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When the team at MyGolfSpy asked us for our picks for the Top 10 Courses in Scotland, it was not an easy task. You are genuinely spoilt for choice with world class golf throughout the country.

 

But we knuckled down and came up with the following 10... when taking into consideration design, surroundings, ambiance and history.

 

1.  The Old Course at St. Andrews
2.  Championship Course at Royal Dornoch
3.  Championship Course at Carnoustie 
4.  West Links at North Berwick
5.  Championship Course at Machrihanish
6.  Old Course at Prestwick
7.  Kingsbarns Golf Links
8.  Ailsa Course at Turnberry
9.  Castle Stuart
10. Muirfield

 

The full "Top 10 Scottish Golf Courses You MUST Play!" article can be seen here.

 

Do you agree with our picks? Or which ones would you put in your top 10?

 

And let us know if you have been lucky enough to play any of these courses!

 

It's worth reading the article as some great comments and suggestions have also been posted by the MyGolfSpy community.

 

Thanks, Guy


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1.  The Old Course at St. Andrews

2.  Championship Course at Royal Dornoch
3.  Championship Course at Carnoustie 
4.  West Links at North Berwick
5.  Championship Course at Machrihanish
6.  Old Course at Prestwick
7.  Kingsbarns Golf Links
8.  Ailsa Course at Turnberry
9.  Castle Stuart
10. Muirfield

 

I'm a lucky guy, I've played The Old Course, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, and Kingsbarns.  The Old Course is just magical, the setting and the history are incredible.  The golf course is also rather good, but kind of subtle, and very playable.  Royal Dornoch was my personal favorite.  I loved the very small town atmosphere, the elevation changes, and the nice variety of holes.  Carnoustie was my least favorite, at least in part because we played it in a steady rain.  Even on a nice day, however, its not particularly scenic, but its easily the most difficult course I played in Scotland, maybe anywhere.  Even on the last few holes, where the Barry Burn comes into play, you don't really see much of the Burn, because the course is so level.  And I'll be honest, the hotel sitting right behind the last green isn't exactly the most attractive setting.  Last, Kingsbards is an outstanding course, another beautiful setting, great clubhouse facilities, the best practice range of the ones I played.  Compared to the others, though, it seems almost too "fair".  One of the things I enjoyed about golf in Scotland was the quirkiness of many of the courses, blind shots, humps in fairways or in front of greens producing random bounces, things we don't see a lot from most modern courses.  Kingsbarns didn't have that quirkiness.  My ranking, based only on my personal experiences, would be Dornoch, The Old Course, Kingsbarns, and Carnoustie.

Oops, I almost forgot, I played North Berwick, but its been over 25 years.  It ranked pretty high in the quirky scale, another great setting between the town and the sea, and several outstanding holes.  I'd slot that in between the Old Course and Kingsbarns.


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How can Prestwick and Royal Troon not be on the list? Absurd, they're both better than Carnoustie!

Prestwick is number 6 on the list.  

 

I would much rather play Troon than Carnoustie, but if I had to recommend one to a traveler, I would probably recommend Carnoustie over Troon because it is more unique.  YMMV.  

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Turnberry

Royal Dornoch

St Andrews (for experience, not a brilliant course imo)

Royal Troon

Dundonald Links

Machrihanish Dunes

Machrihanish

Kingsbarns

Castle Stuart

Gleneagles Kings

Blairgowrie Rosemont

 

Not in any particular order. I have not played Muirfield or Prestwick. Not a great fan of Carnoustie but would like to play it again as it was over 20 years ago that i last played it.

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There are so many great courses there...

 

For those who are on a more budget trip i can really recomend http://www.troonlinksgolf.com/play/golf-packages/troon-links-experience/

 

You can play in the summer 3x18 for 62 pound! One of the courses is even next to the Royal Troon.

Really really really nice and worth looking for if you wanna play for less....

 

Okay its like next to Royal Troon, 5 miles from Prestwick and 20 from Turnberry... Must go places if youre in the area but still worth looking at ;)


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Here's my list, solely based on where I want to play when I go there based on what I read and heard.

 

Old Course

Carnoustie

Cruden Bay

Muirfield

Macchrahsnish

Kingsbarns

Prestwick

Dornoch

North Berwick

Loch Lomond

Gullane

 

Eh, it's 11 instead...


