Course Guide to Scotland Golf

Course Guide To Scotland Golf 

By Blake Cowley - Golf HQ 

After a week back home from a two-week trip playing 8 rounds of golf in Scotland it's time to unpack what I just experienced. If you haven't thought about playing golf in Scotland you need to start looking at flights NOW. Scotland golf is a must and is more than a bucket list trip because as soon as you come home you find yourself starting to look at what other courses you haven't played over there yet. 

Here is my current ranking:

1) Kingsbarns Golf Links 

Kingsbarns was our favourite on the trip. Kind of like Kinloch but by the sea to give you a NZ take on it. Starting extremely hungover on the front nine we began to sober up after a sausage roll and a can of Tennents Lager, we really enjoyed back nine. Finishing the round with a kick in birdie and a cold Guinness in the clubhouse we started to dream about coming back and playing this course again.

Like all of the Scottish courses, it was a true links course with most holes asking you to take less than driver off the tee. With surprisingly big greens and large run-offs, it rewarded players hitting the ball on the right green level. You might remember Michael Phelps holing 159-foot putt on the 6th hole of Kingsbarns back in the 2016 Dunhill Links Championship that gives you an idea of the size of the greens. 

The green fee cost $730NZD  

2) St Andrews Old Course 

The Old Course where do I begin, Simply the most famous golf course in the world. One of the hardest courses to get onto. If you want to play the old course you have three options. Book through a tour group booking which is mostly made up of golf booking companies in the USA with a minimum of 30 plus people required to make the booking. Option two is to go into the ballot system which is easy to enter but hard to get in with over 200 people each day going for 20-odd spots. The third option seems like a crazy option but is part of the tradition of the old course, line up and wait. People line up and wait outside the starters hut from 1am most mornings. This is your best chance to get a tee time but you have to work for it as it normally gets to around zero overnight in Scotland and the starters hut doesn't open till 6 am so you have to wait patiently in the cold in the hope of locking in a tee time. This was how I got a game. After waiting in line I got a tee-off time at 1pm later that day. 

After watching The Open for many years and seeing all the tour pros hit an iron off the first tee and a flick wedge into the green I thought that was the play. Little did I realise that it was a 30k wind straight into me so my 3 iron only went 150m leaving me with a 5 iron to a green sitting over the burn. This set the tone for the whole round. Lots of me trying to hit the famous shots that I had seen on TV over the years and less of me trying to put a score together. Looking back I have no regrets and loved every minute of it. Finishing with a birdie on the 18th hole in front of 50-odd members of the public clapping as I walked off the green gives you the smallest taste of what the tour pros must experience. 

The green fee cost $580NZD   

3) Dunbar Golf Links

Dunbar was the biggest surprise of the trip. Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest golf courses in the country and is steeped in tradition and history. With all 18 holes overlooking the North Sea, you simply can not skip playing Dunbar. 

After making three pars to start with I went on to completely lose my swing and spent the rest of the round looking for my ball in the knee-high hag. Putting my bad golf aside I can't wait to go back and play Dunbar. It has everything you want in a links course and more. 

The green fee cost $400NZD   

4) North Berwick Golf Links 

We played North Berwick the same day as the first round of the Scottish Open which was being played just 10 minutes down the road. After hitting my approach long on the 17th I had a tricky downhill chip, just before hitting it I happen to look over and see Aaron Baddeley standing there watching me play my shot as he and a group of caddies were playing the 1st hole. After managing to hit a nice chip shot close to the hole I started to think man if these Tour Pros are coming out to North Berwick after playing the Scottish Open in the morning this place must be as special as it seems. 

Quirky! is the best way to describe the course. Rock walls, crazy greens & amazing views. North Berwick was the first course we played on the trip and what a perfect course to get you introduced to Scottish golf. Once again not many drivers were hit but plenty of driving irons off the tees to get you in the right position. 

The green fee cost $450NZD  

5) St Andrew Jubilee course 

We manage to play the Jubilee course with a local St Andrews member and man did that make a difference! having someone tell you where to hit it and what to hit off each tee was so valuable especially when we were playing in a 4-club wind. Driver was going 300 plus meters or 180 depending on the wind direction. 

Jubilee like the New and the Old Course has a sea of bunkers waiting for your ball. Stay out of the bunkers and you will have a good day on the links. The Jubilee was once again very tight off the tee with a lot of blind tee shots. Highly recommend adding this one to your list. 

The green fee cost $260NZD   

6) Luffness New Golf Club 

Steeped in tradition Luffness New Golf Club is one of the few courses in the world with some very old-school rules: 

1) If you wear shorts you have to wear knee-high socks 

2) Jacket and tie must be worn in the clubhouse 

3) No ladies members 

4) No tee-offs before 8am 

5) Must play with a member 

Knowing all of this before we turned up I was a little weary of what the vibe would be like but as soon as we said we were playing with a member they were super nice and helpful. The course was tight and long meaning if you were having a bad driver day you would be hitting a lot of long irons into the greens. Because we had flown over from NZ and the Air NZ 23kg baggage limited meant there was no way we were going to bring over a jacket and tie to enjoy the clubhouse restaurant after our round so we jumped in the car and drove 2 minutes down the road to a local pub which was more aligned with what the trip was about. If you can get on I would definitely make a point about playing here. 

The green fee cost (with a member) is $30NZD    

7) St Andrew New Course 

St Andrews New Course is one of 7 golf courses at St Andrew's and one of the easiest courses to get a game. We simply turned up at 7:30am put our name down and were on the first tee by 8am. The New course is one of those courses where after the round it's hard to pick out each hole you played. A good course but definitely not one of our favorite's. The best story from the day was when we were in the clubhouse after the round looking at more merch, we overheard the pro shop staff talking about the "Good Good" guys who were in here yesterday drunk! and buying half the shop. You know it's a golf destination when you hear about the famous people that are playing the same course you are. 

The green fee cost $260NZD   

8) Musselburgh Links 

After we finished our round at Dunbar we decided to go play at Musselburgh Links golf course. The oldest golf course in the world with it being 351 years old. The player of the day was the guy we meet in the pro shop. Passionate about the club's history and gave us a good 20-minute chat about the oldest club in the world. A nine-hole golf course with some surprising long par threes. The course is deliberately left rough so you can experience what golf was like back in the day. Ideally meant to be played with hickory clubs and a wound golf ball to get the full experience. A super fun way to spend an hour as you get around the course very quickly. This would be a perfect place to get over your jet lag. When you planning your golf trip to Scotland put this course down first and build from here.

The green fee cost $85NZD   

If you're thinking about putting a golf trip together I highly recommend you also look at playing St Andrews Castle Course, Muirfield, Carnoustie & Royal Troon. Plus while you're in St Andrews you MUST have a beer and a feed at the Dunvegan (the most famous golf bar in the world) & the "Jigger In" which is located next to the 17th hole of the Old course. 

Ideally, get a group of 4 of you and get an air b&b and a rental car and enjoy one of the best golf destinations in the world. I know I will be back there as soon as I can. 

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