What is the magic of golf in Scotland?
Well, for most people the word “Mecca” conjures up thoughts of a pilgrimage to a hallowed place. For golfers like myself, the word conjures up images of Scotland – historically defined as The Home of Golf.
Blessed with quality courses steeped in history that no other country can match, Scotland is top of the list of must-play destinations for countless golfers. And that’s not even mentioning the 5-star hospitality and breathtaking beauty thrown into the mix.
This all adds up to an intoxicating, exciting, almost addictive cocktail that traveling golfers fly for miles to experience.
Many do so on a regular basis. For others, it may be that one-off experience of a lifetime – the ultimate “bucket list golf holiday”. And if it’s this luxury trip of a lifetime that you’re looking for, let us introduce you to golf in Scotland’s finest.
Scotland boasts many awesome inland venues. However as seaside golf courses – also known as “links” – are the heartbeat of golf in Scotland, these will form the focus of this article.
Ready? Let’s get into the swing of it.
The Ultimate Scotland Golf Experience
The most famous of all Scottish links will always be Scotland’s five Open Championship rota courses – St. Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Royal Troon, and Turnberry.
On top of these, we also recommend two more. One is a course steeped in history – Royal Dornoch, and the other being a newer, but firmly established and loved golfing venue – Kingsbarns.
And that’s not just our opinion…
Every two years Golf Digest magazine puts together a number of lists for rankings of golf courses. The courses to play on this Ultimate Scotland Golf Experience all feature very highly on the International List for courses throughout the world outside of the United States.
Last year, Scotland bagged an incredible 7 out of 20 places for best courses…pretty amazing rankings considering we are talking a small country in the whole world of Golf! They were as follows:
- Ranked 2 St Andrews Old
- Ranked 3 Muirfield
- Ranked 5 Turnberry Ailsa
- Ranked 6 Royal Dornoch
- Ranked 8 Carnoustie
- Ranked 15 Royal Troon
- Ranked 18 Kingsbarns
Seven award-winning locations? Sounds just right for a seven-day luxury trip…
Golf in Scotland: 7 Luxury Locations to Play and Stay
So, let us guide you through the 7 best accommodations and courses for golf in Scotland – ordered for back-to-back visits during your luxury trip.
#1: Royal Troon
Host to The Open on nine occasions, this incredible course is well worth the hype. Established in 1878, the course boasts a beautiful and traditional “links” design running along the stunning Ayrshire coastline.
Related: Ayrshire Golf Travel Guide: Ayrshire’s 7 Finest Links
If you were watching The Open in 2016 you may recall the amazing final day shoot-out between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson – played right here, at the Royal Troon.
Running southwards, the course begins alongside the sea and heads inland in the middle of the round set among hilly dunes and thick Scottish vegetation. Then, the course runs back and finishes heading northwards to the clubhouse.
Plus, Royal Troon boasts of arguably having the most iconic of Par 3 holes in the World, the “Postage Stamp” 8th hole. It may only measure 123 yards but you miss the green here and find yourself in a whole heap of trouble!
#2: Trump Turnberry Resort
Next up on the list is a short trip south, down along the coast to Trump Turnberry Resort.
Home of four Open Championships, Turnberry’s legendary Ailsa course was reborn in June 2016 by a number of inspiring changes. These included the creation of five dramatic and stunning new holes, plus a range of smaller alterations throughout the course.
Set alongside the glorious Ayrshire coastline, Turnberry also is curtained by the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig, providing a stunning backdrop.
Even better – there’s a hotel on site. The acclaimed Trump Turnberry Hotel was created in the early years of the 20th century and was voted winner of Scottish Hotel of the Year at the 2018 Scottish Hotel Awards.
#3: Royal Dornoch & Links House
Next up, we’re taking you on a long, scenic drive north up into the Highlands to play the magical Royal Dornoch – a course steeped in golfing history and prestige.
Golf has been played on the Royal Dornoch land since 1616, with the original 18 hole design created by Old Tom Morris in 1886. Morris pioneered the plateau greens which remain the soul of the course – their uniqueness lying in their size and inverted saucer shapes.
As well as historical, it’s darn beautiful. This top-notch location enjoys breath-taking views, with the Scottish Highlands and sea providing the backdrop to frame the course, being visible from every single hole.
It’s so good that we defy anyone to argue against the Royal Dornoch being regarded as the best links in the land to have never yet been considered to host an Open Championship.
