Top 100 Golf Courses in Scotland 2020

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Every golfer has their own dream list of golf courses to play, but Go&Golf Ambassador Rob McAllan took this one further and put his words into action.

Rob’s on a quest to play the top 100 golf courses in Scotland, and he’s doing pretty well having played 93 / 100 at the time of writing. It’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about golf in Scotland, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to get him to share some of his most memorable experiences to date.

If you’re looking to play some of the best courses in Scotland (if not the world) we’re sure you’ll find Rob’s recommendations extremely useful. You can also check him out on Instagram (@golfingscottishtop100) and keep track on his progress.

How the challenge started

I started the challenge in March 2018 but I had already played 29 of them and these count towards the total. I have gone back and played 10 of the 29 though.

The whole thing came about as we found the list on a website and we were debating it at work. Everyone started seeing how many they had played and my boss, who brings out my competitive side had played 56 of them, I thought, I am not having that I better get playing……

I will play four more this summer, making 97. I will then play Macrie and Royal Troon in 2020 to get me up to 99 and Loch Lomond will just come along whenever I am lucky enough to get on. I will be based in Angola for the next three years so we will see.

❤️️Favourite Course – Too difficult

An almost impossible question to succinctly answer and stand firm with, due to the multitude of factors. Looking through all the Scottish courses I have played, my mind wanders between quite a few. There is no clear winner and that is testament to our great game; the variety in courses and playing conditions is what keeps us coming back.

If I am really pushed, I would have a predictable list: The Old, Royal Dornoch, The Ailsa, Carnoustie and Prestwick. However, there is a second list of favourites that are slightly more hidden and I think this is where I find the charm, the likes of Kilspindie, Askernish, Ladybank, Downfield, Crail Old, Elie and Brora.

🗺Best Design – Royal Dornoch

Much has been written about Dornoch and the layout of the championship course and I would say that the links is as described, absolutely first class. The real beauty for me was the bunkering around the greens; the strategic nature of what was required for each approach left me debating where a loose shot would go, with the penalties for anything short of good being obvious.

I am fortunate to be a friend of a member and played as a guest, we enjoyed great hospitality in the clubhouse before setting off, with a fine meal and a beer to calm the nerves. The setting is lovely as you get views up and down the coast; we played in the spring and the gorse was in full bloom, which added to the beauty. The course was in excellent condition and the greens were first class.

👍Must Play – Prestwick Golf Club

I played the course mid-week at the end of the winter season. I actually had the course to myself; the starter turned up just for me and gave a great welcome, showing me around and talking me through all 18 holes, as we sat in a grand hall with a roaring fire.

Out on the course, things were a lot less friendly with temperatures near freezing, however the sun was shining and I was soon on my way. The course is somewhat changed from the original lay out that saw the first 13 Opens, it eventually had 24 Opens played over it. The original course had 12 holes and six of these greens are still in use today. Three holes are still laid out exactly as they were – the 2nd, the 4th and the 5th – which are now the 17th, 3rd and 13th respectively. Tom Morris was responsible for taking the course up to its modern 18 holes in 1882.

The course is kept in great condition and from the opening tee shot, which is tight along the railway track, I was on for a challenge. I love the history of golf and to be playing the links where the Open started was an excellent feeling.

The course isn’t up to the modern tour events in terms of the additional space required for crowds and media villages but with an overall length from the tips of 6908 yards, it is a stern test. The 1st, 3rd, 5th, 15th, 16th and 17th are all tremendous and I feel they alone are worth the green fee. The fees are steep but the course is a must play if you love the history of the sport.

The course retains the quirk of the past, something many modern layouts fail to grasp. No two rounds at Prestwick would be the same; somewhere, somehow, you would always be challenged to a shot you had never played before. A good imagination would help you around the course.

 From the moment I walked into the clubhouse to see the famous Red Moroccan Leather Belt and Claret Jug, to the moment I signed the scorecard, I was enchanted. A must play in any golfer’s life time.

️⛳️Most Unique – Askernish

By the location alone, this course gets some accolades. It sits out in the ocean on the West coast of South Uist and is as remote as one can feel on a golf course.

The course was originally laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1891 but fell into disrepair. As a fan of golf history and after reading a few novels based around the Morris clan, I had to play this course. The project was basically to re-establish the course as it was. Gordon Irvine and Martin Ebert, together with a large amount of local support, spent a couple of years bringing it back to life from 2006 to 2008. I would say efforts were made to keep this course as it would have been. The tee boxes are tiny, the fairways are covered in rabbit burrows and the greens are slow, there are cows grazing on the course and electric fences guarding the greens. Despite all this, it was delightful.

