When you travel to Scotland for golf there’s a long list of courses that most would say you must visit. The thing about these courses is that everyone has visited them. Sometimes you want to go off the beaten path and create a more unique golf trip.
Below we list the courses that might surprise you, the ones you’re not really certain of on the first tee but delighted you played them by the eighteenth. Let’s take a look at some of these hidden gems and expand your horizons for your next Scotland golf trip.
Describing a European Tour venue as a hidden gem may seem like a bit of a stretch, but Murcar Links is a wildly underrated golf course. Just ten minutes from Aberdeen and sitting right on the North Sea Coast, Murcar is a proper links experience that will simply delight you.
There is something about those special links fairways that look like someone has scrunched the land up in their hand. The very subtle and very real undulations in the fairway compel you to get creative. The course was designed by Archie Simpson then improved by James Braid to create eighteen unique and challenging holes.
The course is incredibly challenging, the tight fairways can seem far tighter when the North Sea wind blows. Murcar proves that a course can be short yet still test you fully. Plenty of irons from the tee and patient golf will help you navigate this classic links track.
Speaking of unique holes, there are few more dramatic courses in Scotland than Stonehaven Golf Club. This is a course that seems to fall into the North Sea. Stonehaven GC still has a bunker that was created by a bomb dropped from a German aircraft, aptly named Hitler’s Bunker.
This course is quirky, oozes character and just makes you happy. It was also the work of Archie Simpson and James Braid among others. You can see this course from the train on the way to Aberdeen and it just begs you to play it as you pass.
For a fantastic inland experience Newmachar has two tremendous courses. Both designed by Dave Thomas, the Hawkshill Course is the more famous of the two but don’t overlook the Swailend Course. It demands patient tactical golf thanks to the tricky green complexes, but it’s in sumptuous condition and is a brilliant round for all golfers.
Dumfries & Galloway
From the North-East to the South-West, one of the most incredible courses in Scotland that you may not have heard of is Southerness. This is the most southerly golf course in Scotland and it is by far the best in the Dumfries and Galloway area. The holes around the turn that run along the shore are just utterly incredible. If you play here you will never forget your round, it is incredibly special.
Looking out onto the Solway Firth with views of the local lighthouse and rolling hills on the other side of the course, it is very pretty. The course itself has a ruggedness about it which juxtaposes perfectly with the stunning vistas that surround the course.
Portpatrick Dunskey is a fun track, with the views on this course making it a wonderful golfing experience. With cliffs coming into view and Ireland making up part of the vistas, this is a course that you will talk about for a long time after you’ve played it. It almost looks like a course that would appear on a computer game, it is that visually stimulating.
The Scottish Borders
There are few courses that typify the Borders more than Eyemouth: it is literally five miles from England! The 6th hole is one of the best par threes you will ever play. It is a hit and hope of properly rugged coastline, as dramatic as golf gets.
Another highlight is a hole called “The Hawkness Monster” which is the longest hole in Scotland at 656 yards from the back tee. This is a hole you definitely don’t want to play into the wind. It is quirks like these that make this course so much fun and will keep you coming back for more.
From rugged coastal clifftop to lush inland golf, Peebles represents a more refined form of the great game. This course sits in the Tweed Valley and offers sumptuous views which perfectly match the silky smooth greens.
There is a simplicity about this course, it is a course that appeals thanks to the superb condition it is presented in rather than the routing of the holes per se. Like many Harry Colt designs, the course demands well-placed tee shots and accuracy throughout your round. Rolling hills and great golf awaits you at Peebles.
Carnoustie is one of the most famous courses in the world, rightly so, but many overlook the great Burnside course that sits beside the Championship. The Burnside is not a long course but it is tricky and will certainly challenge your tee shot placement. It is a course that demands strong second shots and patience.
Carnoustie is a unique links experience thanks to the many large trees that decorate the course, the Burnside has these. Starting and ending with gentle par fours, two of the few holes you can see lull you into a false sense of security. This course is fantastic in its own right and it is sad that it is overshadowed by its famous Championship big brother.
This is an area that is jam-packed with great courses, Panmure is a dream but hardly a hidden gem. Next door to that though you will find Monifieth Medal. This is as a fine a links as you will find and is unbeatable value. The course rolls through great links land and even has a little parkland-esque portion.
The greens at Monifieth are one of the stand-out features, they roll perfectly and test your approach shots like the best links courses in the world. It also benefits from a similar terrain to Carnoustie with the high trees adorning the links. If you have ever played Carnoustie or Panmure, Monifieth will feel familiar for sure.
As you drive out of Edinburgh toward Musselburgh and beyond, you pass some of the best golf courses in Scotland. Here there are a couple of hidden gems for you to enjoy too. The furthest down this coast and one of the best links courses around is Dunbar.
A classic nine-out and nine-back set-up, this course starts with two par fives that gently break you into your round. As you walk through the wall at the fourth you are suddenly on the shoreline and the course just delights you from then on. This is a phenomenal golf course with a great heritage that has really stood the test of time.
On the other side of the spectrum you have Craigielaw. It looks and feels like a classic Lothian links yet is a new addition to the scene. Having opened in 2001, there are only a few holes that make you think that this is a new course. It is a superb modern links that is clearly firmly rooted in the classic links of the region.
If your course is going to be a success in this part of the world then it has to be great. Craigielaw may be a new kid on the block but it definitely deserves its place on this coast, overlook it at your loss. This course also sits right beside one of the most incredible hidden gems of them all, Kilspindie. Known for its short yardage, to worry about that is to completely miss the point.
This is links golf as it should be, old-fashioned and a little quirky. Willie Park Jr and Ben Sayers put this masterpiece together and it has barely changed. This is a walk back through the history of golf and you can even hire hickory clubs for the full experience. Kilspindie is the ultimate hidden gem with beautiful holes, views and the warmest of welcomes.
The Hidden Gem Experience
There is something really special about finding a hidden gem. Usually you come across them thanks to word of mouth or a lucky find on the internet. There is always that uncertainty as you arrive at the course that the experience will not live up to your hopes.
Hidden gems have extra-charm because you grow to love them a little more, you feel that they deserve more recognition but at the same time you don’t want them getting too famous and too busy as you will definitely want to return. You fall for them more than the famous courses, it’s probably that underdog thing, everyone loves an underdog.
When you find a true hidden gem you also get the pleasure of telling your friends about it. You get to share that experience with your golfing friends and tell them all about this incredible course that they may never have heard of. You should always add one wildcard to your golfing trips to find these gems.