Scottish golfer Saltire, Scotland's flag

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Detailed Info
on how to plan your trip

AFSD - how to determine
the real length of a golf course


Helpful Websites

Aberdeen &
Grampian Highlands

Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay...

Ayrshire
Royal Troon, Turnberry, Prestwick...

Just east of Edinburgh
Scotland's Golf Coast
North Berwick, Muirfield, Gullane...

Northern Highlands
Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart, Brora, Nairn...

St. Andrews area

Out of the way, but worth a play
Machrihanish, Pitlochry...

Links Lite
Great links golf for everyone


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What others say






I was researching our annual golf tour (8 golfers) when I came upon your excellent resource. It is both charming and informative. It is wonderful to read of the hidden gems. I have based much of my itinerary on your advice.Thank you again for your efforts with Golf Nook Scotland.
Ross Docherty, Northern Ireland

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What a top quality site you've created !
Iain McLean,
Junior Convenor,
Gullane Golf Club
































Love links golf?
You need to own this
fabulous book. A genuine treasure,
a "must have" --

AMAZON
...Order from AMAZON

Links golf is the oldest and the purest form of the game.
Playing golf in Scotland where it was born is ...
the ultimate golfing experience.

It took me a number of years and visits to Scotland before I caught on that links golf was the traditional way to play the game and above all, that it was fun ! Tom Watson

Insights into playing Scottish links golf -- a different game ©

Golf in Scotland, especially Scottish links golf, is a bit different than playing golf anywhere else. You actually have to experience Scottish links golf to understand it fully. But let me give you some insights into the differences to help you get the most out of playing these superb Scottish links courses.

Crail Balcomie course "hell hole"
Thanks to pictures taken by principal photographer Iain Lowe,
one can almost smell the salt air and feel the wind at his back

Links golf is what sets Scottish golf apart


.The word "links" refers to land that links the sea and the arable land--not quite in the water but not good enough for farming. Not every golf course in Scotland is a links-type golf course. There are superb parkland golf courses like Scotscraig and Longniddry; beautiful and challenging heathland golf courses like The Dukes and Whitekirk; and seaside golf courses like the new Castle Course in St. Andrews. There are even unique combinations courses that include parkland and links traits like Lundin Golf Club and Golspie. These golf courses are challenging and great fun. But it is links golf that sets Scottish golf apart. Playing the Scottish links golf courses is truly unique--unlike any other kind of golf. And what makes it so unique is the land on which it is played. The best description of links golf I've ever read is in the book Playing Through by Curtis Gillespie. Here's what he says:

…the crashing together of land and sea along this stretch of coastline instigated a geological evolution of terrain ideal for golf; from this space fit neither for agriculture nor housing has come a sand-packed, high-salinity linksland, the space Scots have termed the area between the land and the sea. It has become a seaboard…that is home to the world's most famous, most difficult and most beautiful golf courses.* The sea, soil, sand and wind produced mounds and dunes and gullies and burns, fescues and buckthorn and gorse and heather, all key factors in a game that is nothing if not an exercise in the geometric avoidance of trouble. Above all, the elements combined to create a turf that only links courses can claim; a turf that is year-round firm, springy and energising to walk upon. Along this coast nature built a landscape full of beauty and pitfalls; the Scots of centuries past merely found an activity that suited the littoral topography, and called it golf. (That's about a perfect a summation of links golf and a links golf course.)

Curtis goes on to be more specific as to the location of this hallowed links land...consider the east coast one line stretching from Dunbar through North Berwick, Muirfield and Gullane, then over the Firth of Forth to Elie, then up to Crail and St. Andrews, then across the Tay Firth to Carnoustie, Montrose, Royal Aberdeen, Nairn and then on up across the Firths of Moray and Dornoch to Fortrose, Tain and Royal Dornoch.

Golf Nook Scotland
covers golf courses in these areas.

The marvelous Royal Aberdeen golf course on the edge of the North Sea
Magnificent Royal Aberdeen, on the edge of the North Sea

True Links

Golfers don't travel to Scotland to play on parkland golf courses or heathland golf courses or even seaside golf courses. No, they make the pilgrimage to Scotland to play on genuine Scottish links golf courses. What serious (or even not so serious) golfer doesn't dream of playing on a Scottish link--true links--where golf has been played for centuries and where the vagaries of wind and rain can embellish the challenge of hitting a small hard ball along grass-covered ancient dunes until it falls into a 4 ¼ inch hole.