WIT  :titelist-small: Sta Dry Bag:

 

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Woods:     :taylormade-small: M2 3W and 5W

 

Hybrids:   :callaway-logo-1: Apex 3h and 5h  

Irons:          :mizuno-small:   MP 18 MMC

 

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It warms my heart to see Royal Dornoch ranked so high. I was smart enough to marry a Scottish Lassie so we go back to see family all the time. That is hands down my favorite course and I've played almost all of those plus plenty of gems! Macrahanish is another one that high up there for me. Kingsbarns is maybe the prettiest course I've ever been on. There is a great muni in Edinburgh that I think is called Baird hills or something. It overlooks the city and Arthur's seat. Lots of fun and cheap! If you have the time to plan ahead. Look up all of the courses you want to play and if they are doing a member open while you are there. With a simple email to the course you can save TONS of money by entering into those. You normally just need a handicap and a love for golf. I played macrahanish, crudeness bay, and Dornoch this way!! The most I paid was £30 for Dornoch! Thats a steal and a half.

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Another Lucky guy - my profile photo is our group (16 of us) who travelled to Scotland for the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship in 2010.  Played 8 courses in 10 days and watched the Sunday round of the Open Championship.  (some of us played a bit more, since we made a second loop on several tracks)  but I would agree with the selections-

We played (in my rank order) the Old Course, Prestwick, Kingsbarns, New Course, Loch Lomond, Carnoustie, Castle course (don't bother) and a rather forgettable parklands course.  Would love to go back, but don't think we could ever pull off such a magnificent vacation- at least not on my salary!!!


What's in the bag?
 
Driver :callaway-small: Callaway Mavrik 105 set to 9.5, square, Aldila Rogue White 130 MSI 60G Stiff shaft
#3 Wood  :callaway-small: Callaway FT Tour 13 degree neutral setup, Fuijkara 370 Stiff Shaft
Hybrid  :cobra-small:  18 Degree King Cobra Baffler pro, Baffler Stiff shaft
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Just got back from a trip there a few weeks ago

 

I'd add Western Gailes to the mix even though I haven't seen it mentioned yet: http://www.westerngailes.com/

It's a textbook definition of a classic links course.  They don't have the facilities to host the larger tournaments (i.e. driving/practice range) so they don't get the same press or coverage as some of the other courses like the Dundonald which is right next door and just hosted the Scottish Open.  But, if they were able to make some property appear out of thin air and add those facilities, I think they would be hosting some bigger tournaments left and right.  The greens are technical and you'd be tested on a lot of approach shots.  The holes change elevation and each one would face a different way in the wind so it feels like a different course on each hole.

 

1.) Old Course has to be on there for the history, the jitters you get for being/playing there, #1 & #18 in the city square, Swilcan Bridge, the road hole, the double greens, the number of people that will be on the course whether playing golf or locals walking their dogs/taking a family stroll if the weather is nice, the R&A building staring you down, people enthusiastically cheering for putters on the 18th, and the chance to play a hole with blind bunkers that were designed to be played from the opposite direction.  So, for the experience/history of it, not because I'd be looking for a technically great golf course.  I got to play this 2 times from winning the ballot process and because we had our names on a cancellation list before that.

2.) Kingsbarns - awesome, public, North Sea views on every hole, looks like it's 100 years old already even though it only goes back to the 90's.  Everywhere you turn your head is a postcard view.  Fairways are fairer to the less than stellar golfer because they feel a bit wider than a lot of the other courses.  I had a great caddie here so that really helped my experience here.

3.) Carnoustie - you get setup for sadness when you're playing the front 9 and thinking "heck, this isn't exactly easy with the wind, but, it isn't nearly as tough as everyone makes this out to be.. Car-Nasty ... psshhh yea right.." then you'd get to the back 9 and remember why you have a desk job and would go hungry and homeless if you tried to play professionally.  You get to play Hogan's alley, try to get a par on a hole to beat Tom Watson and try to stay drier than Van De Velde all within one round.

4.) Western Gailes - for reasons noted above.

5.) Prestwick - home of the Open, Tom Morris Jr.'s Claret belt, and blind tee shots.  A historic course designed for old school golf.  Some of the greens are still original to when Tom Morris was the keeper of the greens.  Blind tee shot that would leave you thinking "Old Tom Morris really had quite the imagination when he came up with this one..." then you get to ring a bell saying you're group is clear of the green - assuming you make it past #3's Cardinal bunker and the narrow fairway on #1.  Biggest drawback - right next to the airport)

I played all 5 above so they make my top 5 out of bias and good memories.  If I'm ever lucky enough to go back, then I'd love the chance to play these ones.

6.) The Royal Troon - heard a lot about this course from a few locals who enjoyed it quite a bit or were members.

7.) St. Andrews Castle Course or New Course (a lot of locals mentioned that they liked the castle course quite a bit, so, I'd like to see what that was all about - most people have said that the New Course is better golf-wise than the old course - I'd also like to compare just for giggles)

8.) Muirfield

9.) Royal Aberdeen

10.) Kings Course Gleneagles

 

Tips if you're thinking of going:

1.) If you're back and forth on pulling the trigger and making the golf trip happen, you're nuts, just do it.

