26th May 2020
by Chris von Rinteln
After a long stretch of travel on the road or in the air, fewer things bring us a more grounding experience than a round of golf back home. Luckily, with over 550 Scottish golf courses to choose from, we’re never short on options—and given the amount of travelling we’ve done at Away from the Ordinary, we’ve seen our share of fairways and greens over the years. Here are six of our favourite golf courses from around Scotland, from classic holes to hidden gems.
The Old Course at Moray
With a design pedigree that includes the likes of Henry Cotton and Old Tom Morris, and boasting some of the finest links golf to be had in the Highlands, it’s no wonder that the Old Course at Moray has found itself a repeat host of the Northern Open. Extended par fours and unusually deep bunkers add to the challenge here, and tight, fast greens reward precise play all the way to the final hole—a regal rise right to the clubhouse, and often judged one of best finishing holes in golf.
Perhaps adding to the challenge, or very least the thrill of play here, are the frequent flyers of RAF No.6 Squadron, whose Lossiemouth airstrip practically abuts the 7th fairway (“landing lights” feature as immovable objects in Moray’s local rules). If the roar of Eurofighter Typhoons overhead doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the epicurean location will—you’re in the heart of Speyside whisky country at Moray.
One of the most northerly golf courses in Scotland, Brora is also one of the lesser-known hidden gems of traditional Braids design—the links course remains almost unchanged since James Braid laid it out here along the North Sea in 1923. And along the North Sea it is: all 18 holes are as seaside as it gets for an out-and-back, and salty winds whip briskly over the duneless stretches. Nonetheless, despite the wind and the latitude, Brora offers fantastic play year-round.
Adding to the charm are your likely round companions—Brora’s resident sheep, who keep the gorse rough less rough, and receive multiple billings in the local rules. The wooly grazers wander freely everywhere but the greens, which are encircled low with zappy electric fences—one of the only mad-made elements on this otherwise natural tour-de-force of Scottish links golf.
Rosemount at Blairgowrie
A strong four-hundred-yard par four opener—447 yards from the tips—sets the tone for this championship course, set deep in the Perthshire countryside, where Greg Norman won his first European Tour in 1977. From there to the finish, Rosemount at Blairgowrie is all class and pure quality—and possessed of “the most beautiful inland green” in Scotland, if you’ll take the word of Old Tom Morris.
It’s what you’d expect of a top-tier Scottish golf course designed by James Braid (and that formidable insight added only after the initial design by Dr. Alistair McKenzie of Augusta fame). Birches and pines frame heather-fringed fairways so securely that each hole often seems its own private course, but for the roe deer and red squirrels occasionally playing through.
If you played the links at Machrie back in 1891, when Willie Campbell first designed the course, you might wonder if the famed Scottish golfer was in cahoots with the local distillers—the holes, laid out crosswise over the dunes to blind pins, presented challenge enough to drive a man to drink.
Since a complete overhaul in 2017, however, players have a bit more mental space to appreciate the stunning views over Laggan Bay here on the south end of Islay. The broad fairways now run slightly more parallel to the dunes, making the open Atlantic a constant partner and providing panoramic views over seven miles of salt-sprayed beach. The revamped clubhouse is a nice touch, too—now a 47-room luxury resort that arrived alongside a par-3 Wee Course, driving range, and putting green.
Despite the light pampering, Machrie remains a proper test of skill—a few blind greens survived the transition, and seaside winds can play birdie-bogie on your strokes. Luckily, here on Islay, a peaty dram is only ever a short walk away.
Among the historical curiosities buried in the machair near Askernish on South Uist island, we suppose an old golf course shouldn’t come as too much a surprise—but that it’s an Old Tom Morris course, well…that’s a fine treasure indeed.
Having been gently reclaimed by nature over the latter half of the 20th century, the revenant course was just as gently restored in 2008, using light-touch methods of which Old Tom would approve. The result is a raw linksland golf course of unparalleled character, and a singular experience reminiscent of the earliest origins of the game.
Little but the gorgeous vista—and that a splendid one over grassy, billowed hillsides spilling into the shimmering ocean—panders to the modern golfer here. Sheep-shorn fairways run as nature let them, gorse-lined greens hide behind dunes, and bunkers lay where they please—all parts of a beautiful Scottish links puzzle for true lovers of the classic game to suss out.
The Championship Course at Machrihanish
There are few better places to spend a day than down the Mull of Kintyre Peninsula, surrounded by the Atlantic sea-spray mist “rolling in from the sea”, and in the middle of the former whisky capital of the world. That you could enjoy a round or two of terrific golf while you’re at it, especially at such a remote classic as Machrihanish, is just icing on the cake.
An old-fashioned seaside links course, Machrihanish’s biggest claim to fame is its beach-bridging opener, widely touted as the finest opening hole in the game. While the wavy fairways wind to and fro amongst the dunes, you’re rarely in for more than a pleasant challenge—with breath-taking views all the way to the 18th. And since you’re in Scotland’s whisky-famous Campbeltown, the 19th hole is always a guaranteed ace.
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