As we all know, Scotland is The Home of Golf, and with over 550 courses to choose from in a relatively small patch of land, the options for golfers making their pilgrimage to the Promised Land are as diverse as they are plentiful. With so many options, choosing a destination for your next Scottish Golf Break can be a daunting task so we have outlined five of the best golf trails in the country, as well as the courses, sights and sounds you’ll want to look out for along your way.

EAST LOTHIAN

When it comes to golf in East Lothian it really is very simple. It has it all.

From age old links courses which have helped shape all those that have followed to picturesque inland layouts, golfers visiting this famous region just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh really are spoiled for choice.

Courses to watch out for…

Historians visiting East Lothian simply can’t pass up the chance to play one of the world’s oldest golf courses, Musselburgh Old Course. Evidence exists which proves that golf was played here as far back as 1672 and the standardised hole size used all over the world today was made was purely based on the size of the cutter at Musselburgh Old Course. The course is only a nine-holer but if you love golf, a round at Musselburgh, formerly home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, is a must.

Other notable courses include The Glen, Cragielaw, Longniddry, Kilspindie and, of course, North Berwick.


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Winding its way along the coastline above the Firth of Forth, The Glen Golf Club offers picturesque views and a thrilling test of golf.


Berwick is now an Open Championship qualifier host and is one of the best courses in Scotland; infinitely charming and completely unforgettable.


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Packed-full of character, North Berwick is a classic Scottish links and with views out towards Bass Rock, it provides plenty of photo opportunities as well.


There is also cracking golf on offer just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh City Centre. For those booking a city break, a round at Dalmahoy, one of the longest and most testing golf courses in Scotland, and Prestonfield, which sits just over a mile from Edinburgh Castle, are both fantastic options.

Away from the course…

With Edinburgh just a short drive away, exploring the Scottish capital is a must while on an East Lothian Golf Tour. Uncover Scotland’s rich royal history at Edinburgh Castle, The Palace of Holyrood House and the Royal Yacht Britannia, or soak up the atmosphere at Edinburgh’s busy festival programme. Enjoy arts and culture while exploring galleries, art centres and performance venues, and spoil yourself while sampling Michelin-star dining and a fantastic choice of bars and pubs. The options are endless.

HIGHLANDS

The Highlands are home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland, as well as a diverse range of golf courses, from classic links to charming parkland and heathland courses. If you fancy yourself as the golfing equivalent of Ansell Adams, this is the place for you.

Courses to watch out for…

The major epicentre in terms of golf and leisure in the Highlands is Aviemore, a winter ski resort that also boasts the MacDonald Highlands Hotel and the phenomenal Spey Valley golf course. While Aviemore is the best purpose-built destination for stay and play golf holidays, the Highlands are peppered with fantastic golf courses, making it an excellent touring destination as well.


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Opened in July 2006, Spey Valley will mature further still, and is being tipped for recognition among the top Scottish courses.


The Championship Course at Royal Dornoch is a must for any golfing enthusiast. Firmly entrenched in Scotland’s Top 10 Courses, this world famous links is ably supported by the layouts at Tain, Moray, Brora and Nairn.


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Royal Dornoch is undoubtedly a member of the exclusive band of legendary links courses that enthusiasts flock to Scotland for.


Away from the course…

Wild and untamed, the Highlands are all about the great outdoors so during your time away from the fairways, you simply must get your explorer’s hat on and head out into Scotland’s great frontier.

Spectacular mountains, waterfalls, tumbling rivers and mirror-like lochs offer countless photo opportunities and for the active visitor, activities such as hill walking, cycling, kayaking and horse riding are the best way to take them all in.

There is more than scenery to keep you occupied in the Highlands though so if you’re looking for a taste of the local culture and history, there are plenty of options.

JAMES BRAID

When it comes to golf, James Braid is one of Scotland’s most influential and important sons. Not content with winning five Open Championships, Braid set about leaving a golfing legacy by designing courses and is considered by many as being one of the finest course architects of all time, with Scotland being home to some of his finest work.

