The game of golf was born in Scotland, with the first ever 18-hole golf course and rules created in the 15th century. So, it’s no surprise that the country has some incredible golf courses to visit. But it’s the range of locations and the landscape they fit that’s truly spectacular. Some are right by the sea, on hilltops, on islands, and close to lochs, valleys, mountains, and moorland. Whether you’re an experienced golfer or not, the beauty of these golf courses and where they are positioned is equally breathtaking. Here are six spectacular golf courses you can visit in Scotland.
1. St Andrews Links
It’s at St Andrews that you’ll find the oldest golf course in the world, named “The Old Course.” In 1552, Archbishop Hamilton signed an official charter that stated the people of St Andrews had the right to play golf on the links there. Golf was played here long before that, but this is the first official mention of it.
There are seven courses at St Andrews, with regular tournaments and incredible facilities, as you might expect from such an important golfing destination. There are three clubhouses, four shops, and a golf academy. The 18th hole on The Old Course is the most photographed hole in the world, and while there are more challenging holes on The Old Course, there’s something about the history of this one that makes it special.
Where To Stay In St Andrews: Hotel Du Vin
Perfectly placed close to the course, with amazing views over the links, beach, and sea, Hotel du Vin is a Victorian villa that’s been lovingly renovated and refurbished to create a cozy hotel with touches of luxury. It’s a lovely old hotel that feels like an old gentleman’s club, but it’s the position that really sets it apart. You can see the first tee of The Old Course from some rooms.
2. Royal Dornoch
Dornoch is a beautiful, wild, and rugged destination. The two 18-hole courses at Royal Dornoch are set spectacularly by the sea. The Struie Course was originally a 12-hole ladies’ course opened in 1899 to partner the 18-hole Championship Course, but in 1999, it opened as the 18-hole course we see today.
The 17th is the signature hole here, as the fairway drifts away from view and the beach serves as a backdrop. An aiming pole is provided since you can’t see where your shot will land. Experienced golfers will be able to feel their way forward with this shot, but for others, it’s a shot in the dark. It’s dramatic and could be one of the greatest holes in all of Scotland.
Where To Stay In Dornoch: Links House
Links House is just moments away from the course and provides a luxurious country retreat-type place to eat, drink, and sleep. The views are of the sea, though you can see parts of the golf course to the left of the hotel. Choose from hotel rooms or neighboring suites with self-catering facilities. The food here is incredible, and I definitely recommend trying the taster menu with a wine flight.
3. Balbirnie Park
This single 18-hole golf course is a modest one, but Balbirnie Park’s beauty lies in its understated surroundings and quietness. Set on 140 acres of woodland, this course feels very private and much less visited than the more famous courses like St Andrews. It’s a great one for beginners to play a round on, as the trees act as a kind of wall and give you the seclusion you need to concentrate on what you’re doing.
The course has its challenges and is quite hilly, following the natural lines of the park, but it’s certainly a fun and entertaining course. The 18th is the signature hole. Downhill and with a stream in front of the green, it’s not easy but it is stunning.
Where To Stay In Glenrothes: Balbirnie House
If you want to be right in the middle of the action, you can’t get closer to the golf course here than at Balbirnie House. This luxury country hotel sits right in the middle of Balbirnie Park, on the edge of the golf course itself. Built in 1777, this Georgian mansion still feels very much like a country stately home, and it’s very popular with wedding parties. The dining rooms give an impressive choice in where and how to dine, and the orangery is stunning.
4. The Machrie Links
Set in the dunes of Islay, The Machrie is a stylish base for golfers looking to tee off on the wild and beautiful Scottish isle. Home to an iconic championship course, golf has been played at The Machrie since 1891, with the original design by Scottish golf professional Willie Campbell.
The 18-hole course has since been fully modernized by course architect DJ Russell and combines the best of a traditional historic links course with a modern layout and green complexes. Played on unique dune lands bordering Laggan Bay and set against the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, The Machrie Links is an incredible location. Alongside the 18-hole links, you’ll find the Wee Course, offering six par-three holes that can be played from a multitude of tees; an all-season, five-bay driving range; and a golf simulator, trackman, and short game area.
Where To Stay In Islay: The Machrie
This is basically a golfing holiday destination. And the hotel, The Machrie, is right there by the course. When it comes to downtime and a break from golfing, The Machrie has everything you need. The hotel boasts three cozy lounges to relax in, whilst the restaurant, 18, overlooks the 18th hole of the course with panoramic views of the Atlantic. The hotel stands alone, with no other building in sight for miles. It’s a truly spectacular setting; one of privacy, wilderness, solitude, and absolute beauty.
The name Gleneagles is synonymous with golf, and here, you’ll find three championship courses and one nine-hole course. Set amid brooding hills and areas of natural parkland and woodland, it’s not unusual to see a deer or two trot over the green. In fact, when you’re not playing golf, this is a great place for some wildlife spotting.
Each hole on all three courses is named and numbered, with amusing and traditionally-Scottish titles like Needle E’e, or “needle’s eye,” and Silver tassie, or “silver cup.” The King’s Course could be the greatest moorland course in the world, with surrounding hills like no other course I can think of. The Queen’s Course is slightly easier, giving visitors good options depending on ability.
Where To Stay In Perthshire: Auchterarder House
If you’re part of a larger golfing group, or you’re visiting with family, Auchterarder House is a private house rental that sleeps up to 20 people in 10 bedrooms. It was originally built as a Victorian stately home and still retains many of its original features. There’s a gym, sauna, cinema room, and a private chef who can do all of your catering for you. Every room is luxurious and very spacious and you’ll truly feel like royalty when you stay here.
6. The Carrick Golf Course
The Carrick Golf Course weaves through an area of outstanding natural beauty on the banks of Loch Lomond. It’s one of Scotland’s newest championship standard golf courses and, arguably, the country’s most breathtaking. Sympathetically designed in keeping with its position within Scotland’s first national park, the par-71 course follows a traditional Scottish heathland style.
Challenging holes stretch over beautiful fairways, hug inland lagoons, and overlook the glittering waters of the loch and rugged mountains beyond. The Carrick extends 5,200 yards from the front tees and 7,086 yards from the championship tees. For a shorter challenge, guests can take on the Wee Demon course. Wee Demon by name, Wee Demon by nature, this tricky nine-hole course overlooks Loch Lomond and threads a delicate path through the estate grounds to the Boat House and Marina, constantly testing your limits. Onto the Clubhouse, located in the Cameron Club and Spa with views towards Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond, it’s the perfect 19th hole.
Where To Stay In Loch Lomond: Cameron House
Cameron House, a beautiful baronial lodge on the southwestern shores of the Loch, is an 18th-century mansion surrounded by 400 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside. The resort features an award-winning spa with a rooftop infinity pool and your choice of bedrooms and suites with views overlooking Loch Lomond. It’s located only 25 minutes from Glasgow International Airport and 30 minutes from Glasgow city center.