I played in a strong southerly wind and had my work cut out at several south facing holes. I felt like I had stepped back in time. I really enjoyed the layout and thoroughly enjoyed the green complexes, some of which would be impossible with closely mown putting surfaces.

It takes commitment and time to get to South Uist – there are a few nearby courses, one on Harris and one on Benbecula, I believe. The trip is well worth it – it isn’t about the quality of the golf, it was about the adventure and it was one I cannot wait to repeat. The stand out hole was the par 3 11th, across a gully, 197 yards to the middle of the green. I had to resort to hitting a driver as I didn’t know if I could make it in the strong wind, leaving it short wasn’t an option. I was pin high and mightily relieved.

🛡Most Difficult – Carnoustie (Championship)

I grew up in the Angus area and as a teenager had a terrible experience around the course, shooting around 110 off the medal tees, whilst playing off 15. I’ve had the pleasure to play it again a few times and the course never fails to ask some great questions of my game and indeed my strategic nuance. Every hole seems to throw up a conundrum and due to the nature of links golf with changing winds, it never feels like I have cracked it the course.

I can only liken the course to chess, the need to be in the right spot from the tee has never been greater, to allow you to get at the pin, the fairways bunkers and the lie of the land mean that although small, they are actually able to swallow balls from a large area.

As with any Open course, the condition is fantastic. The turf here, as at nearby Panmure, is unusual in that is slightly peaty, not the sandy links soil of others. The course always surprises me in its compactness – on the television, it looks so open and grand, however in real life, it feels so very tight, especially in the height of summer with the wind up.

The closing holes of 15,16, 17 and 18 are fantastically difficult and anyone walking off in par through this stretch can stand tall. I wouldn’t hesitate to drop everything for a game here but I would stress that the best thing you can do is practice hard for the week leading up to your tee time.

🏢Best facilities

This is a difficult question. Gleneagles has it all but at a considerable price, as does St Andrews. Courses like Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart have it perfected for a day out.

💎Hidden Gem – Durness Golf Club

I am biased here as I spent all my Easter holidays as a child visiting Durness and even made it up a few times for their men’s open. The course is a nine holer but has eighteen tees to offer up a little variation.

The course has the most stunning views I can think of on a golf course, with Balnakeil Bay to the north of the course and the Kyle of Durness to the south. The course is maintained by a lone greenkeeper who does an excellent job and in recent years, I would say the course has improved.

The course is the most northerly on the British mainland and certainly an effort to get to, however with the recent popularity of the North Coast 500 route, I am sure the course is seeing more and more visitors. The course is a blast with the rugged terrain and difficult conditions only being magnified by the usual winds.

The signature hole would have to be the 9/18th, with the shot playing out over a gully, with the ocean banging at the rocks below. Indeed, I once played the course in terrible rain and my best friend managed to let go of a nine iron, which flew high and wide in to the sea below. We had to wait for two high tides to pass before searching for it amongst the seaweed and rock pools. I found it and he will be eternally in my debt.

I have played a lot of match play around the course and it is ideal with plenty of risk and reward shots. The 6th hole which curves around Loch Lanlish offers a fantastic opportunity to go at the green in two, with the green tucked tightly at right angles at the end of the water. I would recommend anyone passing through the highlands to play this course.

Much like Askernish, the experience is the adventure, the remoteness, the feeling of being up against the elements. I don’t want people to come here expecting a top class facility as this isn’t possible in this remote setting; what they will find is a simple course in a wonderful setting with enough quirk and charm to offer up some great fun.

I must also mention the local membership which have always provided a great welcome. In fact, the 18th hole challenge of nearest the pin after the men’s open, where everyone enjoys a drink and then heads down to the tee, is an absolute blast of great fun. It’s amazing what can be done when a membership is united in the common goal of having a good day out for all.

🤝Friendliest course – Elgin Golf Club

I played Elgin with my best mate and due to my poor planning, we’d played another round in the morning. We were very early for our afternoon tee time and couldn’t get out as the tee was fully booked. So we had a practice, we had lunch in the clubhouse and we hung around the place, seeing all that was going on. I am not sure if we were lucky on the day but the mixture of the friendly members and the welcoming staff made me wish that more clubs were like this.

The course is a good fair test and was in top condition when we played. The clubhouse had a good newsletter detailing what they were up to, what the green keepers were working on and what the membership were achieving. The bar man had great chat and sorted us out with beers and food.