Courses to watch out for…

James Braid laid down some of the best golf courses in Scotland and while the likes of Panmure, Scotscraig – another Open Championship qualifier host – and Lundin Links, are top class tests of golf in their own right and certainly worth a visit, a couple of other Braid layouts in Scotland rightly grab all the headlines as they unquestionably hold their own with the best courses in the world.


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The King’s Course at Gleneagles.


Gleneagles, which will be firmly in the golfing spotlight when its PGA Centenary Course (a Jack Nicklaus design) hosts the Ryder Cup in September, is one of the best golf resorts in the world. Home to an infinitely luxurious five star hotel, a lavish spa and an endless array of country pursuits such as fishing, falconry and off-road driving, Gleneagles also boasts two of Braid’s most famous courses, the King’s and Queen’s. Thought by many to be his finest work, these two heathland gems are beautiful and thoroughly entertaining from the 1st tee to the 18th green. Visitors generally consider the King’s Course to be the best golf course the resort but the member’s have a soft spot for the shorter Queen’s Course. Which is best? We’ll let you be the judge of that.

A little over an hour’s drive to the East lies another of Braid’s finest layouts and this is an entirely different animal to the tranquil courses at Gleneagles.


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Will you pay the Barry Burn a visit on your way around the Championship Course at Carnoustie?


This historic east coast venue boasts no less than three truly outstanding courses but it is Carnoustie’s Championship Course that makes all the headlines. The course has been in existence since the 1500s and is considered by many to be the most difficult course on the Open Championship rota. Its nickname of Carnasty alludes to this fact and if you’re looking for a thorough test of your golfing skills, this is the one for you.

Away from the course…

As we previously mentioned, Gleneagles is about much more than just golf. Book a luxury break here and during your time away from the golf courses, you can enjoy and endless array of outdoor pursuits.

After trying your hand at one of the many activities at the resort, you’ll no doubt have worked up quite an appetite so it’s just as well Gleneagles is home to Scotland’s only two Michelin-star restaurant. For the ultimate in fine dining why not sit down for an evening meal and enjoy Andrew Fairlie’s nine course tasting menu?

Away from the luxurious surrounds of Gleneagles, there are also plenty of off course activities to keep you entertained in this neck of the woods. Carnoustie for example, isn’t all about golf. The Championship Course here may be the town’s brightest light but while golfers test their skills on the links, sailing, windsurfing and fishing can be enjoyed at in the shallow bay that the course overlooks. Carnoustie Gala Week is the highlight of the summer – except of course from when the Open Championship is in town – and visitors who time their arrival just right will be able to enjoy local Scottish produce, a great array of themed floats and the battle of the pipe bands.

OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

While the Open Championship visits a select few courses in England and now Northern Ireland as well, it is Scotland where the games most historic tournament was born, forever making it synonymous with these lands.

The 1st ever Open was played at Prestwick and five courses on the Open rota, Scotland enjoys a larger slice of the Open pie than England. Although there would be plenty of driving involved, a tour de force of Open Championship golf is certainly doable, with the drive from Carnoustie to Turnberry, including a stop at each of the five Open courses taking just over 5 hours.

Courses to watch out for…

Carnoustie

First Open – 1931

Most Recent – 2007

Famous for – Being potentially the toughest track of the lot, as well as Jean Van de Velde’s infamous meltdown during the 1999 Open.

St Andrews Old Course


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The St Andrews Old Course is the stuff of dreams for golfers all around the world. How will you cope with the pressure of teeing off in front of the R&A Clubhouse and so much history?


First Open – 1873

Most Recent – 2010

Famous for – Being the 1st 18 hole host of the tournament. Scene of countless famous Open performances including Tiger’s record breaking win in 2000. Jack Nicklaus once said, “If you’re going to be a player people will remember, you have to win the Open at St. Andrews.” The Open Championship returns to the Old Course every five years and as such will host next year’s tournament.

