Scottish Links Golf
a different game
on how to plan your trip
AFSD - how to determine
he real length of a golf course
Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay...
Royal Troon, Turnberry, Prestwick...
Just east of Edinburgh
Scotland's Golf Coast
North Berwick, Muirfield, Gullane...
Royal Dornoch, Brora, Nairn...
St. Andrews area
Out of the way, but worth a play
What others say
Scotland, the home of golf, offers great
links golf for every level of golfing skill.
Yes, the great links golf courses will give
even the most skilled golfer all he or she
can handle. But EVERYONE can play Scottish
links golf, no matter what their skill level.
Golf in Scotland not only accepts the beginner,
it actually encourages all golfers by golf
courses designed for different level players.
Obviously, the only way you'll get to play these delightful links courses is as an independent golfer. The commercial golf touring companies don't frequent them. Keep in mind also that these golf courses cost MUCH less than the legendary big boy courses.
A Scottish links course for every level of golfSo don't let the mighty "Big Boy" golf courses intimidate you into staying home or not enjoyng some memorable Scottish links courses. A rewarding golfing experience awaits you, no matter what your handicap
The following are excellent examples of the less difficult links courses that can be found along the coastlines of Scotland. We're focusing on some of the major championship courses (the Big Boys) around Scotland that have delightful "Little Brothers"--shorter, less-demanding courses that treat you to a round of genuine Scottish links golf. With only two exceptions (Anstruther and Dunaverty), these courses share the same land, the same superintendents, the same consistency of greens, and the same weather conditions with their bigger brothers--a key factor in their quality.
These Little Brothers have lower green fees than the championship courses and are usually more available. Often sought out by scratch golfers and touring pros wanting to relax or practice, they are one of the best kept secrets of Scotland. You too can discover them -- links courses you can manage and can be comfortable with. Look into it, because a whole new world of golf will open up for you.
Below are six areas in no special order offering great links golf for everyone.
(For more about the championship courses, see Richard's reviews.)
|Area #1 - St. Andrews (Kingdom of Fife)
St. Andrews Links Golf courses
"This is the origin of the game, golf in its purest form, and it's still played that way on a course seemingly untouched by time."
Arnold Palmer, commenting on the St. Andrews Old Course
Most golfers who flock to the town of St. Andrews are on a mission to play the St. Andrews Old Course, probably the most famous and revered golf course in the world. Yet once you arrive in St. Andrews, you discover the Old Course does not stand alone. (In fact, St. Andrews Links has added its seventh golf course.) The Old Course and its two mighty brothers -- the New and the Jubilee courses -- make for an awesome trio, all running next to each other and sharing the same hallowed parcel of links land.
Milder and Mellow - St. Andrews Eden Course is right in the shadow of this magnificent threesome, shoulder to shoulder with the New Course. Reflecting the layout of the renowned Old Course, the Eden has some double greens, holes that cross over each other, and hellish, deep bunkers not unlike that at the 17th green on the Old Course, (the Road Hole -- arguably the most famous hole in golf).
Like the Old Course, the Eden greens create the general character -- the "look" -- of the course. Described as "large and weirdly sloping, fantastic creations, particularly on the par-3s." The Eden, however, differs from the other big three St. Andrews courses by it's shorter length and also by not being an out-and-back course. Rather than going out in one direction for the first 9 holes and then coming back in the opposite direction for the final 9, Eden's layout meanders in every direction, so judging how the wind will affect your shot is a different challenge than the one you'll get on the other courses.
"The Eden fairways are wider than the Old Course and has easier bunkers. But when you get around the greens the Eden becomes comparable to the Old...the swales and gullies around the greens, the humps and bumps of the greens themselves are quite similar. Depending on the location of the flag, you can have quite a tough shot." (Richard's appraisal of the Eden.)
The Eden is a beautiful, engaging golf course. If you are not up to the three larger St. Andrews Links courses, you can get a satisfying taste of the St. Andrews experience by playing the Eden. Not a "sissy" course at 6,195 yards par 70, it is enjoyed by the locals and accomplished golfers. Chances are you may not have even heard of the Eden, so playing it will be a delightful surprise. See St Andrews Eden for more in depth review and photos.