I left Elgin wishing more clubs had the same approach: a bustling membership of mixed abilities a busy clubhouse, a friendly team. However I know it is a challenge, the economics of running your average club is getting harder and harder. The approach here was excellent though and I wish them well, they are definitely making the best of their lot.

🤑Best value golf – Brora/Boat of Garten/Tain

I am equally split on this question and it is one I get time and again. In terms of the summer green fee and considering the condition of the course, all three of these are absolutely great value. It is hard to choose a favourite in this category but penny per shot, there would be few can compete. However there are always great deals to be had through popular tee booking websites, through opens and through special offers. Some of the best deals are in the shoulder season.

For any golfing nut, the St Andrews links ticket is great value and I have done this a few times, allowing me to play non-stop for three days, on all the courses apart from the Old.

🍻Best pint(s)

I would like to push this to include the comment ‘best golfer’s pint’, allowing me to venture a wee bit from the clubhouses. The Dunvegan in St Andrews is a great way to spend a night and undoubtedly meet fellow golfers, sometimes even a famous face or two.

The Duck Inn, in Aberlady, recently highlighted by the ‘No Laying Up’ folk is a great spot with bar games based around putting etc. The food is exceptional and on a summer’s night, the pints flow well.

In terms of clubhouse beers, this seems to be a growing area of decline as more and more members come and play and then head straight home. Set-ups like Gleneagles are great with the clubhouse overlooking the 18th of the Kings and Queens, which is a great spot to drink and discuss the issues of the day.

As cheesy as it sounds, the best clubhouse pint is after a good round with the best of friends and that can be anywhere you choose.

List of The Top 100 Golf Courses in Scotland

  1. St Andrews (Old)
  2. Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)
  3. Muirfield
  4. Royal Dornoch (Championship)
  5. Kingsbarns
  6. Trump International Links
  7. Carnoustie (Championship)
  8. North Berwick
  9. Loch Lomond
  10. Cruden Bay
  11. Castle Stuart
  12. Royal Troon
  13. Skibo Castle
  14. Gleneagles (Kings)
  15. Nairn
  16. Pretwick
  17. Machrihanish
  18. The Machrie
  19. Western Gailes
  20. Royal Aberdeen
  21. Gullane (No. 1)
  22. Machrihanish Dunes
  23. Moray (Old)
  24. Gleneagles (Queens)
  25. Southerness
  26. Blairgowrie (Rosemount)
  27. Boat of Garten
  28. St Andrews (New)
  29. The Renaissance Club
  30. St Andrews (Castle)
  31. Brora
  32. Elie
  33. Fraserburgh
  34. Lundin Links
  35. Archerfield (Fidra)
  36. Murcar
  37. Dundonald
  38. Glasgow Gailes
  39. Dunbar
  40. Luffness
  41. Gullane (No. 2)
  42. Panmure
  43. St Andrews (The Dukes)
  44. Scotscraig
  45. Monifieth (Medal)
  46. Grantown-on-Spey
  47. Peterhead
  48. Blairgowrie (Lansdowne)
  49. Lanark
  50. Fortrose and Rosemarkie
  51. Turnberry (King Robert The Bruce)
  52. Crail (Balcomie)
  53. Shiskine
  54. Leven Links
  55. Montrose (Medal)
  56. Golspie
  57. Archerfield (Dirleton)
  58. Gleneagles (PGA Centenary)
  59. Kilspindie
  60. Prestwick St Nicholas
  61. West Kilbride
  62. Nairn Dunbar
  63. Ladybank
  64. Bruntsfield Links
  65. Portpatrick (Dunskey)
  66. Askernish
  67. Spey Valley
  68. Tain
  69. Stranraer
  70. Carnoustie (Burnside)
  71. Downfield
  72. Glenbervie
  73. St Andrews (Jubliee)
  74. Irvine
  75. Pitlochry
  76. Meldrum House
  77. Duff House Royal
  78. Cawder (Championship)
  79. Longniddry
  80. Powfoot
  81. Edzell (Old)
  82. Kilmarnock (Barassie)
  83. Forfar
  84. Letham Grange
  85. Fairmont St Andrews
  86. Newmachar
  87. Newburgh-on-Ythan
  88. East Renfrewshire
  89. Elgin
  90. The Glen
  91. Rowallan Castle
  92. The Carrick
  93. Fairmont St Andrews (Kittocks)
  94. The Roxburghe
  95. St Andrews (Eden)
  96. Royal Musselburgh
  97. Kilmacolm
  98. Royal Burgess
  99. Royal Troon (Portland)
  100. Dalmahoy (East)

Map of the top 100 golf courses in Scotland