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.