Little Brother - St. Andrews Strathtyrum course, adjacent to the Eden, was created specifically as a less challenging layout yet is interesting enough for even the most experienced golfer. While not at the level of the championship courses, a round of golf on the Strathtyrum is exhilarating because you still experience the magic of being on a St. Andrews Links course. This attractive smaller course is for the novice as well as golfers who just want to relax. Eighteen holes, 5620 yards with a par of 69 and only £24 a round. Take a look at the Strathtyrum. As you play it you'll see the championship courses stretching just beyond you. Very nice. See Richard's more in depth review of St Andrews Strathtyrum course.
Baby Brother - St. Andrews Balgove course is the baby of the St. Andrews Links family, yet reflects the high quality of design and maintenance given to all the St. Andrews Links courses. An ideal course for beginners and children, but cared for as if it were a serious golf course nonetheless. Here the less confident golfer can enjoy a true golfing experience complete with bunkers and undulating greens. St. Andrews Links has left no one out. Thanks to the Balgove course, even the very newest beginner can "play St. Andrews". Nine holes, 1520 yards, par 30…and only £12 a round with special rates for children, who will surprise you with their dedication to their game. What a special little course. Further details on St Andrews Balgove page.
For all St. Andrews Links courses...
Still in Fife, 20 minutes from St. Andrews
Crail and beyond
The Big Boy(s) - Crail Golfing Society offers two exciting golf courses. The Balcomie and the Craighead courses perch fearlessly on the corner of Fife called Fife Ness, where the broad waters of the Firth of Forth flow into the North Sea. It's a wild and beautiful promontory, and just seeing these two beauties sitting out there alone and exposed on that ancient tract of land tells you at once that neither of these courses is for the faint-hearted. The winds, the terrain, the layouts can challenge even the best of golfers.
If you are not ready to take the Crail challenge, drive back through the town (Crail) and follow the A917 for about 6 miles to Anstruther, where you'll discover a beautiful little golf course that may suit you better.
|Area #2 - Carnoustie, an hour from St. Andrews
The Big Boy - Carnoustie Championship Golf Course, venue for the 2007 Open Championship, challenges the most adept golfer. But it has two other courses in the family, both of which will suit the not-so-adept golfer. They are shorter, much less costly, 18 hole courses, and even have some trees on them, which is unusual for a Scottish links golf course.
Area #3 - Scotland's Golf Coast...east of Edinburgh
The Big Boys - Gullane #1 Course in the town of Gullane on Scotland's Golf Coast east of Edinburgh is a stiff test of golf, especially in a strong breeze. Used as a qualifying course for the Open Championship, which tells you how challenging Gullane #1 can be. Situated on magnificent Gullane hill where golf has been played for over two centuries and with breathtaking views over the Firth of Forth and golf courses in almost every direction, Gullane #1 is "king of the hill," but Gullane #2 Course is right up there with it. At 6,244 yards with a par 71, it is a little shorter than Gullane #1 (6,461 yards) and about as challenging. The terrain is almost the same as #1 Course and the views are about the same as well. Happily, these two have a little brother.
Little Brother - Gullane #3 Course, although only 5,252 yards, still requires a degree of skill and accuracy if you want to score well. The course is on the same hill as #1 and #2 and offers beautiful views. Not for the absolute beginner, but easy enough to be a delightful experience for the less-skilled. Not a "foo-foo" course by any means. The greens are the same fine quality as #''s 1 & 2. Some of the local good golfers (for instance Archie Baird, owner and founder of the nearby Heritage of Golf Museum) prefer Gullane #3 Course over the other two.
Green fees are fairly moderate on the #3 course
For any of the three golf courses-
West Links Rd., at west end of village, on A 198.
The Big Boy - North Berwick West Links is a glorous golf course for the accomplished golfer. Directly on the water, it is used as a qualifying course for the Open Championship. It has no "little brother" course, but it does have something very special.
The Tiny Tot - Cradled in the strong arms of the West Links course, with the same eye-catching views, is a unique little golf course for children. What a wonderful gift this is to the community, and what a treat it is to see these youngsters perfecting their games. Small as it is, this is a serious golf course that can be played only by children or adults accompanied by a child.
It's only 1 Pound and there's often no one to collect your green fees, but there is an honesty box for donations. Even if you don't play it, you should take a look at this impressive phenomenon. And if you do want to try the little course yourself, take note: Adults must be accompanied by a child!
Directions - From the A198 (main road in town) turn north towards the water onto North Hamilton Road, the only traffic light in North Berwick. Go the few blocks to end of road at the water, and the wee course is directly in front of you.
Area #4 - Aberdeen area
Aberdeen boasts two superb championship golf courses, Royal Aberdeen and Murcar.
