Links, Dunbar, East Lothian
Par 71, 6,597 yards

The Course: Perfected over 150 years by three giants of the game, Old Tom Morris, James Braid and Ben Sayers, this Open Qualifying venue hugs the coastline along a narrow strip of land within yards of the waves crashing onto the rocky shore. Blessed with a reputation for abundant sunshine, the course lives long in the memory of all who play it.

Signature hole: Hole 14, Mill Stone Den, is a risk and reward par four that offers a stunning view down to the old boathouse with the Bass Rock looming on the horizon.

What makes it special? Stunning scenery and a welcoming clubhouse complete the memorable experience.

Archerfield Fidra, Dirleton, East Lothian
Par 72, 6,948 yards

The course: Golf had been played on the Archerfield Estate since the early 18th century until the Ministry of Defence took over the grounds during World War II. The Fidra Course opened for play in 2004 and combines a tree-lined front nine with a classic, open links challenge on the return and features eye-catching revetted bunkers and sloping greens to test the best of putters.

Signature hole: The course opens up from the trees with the signature 12th hole, a par-4 that challenges with a tight drive and a short approach to an up-turned saucer green.

What makes it special? From the long entrance drive, to the state of the art practice facilities and the luxurious clubhouse, the whole experience is first class.

Gullane No.1, Gullane Golf Club, East Lothian
Par 71, 6,466 yards

The course: Gullane Golf Club is one of the most prestigious member clubs, mixing the finest tradition with some of the world’s most admired natural links land. It boasts 3 excellent golf courses, with a combination course hosting the Scottish Open, a leading European Tour event. Whilst the opening hole is simple enough, the second hole up Gullane Hill is brutally tough. The course then opens up, constantly exposing the golfer to cross winds as the course meanders its way to and from the coastline.

Signature hole: The par-5 3rd hole and its airstrip fairway from tee to green is recognised in the world’s top-500 golf holes, but the 7th hole enjoys 360 degree panoramic views.

What makes it special? The turf is simply pristine to play off, no matter the time of year.

Luffness New, Gullane, East Lothian
Par 70, 6,502 yards

The course: Don’t be fooled by the name – the course is a classic links created in 1894 by Tom Morris with holes on each side of a coastal road. An Open Qualifying venue with thick rough and distinctive bunkers to punish errant shots, it plays into the hands of the straight hitters. It becomes even tighter when the wind blows, which it frequently does.

Signature hole: The 196-yard par-3, third hole played on to the best green complex on the course.

What makes it special? The greens are billiard-table smooth and fuse nicely into the flat fairways like crème blends with coffee.

Craigielaw, Aberlady,East Lothian
Par 71, 6,601 yards

The course: Opened in 2001, Craigielaw is a modern championship links enjoying panoramic views over the Forth estuary. The firm, fast and treacherously undulating greens ensure that distance control and a deft putting touch are required to score well around this challenging Open qualifying venue.

Signature hole: ‘Kilspindie’, the par-3 6th hole, 174 yards in length that plays alongside a stone wall to a green well-protected by cavernous bunkers.

What makes it special? The clubhouse plays a large part in the social fabric of the village and it is often filled with local folk telling their tales to visiting golfers. It’s hard to tell gospel from fable but it is entertaining all the same.

Longniddry, East Lothian
Par 68, 6260 yards

The course: A unique combination of woodland and links gives Longniddry its distinctiveness on Scotland’s golfing coast. It is this diversity, alongside nicely raised greens complemented with exquisite bunkering, which make this former Open qualifying venue a pleasure to play. The course is particularly challenging when played into the prevailing westerly wind.

Signature hole: ‘Cadell’s Nuke’ is the 314 yard par-4 fifth. Whilst it is reachable off the tee for the long-hitters, line of entry into a two-tiered, elevated green is the key to playing the hole well.

What makes it special? Four of the very best golf architects – Harry Colt, James Braid, Philip Mackenzie Ross and Donald Steel – have left their mark on Longniddry. It’s hardly surprising therefore, that the course is easy on the eye.

Royal Musselburgh, Prestongrange, East Lothian
Par 70, 6,270 yards

The course: A delightful, historical parkland course, renowned for its welcoming appeal to golfers of all abilities. The undulating front nine is balanced off with a much flatter inward half, but the entire course benefits from well-designed green complexes with exceptional mounding and bunkering throughout. Blessed with a trio of beautiful par- threes, this course deserves ‘little gem’ status.

Signature hole: The aptly named ‘Gap’ 362-yard par-4 twelfth requires a well-placed tee-shot to allow appropriate entry into a tightly guarded green.

What makes it special? Being the sixth oldest golf club in the world there is a huge amount of history to be told within the grand, castle-like clubhouse.

Musselburgh Links, Musselburgh, East Lothian
Par-34, 2,968 yards (9-holes)

The course: The oldest golf course in the world with records emanating as far back as 1567, Musselburgh Links hosted the Open Championship on 6 occasions between 1874 and 1889. Any true golfing aficionado should add this to their Scottish golf playlist. The current nine-hole course remains very much as the original layout, but is now contained within a horse racing track.

