Golf began in Scotland some 600 years ago and the country represents a bucket list destination for many dedicated addicts. St. Andrews (pictured) is known as the “Home of Golf” and its Old Course is arguably the game’s most hallowed turf.
St. Andrews: Golf has been played over the dunes and linksland of St. Andrews since the 15th century. The clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club stands sentinel over the unique layout which starts and finishes in town.
St. Andrews: There are six courses squeezed onto St. Andrews’ links, with the Old Course at their heart. The Road Hole 17th and 18th form an iconic finishing stretch.
St. Andrews: The Old Course is known for its blind drives over seas of gorse, vast greens, and swales, humps and hollows which require imagination and the ability to use the ground to your advantage.
Turnberry: Now best known for being owned by US President Donald Trump, Turnberry on Scotland’s west coast is a spectacular setting with a famous Edwardian hotel, all of which underwent a multimillion dollar revamp when Trump took over.
Turnberry: The Ailsa course occupies a sublime location overlooking the Firth of Clyde with sweeping views to the Ailsa Craig rock and the Isle of Arran.
Trump International: Controversy has dogged Donald Trump’s new course north of Aberdeen since day one — with environmental concerns chief among the criticism — but when it opened in 2012 it was clear that from a golfing point of view it was a new gem. Winding through towering dunes and sunken valleys with tantalizing snapshots of the sea, the course offers the full Scottish links experience, with American hospitality thrown in.
Trump International: Trump’s Aberdeen venture features two out-and-back loops of nine holes in an authentic natural setting. The modest clubhouse at its heart offers several dining options, including the award-winning MacLeod House Restaurant, and a whiskey bar.
Royal Troon: This is a classic old links on Scotland’s Ayrshire coast north of Turnberry.
Royal Troon: The course is famed for its devilish par-three eighth hole, dubbed the “Postage Stamp.” It’s only 123 yards long but provides a stiff test in the wind, with deep bunkers and a thin green.
Carnoustie: Northeast of Dundee on Scotland’s east coast lies the fearsome links of Carnoustie, known as one of the toughest courses in the British Isles.
Carnoustie: The Championship course is the main pull and is famed as the venue where Jean Van de Velde paddled in the burn during a final-hole collapse during the British Open in 1999.
Muirfield: The jewel in the crown of Scotland’s “Golf Coast” of East Lothian, Muirfield is a celebrated if controversial venue.
Muirfield: The testing track near Gullane was mired in controversy before the club finally voted — at the second attempt — to admit female members.
Gullane: Close to Muirfield is another revered club with three courses. Gullane No.1 is the pick but all offer a satisfying slice of Scottish golf at its finest.
North Berwick: Along the coast from Muirfield lies a quirky, historic masterpiece with views over Bass Rock and an upturned “reddan” style green that has been copied the world over.
The Renaissance Club: Another East Lothian gem with stellar views.
Royal Dornoch: On the north shore of the Dornoch Firth on Scotland’s northeast coast lies one of its most revered courses. Golf has been played in the seaside town, north of Inverness, since 1616 but the current club has “only” been in existence since 1877.
Royal Dornoch: The venerable spot hosts two courses — the Championship and the Struie — but it is the former track that draws in visitors from around the world. Winding along sinuous sandy shores and among the dunes behind, the fast-running course features humps, hollows, pot bunkers and gorse of a true links test, sandwiched between the sea and purple heather-clad mountains.
Kingsbarns: It features as one of three top-notch courses used in the European Tour’s annual Dunhill Links Championship along with St Andrews’ Old Course and Carnoustie. Nearby are other Scottish links gems such as Crail, Elie, Leven and Lundin Links.
Castle Stuart: Although it only opened in 2009, Castle Stuart on the banks of the Moray Firth has become a highlight of golf in the Highlands. The course, overlooked by a towering white art-deco clubhouse, hugs the shore and shelving cliffs on a thin stretch of links land with views to Ben Wyvis mountain, Kessock Bridge, Fort George and Chanonry lighthouse.
Loch Lomond: Everything about Loch Lomond oozes luxury. From 18th Century Rossdhu House at its center to a spectacular parkland-style course on the banks of the eponymous loch — Britain’s largest expanse of fresh water — it’s a study in elegance. The rub is, it’s a private club so access is like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka.
Loch Lomond: It’s a relatively recent addition to Scotland’s golfing repertory, designed by former US golf star Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and opened in 1993, but its setting between mountains and water in the grounds of the ruined medieval castle ensures its a regular in lists of the world’s best courses.
Gleneagles: The Jack Nicklaus-designed Centenary course — used for the 2014 Ryder Cup — is the centerpiece of the golf offering, a big, parkland-style layout with soaring views to purple heather-clad mountains. The Gleneagles Hotel opened in 1924, dubbed the “Riviera of the Highlands” and now features 232 bedrooms including 27 suites. More than 50 onsite luxury lodges can also be rented.
Royal Aberdeen: As with many of Scotland’s finest courses, golf in these parts goes way back — Royal Aberdeen Golf Club was founded on land close to the “Granite City” in 1780, and is said to be the world’s sixth oldest golf club. The historic Balgownie course is the highlight, a classic links layout threading its way through the natural ecosystem of dunes.
Machrihanish: For golf off the beaten track, this historic club in the village of Machrihanish lies on the long finger of the Kintyre peninsula on Scotland’s west coast pointing towards Northern Ireland. Machrihanish, with a famous opening shot over the sea, is another links in classic Scottish tradition, with undulating fairways, firm turf, pot bunkers, gorse, wind and vast views towards the islands of Islay, Jura and Gigha.