Links House is the perfect place to enjoy a meal and rest after a day at Royal Dornoch. This luxury boutique hotel is situated just 50 yards from the club‘s first tee and is the proud winner of over 16 leading awards in the golfing and hotel industry.
#4: Carnoustie Golf Links
Next, we’re heading to the Carnoustie. The journey to here from Royal Dornoch is long – but it’s well worth the drive. Plus, it’s the perfect stepping stone to the remaining three courses.
Widely regarded as the toughest of all Open venues, this course is not for the faint-hearted, having, without doubt, the most challenging final three holes on the circuit. Its modern-day 18 hole course was designed, once again, by the famous Old Tom Morris in 1867.
Carnoustie first hosted the Open Championship in 1931 – and its impeccable design has allowed it to remain on the roster ever since. The most famous Open is likely 1999, with Jean Van der Velde’s cataclysmic playing of the final hole that cost him the event.
But Carnoustie’s golfing history goes much further back than 1931, with golf recorded as having been played there as early as the 16th century!
#5: St Andrews Old Course & Hotel
Next up, a short drive down south to St Andrews Old Course.
Without a doubt, the magical and iconic golf town of St Andrews should be your base for this section of the stay. Continuing with the theme of 5* accommodation, The Old Course Hotel that runs alongside the famous Road Hole is the perfect choice for your stay here.
What can you say or write about the Old Course at St Andrews? It is, quite simply, the must-play for any golfer that visits the shores of Scotland.
The history and tradition of this remarkable venue have resulted in The Old Course now being placed on The Open rota on a five-year cycle. In 2022 it will host this event for the 30th time when celebrating 150 years of the Open Championship.
Records show that golf has been played on the land since the early 15th century, perhaps the earliest date on record – why St Andrews is known as The Home of Golf.
The course is a traditional layout, heading away from the town on the front nine and back towards town on the last nine. With the first tee shot and last green located in the heart of the town, you’ll experience the nerve-racking gaze of the many township spectators at the start and finish!
It’s also, remarkably a public course. Amongst the peculiar by-laws is that no play is allowed on the Sabbath – so the public can be casually seen strolling across this hallowed turf every Sunday.
#6: Kingsbarns Golf Links
Next up, we’re heading to the only new course on this luxury Scottish golf tour – Kingsbarn Golf Links, which only opened for play in 2000.
While yet to host an Open Championship, its notoriety and quality quickly established Kingsbarns as one of three venues in the famous Dunhill Links Championships just a year after its opening, alongside the aforementioned Old Course and Carnoustie.
Such is the beauty of the landscape and the design, you feel as if golf has been played here for far longer. Sea views are available on nearly every hole with many of the more dramatic hugging tight to the coastline.
Despite its youth, Kingsbarns is amongst the most popular destinations for visiting golfers in Scotland and continues to climb the rankings as time moves forward.
#7: Muirfield Links & Greywalls Hotel
Leaving Fife you now head south towards your final destination in beautiful East Lothian, to play Muirfield.
Muirfield is another course steeped in history. It has the somewhat theatrical and dramatic title of being the home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. It has hosted the Open Championship on 16 occasions.
Muirfield has a somewhat unusual layout for a links course.
Departing from the traditional nine holes in one direction and the second nine in reverse, here nine holes are arranged in a clockwise direction, the other nine anti-clockwise. This results in playing virtually every hole from a different direction – proving quite the challenge.
Most golfers play 36 holes here. One of these rounds will be Foursomes (Alternate Shot) golf, the oldest and most traditional format synonymous with golf in Scotland.
The famous Greywalls Hotel that borders the course at Muirfield completes the accommodation portfolio of staying in Scotland’s finest golf venues. There is a grandeur, tranquility, and distinctive atmosphere to this unique property.
Their famous saying is that Those in the know return again and again.
Scotland Golf Tour Operators
Due to the incredible experience each of these locations offers, they’re always in pretty high demand. From experience, trying to book play at these venues by yourself can be a nightmare.
To guarantee play, we recommend booking well in advance and using a trusted tour operator to help you. For Golf in Scotland trips, the following are your best shot:
We know, we know. You’re so excited you’re already packing your bags. But are you ready?
If you’re about to go on the golfing trip of a lifetime – then you’re going to want to be able to enjoy it to the max. This means protecting your gear, preparing for the weather, and being happy with your shots.
Why not read these to help you prepare?