Scotland is the “Home of Golf” and the sport’s history and tradition are entrenched deep into Scottish culture. With that, it’s no surprise that the country boasts many of the world’s best golf courses. Adding the riveting, natural terrain, unparalleled sceneries, and unique challenges they offer, every outing is an awe-inspiring experience. Of course, each course has its distinct offerings and there’s simply no shortage of awesome golf.
So, let’s start swinging! Here is our list of the top golf courses in Scotland for a picturesque, memorable, and thrilling golf adventure.
1. The Old Course at St Andrews
Arguably, the most famous and iconic golf course on the planet, the Old Course at St. Andrews has been seeing players in its fairways for over six centuries. It’s perfect for both amateurs and professionals, befuddling anyone how to cross the Swilcan Bridge, dodge Hell Bunker, and play the Red Hole. While there are more visually engrossing links, nothing can match the timeless ambiance and the peculiar nuances of St. Andrew’s unique design, making it feel like you’re playing with the legends. There’s simply nothing else like a golf round in St. Andrews – so, never miss it!
2. Kingsbarns Golf Links
While it’s only a recently-developed links compared to the first three courses in this list, Kingsbarn Golf Links touts its own marvel, being hailed as one of the most perfectly developed links in the 21st century. Officially opened in 2000, Kingsbarns is more manmade yet its comparatively complex greens and tiered amphitheater setting with visually spectacular sea panoramas feel like a mythical fable. Consistently a favorite among famed international players, book a tee time at Kingsbarns and discover why many adore this modern phenomenon.
3. North Berwick
Founded in the 17th century in East Lothian, Scotland, North Berwick promises one of the most unusual, scenic, and genuinely amusing layouts in the country. It is an out-and-back links that provide plenty of exceptional sea and forth views, an ideal location beginning and ending in the heart of the hospitable town, and a fascinating variety of terrain. Possessing its own marque of quirkiness, some of its shots include a one concealed by stone wall plus other neat, complicated greens. Playing here is simply exciting and is worth the journey.
Getting the nod of the sport’s most renowned and greatest players like Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ernie Els, and the legendary Jack Nicklaus, the Muirfield Golf Club is one of the greatest link courses you can find in the British Isles. Just a short drive from the capital city Edinburgh, the course is panoramic, thanks to the views of the Firth of Forth and surrounding green hills. Be mindful, however, that though it’s open to visitors, it’s a highly exclusive golf club. Thus, it entails following rules and dress codes that might not suit everyone.
5. Royal Dornoch
Nestled in the Dornoch Firth’s north shore, Royal Dornoch is a championship course that traces its roots back to 1616. It’s a Highland links course that offers stunning views of the sandy beaches and the water. Ranked among the world’s greatest, Royal Dornoch is a masterpiece, ingeniously bunkered, and provides a distinct rawness to its holes, making every swing unlikely to be forgotten. It lives up to the hype and will surely not disappoint.
6. Castle Stuart
Having only opened for play in 2009, Castle Stuart is a young but an absolute course to play. It’s a brilliant course and a brainchild of Gil Hanse, ideally built on Moray Firth’s banks. The layout hosts impressive holes and varying landscapes. You can play from above the sea and along the sea. Regardless of which, expect to enjoy every hole with its spectacular backdrop and the challenge brought by the exhilarating elevation changes and infinity greens. Adding to that, it has an Art Deco-style clubhouse that has its own exceptional beauty and fabulous vistas of the Inverness coastline.
Situated just across St. Andrews, Carnoustie Golf Links is another championship course that dates back to the 16th century. This iconic Angus link has earned a reputation as one of the toughest tracks for both amateurs and professionals. If you want to take on the challenge, be ready as its innovative layout has been known to psychologically damage players. Yet, surpassing it, on the other hand, can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can get.
Plus, Carnoustie has an interesting history behind it, being the site for Ben Hogan’s memorable victory in 1953, and possesses some of the finest closing holes in the world, making it a must-see if you’re visiting Scotland apart from its great festivals to visit.
The over-a-century-old Ailsa Course at Turnberry has regularly appeared in the rankings of the world’s best golf courses. Running along the Ayrshire coastline and watched over by the beautiful lighthouse, this golf course is nothing but glories. Recently acquired by the Trump Organization, many changes and improvements were done, even enhancing the charm that Ailsa already has. The 1977 Open Championship between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus called ‘Duel in the Sun’ has been staged here, proving that the course also has a rich history to match its picturesque views.
Gleneagles is another name seen in Scotland’s golf scene. It has three championship courses and a nine-hole course, all coming with magnificent hillside vistas and intense challenge from the undulating greens and risk-worthy holes. Apart from that, Gleneagles boasts expansive facilities such as its five-star hotel that can rival that of St. Andrews and Turnberry. Be sure to hit the spa and breakfast buffet after you finish golfing.
10. Royal Aberdeen Golf Club
Capping this list is Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, one of the globe’s classic and most historic golf courses. It was founded in 1780 and received its royal patronage from Edward VII in 1903. Its award-winning layout is deemed by many to have one of the finest first nines in golf that posts undoubtedly tough challenges yet rewarded by the gorgeous North Sea vistas. The back nine holes are even more demanding, having little to no protection from the intense coastal winds. Including the blind shots, tricky bunkering, and wily greens, it’s simply a must-play for golfers who want to put their skills on a genuine test.
That’s the rundown of the toughest golf courses in Scotland! Note that they have nearly 600 golf courses, making them the country with the most golf courses per capita. So, there’s simply no shortage of incredible options here. All you need is to fully enjoy these stunning Scottish golf courses!