Scottish links - 6 of the best

Scottish links -  6 of the best

From some of the world's oldest courses to dramatic new links, Scotland is a top destination for the travelling golfer, writes Andrew Marshall

Golf courses come in no greater abundance than in Scotland. This is where the royal and ancient game started and every golfer wants to experience the delights and challenges of Scottish golf, especially the links, with their spectacular coastal views, rumpled fairways, undulating greens, pot bunkers and ever-present sea breezes. Here's six of the best courses to tee it up...
- Aberdeenshire

As you turn off the A90 north of Aberdeen and continue down the long driveway to the clubhouse, glimpses of shaggy-topped dunes provide a tantalising appetiser for the main course. Right from the superb par-5 opening hole, you are thrust into an imposing landscape of the world's largest dunes - and the adventure never lets up. The 2013 British Open champion, Phil Mickelson, said: "I thought the Trump course was sensational. What I enjoyed about it is that it's really a traditional links course but on a modern-day scale." As you walk along the manicured grass pathways between greens and tees, there's a strong sense of anticipation as each hole is revealed. One of the best moments is after you leave the 13th green and pass through a little gap in the dunes to emerge on the par-4 14th's elevated tee, and the unforgettable sight of a rumpled fairway twisting its way through towering dunes alongside the wild North Sea.
(Nearby courses: Murcar Links, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay.)
- East Lothian

Designed by acclaimed American golf architect Tom Doak (of Pacific Dunes, Cape Kidnappers and Barnbougle Dunes fame), this is the newest kid on the block to grace the historic East Lothian golf coast southeast of Edinburgh. Located between the classic links of Muirfield and North Berwick, the Renaissance Club, which opened in 2008, delivers an entirely new golf experience. Set on an elevated coastal ground overlooking the Firth of Forth, the course has a truly distinctive style: an open dunes landscape punctuated by windswept trees, linksy rough and large contoured greens. The par-3 9th and par-4 11th, featuring centuries-old rock walls, are two of the most photogenic holes. Although the Renaissance is a private members club, it's currently offering a "One Time Experience", where any golfer can play the course, stay in the fantastic accommodation, enjoy gourmet cuisine prepared by Michelin-starred chefs, or use it as a base to play other great courses in the area.
(Nearby courses:  Muirfield, Gullane [3 courses], Longniddry, Musselburgh Links, Dunbar, North Berwick.)

Kingsbarns is a tribute to classic Scottish links and has come on in leaps and bounds since opening in 2000. Designed by leading golf architect Kyle Phillips, the layout meanders along one-and-a-half miles of rugged seashore, offering ocean views from every hole. With spacious fairways rolling and twisting through dune ridges and hollows, true links turf and large greens, the course is challenging yet playable. Kingsbarns is all about risk and reward. You can play to a safe area but it's likely to be a tough angle to the green. If you take a gamble and go the Tiger line, you will have the choice of playing a running shot or one through the air.
(Nearby courses: St Andrews Old Course, Castle Course, Duke's Course, Balcomie Links (Crail).)
TURNBERRY - Ayrshire

This British Open Championship venue came to international prominence with the infamous 'Duel in the Sun' between Tom Watson (champion) and Jack Nicklaus over four sweltering days during July 1977. Since then, Greg Norman, Nick Price and, most recently, Stewart Cink (when Tom Watson narrowly missed out on becoming the oldest winner in history) have made up the quartet of golfers to lift the Claret Jug, and polls now regularly acknowledge Turnberry's Ailsa course as one of Britain's top three courses with regular rankings within the world's top 20. The ninth (Bruce's Castle) is a contender for Turnberry's trademark hole. Adjacent to the famous lighthouse and the remains of Robert the Bruce's Castle (Scottish King from 1306-1329), this long par-4 has no bunkers, yet is a daunting hole especially from the championship tee which is perched on a rocky premonitory on the edge of the sea.
- Inverness-shire

The brainchild of Mark Parsinen, the American who gifted the world Kingsbarns, this 'world top 100' championship links course overlooks the Moray Firth and well-known landmarks that are synonymous with Inverness - the Kessock Bridge, Chanonry Lighthouse, Fort George and Castle Stuart itself - with an old sea cliff creating two-tiered plateaus with six holes running alongside the inner Moray Firth. The course has been designed with wide fairways to offer plenty of lines of play on ground that is perfect for links golf. The views all around are fabulous, and from some tees and greens, the 1930s-style white 'Art Deco' clubhouse can be seen sitting prominently atop its viewing perch.
(Nearby courses: Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Brora, Tain.)
- Angus

There is nothing to match the experience of playing one of the most famous and challenging courses in world golf. Originally laid out in 1840 by Allan Robertson, with major changes being introduced later by Old Tom Morris and James Braid, the finishing hole of the championship course with the clubhouse and hotel in the background is a Scottish golf highlight. A scene of major drama in the 1999 and 2007 British Opens, this 510-yard par-4 will play as a par-5 for the majority of golfers, even from the front markers. Faced with a tee shot most likely into the wind, you must negotiate the notorious Barry Burn that winds across the fairway like an agitated snake. A five is good here and a six would have won Jean Van de Velde the claret jug in 1999. The British Open will make a welcome return here in 2018.
(Nearby courses: Carnoustie Buddon, Carnoustie Burnside, Panmure, Arbroath.)

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