If you're such a golfer, then the book: TRUE LINKS: An Illustrated Guide to the Glories of the World's 246 Links Courses is for you. I think it's the finest book on links golf available. A coffee table book you'll devour, not only for the glorious photos that make your mouth water, but also for the intelligently written text that includes the history of links golf and, most enjoyably, what makes a links golf course a links golf course.

George Peper and Malcolm Campbell, both former editors of successful golf magazines, list the 246 golf course that compromise what they say are the ONLY true links golf course in the world. You'll learn the difference between a links golf course and a seaside golf course, how nature designed the greatest courses, how the weather adds to the enjoyment of play, and so much more.

Tom Watson's foreword is almost worth the price of the book. He explains why he initially hated links golf and how he finally fell head-over-heels in love with it. His five British Open Championship victories may have something to do with his love of links golf or…is it the other way around?

If you love golf, you will truly love this book. Give yourself a treat and buy it. We highly recommend it.

George Peper and Malcomb Campbell observe in their fabulous book, True Links: There is an independent, almost defiant, aspect to links courses. The authors claim that nearly 90 percent of the world's links courses lie in the British Isles. This is simply due to the vicissitudes of geology. Somewhere around 14,000 B.C., Grandmother Nature decided that the lion's share of genuine linksland would take shape in the northern latitudes on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean.

A quallity of golf courses unequaled anywhere in the world

The quality of Scottish golf courses is, in my opinion, unequaled anywhere in the world. In a very small area of the planet there are at least 30 golf courses that rate from fabulous to exceptional and hundreds more that are well above average. Names you may have heard like The Old Course at St. Andrews, Turnberry, Muirfield, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Prestwick, North Berwick West Links, Royal Aberdeen, Nairn, Western Gailes, Cruden Bay, Gullane #1 and Machrihanish, are among the most famous and deservedly so. Ones you may not have heard of but are still exceptional golf courses like Crail Balcomie and Craigshead courses, Tain, Brora, Fortrose and Rosemarkie, Montrose, Craigielaw, Kilspindie, Glasgow Gailes, Murcar, St. Andrews New, Luffness New, Scotscraig, Dunbar, Golspie, Lundin, Leven Links...got the picture? There's is a whole palette of exceptional golf courses, great golf courses, terrific golf courses and hundreds of just plain good golf courses, all of them jammed into an area the size of South Carolina. Scotland offers hundreds of fine golf courses--enough to keep an idependent golf traveler happily playing for a lifetime and saving huge amounts of money at the same time.

A word about costs

As in most countries, greens fees in Scotland vary considerably. However, higher fees don't necessarily correlate to better golf. They correlate more closely with the fame of the golf course. For example, every golfer wants to play St. Andrews Old Course. For the average golfer it's like going to Mecca. The St. Andrews Links Trust knows this and also knows they can demand a higher fee for play--and they do...my, my, how they do! The 2013 price for one round is hovering around $250! That's steep by anyone's standards especially since the New Course and the Jubilee Course which are layed out on the same links land right next to the Old Course are less than half that price and both offer the same challenges of wind and turf and very similar bunkers and undulating greens as the Old Course. Or you could have taken a 15 minute drive from St. Andrews to Crail on a tip of land where the North Sea meets the Firth of Forth and play the famous Crail Balcomie course for a third of the Old Course green fees and have the golfing time of your life. Or you could opted to drive 20 minutes to Lundin Links and play a unique golf course that is half links and half parkland for even less. It's "hidden gems" such as these courses that make golfing in Scotland so exciting.

Another example is the famous Muirfield links where the 2013 cost of one round is over $300. Sure Muirfield is a great golfing experience, but barely a mile away you could have played all day at Gullane #1--rated in the World Top 100 Golf Courses--for less than half the price. For my money Gullane #1, while not the equal of Muirfield, is certainly is in the same league with Muirfield--both courses offering a top-notch links golf experience. (Or you could have opted for Gullane #2 for much less. Not quite as testing or challenging as Gullane #1 but built next to it on the same rolling dunes with the same superb greens--one of the all-time great golfing bargains in Scotland.) Or, travel another two miles and play one of my all-time favorites, North Berwick's west course, again, for less than half the Muirfield price.

So as you can see, playing challenging and fun golf in Scotland does not have to be expensive if you choose carefully.