2.) If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right - get a golf travel company involved to help you book tee times and get on the ballot where you want to play.  If you choose a good one then they might have some pull for helping you get some tee times, etc.  We used Premier Golf and I would use them again in a heartbeat.  Also, get a van/driver hired for the duration of your trip - pays for itself in convenience and can really pull the trip together because the last thing you want to do after getting your butt beat by some of the courses is drive back to the hotel on unfamiliar roads and on what could be the opposite side of the road for you - let someone else deal with that - they also might just have some killer local knowledge like what places to hit up for food, pubs for drinks (*cough and then having them drive you home from the pub cough*), history of the area, and generally great comradery - we had a driver & we ended up inviting him to come to dinner with us because he was fun to hang out with.

3.) Considering requesting caddies?  Do it.  local knowledge makes the course much more enjoyable, the help on the greens is pretty nice, not having to carry a bag every day isn't overrated, I would have had no idea what club to hit into the wind on a solid chunk of the holes, they are hilarious, very personable, and some even have great tips/golf knowledge/skill that they will share with you.  Don't forget gratuity on top of normal caddy fees.

4.) Umbrella - lol, good luck, it comes down sideways... just pack your rain gear/suit.

5.) Extra balls? Pack them, then add another box - heaven forbid, you hit it into the wispy grass, a good caddie will be able to help you find it, but you will have holes where you're just out of luck because the growth/heather/gorse is just that dense.

6.) go with 7 of your buddies and rotate the foursomes for each round to mix it up a bit and have your bonding time rotated amongst your group.

7.) Try playing and tracking the week using a point system based on everyone's handicap - makes the trip fun and more engaging for every player - including the higher handicaps - keeps them engaged and excited for the next course.

8.) if you're flying in from across the Atlantic, play a slightly notable, but less than amazing course to begin with if you're given the choice.  You're going to be jet lagged from taking a red-eye and landing in the morning -just skip the hotel, go straight to a golf course and get that first round out of your system.  You'll be a zombie on the front 9, but your body will start to wake up again on the back 9 (even if all you want to do is take crash and study the back of your eyelids).

9.) If you arrive but your clubs don't - forget about waiting for them, you're in Scotland & they might not show up for quite a while - buy or rent the stuff that you need but got left behind, now isn't the time for a Marine mentality forget about it and try to move on/enjoy your trip.

10.) Budget the crap out of it so you can spend money on the things that will make your trip easier, more comfortable, or more memorable.  If you're like many, then it might be the only time you ever get to do a trip like that - do it so you don't have any regrets when you get home or at least try to minimize them.

11.) Have a group link sent out for an online file sharing platform like Box or Google Drive so that everyone can upload their photos to the same place.  You're making awesome memories, try to capture as many as you can & be good about sharing them with your group.  Also, consider an international plan for your phone for data & using something like WhatsApp as a group messenger system so you all can communicate while youre over there/talk to friends/family back home about how awesome of a time you are having.

12.) budget for the golf-bug when you get home - it bites hard and turns out to be highly contagious. Side effects include justifying the club(s) you really wanted to get before your trip, greens fees, and driving range parking lots.

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Vockey Wedges

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Goals:

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Break 90

Break 85

Break 83

Break 80

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Royal Troon should be on the list. A "new" course - The Renaissance Club - is worthy of consideration. Running along the Firth of Fife, this outstanding course is quickly gaining accolades. I predict that it will someday host a major.

 

 

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I personally pick a smaller local course, play it, and then ask the locals at the bar what they would suggest.  The locals know the best spots.  My personal favorite is the local course in the small town of Stonehaven.  Beautiful little course.  Cliffside course looking down over the ocean on 14 of the 18 holes.  Small cemetery and chapel ruins by the 18th green.  Grass bunker in the middle of the 1st fairway from a WWII bomb that missed the town called "Hitler's bunker".  Wonderful local experience.  Locals there suggested Kingussie, which is another wonderful small-town course.  I haven't played many of the "big name" courses, but the small local courses can be extremely enjoyable, and you typically get to play with the locals instead of other tourists.  That's bonus enough for me.

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My Selections for the 10 Best Scottish Courses.

1. Kingsbarns - It's a beautiful location and just a wonderful golf course. There are no members at the club and it caters solely to paying visitors and as a result the welcome and the service you receive is second to none. The course is always pristine and the layout is fantastic. For my money this is the best day out you can have in Scotland.

2. Turnberry - Say what you want about Donald but the changes he made to turnberry have propelled a course that wouldn't have made it on this list 10 years ago into one of the best courses in Scotland.

3. Royal Dornoch - A treat for anyone who loves golf, an absolute delight of a golf course that epitomises golf in its purest form. A bit, no a lot out of the way but a must for anyone visiting Scotland with the intention of experiencing the best the country has to offer.

