Recently the YGT team discussed their dream Scotland trip on YouTube and many of you added some recommendations in the comments section. Given that you took the effort to add some great suggestions to what the guys said, we decided we would dedicate an article to some of those courses.
Playing golf in Scotland is a special experience. It goes beyond the physical and into the spiritual as you know that this is where the modern version of our sport was born and became what it is today. When people visit Scotland for golf, they always focus on the big names and famous destinations, there are so many world-class courses to choose from.
However, to only play the big championship venues would be to miss out on the real Scottish golf experience. Golf in Scotland is a game for everyone and when you play some of the lesser known courses you get a completely different experience. You are treated like an old friend and as if you have been a member of the club for years.
You also get to go back to your friends and tell them about a course you have played that they probably don’t know. We golfers love to have played courses that our friends haven’t and that is what this article is dedicated to. Let’s broaden your horizons for your next Scottish golf trip.
The East Highlands / Inverness
They say that it is hard to beat a Highland welcome, well it is also hard to beat some of the magnificent courses that this part of Scotland has to offer. First on the list isn’t exactly a hidden gem, it’s world famous, but you simply must make it part of a trip. Rory had this as the crown in his highland golf trip and for good reason. Royal Dornoch is as brilliant as it is an important architectural course thanks to its history with Donald Ross.
This stunning links course was where Ross learned his architectural trade before taking it around the world. Many of the features on the course have been recreated around the world and it has gained the course a somewhat cult-like following. There are two great courses to choose from, the Struie and the Championship. Both courses are beside the Dornoch Firth and give the most memorable views. It is worth mentioning that the Championship Course is regularly inside the world top 15 rankings of many major publications.
⛳️ Castle Stuart— Your Golf Travel (@yourgolftravel) June 21, 2021
⛳️ Royal Dornoch
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The Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle
Very slightly north of Royal Dornoch is one of Scotland’s most prestigious courses, the Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle. This stunning links is a golfing experience like few others, you are treated like royalty at this incredible place. Everything about it is taken care of with the utmost attention to detail, even the Strokesaver will astound you with its quality.
Brora Golf Club
As we continue up the coast we get to Brora, a classic James Braid links that will charm you endlessly. For the record, the short journey from Dornoch to Brora is beautiful. This is all part of the seductiveness of golf in this part of the world. This course simply is not as celebrated as it should be, anyone who has played it will tell you this.
The course became famous during the covid pandemic when golfers around the world joined to help save the club. This isn’t a long course, but the tricky greens and distracting views make it a difficult round of golf. You simply cannot go to Dornoch and not take in Brora whilst you’re there.
Boat of Garten Golf Club
If all of that wasn’t enough, if we go a bit south of Inverness we come across the splendid Boat of Garten Golf Club. This is more of a heathland course but James Braid did a cracking job when he put this place together. It has shades of Sunningdale about it and, although not a long course, it is incredibly alluring. The mountain views that surround the course add to its appeal and it certainly holds its own, even with some very illustrious neighbours.
The West Highlands
Traigh Golf Club
Sitting pretty on the west coast, looking out onto the beautiful Western Isles, sits Traigh Golf Club. Pronounced “try”, this nine hole course was revamped in 1994 into an absolutely cracking track. Traigh is Gaelic for beach and plenty of beach views await you during this round. Close to Mallaig, you are in some of the most beautiful scenery that Scotland has to offer, this is the most westerly course in mainland Britain.
Small courses like this never cease to amaze, you often don’t expect much from them and so they overdeliver in monumental fashion. There is a rawness about Traigh, it feels like it has been carved into the land by nature. This is a course that has to be played to be appreciated, make sure to leave plenty of space on your phone for pictures and videos.
Durness Golf Club
In a similar style, Durness Golf Club is a natural beauty that sits in the northwest. Amazingly, this course is kept in the great condition you will find it by just one man. The standout hole at Durness has to be the 9th/18th which has you hitting over cliffs to a tight green on this long par three. It’s a potential card-wrecker so hold your nerve! This course just feels like it has been here as long as the land itself. It also comes complete with sheep and fences around the greens at certain times of the year.
These two courses are just rugged masterpieces that transport you back to a time when courses were less manicured. You cannot leave these courses without a smile on your face as you get back to an almost organic and virgin style of golf course, every golfer should experience and savour these courses.
Cruden Bay Golf Club
The most famous destination on the east of Scotland is, of course, St Andrews. However, further north towards Aberdeen you have Cruden Bay a course that has been worked on by some of the most famous names in course design including Old Tom Morris himself. This is a very unique links that weaves between high dunes as it meanders round the coastline.
This course was originally built to be a links rival of Gleneagles but unfortunately fate had other plans. Thankfully the enchanting links survived and remains a tough test of golf even with modern equipment. It is an enigmatic golfing experience with many blind shots to test your nerve.