Choose a home base

The best strategy for playing golf in Scotland is to choose an area--a hub--and stay and play your golf in that hub area. It saves travel and moving and allows you to play and relax and not be concerned with hurrying through a round so that you can get into a van to scurry off to the next location. Rather, you can finish your round and return to your B&B and rest or you can go to the local pub and meet and compare missed putts with the locals over a pint.

You can choose the St. Andrews area as a hub. There are lots of good golf courses in the St. Andrews area. You could stay there for 2 weeks and not play the same golf course twice and have a great golfing exprience.

Scotland's Golf Coast -- that area centered in North Berwick, near Edinburgh, is another area filled with great golf courses and is our personal favorite hub. Three golf courses--Muirfield, Gullane #1, and North Berwick West--are on everyone's World's Top 100. But there are 20 golf courses within a ten mile radius of North Berwick--16 of which are true links golf courses and all of which are terrific plays.

There are other areas, of course: the Ayshire area with the fabulous Royal Troon and Turnburry, The Aberdeen and Grampions area with the equally fabulous Royal Aberdeen and Cruden bay. Read up on them to get a picture of what hub areas will suite you best.




Royal Aberdeen, a fine example of Scottish links golf courses
Royal Aberdeen is such a classic example of Scottish links golf.

Speed of golf play in Scotland

One thing that sets golf is Scotland apart is speed of play. I have seldom played a round of golf in Scotland that took more than 4 hours, most take about 3 1/2 hours--and that's walking. It's not as if you feel rushed either. Sounds impossible for those used to the five hour slow dance of stateside courses. In fact, in the States I seldom play a round of golf under 4 hours. And keep in mind, very few courses in Scotland have electric golf carts (called "buggies") so virtually everyone is walking either carrying their bag or (like me) pulling with a pull cart. It seems the Scottish golfer knows how to keep things moving. Since everyone is walking, they are at their ball and ready to hit as soon as it's their turn. There's plenty of camaraderie but when it's time for you to hit, be ready. (This is especially true at The Old Course at St. Andrews where you are expected to finish a round under three hours and fifty-eight minutes and, if you're not keeping pace with the four ball in front of you, the marshals will see that you move along. (The range balls at St. Andrews's driving range are stamped "3:58" just to remind you.)

Here's a quote from Lundin Golf Club yardage book under the heading SLOW PLAY - PLEASE NOTE:: It is perfectly possible to complete a four ball round in three and a half hours. Slow play usually results from failure to clear the green promptly or from being unprepared to play your shot immediately it is your turn. Your co-operation in eradicating this malaise will be greatly appreciated. ("Malaise" is just about a perfect word, don't you think?)


As I've said, there are few courses that supply golf carts (buggies). When they are available, it's usually on the hilly parkland courses and in some cases a doctor's "prescription" is required to prove you are not able to walk the course. The flat links layouts almost never have them. But you can rent a pull cart, called a "trolley," or even an electrified trolley. Or, you can get yourself a caddie. Of course you can always play golf as it was meant to be played--purge your bag of extraneous items and carry!

Typical Scottish links golf scene
Another shot of Royal Aberdeen, with our friend Dave Harris of Bonnie Wee Golf and me on the right making my way down the first fairway. I had no idea what awaited me over that hill.


Scotland golf course protocol and code of conduct

Scottish golfers are extremely courteous. It's customary to say to your playing partners "have a good game" or "play well" at the first tee. After the last putt is sunk on the 18th, it's also customary to take off your hat before shaking hands all around. And be conscious of what's going on around you. Many of the golf courses are tight, there are holes that share the same green (St. Andrews Old Course has 14 holes that share greens), so there will be times when 2 foresomes are putting in close proximity. Watch you're not disturbing the other golfers by being too boisterous. There will also be times when you are teeing off right next to a green. Be aware of not hitting your ball while someone is putting. These little courtesies may seem self-evident, but I mention them because I've seen visiting golfers time and again yelling out loudly on the golf course as if it were their private domaine.

Another thing; know your terminology. There is a difference between a "foursome" and a "fourball." A foursome match is a competition between two teams of two golfers each with each team member playing alternate shots on each hole with the same ball. In a fourball each player plays his own ball. I mention this because golf clubs like Muirfield play foursomes during certain times of the day and if you are playing there you are expected to play that type of match.

Oh, and one last thing. Please be sure to fix your ball marks and replace your divots.

