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Issue 68 - 10 best golfing holidays

Scotland Magazine Issue 68
April 2013


This article is 5 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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10 best golfing holidays

Keith Fergus heads off in search of the best golf holidays

1 Galloway & the Scottish Borders
Scotland has more than 550 golf courses and nearly 50 of these are situated within Galloway and the Scottish Borders. The western and eastern edges of the region have a number of great links courses to test golfing skills; the likes of Eyemouth, Stranraer, Southerness, Portpatrick and Colvend Golf Clubs are set amidst stunning coastal scenery where views may extend to the Isle of Man, the Lake District and Northern Ireland. Away from the coast, the gorgeous rolling Galloway and Scottish Borders landscape is home to many wonderful golf courses; great Borders towns such as Coldstream, Kelso, Peebles and Hawick all have fine courses whilst heading west Lockerbie, Dumfries and Newton Stewart similarly grant a great day’s golf. Galloway is also home to Scotland’s southernmost golf course, St Medan’s, which is beautifully located along the sparsely populated Machars, near Monreith.

2 Ayrshire
Ayrshire and Fife will perpetually battle it out as the premier place to play golf in Scotland and it is unlikely there will ever be a clear winner. What is unambiguous is that Ayrshire is immersed in golfing history with some of the finest golf courses in the world. The legendary Open Championship courses of Troon and Turnberry (scene of Tom Watson’s’ and Jack Nicklaus’ unforgettable 1977 Duel in the Sun) and Prestwick (where the first 12 Open’s took place) are strung out along the wild, and windswept Ayrshire Coast. In fact a long chain of superb links courses can be found at, amongst others, Dundonald, Girvan, Barrassie, Western Gailes and Largs.

A quick ferry journey across the Firth of Clyde drops you on Arran. The first course was established on this idyllic island in 1892 and since then Arran has become a little mecca for golfers. Today Arran's seven courses could easily be played over a wonderful long weekend, including the stunning Lamlash and Lochranza courses and the small but perfectly formed 9-hole Machrie.

3 Glasgow & Loch Lomond
The urban sprawl of Glasgow may not immediately spring to mind for a golfing holiday but there are several courses scattered around the city, all very accessible because of the superb road, rail and airport infrastructure, allowing visitors from all over the globe to sample the vast choice of golfing holidays on offer in and around Scotland’s biggest city. A few miles north of the city centre is Westerwood Golf Course, which was designed by Seve Ballesteros, and one that provides a testing round within a picturesque landscape, as do Caldwell, Cathcart Castle, Pollok and Haggs Castle. The River Clyde and the Kilpatrick Hills form a stunning backdrop for Mar Hall Golf Course, which is handily positioned in-between Glasgow and Loch Lomond (and just down the road from Glasgow Airport).

En route to Loch Lomond both Helensburgh and Dumbarton have fine courses and from here it is only a short drive to reach Loch Lomondside’s two supreme courses, Loch Lomond (one time home of the Scottish Open) and Carrick. Here a round can be played whilst basking in the spectacular scenery of Loch Lomond National Park.

4 Edinburgh & The Lothians
Edinburgh is one of the world’s top tourist destinations and golfing holidays near to the city and along the Lothian and East Lothian coastline are also incredibly popular. Within touching distance of Scotland’s capital city’s wonderful skyline are Braid Hills, Mortonhall and Royal Burgess golf courses while a just a few miles from the city centre is the fabulous Dalmahoy, which has 2 superb courses and has hosted both the Solheim Cup and the Scottish PGA Championship. Also just a short drive from the city is the Lothian and East Lothian coastline, home to a succession of wonderful courses such as Silverknowes near Cramond, Winterfield in Dunbar and North Berwick’s West Links and Glen courses.

However the granddaddy of them all is Gullane, home to no less than 5 golf courses including Muirfield, the oldest club in the world and Home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Muirfield has held the Open Championship 15 times and will hold it for a 16th occasion in July 2013 when the worlds top golfer will descend on this small East Lothian town and show us all how golf should really be played.

5 Argyll & the Islands
The region of Argyll covers a huge area including the long leg of the Kintyre peninsula. Near to its southern tip is Macrahanish, which nestles within a gorgeous landscape. What better way to spend a weekend than playing the villages 2 Championship courses, Macrahanish and Macrahanish Dunes, the latter only opening in 2009 but already regularly listed in the world’s top golf courses. A stay could be easily extended in Kintyre where rounds at Dunaverty, Carradale and Tarbert are on hand, as is Gigha golf course after a short ferry journey. Argyll is home to several picturesque islands where a game of golf can be enjoyed on Bute, Tiree, Mull and Islay – why not combine golf here with a tour of its many magnificent whisky distilleries. Heading north through the gorgeous Argyll mainland and golfing stops can be made at the Kyles of Bute, Taynuilt, Inveraray and Glencruitten Golf Course in Oban, amongst many others. There is plenty of in Argyll and a golfing tour around this spectacular region is a real pleasure.

