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Issue 54 - 10 best golf courses

Scotland Magazine Issue 54
December 2010

 

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10 best golf courses

Keith Fergus takes us on a tour of some of Scotland's best loved golf courses

1 Turnberry
South Ayrshire KA26 9
The Ayrshire Coastline is home to several worldclass
golf courses and Turnberry is no exception.
Opened in 1902 on lands owned by the Kennedy’s,
it surprisingly did not hold its first Open
Championship until 1977 where Tom Watson and
Jack Nicklaus played out their memorable Duel in
the Sun. The course and spectacular hotel were
established by the Glasgow & South Western
Railway Company and the railway line running
from Glasgow to Girvan was dubbed ‘the Golfer’s
Line’. Furthermore land on the course was used as
an airbase and landing strip during World War
One. The 9th tee provides a spectacular viewpoint
of Turnberry Lighthouse which was built to the
plans of Thomas Stevenson (father of Robert Louis
Stevenson) in 1873 and was also erected on the site
of Turnberry Castle, and it is argued that Robert
the Bruce was born here in 1274.

2 St Medans
Wigtownshire DG8 9LJ
St Medans is the most southerly course
in Scotland and sits in a superb position near
to the small village of Monreith on the
wonderful Galloway Coastline. The golf course
is named after St Medan who, according to
legend, arrived in Galloway in the 8th century
having fled from Ireland.St Medan’s Golf
Course was opened in 1905 at a cost of £160,
which included the outlay for a clubhouse, and it
enjoys an unrivalled position looking out across
the Irish Sea.
Although the course only has nine holes it has
eighteen different tees which provides different
challenges for each hole.

3 Shiskine
Isle Of Arran KA27 8HA
Situated at Blackwaterfoot on the magical Isle of
Arran, Shiskine Golf Course holds the unique
status of being the only twelve-hole golf course in
the world. But don’t view this as a novelty course as
Shiskine has been ranked in the top 100 of Britain’s
golf courses for the past two years. Like many of
Scotland’s courses the location is part of the golfing
experience and Shiskine is no different. Sitting at
the base of Drumadoon Point the views across the
Kilbrannan Sound to Kintyre are breath-taking
whilst the course travels back and forth along the
glorious coastline of Arran – even the names of the
holes (Crows Nest, Himalayas, and Paradise for
instance) conjure up images of golfing rapture. As
Andrew Grieg writes in his faultless book,
Preferred Lies, ‘Most golf courses, however fine,
have some fairly anonymous holes that resemble
each other. There is no such hole on Shiskine’.

4 Prestwick
Ayrshire KA9 1QH
Although not having the same prestige as
Turnberry or neighbouring Troon, the history of
Prestwick Golf Course is of equal importance to
any other course in Scotland as it held the very first
Open Golf Championship in 1860. The course was
designed by Old Tom Morris in 1851 and it held
the first 12 Open Championships and 24 times in
total, the last one being in 1925. The quiet,
attractive town of Prestwick translates as Priest’s
Town and was formerly an outlying religious house.
Although the course is still a great test, the town
does not have the amenities to be able to
accommodate the vast crowds that attend today’s
Open Championships.

5 Gullane
East Lothian EH31 2BB
Gullane Golf Course, standing on the beautiful,
windswept East Lothian Coastline, actually
comprises of three magnificent courses. Rather
than having their own distinctive names the courses
are simply known as Gullane 1, 2 or 3 with one
being the oldest and each course provides a distinct
and demanding challenge. Golf has been played
here for 350 years, but Gullane Golf Club was not
established until 1882. As golf gained in popularity
the village of Gullane flourished as well and by 1910
Gullane Number 3 was completed. The views
across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and Fife are
almost a distraction when trying to cope with the
demands of courses that are regularly used for
Open qualifying. There is also a fantastic museum
illustrating the development of the game from the
15th century.

