A DOZEN FUN GEMS
Scotland is filled with out-of-theway courses that could become your own personal hidden gem. It’s a country abounding with quality and quirkiness. Drive through the countryside or along the coast and you will find fairways and greens virtually everywhere. Most of them pleasant to play. Scotland is slightly smaller in size than KwaZulu-Natal, and it has more than 500 courses to choose from.
What is different about golf in Scotland, compared to South Africa, is the length and par of courses. It’s not uncommon to play an 18-hole course with a par of between 65 and 68, and less than 5 000 metres in length. Most male golfers in South Africa would hesitate about playing a course shorter than the ladies’ tees at their own course, yet that’s part and parcel of Scottish golf away from the championship layouts. Distance is unimportant, because the challenge usually lies elsewhere.
In Scotland it’s a game designed to be played quickly and without fuss, and that’s most likely the reason golf is still popular. I’ve identified a dozen gems that are worth playing for a fun experience and affordability.
This par 67 layout (4 981 metres) with glorious views over the Firth of Forth opens with two of the most beautiful par 3s in golf.The opening holes run along the shoreline of the Forth.
boat of garten, highlands
In scenic rolling terrain in the Cairngorms National Park, this James Braid design has quirky holes set among birch trees, heather and broom. Bordering one side of the course is the River Spey, while the other has a steam train railway line.
duff house royal, north-east
Known as the Augusta of the North, being one of the few UK courses designed by Alister Mackenzie, who went on to create Augusta National. Beautiful parkland layout on the River Deveron, in the coastal town of Banff.The greens complexes are Mackenzie magic.
One of the best of the older inland courses.This looks like parkland, but undulating fairways give it a links feel. First created by Old Tom Morris, then updated by James Braid, it has terrific design pedigree.
The best of the links around Royal Dornoch, right on the sea. It’s a James Braid bouncy links-cumheathland layout with creative greens which add to the enjoyment.
gullane 3, east lothian
Not many tourists bother to play the third course, but locals know how much fun this links is, and how cheap the green fee is, £45 to play all day. Gullane 1 is £150 a round. Gullane’s hills offer magnificent vistas.
hayston, north of glasgow
A secluded James Braid layout on gently rolling countryside next to the River Kelvin, with some terrific long holes. Hayston is in Kirkintilloch, and the club was founded due to the town being declared “dry.” Locals overcame prohibition in 1926 by forming a new golf club outside the town limits – the old Kirkintilloch GC is still there.
A links set on a rocky North Sea shoreline, with its first tee adjoining an old fishing village near Fraserburgh, this is a local secret. Just 5 000 metres long (par 67) with cleverly designed small greens. Fish supper in the clubhouse often comes fresh from the sea.
kilmacolm, west of glasgow
A picturesque moorland course often compared to Gleneagles, an enjoyable walk filled with grand views. It’s in an affluent village of the same name, filled withVictorian and Edwardian villas.
kilspindie, east lothian
Close to Gullane is a unique links in miniature on the edge of the Firth of Forth where you begin with a par 3. Most holes are short par 4s, so you can play a round with irons, yet the challenge remains just as exacting as longer courses.
portpatrick dunskey, south-west
Charming and picturesque links in the south-west corner of Scotland, in Dumfries and Galloway. Northern Ireland is on the horizon.The Dunskey has views of the rugged coastline, most spectacularly at the magical 13th, a 270-metre downhill par 4 which offers most golfers the chance to drive the green if the wind is behind.
wigtownshire county, south-west
This course can feel like the loneliest in the world. On the quiet shores of Luce Bay in the south of Scotland it has a remote air about it. Not well known and you might have it virtually to yourself.A tiny clubhouse but out there is a links which grows in stature the further you go.With better bunkering it could be magnificent. Look out for the tidal surge.
The first tee at Fortrose & Rosemarkie on the Moray Firth.