4. Ardfin - A golf course that no one seems to talk about and i can totally understand why. Ardfin suffers from one big issue all to common in great Scottish golf courses and that issue is that it is in the middle of nowhere. Located on the island of Jura it is an absolute delight for anyone willing to make the journey there. Truly one of the finest links courses anywhere in the world.

5. Loch Lomond - Loch Lomond embodies everything that i think is wrong with the world of golf, it is an elitist club that has voluntarily ostracised the majority of the golfing world and although common in the US this is exceedingly rare in Scotland. With that said however there is no denying the quality of the golf course and it is without question the best non-links golf course in the country.

6. St Andrews (Old Course) - If this were based purely on the golf course i don't think the old course would have made the list. Thankfully howevergolf does not revolve around the course itself it is very much about the experience and in that respect St Andrews is second to none. Located in undoubtedly the most breathtaking golf town in the world the old course is the most awe inspiring and nostalgia inducing golf course you will find. 

7. Royal Aberdeen - St Andrews is the golfing holiday mecca of Scotland and understandably so, however, i would urge anyone visiting Scotland to take the time to spend a couple of days in and around Aberdeen to capture some of the best golf the country has to offer with, in particular, Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay. In my opinion Royal Aberdeen has the best front nine anywhere in Scotland and the back 9 isn't half bad either.

8. Cruden Bay - If i could have a membership at any club in the world it would be Cruden Bay. I think it is the perfect mixture of what a golf course should be, fun, exciting, scoreable ad aesthetically pleasing. I have playedd this course more than any other on the list and i always find myself yearning to return.

9. Muirfield - Muirfield is pure golf. There is a reason that it is considered one of the best courses on the open rota. It is a true test of golf and has the best routing of any course on this list.

10. North Berwick - This is the most fun you can have in 18 holes. The course layout and the quirky features on the golf course provide what is one of the most enjoyable golf courses i have ever played. I feel that many of the courses above this on the list can be quite punishing for novice golfers and north Berwick is quite the opposite. It would be enjoyed by anyone. If you don't like North Berwick, you don't like golf.

Honorable Mentions: Royal Troon, The Machrie, Macrihanish (If you thought Ardfin was remote, try and get here), Archerfield, Gullane

Note: I would like to comment here that there are two courses in Scotland that i have yet to play and, by all accounts, are potentially worthy of any top 10. Those courses are Prestwick and Castle Stuart.

 

 

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I have only played 8 and I’d rank them as follows:

1. Kingsbarns is incredible. Played with guys who have been both places and compare it favorably to Pebble Beach. Got to play 36 on a beautiful day there in 2016.

2. Old Course, St. Andrews. Hard to beat the majesty and history. The tee shots on 17 and 18 on a beautiful evening were near perfect golf memories.

3. Turnberry was gorgeous too. Locals were very positive on the changes.

4. Carnoustie. Definitely the toughest course we played (36 that day) and my travel mates didn’t want to see it again. May be a glutton for punishment, but I’d love to take another shot (or two) at it. It won the first two matches!

5. Gleneagles King’s. Loved the walk through the two older Gleneagles courses. First full golf day of the trip, so was pretty pumped about it all. Because we were assigned tees based on the highest handicaps in the group, the par fives played more like long par fours for me. Helped my scores. 

6. Gleneagles Queen’s. 

7. New Course, St. Andrews. Rainy morning, so it wasn’t the best time to evaluate (plus I was worn out from 36 at Carnoustie the day before). We played it in the morning before the Old Course too, so I may have been looking ahead to that.

8. Duke’s. Just arrived after an overnight flight and was jet lagged, so I may not be giving it due credit.

For a week of golf it is hard to imagine topping this trip, especially when you throw in watching rounds 3 and 4 of the Open at Royal Troon. Once in a lifetime trip.

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I won't list  a top 10, because I haven't played all that many, but here are five of my favorites, in approximate order:

Royal Dornoch

The Old Course

Western Gailes

North Berwick

Carnoustie

The next group includes Prestwick, New and Jubilee in St Andrews, Dunbar, Panmure, and Kingsbarns, really good courses, just not at the very top of my list of favorites.  In some cases I can't really even define for myself why they sit a step below the others in my rankings, just that they do.

The last are courses I played, and really enjoyed, including Tain, Crail Balcomie, Elie, Lundin Links, Gullane 2 and 3, The Glen, Dundonald, and Glasgow Gailes.  These fall a step below the previous bunch, but I enjoyed every one and would love to go back.

These are all links courses based on their geologic setting (with the exception of Kingsbarns and the Glen).  I've not played any of the inland courses, and I know there are some great ones.  I still have lots to explore!


:titelist-small: Irons Titleist AP2 714, KBS Tour S, 3 flat

:callaway-small: Rogue SubZero, GD YS-Six X

:vokey-small: 52, 56, and 60 wedges

:ping-small: B60 G5i putter

Right handed

Reston, Virginia

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