6 The Old Course, St Andrews
Saint Andrews KY16 9XL
It would be remiss not to include The Old
Course, the home of golf, in a list of Scotland’s best
golf courses. Such is the iconic status it holds even
people who have absolutely no interest in the sport
will be aware of The Old Course and the incredible
standing it has in the game worldwide. Although St
Andrews links consists of several courses, The Old
Course is the eighteen holes that every golfer would
like to say “I played it’. It may not be the toughest
golfing test in the world but the sense of history, the
stunning scenery, and the familiar pictures that have
been beamed into our living rooms over the years
make The Old Course almost feel like an old
friend. Who can forget Seve Ballesteros’s fist
pumping when winning The Open in 1984 or
Constantino Rocca’s monster putt on the 18th
green to force a play-off eleven years later.

7 Bruntsfield Links
City of Edinburgh EH4 6JH
In 2011 Bruntsfield Links will celebrate its 250th
anniversary making it the fourth oldest golf club in
the world. Its original setting lay near Edinburgh
Castle and Bruntsfield Links soon proved to be
extremely popular, so much so that during the 19th
century many members headed east to play at
Musselburgh such was the congestion on the
course. The course moved to its present location,
overlooking the Firth of Forth near Cramond on
the outskirts of Edinburgh, in 1898 and was
designed by the great Willie Park junior. Park was
born in Musselburgh in 1864 and won The Open
twice but, realising a living could not be made from
golfing alone, branched out into many golf related
business’s including golf course design. Whilst
Bruntsfield Links may not be the first Scottish golf
course many would think of, the sense of history
that surrounds the place is palpable and it has
hosted the likes of British Seniors and British Boy’s
Open Championships.

8 Crail
Fifeness, Crail, KY10 3XN
If there were a brawl between the Ayrshire and
Fife Coastline’s (figuratively speaking of course)
who would win? Well for me the Fife Coast may
just edge it if only for the delights of Crail and the
two links courses (Balcomie and Craighead) that
nestle along the fantastic East Neuk of Fife and
make perfect use of the wonderful landscape and
weather this part of Scotland provides. The Crail
Golfing Society was formed in 1786 (making it the
7th oldest in the world) although the first recorded
match did not take place until 1839. The Old Tom
Morris designed Balcomie course was opened in
1895 and Craighead in 1998 and both offer a
magnificent, and stern, test to any golfer with the
cliffs and bays of this fantastically rugged stretch of
coastline utilised to full effect, all the while having
to deal with the wind that whips off the sea. But to
play here on a warm summer’s evening, watching
the shadow’s lengthen as dusk approaches is worth
all the lost golf balls.

9 Traigh, Arisaig
Inverness-Shire PH39 4NT
To my mind a golf course does not need to have
18 holes to be classed as great (see Shiskine above).
The history and quality of the course do have a
bearing but sometimes the setting is crucial to its
success. This is certainly true of Traigh Golf
Course near Arisaig which must surely rank as one
of the most picturesque courses in the world. And
that is not to say that the views are the only reason
for visiting as it is a fantastic little course which
makes use of all the contours within the landscape
and is maintained to extremely high standards.
Traigh translates from Gaelic as ‘beach’ and there
are several amazing white, sandy beaches nearby
and once on the course you truly appreciate what a
stunning location this is.

10 Royal Dornoch
Sutherland IV25 3LW
The historic Royal Burgh of Dornoch sits beside
the gorgeous Dornoch Firth and has a fantastic
sandy beach and an abundance of wonderful
wildlife. The great Donald Ross, seen by many as
the world’s greatest golf architect, was born in the
town in 1872 leaving for America in 1899 to design
such renowned courses as Pinehurst No.2 and
Oakland Hills. But Dornoch is also home to the
exquisite Royal Dornoch Golf Club, a course held
in high esteem by the great Tom Watson who is an
Honorary Member. The club was formed in 1877,
the course consisting of nine holes, with a further
nine being added a few years later and in 1906 it was
granted a Royal Charter. A round of golf over Royal
Dornoch is played out in a breath-taking setting
and there is an incredible sense of space and light.
For many it may be a long journey to reach
Dornoch but the setting, the wonderful sea air and
incredible golf course are well worth the effort.