Scotland has an abundance of golf courses; per person, more than any other country in the world in fact. And, of course, it is not only the quantity but the quality of our courses that is remarkable. The famous championship venues are a big draw for visitors but, beyond them, you'll find great golf courses in all four corners of the country - indeed, some in very remote and unlikely places!
I've been fortunate to have played many of the best courses in Scotland and here are my favourites. Not necessarily the best, but my favourites; great golf courses that are challenging and enjoyable to play, and have something extra special about them too.
Old Course, St.Andrews - Fife
My favourite course, in one of my favourite places, it is always a thrill to play the Old Course. No course designer would create many of its holes now - the shared fairways and greens, two par 5s and two par3s - it is full of quirks, but somehow it all works perfectly. Like all links courses, the weather plays a huge part in how it plays, but even on the rare benign days, avoiding the pot bunkers and negotiating the undulating greens is a real challenge.
Info: Par 72, 6721 yards. Course designer: unknown
Royal Dornoch - Sutherland
Dornoch, like St Andrews, has a special atmosphere. The remote Highland setting is stunning and the course has a real grandeur. The holes played alongside the Dornoch Firth are memorable, but the toughest holes are the par 3s, especially the 2nd and 6th, with their narrow, elevated greens.
Info: Par 70, 6748 yards. Course designer: George Duncan
Murcar Links - Aberdeen
Murcar Links is a classic seaside course, with many wonderful holes. The North-East course has a fearsome reputation, and it certainly demands accuracy and skill. Overall, it is one of the best presented courses in Scotland.
The front nine in particular has many memorable holes. The par 3 5th is a fantastic short hole, with its long narrow green protected with a steep fall off to the left and bunkers and wispy rough covered mounds to the right. That is followed by two tough par 4s, particularly the 7th, "The Serpetine", Murcar's signature hole and a real classic.
Info: Par 71, 6516 yards. Course designer: Archie Simpson
Western Gailes - Ayrshire
Ayrshire is a fantastic county for golf, home to Open venues Royal Troon, Turnberry and Prestwick. However, I think the comparatively less well-known Western Gailes is in the same class. An interesting mixture of holes, a great setting with views across the Firth of Clyde to Arran, tough bunkering and greens- it is a links that should be included in any Ayrshire golf trip.
Info: Par 71, 7014 yards. Course designer: unknown
Rosemount, Blairgowrie - Perthshire
I’ve picked the original Blairgowrie course, Rosemount, although the newer Landsdowne course has matured into a wonderful course too. Rosemount, however, just has a little more character and charm than the tougher Landsdowne. Put together (and if you add in Blairgowrie’s fun 9 holer too), this is the best inland golf club in Scotland.
Info: Par 72, 6630 yards. Course designer: James Braid
Nairn - Inverness-shire
This Walker Cup venue is a terrific course with lots of variety; moving inland for a stretch of holes on the back nine, before returning to more links style golf at the close. The opening nine played alongside the Moray Firth is wonderful.
Info: Par 72, 6774 yards. Course designers: contributions from Archie Simpson, Ben Sayers, James Braid, Old Tom Morris
Castle Stuart - Highlands
A very enjoyable golf course in a beautiful setting, with a stylish clubhouse and a relaxed and friendly atmosphere; playing golf at Castle Stuart is great fun. The course is set up to be golfer friendly, with generous fairways and light rough, however, watch out for some nasty bunkers and tricky greens.
American course designers Gil Hanse and Mark Parsinen created the course to have visual impact and the views from the tees and greens are stunning. Opened in 2009, it is just a baby in relation to many links courses, but it has quickly established itself as one of the most popular courses in Scotland.
Info: Par 72, 7009 yards. Course designers: Gil Hanse and Mark Parsinen
A traditional course that exudes character, has a unique atmosphere and is in a stunning setting. It’s an old-fashioned links with too many blind shots for modern tastes, but who said the game was supposed to be fair! Its best holes are spectacular, especially the par 3 4th and tough par4 5th.
Info: Par 70, 6609 yards. Course designers: Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson
Ladybank - Fife
A classic heathland course in the Kingdom in Fife, this Open qualifying venue is a pleasure to play. Although it is inland, Ladybank’s turf feels more linksy, and its greens are always firm, fast and great to putt on. It is a demanding course tee to green, with keeping the ball on the tree and heather lined fairways vital to scoring well.
With few consecutive holes travelling in the same direction and with many holes featuring a dog leg design, it is a course which golfers skilled in shaping their shots will enjoy.
Info: Par 71, 6580 yards. Course designer: Old Tom Morris
Boat of Garten - Highlands
This one is certainly off the beaten track, but "The Boat's" remote Highland location adds to its appeal. Set among silver birches and pines, and surrounded by the Cairngorm mountains, it is a beautiful course; not overly taxing for holiday golfers but with enough challenge to keep the interest of serious golfers too. A lovely course, well worth making a detour to visit.
Info: Par 70, 5876 yards. Course designer: James Braid
Of course, these are just a few of the many great golf courses in Scotland, and I'm sure you'll all have your own favourites. On another day I could've included Troon, Carnoustie, Royal Aberdeen, Kingsbarns and many more great courses that I've enjoyed playing. And there are a few courses remaining that I hope to play one day, with Muirfield and Loch Lomond top of that list. If you're planning a trip to Scotland then I hope this has given you some ideas for your itinerary and that you enjoy a great trip to the Home of Golf.