The top golf courses in Scotland are a delight for lovers of links golf

The par 4 2nd at Carnoustie. Credit: Getty Images

The par 4 2nd at Carnoustie. Credit: Getty Images

Carnoustie
As well as being one of the top golf courses in Scotland, some view this track as the toughest test of golf in Scotland, with ditches weaving through and alongside holes, and out of bounds ready to capture wayward drives on many holes. A round over this undulating and supremely firm linksland studded with bunkers demands length, accuracy and a delicate touch to score well.

In the 1999 Open this course was dubbed Carnasty. The winning score was 6 over; of the 444 rounds played in that championship 102 were in the 80s and two in the 90s. The average round score was 78.31.

The 550-yard 2nd hole at Castle Stuart. Credit: Getty Images

The 550-yard 2nd hole at Castle Stuart. Credit: Getty Images

Castle Stuart
The design is forgiving off the tee. But it requires strategy to plot a low-scoring route round this links, as you need to approach the sloping greens from the correct angle to end up near the pins.

The course covers a glorious stretch of coastline with some of the most striking holes running along the water’s edge.

It took a lot of effort to make this land at Kingsbarns look this natural. Credit: Getty Images

It took a lot of effort to make this land at Kingsbarns look this natural. Credit: Getty Images

Kingsbarns
Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to look natural. Such is the case at Kingsbarns, for much earth was moved to create this natural-looking linksland.

The course is the creation not only of many bulldozers but American architect Kyle Phillips, who studied traditional Scottish links to ensure his layout looked and felt like an ancient piece of linksland.

Golf was first played here in 1793, but the nine-hole course which existed at the start of the Second World War was closed during the war and never reopened.

The North Sea is visible from every hole and the par-3 15th has a tee shot over sea and rocks.

The 12th hole in the foreground with the par-3, 4th hole and par-4, 3rd hole behind at Muirfield. Credit: Getty Images.

The 12th hole in the foreground with the par-3, 4th hole and par-4, 3rd hole behind at Muirfield. Credit: Getty Images.

Muirfield
Muirfield may lack the drama or views of some links courses, but it is considered by many the fairest test of golf on The Open rota.

Jack Nicklaus and Sir Nick Faldo both won their first Opens here. Nicklaus was so enamoured by the course that he has described as “the best in Britain” that he named one of his courses Muirfield Village. Faldo named his house in Kier Park in Ascot, Muirfield.

 A view back down the 17th hole to the Marine Hotel and the 16th green at North Berwick Golf Club. top golf courses in Scotland

A view back down the 17th hole to the Marine Hotel and the 16th green at North Berwick Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images

North Berwick
This links on the edge of the edge of the Firth of Forth some quirky designs.

The 15th green was laid out in 1869, and this redan green has been copied throughout the world by various celebrated architects.

A less copied feature of the course is the wall in front of the green on the par-4 13th.

The par-5, 12th hole at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images.

The par-5, 12th hole at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images.

Royal Aberdeen
The opening hole at Royal Aberdeen runs down from just outside the clubhouse windows to the sea, and then the rest of the front nine weaves through dunes along the North Sea to the turn.

This out-and-back links layout then heads back along higher flatter ground, with the run of long par 4s from the 13th to the 16th particularly demanding. The 18th, played into wind, is often unreachable in regulation on windy days for even single-handicap golfers. 

The par-3, 10th hole at Royal Dornoch Golf Club Credit: Getty Images.

The par-3, 10th hole at Royal Dornoch Golf Club Credit: Getty Images.

Royal Dornoch
This very natural out-and-back links which plays away from the town, skirting gorse-covered sand hills as it climbs to the top of the dunes and then falls back down to the coast and then heads back to the town into the prevailing winds.

On the way round you encounter wonderful views, a strong set of par 3s and are made to play some challenging approach shots as many of the greens are sited on natural plateaux resulting in many raised domed greens.

This unstuffy club is very welcoming to visitors.

The Postage Stamp 8th hole at Royal Troon Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images

The Postage Stamp 8th hole at Royal Troon Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images

Royal Troon
Within the space of three holes on the Old Course at Royal Troon are both the longest and shortest holes on The Open rota. The 6th, named Turnberry, is 601 yards off the championship tees, but only 544 from the whites.

The 8th, The Postage Stamp, is 123 yards, and played from an elevated tee across a gully to a bunker-clad, narrow green. In the 1973 Open Gene Sarazen, aged 71, made a hole in one on this. He had played in the first Open held at Royal Troon, in 1923, and the only Open here to be won by a Brit.

The green on the par 4, 15th hole 'Cartgate (In)' which shares it's green with the 3rd hole (left) on the Old Course at St Andrews Credit: Getty Images

The green on the par 4, 15th hole ‘Cartgate (In)’ which shares it’s green with the 3rd hole (left) on the Old Course at St Andrews. Credit: Getty Images

St Andrews
The Old Course is probably the most predictable entry in any list of top golf courses in Scotland. This course has given golf so much of its history and character, not least the fact that a round is of 18 holes. Originally courses were of varying number of holes — indeed St Andrews used to be 22 — but some holes were deemed too short and so were amalgamated, leaving the course with 18 holes.

But many of the other features of the Old Course have not been replicated elsewhere. For instance, there are seven double greens on the Old Course and the par 72 layout has 14 par 4s and only two par 3s.

The new par-3, 9th hole on the Ailsa Course at the Trump Turnberry Resort. Credit: Getty Images

The new par-3, 9th hole on the Ailsa Course at the Trump Turnberry Resort. Credit: Getty Images

Trump Turnberry
The course which has hosted four Opens is named after the third Marquess of Ailsa, who owned the land on which it was built. The resort — which has 45 holes — is now named after the person who owns this land, Donald Trump.

But the course which hosted these Opens is very different from the present one. Trump hired Martin Ebert to redesign the layout, and he has made some dramatic, widely acclaimed, changes.

One of them is to create a par 3 played over the bay, at the 9th — one of five new holes — and to turn the most famous lighthouse in golf into the halfway hut.

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