Best Golf Courses In Scotland

Scotland is regarded as the sporting home for the ancient game of golf.

What typifies golf in Scotland is the Links golf course. Many believe a Links is the true test of a golfer’s skill and character. Forged out of nature and tradition a Links will challenge every part of your game both physically and mentally, for this reason many continue to call Scotland “The Home of Golf”.

Here are our picks of the best golf courses in Scotland.

Please note: The list of courses in this article are based on 3rd party rankings from sites like Golf Digest, Top 100 Golf Courses, Planet Golf and Golf Advisor; as well as from consumer reviews from platforms like Google and Trip Advisor.

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Best Scottish Golf Courses

St Andrews (Old Course)

st-andrews-old-course

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1552
  • Course Architect: Daw Anderson, Old Tom Morris
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Tom Morris changed the course from twenty-two holes to eighteen holes, by lengthening the first four holes and making them two. This eighteen-hole format has since been adopted all over the world.

The Old Course at St Andrew’s is considered the oldest golf club in the world. It is also the home of the Royal and Ancient, which is a governing body that along with the USGA governs the sport world-wide in relation to rules, equipment and tournaments.

In 1552, Archbishop John Hamilton gave the townspeople of St. Andrews the right to play on the links, a term given for the piece of land adjacent to the coast that is not suitable for agriculture. Today we call this type of golf course a Links.

The Open Championship is the oldest and most prestigious tournament in world golf and has been hosted at St Andrews twenty-nine times since 1873.

Royal Dornoch

Royal Dornoch

Image Source: John Haslam

  • Location: North-Eastern Coast
  • Date Established: 1877
  • Course Architect: Old Tom Morris, Donald Ross
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Royal status was awarded in 1906 By King Edward VII. To be granted the honour of Royal status the club typically invites a member of the Royal family to be a patron or honorary member.

Royal Dornoch is a traditional links-style golf course. The landscapes are typically windswept, moonscapes with very few trees. Small hardy shrubs called gorse are over every hump and hollow ready to catch unsuspecting golfers.

Tom Watson is an honorary member of Royal Dornoch, and is quoted as saying of Dornoch “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course”. One of the all-time greats, Tom has won The Open Championship five times during his career.

Trump Turnberry (The Ailsa)

Trump Turnberry

  • Location: West Coast
  • Date Established: 1906
  • Course Architect: Willie Fernie, Mackenzie Ross, Martin Ebert
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Turnberry hosted one of the most memorable final rounds of The Open Championship ever witnessed. Dubbed “The Duel in the Sun”, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus pulled away from the rest of the field to battle it out to the very last hole.

The golf course and Turnberry Hotel were used as an airbase and hospital in both World Wars. The Royal Air Force used the grounds to train pilots in aerial gunnery and combat. A memorial to honour lost airmen was erected on the hill overlooking the ninth hole of Ailsa, which is still standing.

After the war, courses 1 and 2 were renamed “Ailsa” and “Arran” and the courses were in need of refurbishment and the hotel was in a dilapidated state.

The architect Mackenzie Ross rebuilt the course, removing the wartime runways and covering the land with sand and topsoil. Ross is credited with restoring the courses to their high quality, and the Ailsa course was re-opened in 1951, a seaside Links with views of Ailsa Craig, an uninhabited volcanic island, and the Isle of Arran.

Kingsbarns

Kingsbarns

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1922
  • Course Architect: Willie Auchterlonie, Kyle Phillips
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: The original nine holes were designed by Willie Auchterlonie, but in 1939 the land was mined to prevent the Germans from landing.

This man-made links is just down the coast from St Andrews and is a co-host of the Dunhill Links Championships.

The European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship is a unique golf tournament. Firstly it is played on three golf courses instead of the traditional one. The courses are Old Course at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.

Secondly, this golf tournament is a team event that consists of one amateur and one professional. Many of the amateurs are well-known personalities from sport and entertainment. These have included Nigel Mansell, Ian Botham, Gary Lineker, Boris Becker, Michael Douglas, Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Justin Timberlake and Michael Phelps.

Castle Stuart

Castle Stuart golf

  • Location: North-East Coast
  • Date Established: 2009
  • Course Architect: Gil Hanse
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Castle Stuart was voted as the Best New Course for 2009 by Golf magazine. The course hosted the Scottish Open in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016.

Castle Stuart Links reflects an appreciation that golf is more about error and recovery than it is about perfection.
Although the course is a challenging test, it has been designed to give the player a chance to recover and stay in the hole.

Surrounding the golfer is the rugged natural landscape of the Scotland. Each hole is a visual experience with Castle Stuart and the Moray Firth as the backdrops in amongst the vast expanse of gorse, broom and heather.

Carnoustie (Championship)

Carnoustie golf

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1842
  • Course Architect: Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, James Braid
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: This historic course has hosted for The Open Championship eight times.

The course is nicknamed “Car-nasty,” due to its famous difficulty, especially under adverse weather conditions.

Carnoustie is considered by many to be the most difficult course in the Open roster, and one of the toughest courses in the world.

North Berwick (Championship)

North Berwick golf

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1832
  • Course Architect: David Strath, Old Tom Morris, Ben Sayers, C.K. Hutchison
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Home of the famous 15th hole called Redan “Fortress”. A Redan is a par 3 with a green that is wider than deep, and it angles diagonally away from the tee box right-to-left.