6 Perthshire
Perthshire is known as Big Tree Country but with the arrival, in 2014, of The Ryder Cup, this beautiful region will also be firmly established on the golfing map. The bi-annual competition between Europe and the USA will be played over Gleneagles remarkable PGA Centenary Course, which was designed by the incomparable Jack Nicklaus. Gleneagles also has the King’s and Queen’s courses, both of which were designed by 5-time Open Winner James Braid. An exceptional couple of days can be spent at Gleneagles, it also has its own 5-star hotel. Further great views can be enjoyed when playing Auchterarder golf course, which runs parallel to the PGA Centenary Course. A warm welcome is guaranteed when visiting Perthshire towns such as Pitlochry, Blairgowrie, Creiff and Taymouth as well as the Fair City of Perth and each location has its own less heralded golfing gem when compared to Gleneagles but all of these courses offer a tranquil setting to enjoy a golfing holiday.

7 The Kingdom of Fife
What more is there to say about Fife and golf? Not a lot but this still doesn’t stop thousands making a pilgrimage to play a round or two at the spiritual home of golf. Fife has over 40 golf courses within its confines, many strung out along the coast, presenting a mouth-watering array of golfing opportunities. It would be possible to spend several weeks here playing some of the finest courses in the world. Away from the legendary St Andrew’s and the East Neuk of Fife (and the hordes), there are some fine inland courses set amongst beautiful parkland at Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Cupar and Falkland (sitting in the shadow of the Lomond Hills) where leisurely rounds can be played. But to visit Fife and not play one of the famous links courses would be sacrilege. Before you even reach St Andrews why not book accommodation at one of the many gorgeous fishing villages along the coast – take your pick from Leven, Elie, Crail, or Anstruther, and test yourself along several stunning windswept courses. Or why not head to Kingsbarns, regarded by many as the pretender to the St Andrews crown. And once limbs have been loosened, where better to conclude a Fife golfing tour at one (or all) of St Andrews nine fabulous courses. Again, what more is there to say.

8 Dundee & Angus
Heading north from Fife, the Angust coast line presents a myriad of opportunities for a golfing break. Several towns can be used as a great base for such a vacation; Arbroath, Brechin, Carnoustie, Forfar, Montrose and Dundee, Scotland’s 4th largest city, offer plenty of accommodation, pubs and restaurants to relax after a day out in the Angus fresh air playing golf. Probably the best known of the Angus courses is Carnoustie, scene of Paul Lawrie’s remarkable 1999 Open Championship win – the town is also home to the excellent Buddon and Burnside Links. Panmure, Monifieth and Letham Grange are also fine coastal courses whilst a little inland Edzell Golf Course, laid out amongst the parkland surrounding Brechin, is one of the hidden gems of Scottish golf and a must-play location for anyone serious about the sport. Dundee has five courses in and around its boundaries, with Downfield being the finest, a beautiful parkland course that was used for final qualifying for the 1999 and 2007 Open Championships held at Carnoustie.

9 Aberdeenshire
Aberdeen may have a reputation for its grey, granite architecture and a bracing North Sea wind but it is also garnering a name for itself as a top quality golfing destination. Aberdeen and its Shire have over 50 golf courses within its margins and several on the outskirts of the city – Balnagask is located in a wonderful spot above Aberdeen Harbour, the picturesque Hazelhead has three golf courses to choose from and Royal Aberdeen Golf Course (the 6th oldest in the world) has stunning views from its coastal location. Sticking with the Aberdeenshire coast Cruden Bay Golf Course, which was designed by Old Tom Morris, has been welcoming visitors to play its testing layout since 1894. Follow the course of Aberdeen’s two great river’s, The Dee and The Don, then gorgeous courses set amongst the rolling Aberdeenshire landscape can be found at the likes of Banchory, Inverurie and Meldrum, which also has its own luxury hotel. Or why not play a round at Braemar, under the frowning peaks of the Cairngorm Mountains.

10 The Highlands & Islands
Such is the scale of the Highlands and Islands that it can be tricky to pinpoint a golfing destination but breaking it down into a few areas may well help. Beginning in the south in and around Fort William, a round at the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, is as good a place to start as any. A little south in Ballachullish, near Glencoe, the fantastically named Dragon’s Tooth Golf Course grants a stunning location for 18 holes. Heading north and Fort Augustus and Spean Bridge are equally picturesque. However nothing may beat the breathtaking location of Arisaig’s Traigh Golf Course, with incredible views towards Rum. The capital of the Highlands, Inverness, is home to Castle Stuart and although only a few years old it has quickly entered the worlds top 100 golf courses. North of Inverness and there are fine courses at Nairn, Brora, Rosemarkie and the magnificent Royal Dornoch. Leaving the mainland and the Isle of Skye, Lewis, Harris, South Uist and Benbecula provide some of the most exposed, testing but beautiful locations for golf as do the archipelago of islands making up Orkney and Shetland, which have several courses, and where a wonderful golfing experience can be enjoyed at the very northern tip of Scotland.

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