Signature hole: The 431 yard par-4 fourth is the most challenging hole on the course thanks to a semi-blind tee shot and a traditional putting area offering few straight putts. This was the most popular resting point on the course and drinks used to be served to golfers through the Mrs Forman’s pub window adjacent to the green.

What makes it special? Besides its authenticated history and significance in golf, the nine-holes are a privilege to play – especially if you take up the challenge of taking them on with hickory clubs and a gutta percha ball.

Carnoustie and Central Scotland

Carnoustie and Central Scotland

Championship Course, Carnoustie
Par 71, 6,948 yards

The Course: Some courses may have more visual appeal or grander heritage but few layouts in the world can match Carnoustie as a true examination of a golfer’s ability.

The test is tough but fair. It is no coincidence that the roll of Open Champions at Carnoustie features some of the greatest ball-strikers of all time, including Hogan, Watson and Player.

The diversity of challenge is impressive. The monstrously tough 2nd is followed by the charming 3rd. The par-five 6th is a masterpiece of strategic design while the 9th and 10th call on accurate shotmaking.

Carnoustie saves the best – and toughest – for last. The closing three-hole stretch features water, out of bounds and punishing bunkers.

Signature hole: The par 3 13th, with its hourglass green, demands finesse and accuracy.

What makes it special? Taking on Carnoustie is like sitting a final exam. It will test every area of a golfer’s game.

PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles, Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
Par 72, 7,296 yards

The course: Host of the 2014 Ryder Cup and 2019 Solheim Cup, this Jack Nicklaus signature design is a tough test which combines the heathland characteristics for which Gleneagles is famed with American-style water hazards and bunkering.

Signature hole: The 16th is a classic risk/reward par 5. A decent drive leaves an interesting choice; lay up, or take on the deep ravine in front of the green.

What makes it special? Easily the toughest of Gleneagles’ three great courses, the PGA Centenary is a stern examination of every area of a golfer’s game.

King’s Course, Gleneagles, Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
Par 71, 6,790 yards

The course: The King’s was one of the world’s first ‘resort’ courses and nearly 100 years on it remains one of the best. James Braid’s layout rolls through spectacular Highland scenery and the quality of the golfing challenge is suitably majestic.

Signature hole: A good drive can reach the putting surface at the short par 4 14th, but must avoid a succession of devilishly-placed pot bunkers.

What makes it special? The scenic beauty? The immaculate condition? A seemingly endless collection of risk/reward holes? All of these things.

Queen’s Course, Gleneagles, Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
Par 68, 5,965 yards

The courses: The PGA Centenary is tough and the King’s is majestic but the sheer charm of Gleneagles’ shorter, tighter third course makes it a firm favourite for many visitors. Don’t be fooled by the lack of length – the narrow fairways and tightly-guarded green complexes can humble even the greatest player.

Signature hole: The fairway at the par 4 12th is split in two by a massive drop in elevation. Either lay up and play a mid-iron approach to the green far below, or hit drive and aim for the narrow strip of fairway at the bottom of the drop. It’s a hole you just want to play again and again.

What makes it special? The Queen’s Course is smaller in scale than its illustrious neighbours, but is perhaps the most enjoyable round to be had at Gleneagles.

Blairgowrie Rosemount, Blairgowrie, Perthshire
Par 70,6,630 yards

The course: A classy inland course with crisp turf and fairways pitching and rolling through avenues of trees. Formed from the minds of great architects Dr Alistair McKenzie and James Braid, it’s where Greg Norman, the Great White Shark, won his first European Tour professional event.

Signature hole: The par-3 seventeeth is noteworthy with its tiered green, but the opening hole’s gentle par-4 dogleg through the trees is a tantalising start to a most enjoyable round of golf.

What makes it special? A perfect course to retreat to after enduring the seaside buffeting of links golf.

Blairgowrie Lansdowne, Blairgowrie, Perthshire
Par 72, 7,007 yards

The course: Routed through swathes of pine and birch trees, virtually every hole is played in isolation. Accuracy from the tee is premium. It’s a wonderfully comforting, peaceful setting to play the beautiful game.

Signature hole: The par-5 opening hole played through an avenue of trees, offers a nice taste for more to come.

What makes it special? Playing Blairgowrie’s Lansdowne and Rosemount courses in the same day are nature’s contribution to golfing heaven.

The Carrick, Loch Lomond
Par 71, 7,082 yards

The course: One of Scotland’s newest championship standard golf courses. Challenging holes stretch over undulating fairways, hug inland lagoons and overlook the glittering waters of the Loch and rugged mountains beyond.

Signature hole: The par-4 fourth is wonderfully challenging. A water inlet runs the length of one side and pines forest the other – it’s a hole that could easily ruin your scorecard.

What makes it special? The fault line between Scotland’s highlands and lowlands runs through the middle of the course. If this isn’t enough, the views are breath taking.