Muirfield

First Open – 1892

Most Recent – 2013

Famous for – Being one of the fairest courses on the Open rota. Home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the world’s oldest golf club formed way back in 1744.

Royal Troon

First Open – 1923

Most Recent – 2004

Famous for – Its par 3 8th, dubbed “The Postage Stamp” is one of the most iconic holes in the world. Set to host the 2016 Open Championship and neighbour to the original Open host course, Prestwick.

Turnberry


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Turnberry offers not just the world famous Ailsa Course, but the Kintyre as well.


First Open – 1977

Most Recent – 2009

Famous for – One of the most loved courses on the rota, Turnberry hosted perhaps the greatest ever major championship where Tom Watson eventually triumphed over Jack Nicklaus after the pair had left the field in their dust to enjoy their very own Duel in the Sun. Turnberry was also the stage for Watson to return in 2009, aged 59, remarkably almost adding a 6th Claret Jug to his collection.

WEST OF SCOTLAND & THE ISLANDS

While the majority of Scotland’s most famous golf courses lie to the East, the West and its rugged coastline in particular boasts some absolute gems of its own. From lesser known hidden gems that take up residence on remote islands just off the mainland to a number of Open Championship courses, heading west guarantees top quality golf.

Courses to watch out for…

Nestled in the Firth of Clyde are the islands of Arran and Bute, both of which are easily accessible by ferry and both of which boast a delightful collection of courses. Island hopping with your clubs is a unique experience and courses such as the 12 hole Shiskine, the 13 hole Port Bannatyne and The Machrie, which boasts 18 excellent holes, will be sure to please even the most discerning of golfers.


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The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon is one of the world’s most famous par 3s.


Links lovers will be right at home in the West as well with the likes of Western Gailes, Girvan, Dundonald Links and no less than three Open Championship classics, both past and current.

Take on the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, have your very own Duel in the Sun at Turnberry or play 18 holes at Prestwick, the scene of the very 1st Open Championship; the choice is yours.

If you have the time, Machrihanish is a must as well. The journey out to this wild and rugged links takes you past some spectacular scenery and the opening tee shot alone is worth the journey alone. In the summer, there is also the option to take a ferry that departs from Ardrossan in Ayrshire. Located in a ruggedly beautiful spot on the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre, Machrihanish is one of the really great treasures of Scottish golf. Designed by Old Tom Morris way back in 1879, this is untamed links golf at its best with highlights including the opening tee shot which is played from an elevated tee, over a beach and the Atlantic Ocean, onto a fairway that runs diagonally along the shoreline. How brave will you be with your first shot of the day?


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In addition to Machrihanish Golf Club, Machrihanish Dunes, which was opened for play in 2009, offers golfers making their way to this wild corner of Scotland a thoroughbred links challenge.


Away from the course…

Culture, history, festivals and some of the most amazing produce in the UK await in the west of Scotland and for those with a penchant for fresh seafood, there is no better place to be. The Loch Fyne area is well known for its oyster fisheries, herring fishing and for the Loch Fyne Kipper. Sample your share of fresh fish while making a journey along the Seafood Trail then burn off some of the calories by taking a walk through some of the breathtaking scenery common throughout Kintyre.

The west of Scotland is also famous for one of Scotland’s most popular exports…Whisky! Head to Campbeltown, once known as “the whisky capital of the world” for a wee dram and be sure to procure a hip flask so you can take some onto the course with you as a reward for the occasional birdie.


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Rory

Rory

The resident golf geek at Your Golf Travel. Have been lucky enough to have travelled far and wide playing golf and if I’m not writing about it at work, you will probably find me hacking it around my local course. Owner of 2 holes in one and some of the most crooked drives you have ever seen! www.yourgolftravel.com/ygt-rory

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