Lowdown:
The European Tour returns to Scotland this week for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. South Africa’s Branden Grace defends the title over the Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

A strong field has assembled on Scotland’s east coast for this event. No fewer than 12 Major champions will contest the tournament, including Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington.

Two competitions run concurrently at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Firstly, a professional 72-hole strokeplay tournament and, secondly, a pro-am competition where the lowest score between the professional and his amateur partner is taken at each hole.

The first three rounds are played over St Andrews Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie and those who make the cut play a final round over the Old Course. The split of venues provides spectators with a unique opportunity to get close to the professionals and to their famous partners. Over the first three days admission is free, with a ticket price of just £20 (£15 concessions) on the final day at St Andrews.

Some notable celebrities are in the field this year. A trio of knights will tee it up – Sir Ian Botham, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Steve Redgrave. Other sporting stars on show will be former footballers Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, rugby aces Sean Fitzpatrick and Rob Louw and former British tennis number 1 Tim Henman.

A number of actors will take to the fairways, including Hugh Grant, Andy Garcia, Kyle MacLachlan, James Nesbitt and Luke Wilson.

Up until the turn of this century, the Dunhill Cup was a team event with countries, represented by three players, facing off in round-robin group stages before the leading sides progressed to the knock-out rounds.

The Dunhill Links Championship was first contested in 2001 when Paul Lawrie was the champion. He holed a putt from the Valley of Sin to take the title by a single stroke. In the proceeding years this event has been won by some of the European Tour’s biggest stars. Padraig Harrington has twice been victorious and Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Robert Karlsson and Martin Kaymer have all been champions.

In last year’s competition, South African Branden Grace claimed a fourth European Tour victory of the season at St Andrews. He carded a four-round total of 22-under par to beat Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen by two shots.

Venue: Old Course St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, Scotland
Date: Sep 26-29
Course stats: Old Course par 72, 7,279 yards; Kingsbarns par 72, 7,150 yards; Carnoustie par 72, 7,412 yards
Purse: €3,700,940 Winner: €600,000
Defending Champion: Branden Grace (-22)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 26 – Sky Sports 1 from 1.30pm
Friday 27 – Sky Sports 1 from 1.30pm
Saturday 28 – Sky Sports 3 from 1.30pm
Sunday 29 – Sky Sports 2 from 12.30pm

Player Watch:
Charl Schwartzel – The South African played below his potential in last week’s Tour Championship. But a last round of 66 promised better things. He’s one of the most talented players in world golf and is a competent links player with a good Open record and he finished in the top-10 in this event in 2011.

Stephen Gallacher – He was tied ninth on his last European Tour start (the Omega European Masters) and was tied second in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. He loves playing on home soil and he loves the links. He won this event in 2004 and was tied fifth last year.

Brett Rumford – The Australian is on a solid run of form with top 10s at Gleneagles and in Wales then a tied 15th place in the European Masters. He has a pretty solid record in this event with a number of top-30 finishes over the last 10 years.

Key hole:
17th Old Course. The most famous hole in world golf, if the competition is tight as the leaders reach the Road Hole for the final time, this is where it’ll be won and lost.

Skills required: Adaptability – Three courses means the players will have to answer the different questions posed by each. Plus, they’ll have to deal with partnering an amateur golfer.

Where next?
Fergus Bisset –
Henrik Stenson, huge prize-money and the World Rankings