Some miscellaneous stuff that's good to know

Don't stand on the tee and take practice swings. If you want to warm up, step to the side of the tee and swing away. Too many golfers take divots on the tee so it is a practice that is frowned upon. And don't take a mulligan. It slows down play.

Many of the flags on the greens in Scotland are not the six foot variety we see in the States. They are normally only 5 feet high. That's important to know because there are not a lot of yardage markers and you'll often judge your club choice by sight. Even if you're told the distance, unconsciously you'll be judging it by the size of the flag and seeing a 5 foot flag when you're eye is accustomed to a 6 foot flag will tend to make you overclub thinking you have further to go.

Laser range finders and GPS distance measurers are used, so bring yours with you.

Links golf is played on the ground. Remember that. Because of the short grass and fast fairways and wind, keeping the ball low will keep your scores low. Putt every chance you get. If you can't putt then think bump-and-run rather than a pitch.

Getting a game - big advantage for the independent golfer

When you call for a tee time, ask if you can get a game with a member. First of all you'll enjoy the round more. Every golf course has its little secrets--the best lines off the tee, best landing area, etc. The member knows them all. And they certainly can help you to read the greens.


Secondly, it's cheaper if you play with a member. For example when I played Longniddry Golf Club a few years ago it would have cost me £42, which was the fee for visitors. However, rather than sending me off alone, the pro asked if I'd like to play with a memeber. I agreed and since I played with a member I played for only £9. It's not always possible to get a game with a member but it doesn't hurt to ask. And be sure to see www.teemyguest.com, also on our Helpful Websites page.

Dress appropriately

No jeans or cut-offs or denim, not even denim shirts. Bermuda shorts are acceptable at most clubs if they are true Bermuda shorts, in other words, no short shorts. It's best to ask beforehand if you are planning to wear them because a few courses require knee sox if you wear shorts. All clubs require a shirt with a collar. They also require golf shoes not "trainers" (sneakers). A few clubs require a jacket and tie in the clubhouse but this is the rare exception. At most clubs, when you pay your golf fee you are considered a temporary member of the club and you can use the showers and changing room. Of course you can just change into your golfing shoes in the carpark if you wish. Virtually all golf clubs have very nice bar/restaurant facilities where you can get a plain but quite decent meal at a very reasonable price.

Dress appropriately for the weather, too. In Scotland you can experience rain, wind and cold and maybe all three at the same time. Waterproof (NOT water resistant
) clothes are a must. A good waterproof windbreaker is the best choice. Often on a cold day with strong wind, a wind breaker (called a wind cheater in Scotland) and sweater is all you need to keep warm, particularly when you are walking (which, because there are few golf carts, is almost all the time). Dress in layers because it may start out chilly but warm up later. I always carry a sweater vest in my bag along with rain pants that I can put over my regular trousers. If you're in Scotland in the spring or fall, bring long underware, the wind can whip right through you.

Cell phones -- not welcome. Unlike dogs (see below), mobile phones are not permitted on most golf courses or in clubhouses.

Warming up -- Few courses have driving ranges. Some have small cages you can hit balls into. So you'll have to do your warming up in another way. Most of the time you'll see members arrive, check in at the Pro shop and then just go and tee off. Since they are walking I guess they figure they'll get warmed up soon enough. There is almost always a putting green, so you can practice that aspect of your game. Below is a practice mat at Boat of Garten. It's not for hitting ball, just swinging your club!

Practice mat at Boat of Garten golf club

Speaking of putting, both St. Andrews and North Berwick have very extensive miniature putting courses. They are not part of any golf course but are "stand alone" facilities. These are both 18 hole layouts with each "tee to hole" distance about 100 feet. St. Andrews' course is next to the Clubhouse, is called "The Himalayas", and is really fun to play. Even if you don't play it, you must at least look at it. People of all ages play. You'll see women putting with their pocketbooks hanging from one arm, young children playing with their parents and teen-aged couples concentrating more on each other than on where their putts are going.

Dogs go golfing in Scotland
And speaking of friendly, dogs are allowed on many of the courses. We were at the tee at the Jubilee Course at St. Andrews late one day and a man was teeing off with his dog sitting next to his golf bag. We asked him about this and he said every evening at this time his dog comes over and nudges him. It's a signal that it's time for them to go play some golf. We saw dogs on many courses. They are invariably well behaved.

Canine friends are welcome on many golf courses in Scotland
Many Scottish golf courses welcome dogs. They keep up with each hole and seem to enjoy a day on the links as much as their owners! This blissful pooch is enjoying the Jubilee Course at St Andrews.