Blairgowrie Golf Club
Just north of Dundee, barely the northeast but let’s go with it, lies one of the finest inland golf clubs in Scotland. There are two courses here, the Rosemount and the Lansdowne each of which has hosted some prestigious events. The Rosemount was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie and James Braid a fact that on its own gives an idea of how good the course is.
The high trees that frame each hole add to the character of this course as they cocoon you into a tranquility that is hard to beat. These moorland style courses are always in perfect condition and the clubhouse is also one of the finest you are likely to find in world golf. A wonderful golfing experience.
Imagine opening a new course at the height of the pandemic. That’s what happened at Dumbarnie Links, the latest addition to the very rich tapestry that is Scottish links golf. This phenomenal Clive Clark design sits near Lundin Links and Leven Links and is one of the most gorgeous and fun rounds of golf you could ever hope to enjoy.
Each hole sits in dunes with a natural amphitheater surrounding the greens. You feel alone on the course and as you walk from each green to the next tee you get a big reveal as the next hole comes into view. This is already one of the most celebrated courses in Scotland and it is only just over one year old!
Anstruther Golf Club
This is a nine-hole gem that anyone visiting St Andrews must play. A fairly bland opening couple of holes gives way to some of the most dramatic and difficult golf you could ever hope to play. The 5th hole “The Rockies” is probably the hardest par three in the world, you have been warned!
Easily one of the best golf courses in Scotland, the West Links at North Berwick is a dream round. It is quirky yet classic with views that will simply stop you in your tracks. You can tell that Old Tom Morris had his hand in the layout here if you are a fan of his work then you will fall head over heels for this course.
The West Links will test every aspect of your game from precision to power. It goads you into taking risks but can also reward you if you decide to play more conservatively. There is an energy about this links and a magnetism that will keep bringing you back for another shot.
In the video Coach Lockey talked about how great a golf resort Gleneagles is, but Archerfield is a close rival with a links twist. Nestled in the trees near Muirfield on the Lothian coast, the luxurious resort awaits those looking for an extra-special golf break. The hotel is one of Scotland’s finest and perfectly matches the great golf on offer.
These courses are fairly unique in that they are links yet there are a lot of tall pines framing many of the holes. It feels strange to play such a course but at Archerfield it absolutely works. Two great championship courses, the Fidra and the Dirleton, are modern links masterpieces
Other Brilliant Courses
A few other great courses were mentioned in the comments section of the YouTube video. They are dotted about all over Scotland so they are here so they aren’t missed.
Panmure Golf Club
This is the course that the great Ben Hogan used to prepare for his one and only Open Championship victory in 1953. The course is picturesque and features some of the best greens in Scotland. It is also home to one of the most iconic clubhouses in the UK too,
This is a course that demands position from the tee. You often need an iron to get into the right spot and you are still left someway from the green. It is short by modern standards but not being able to blast the driver makes it feel long. This is one of the best there is, don’t miss it.
Shiskine Golf & Tennis Club
This is one that many a discerning golfer will mention. Sitting on the Isle of Arran, this twelve hole course is as dramatic as it is fun. With red rock outcrops decorating the course and providing a backdrop, this gem is like a time capsule to how golf design used to be.
Many blind holes and stop/go signs await you here in a course that is truly like no other you will ever play. You just have to play Shiskine a few times to really start to appreciate how amazing it is. Arran is home to many great little tracks that you should try to get round.
Woll Golf Club
Set in the rural Scottish Borders, Woll Golf Club is a newish addition to the 587 courses in Scotland. This is a great course for those who are looking for a straightforward round on a quality course. The rolling hills that surround the estate make for a great backdrop on this fun course.
There is a romance about this rugged links that many courses would be envious of. With arguably the greatest opening tee shot in all of golf, Machrihanish has fans from across the globe who travel annually for a shot at the famous links. Hook it from the first and you’re playing from the beach, it’s not out of bounds.
The fiery links turf rolls through the dunes in some of the most inspiring terrain you could ever hope to play golf on. Pot bunkers are plentiful and perilous whilst a wonderfully welcoming clubhouse awaits weary golfers thirsty after a day on the celebrated links.
You simply can’t make the pilgrimage to Machrihanish without building in extra time to play Dunaverty. This is a course that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face. Cows roam the course and glorious views make it memorable. This is what hidden gem golf is all about.
As travel starts to open up properly, golfers can once again enjoy the delights that Scottish golf has to offer. The YGT team have told you where they want to play and hopefully these extra destinations can inspire your next trip to the home of golf.
You will never be short of places to play when you come to Scotland. You can play some of the most famous courses in the world, but sometimes you want to try something a bit different and this list will give you some great destinations that you have to play!