North Berwick is a beautiful Links with stunning sea views across to Craigleith Island and Bass Rock. Similar to Turnberry’s “Alisa Craig”.

Located on a volcanic out crop, the course and surrounding area is also a bird sanctuary to approximately ten percent of the world’s Atlantic Gannets population.

Royal Aberdeen

Royal Aberdeen golf

Image Source: Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1815
  • Course Architect: Archie Simpson, Robert Simpson and James Braid
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: The outward nine holes are regarded to be the finest opening holes in Links golf

The front nine holes cut though some wonderful dune formations along the coast. While the front nine is undoubtedly tough, the back nine holes are probably tougher as it is more exposed to the elements as you work your way along a plateau back to the club house. Expect some stunning sea views.

Muirfield

Muirfield golf

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1891
  • Course Architect: Tom Morris Sr
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Nicklaus has described Muirfield as “the best golf course in Britain”. He later developed a championship golf course in Dublin, Ohio, in its honour and called it Muirfield Village. Muirfield is also where he won the first of his three Open Championship titles.

Muirfield has an unusual layout for a links course. Most links courses run along the coast and then back again leading to two sets of nine holes, the holes in each set facing roughly in the same direction.

Muirfield, however, was among the first courses to depart from this arrangement and is arranged as two loops of nine holes, one clockwise, one anticlockwise. This means that assuming the wind direction remains the same throughout a round; virtually every hole on the course has a different apparent wind direction from the tee. No more than three consecutive holes follow the same direction at any stage.

Ardfin

Ardfin golf

  • Location: Isle of Jura West Coast
  • Date Established: 2018
  • Course Architect: Bob Harrison
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Set on the sparsely populated Southern Hebrides Islands, this course runs along the cliffs and rugged landscapes of peat and rocks.

Australian-born financier Greg Coffey, known in the financial press as “The Wizard of Oz”, in 2010 bought Ardfin Estate, some 14,000 acres on Jura an island off the West Coast of Scotland.

It was here that Coffey decided to build a world-class course for his personal enjoyment, which is the sort of thing you can do if you’re able to quit work in your mid-40s with more than $600 million in the bank.

Jura has a population of 196 and a distillery. Golf and Whisky what else do you need?

Cruden Bay (Championship)

Cruden Bay

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1894
  • Course Architect: Old Tom Morris, Archie Simpson, Tom Simpson, Herbert Fowler
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Cruden Bay has an additional nine holes, which loops insides the eighteen championship holes. Traditionally called the ladies course as it is shorter.

Set amongst towering coastal sand dunes, Cruden Bay will test all aspects of your game power, placement and fine judgment where the north-sea wind is always a factor. Designers allowed the lie of the land to dictate the lay-out. This has produced eighteen unique and challenging holes, which some call quirky, others a pure masterpiece.

Gleneagles (Kings)

Gleneagles golf

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 1919
  • Course Architect: James Braid, C.K. Hutchison, Donald Matheson
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: This is first of the courses featured in this line-up that is not located along the coast.

The Kings course was to host the first informal team tournament USA versus UK, which later became The Ryder cup. The Gleneagles Resort was also the venue of the 2014 Ryder Cup, which has become the most prestigious team tournament in golf, played now between USA and Europe.

Trump International Links, Scotland

Trump International Links

  • Location: East Coast
  • Date Established: 2002
  • Course Architect: Dr Martin Hawtree
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: The fourteenth is the most photographed hole on the course, from the high teeing area the golfer has a panoramic view of the long sandy beaches of the North Sea shoreline down to the fairway that is beautifully framed by grassy dunes.

Developing a golf course on a site of Special Scientific Interest was never going to be easy but after seven years of planning and debate they managed to produce something truly special. Many golfers believe this will become a site of some major championships in the future.

Royal Troon (Old)

Royal Troon

  • Location: West Coast
  • Date Established: 1878
  • Course Architect: Charlie Hunter, George Strath, Willie Fernie, James Braid
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: A nine-time host of the Open Championship

The eighth hole is the shortest hole on the Open Championship roster. This short hole is only 112m (123yrds) but it has struck terror in many battle hardened professionals. Called the “Postage Stamp” it requires pin point accuracy, with gorse and a couple of deep bunkers waiting any errant shots.

The eleventh is a brutal par four rated as the most difficult hole in all Open Championships. A blind tee shot that has a long carry over gorse with an out-of-bounds railway line on the right-hand side followed by a lengthy second shot to a small target green that falls away, with a nearby out-of-bounds.

Western Gailes

Western Gailes

  • Location: West Coast
  • Date Established: 1897
  • Course Architect: F.Morris, Fred W. Hawtreee
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Western Gailes is an interestingly appropriate name for this course as there is usually a ferocious westerly wind that will most likely turn-on-you during the round.

The railway has been a very significant part of Western Gailes history. The train allowed the members from Glasgow easy access to the Ayrshire coast, making the development of Western Gailes possible. Even though the last train left Western Gailes station in 1966, the railway tracks remain a major feature of the course as you head back from the fourteenth homewards.

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