Did you know...?...
Golf courses in Scotland are public walking areas
If you are traveling with a non-golfer, he or she is free to walk along with you as you golf or walk anywhere on the golf course except the greens.

Golf courses are pleasant to walk, the scenery stunning. Just be sure to keep an eye out for the golfers, give them the right of way, and watch out for those unexpected golfballs !!!
Elie golf course cautions walkers
to be aware of golfers
Royal Dornoch has streets and footpaths running through it Kingsbarns is such a magnicent golf course to walk along Anyone can walk anywhere on Scottish golf courses, as long as you watch out for golfers and give them right of way
Royal Dornoch alerts people
about wayward golf balls
Public footpath through Kingsbarns,
alongside the sea
Warning to walkers to be on
guard for flying golf balls

Friendliness

You'll be amazed at the friendliness of the Scottish golfers and the quite natural way with which they treat the game. Golf in Scotland is more of a "working man's" game than it is in the States, where so many fine golf courses are private and are the purvue of the rich--hidden behind high walls and guarded gates. Not so in Scotland. As an example, the most famous golf course in the world, The Old Course at St. Andrews, is right out in the open, smack dab in the middle of town. In fact there is a road bisecting the 1st and 18th fairways and, from time to time the starter has to wait for a passing vehicle or ask walkers to move it along over his loudspeakers. Many are surprised to find out that it's actually a public golf course and belongs to the residents of St. Andrews, who can play it for a very small yearly fee (less than the price of a single round!). Sunday is "not a good walk spoiled" at the Old Course at St. Andrews because the course is closed on Sundays and is filled with families, couples just enjoying the day, and awe-struck golfers ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the monster pot bunkers. And there are cameras--lots and lots of cameras--and lots of dogs enjoying their Sunday outings with their owners. Try that at Cypress Point or Pine Valley!

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Special hints for playing Scottish links courses




Gorse --
Lovely to look at but just imagine trying to hit out of it. Gorse is better admired from afar. Far, far afar...
Beautiful, bad, gorse
Gorse is nice to look at, nasty to touch

Bunkers, Gorse, Broom, and Other Hazards

High rough makes Scottish links courses rougher
There are only two rules for getting out of pot bunkers, broom, or gorse. Memorize these two rules.

Rule #1: Just get the ball back in play.

Rule #2: If you think you can hit a great shot and get the ball on the green, see rule #1.

Remember, according to Rule 28 At any place on the course except in a water hazard a player may declare his ball unplayable. The player is the sole judge s to whether his ball is unplayable. It will cost you a stroke but you can play the next stroke as nearly as possible from the spot where the last ball was played or you can drop a ball within 2 club lengths of the spot where the ball lay (not nearer to the hole) or you can drop behind where the ball lay as far back as you want. (If you're in a bunker you must drop in the same bunker.)

Take advantage of this rule if you are in gorse or any of the other hazards and you feel you can't get out. Don't wait until you get into more trouble and then take a drop. I've seen players take 8s and 9s on holes because they tried to blast their way out of impossible situations. Nothing can get you into more trouble in Scotland than trying to do too much when you are in the rough or in trouble. There are times when the best play in a bunker is to hit it backwards rather than forward. (As David Duval should have done at the 17th at St. Andrew's in the 2000 Open Championship.)

If you are in trouble, don't get fancy, JUST GET THE BALL BACK IN PLAY. Take your bogie and be thankful it's not worse. I played with a young man who played to a 4 handicap but, like many teenagers, did a terrible job in managing the course. Wasting 3 shots in one fairway bunker trying to do too much with it, he finally hit it into the gorse and then took 3 more shots trying to hit a career shot out of the gorse rather than just getting it out onto the fairway. So upset with himself he next fluffed his approach and ended up with an 11 on a par 4. His father was in the same bunker but decided to hit it out backwards. To his son's dismay he then hit his approach shot within 10 yards of the front of the green and chipped in for a par.

Richard in a wicked bunker on St Andrews Old Course
Depending on where your ball ends up, you may be better off hitting out backwards. Sometimes it's better to take your bogie medicine than to end up with a triple.

Golfers from every country are familiar with sand bunkers. Few outside of the British Isles have had to deal with gorse. Gorse is a bush with yellow flowers that lines many fairways. It's thick and unyielding and if your ball gets in it Rule #1 is doubly important. Most of the time you'll just have to lift it out and take a penalty.