The Big Boys
Royal Aberdeen Balgownie -- A spectacular golf course on the edge of the North Sea, with 6900 yards and a par 71. Difficult and with a multitude of up and down fairways. A must-play for the skilled golfer, but definitely not for the neophyte.
Murcar Links 18 Hole Golf Course - another magnificent championship links course and one of Northeast Scotland's premier venues. Basically the same terrain as Royal Aberdeen, which abuts it, Murcar offers even more spectacular up and down fairways. The course lies directly on the North Sea coast, with 5369 yards and a par of 70. Another must-play course if you are in the area but, alas, not for the novice.
Royal Aberdeen's Little Brother - Silverburn course was opened in 1983 as a relaxing alternative to the Balgownie. Shorter and less demanding than the championship course, the Silverburn lies next to it and is a very enjoyable play.
Murcar's Little Brother -- Murcar Links 9 Hole Golf Course is not in a class with the 18 hole championship course, but is a rewarding play for the novice or the golfer who wants to practice. The appealing course has a par 35 for nine holes, which cost a mere £14. So you see what excellent bargains these alternate courses are. Like its big brother, this memorable links golf course is maintained in the same excellent condition as its sibling.
For both Murcar golf courses-
Directions - Approx. 5 miles north of Aberdeen centre, off the A90.
For both Royal Aberdeen and Murcar courses -
Directions - 2 miles north of the city of Aberdeen, off the A90 (Ellon Rd)
Area #5 - Northern Highlands
The Big Boy - Royal Dornoch Championship Golf Course is the most legendary golfing treasure of the northern Highlands. Third oldest golf course in the world (after Leith and St. Andrews), many golfers know of its greatness but few have actually ventured this far north to play it. Here is another championship course that would most likely be on the Open Championship rota if it were more accessible. Bordering on the sea, with strong winds usually prevailing and rugged vegetation everywhere around you, Royal Dornoch becomes an exhilarating experience even if you only stand there.
If you are not ready to tackle this Big Boy, you can play his adjacent little brother and still enjoy good links golf with the spectacular views and northern terrain.
Younger Brother - Royal Dornoch Struie Golf Course lies nestled below the "top course," is an easier play and roughly half the price. A genuine links course, at 6,276 yards it commands respect but not the expertise demanded by the Championship course. Not recommended for beginners, the Struie ischallenging enough for the mid handicapper to enjoy. Yet this feisty younger brother is playable by those who are not ready for a championship course or those who simply want to sharpen their skills.
The farther north you go in the summer, the longer it stays lighter. So if you go up to Dornoch on Midsummer's Day (June 22) or anytime close to that, it will barely get dark at all. People can tee off in the evening to play an entire 18 holes.
For both Royal Dornoch golf courses -
Directions - Dornoch is 45 north of Inverness on the A9, just after the Dornoch Firth Bridge.
Area #6 - Southwest coast of Scotland
The Big Boy - Machrihanish Golf Course, certainly one of the best Scottish courses and a real jewel in the southwest of Scotland. The narrow peninsula of Kintyre (made famous by Paul McCartney's song "Mull of Kintyre") is almost tropical in appearance, with palm trees and surprisingly moderate winters thanks to the Gulf Stream, which passes close to the area.
If it were not so remote, Machrihanish would be the perfect venue for championships and perhaps the Open Championship. The serious and adept golfer will be well-rewarded for making the trip.
Little Cousin - Dunaverty Golf Club is only minutes from Machrihanish and a golfing experience few visitors to the area ever take the time to play or even know about. Founded in 1889, Dunaverty is a links type course mixed with some heathland and moorland. Compared to many other Scottish golf courses it seems quite Spartan when you consider the little wooden building that serves as the clubhouse and the little "honesty box" where you leave your green fees (very low) when no one is there to take your money. Cows roam the Dunaverty golf course and members themselves often work to keep the course in good shape. Not your average golf course here!
The golf course measures 4799 yards with a par of 66, and has been played by some of the great names in golf. Possibly the most unusual golf course in Scotland. So enjoyable to play and something you'll talk about for years.
Directions - Take the A83 south down the Kintyre Peninsula to Machrihanish at Campeltown, then head south on the B842 to Southend at the tip of the peninsula, which is where Dunaverty golf course lies.
Tel/ (0)1586 830677
|Scotland is proof that great golf doesn't have to be played on 7,000 yard courses and take five hours for a round. The country is dotted with hundreds of wonderful smaller golf courses that you can play and at modest rates. A smart thing to do.|