Author: Callum Taylor, Managing Director, Golf Concierge Scotland Ltd, Edinburgh.
Scotland will once again be a popular holiday destination for UK golfers this year. We are spoilt for beautiful staycation spots and there is something for every level and budget of golfer with approximately 550 courses to choose from.
Golf World magazine released the latest Scotland Top 100 ranking this month. Within only a relatively short car or ferry journey Scots can tick off a number of these top Scottish courses over a long weekend.
Let's discover 3 Scottish regions which deliver world-class links golf at an affordable price for staycationers.
The Kintyre Peninsula- 3 Top 100 rounds
This remote part of Scotland was made famous by Paul McCartney and Wings’ hit song; Mull of Kintyre, and Campbeltown was known as “The whisky capital of the world". Now 3 distilleries remain with Springbank, Glen Scotia and Glengyle but besides the whisky there is some world class golf to be found. Stay and play packages are available to book at The Ugadale Hotel and Cottages in Machrihanish or 5 miles away at The Royal Hotel in the heart of Campbeltown.
On the Western side of Kintyre, in 1879 the legendary Old Tom Morris laid out the original Machrihanish Golf Club (Ranked 18/100). It is known for arguably having the best opening tee shot in golf over Machrihanish Bay Beach. In fact the whole front nine plays across dunes making for a spectacular raw and wild links experience.
A few miles north on the other side of Campbeltown Airport, Machrihanish Dunes (23) opened in 2009. The course was laid out on a highly-protected piece of natural dunescape, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The project was led by David McLay Kidd whose designs include The St Andrews Castle Course (30) and Bandon Dunes, Oregon. Over the last 10 years there has been modifications to make Mach Dunes more forgiving with less rough, several new tees and 6 greens re-shaped, making it a much fairer and enjoyable test for the visiting golfer.
Dunaverty Golf Club (48) does not get the same headlines as the Machrihanish courses but is every bit as fun a golf experience. On the southern tip of Kintyre it’s a short Par 66 links course at less than 4,800 yards with seven Par 3’s, but the playability and spectacular views to Sanda Island, Ailsa Craig and to Northern Ireland should not be missed.
East Neuk of Fife-6 Top 100 rounds
This very attractive corner of Fife is famous for its coastline and sandy beaches adjoining the ancient fishing villages of Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail.
The Crail Golfing Society dates back to 1786 and is on an amazing piece of property where the Firth of Forth meets the North Sea. The historic Crail Balcomie Links (54) has a dramatic opening stretch of coastal holes and is a joy to play. For a modern-day links which the lower handicap golfers tend to prefer over Balcomie, Crail Craighead is another strong option which was designed by Gil Hanse and plays amongst ancient medieval walls with some spectacular views.
Kingsbarns Golf Links (6) can be seen in the distance when playing Crail and does not need much of an introduction, it’s one of the best courses in the world.
A few miles West, Lundin (51) and Leven Links (52) are two past Open Qualifying courses which border one another and along with Elie (27) offer a top Fife links golf experience. The Old Manor is a cosy family run 4-star golfers hotel overlooking Lundin Links and only 20 minutes to the 7 famous courses found in St Andrews.
Scotland’s newest championship course Dumbarnie Links (24) is located 3 miles outside the town of Lundin Links and opened in May 2020 to high acclaim. Our group enjoyed the challenge, friendly welcome by the starter and immaculate course conditions that Dumbarnie provided when visiting last August. Scottish golfers will be returning in their numbers during the 2021 season and will be treated to the brand new clubhouse.
Moray and Speyside - 8 Top 100 rounds
Another famous malt whisky area, Speyside has more than 50 distilleries, the highest concentration compared to any other whisky producing region in the world.
Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth has 36 holes of quality links golf and is no doubt the main draw. Moray Old (39) can be played for well under a green fee of £100. Designed by Old Tom Morris there are superb holes played amongst dunes and out towards Covesea Lighthouse with pot bunkers, gorse and fine links turf. The Old finishes with a cracking Par 4 playing to a raised green in front of the clubhouse where golfers can sample the club’s own Speyside 12- or 15-year-old Malt.
Moray New (57) offers a strong 2nd course option with precision required to find narrow gorse lined fairways laid out by Henry Cotton. Watch out for jets at next doors RAF Lossiemouth which are literally a hazard on several holes when they come into land.
Further along the coast towards the famed golfer’s town of Nairn (25,79), staycationers can find undiscovered and beautiful courses at Covesea Links (91) and Hopeman, a scenic course which is currently going through a Mackenzie & Ebert revamp.
One of Moray’s most exhilarating golf experiences can be found at Cullen Golf Club, another Old Tom Morris design which in recent years has found increased attention from international golfers. There are no fewer than 10 Par 3’s with links holes playing between and over giant sea stacks which make for a memorable round. The Seafield Arms in Cullen is the ideal golfers retreat to stay overnight in either hotel rooms or 3-bedroom stables and enjoy the restaurant and bar where the culinary delicacy Cullen Skink is a popular choice.
For golfers travelling up to Moray from the central belt you will pass, Boat of Garten (34), Spey Valley (58) and Grantown-on-Spey (84). Although in the Highland district bordering Moray, they are all heathland courses that fly under the radar with stunning views of The Cairngorms National Park.