The rough in Scotland is often long and whispy grass. It doesn't look like much trouble but it is...believe me, it is! If you get into this type of rough, take a wedge, open the face and swing a bit harder than you would normally. Concentrate on a solid hit and on just getting back on the fairway. If you take too much club, as the club comes down, the long grass will grab onto the hostle and turn the club face inwards causing a right-handed golfer's ball to shoot off to the left. Most golfers don't believe how much turn the club face will make when the grass grabs the hostle. Too often the golfer tries to do too much and ends up hooking the ball even deeper into the rough. If you're playing with a local and you find yourself in this long, whispy rough and get your ball back onto the fairway, you'll hear them say, "well done." They know first hand what can happen when you try to do too much.
Use Your Putter

On most links courses, the grass around the greens is cut very short. In fact, sometimes it's difficult to see where the fairway ends and the green begins. This coupled with the fact that many of the greens are hard and shaped like an inverted saucer and wind is often a factor makes the use of the putter a viable choice. You'll use it much more than you may be used to. Watching a Scottish Professional tournament at one of the links courses I noted that virtually every golfer within 50 yards of the green was putting rather than using a wedge! Don't automatically reach for the wedge when you are off the green, it's almost never the right choice. If the grass is short, try your putter. Try a few practice strokes to get the feel for distance and fire away. You'll almost always get closer to the pin. (See photo below.)

You can putt from a distance on many Scottish links golf courses
Don't automatically reach for your wedge when you're this close to the green and the fairway is cut this short. Think putter, even on a shot like this. You'll almost always get it closer.

Wind & Rain
Wind is a big factor in links golf. Try to keep the ball low unless the wind is behind you. A 260 yard drive in calm weather will go 270 yards if there's a 10 MPH wind behind you. However, if a 10 MPH wind is in your face, the ball will go only 242 yards. That's only 10 yards longer with a trailing wind but 18 yards shorter--almost double the distance--with a head wind. (And 10 MPH is a mere breeze in Scotland!) Also, when the wind is in your face, any hook or slice is greatly exaggerated. That's something none of us needs! However, if you can keep the ball low, the wind will not be such a factor. Some balls are designed for low flight. Bring a few of these with you and use them when you are teeing off into the wind. It will make a difference. And practice your knock down shots before you leave. (Golfers playing at Crail Golf Club have to deal with the fierce winds coming off Firth of Forth. Graeme Lennie, the friendly professional, is often asked how to play in such winds. His answer? "Keep your putts low to the ground, laddie!)

Scottish weather is reliably unreliable
The weather can change abruptly. I was about to tee off in Nairn in bright sun when this shower rolled by. But, typically, 10 minutes later it was gone.

It rains in Scotland, and, depending on which area you're in, it could be a lot. (Generally drier in the east, wetter in the west.) You should always assume it is going to rain even though the weather looks sunny and mild. If you've made reservations at a special course and it rains and you're on a tight schedule, what do you do? You play, that's what you do. So carry a good rain jacket and rain trousers. Be sure they are water-proof not just water-resistant. Same with shoes. If you get caught in a downpour and there's lots of wind you'll be glad you are protected by more than your umbrella. Most Scottish golfers play in rain that people from other parts of the world might not play in. Often a downpour will start and if you play a hole or two things will clear up for the rest of the round. If you have good raingear that gives you enough freedom for a full swing, the weather won't bother you and you'll be a happy golfer. Oh, and don't forget good non-slip rain gloves--the kind whose grip improves the wetter they get. (Peter Aliss, the BBC and CBS golf announcer and former Ryder Cup player, says he doesn't change gloves, he just wraps a handkerchief around his grip. It's legal and works just as well.) I use the Hirzl glove. They are equally effective in rain or shine.

A word about golf shoes. Almost all golf shoes are advertised as "waterproof." But all that means is that if you're standing on wet grass the water will not penetrate. But that's not enough for Scotland. Real waterproof golf shoes also have a barrier on the tongue that stops water that's on the shoes from trickling into the shoe. For example, if you're doing lots of walking through tall, wet grass, the water will get on the laces and tongue and eventually works its way into the shoe. Or, if you're wearing rain pants the water will run down the legs and work it's way into the shoes unless they are true waterproof shoes with the tongue barrier.

More miscellaneous stuff

As I've indicated, many golf courses the flags are only 5 feet high rather than the 6 foot variety you see in the States. Few Scottish courses have many yardage marker other than a 150 yard marker (some have none at all!) so a 5 foot flag can fool you into thinking you're further away than you really are. If you are not playing with a member, get yourself a yardage book. With few exceptions, you don't really need a caddie. In fact, many courses don't even have caddies available.

Toilets & Drinking Water - Two things rarely found on many Scottish golf courses are toilets and drinking water so be sure to bring along a bottle of water. I want to address this next item as delicately as possible. All of us have had the urge during a round of golf when we were not near a toilet. Usually,men just find a hidden spot behind a tree or in a bush and relieve themselves. Let's face it, we've all done it. The problem is that it's not that easy to do in Scotland--especially on the flat (and windy!) link courses. In addition, many of the links courses are "out and back" meaning the 9th hole is furthest from the clubhouse. Ask before you tee off where the loo is. And take care of business before you tee off. And if you really must...at least be discrete.

Golf Balls -
The drive is critically important in Scottish links golf. Many of the greens on links golf courses are the inverted saucer shape protected by fierce bunkers. Usually there is an "alley" thru the bunkers on your second shot if your drive landed in the right spot. If not, you'll have to hit over bunkers to greens that are not that receptive to being held--especially if you are coming in low. You'll have to hit a high shot that flops down on the green and holds. Trouble is, the greens are often hard and the wind may be blowing sidways. One solution is to use a high-spin ball--one that will stand a better chance of hitting and holding. You may not get as much distance but you'll be happier around the green.


Use the correct tee area - Ask which tees you are to play off of. You are almost never allowed to play off the championship tees and often even the medal tees are off limits. They are very strict about this so be sure to ask which tees are being used that day and don't deviate from them.


AFSD -- if you want to know how to determine the true length of a golf course, see my AFSD page.

The 19th Hole -- Most of the golf clubs serve good food. In fact, we often eat at clubhouses even if we may not have played golf that day. Don't look for fancy cooking, the food is simple food but it's well prepared and inexpensive. (One of our favorite eating spots is the Lounge at the St. Andrews clubhouse.) Clubhouses are a great place to meet people. Scottish people are friendly and Scottish golfers are the friendliest of all--at least that's how it seems!

Nairn golf clubhouse
Nairn's clubhouse is one of the best places to watch the action on the first tee and the eighteenth green.

Golf Nook rating codes for Scottish golf courses

HOLE-IN-ONE -- One of the most fabulous courses in existence. Quit your job and get a second mortgage on your home to go play this one. It's one of a kind, combining superb layout with challenging and imaginative holes and solid history. When you play a Hole-in-One course you remember it your whole life. Some examples are St. Andrew's Old Course and Royal Dornoch, both in Scotland. (Or Pebble Beach, Pine Valley, Cyprus Point and Merion to name a few in the USA.)

EAGLE - A "must play." Don't get a second mortgage but raid your kid's college fund to play it because your golfing experience will not be complete without playing this course. It is exceptional in layout, challenge, and just the experience of being on it. Some examples are Muirfield, North Berwick and Royal Aberdeen, along with Royal Birkdale and Royal St. George (both in England).

BIRDIE - An exceptional golf course, one that you enjoy from the time you arrive and check in to the time you sink your final putt and want to go another round. It may or may not be the most difficult you've ever played but it's the kind of course you want to share with your friends. Some examples are Gullane #1, Elie Links, and the Crail Balcomie course.

PAR - A good, solid round of golf. Fun to play. You won't have felt you wasted a day playing it. It may not have any history or the scenery may not be great but it is a solid play and you will have a good time playing it. Some examples are Longniddry and Luffness New.

BOGEY - A disappointing course. Play this one only if all others in the area are aerating their greens.

DOUBLE BOGEY - Keep away from this course. The only time you'll want to play this course is if the alternative is cleaning out the garage or if someone is paying your way. And make them buy you lunch, too.

OKAY - PAR is worth a play and BOGGIE is not worth a play. OKAY is somewhere in between. This is a rating for a golf course that I don't necessarily recommend but not because it's a bad course. It could be an okay golf course but one I feel is overpriced. Or it could be an okay golf course but, because of the great golf courses in the area, playing it would not be time well spent. Or, it could be that it's just an okay golf course!


Why not plan an independent golf trip to Scotland and enjoy these superb Scottish links golf courses? You will be so pleased with the experience and with the large amounts of money you saved by doing it "your way."