Golf is ingrained into Scottish culture. The leisurely sport as we know it today dates back to the 16th century in Scotland, with many of the country's golf clubs and courses existing for centuries. The most historic courses include St. Andrews' Old Course and Musselburgh Old Course, which have origins in the 1700s, and today many players find themselves on courses that were designed and built in the 18th and 19th centuries.
However, golf has been played in Scotland in some form since the Middle Ages and the game has often been tied to the country's royalty. Mary Queen of Scots, one of the first women to play golf, notoriously played at St. Andrews only a few weeks after her husband's funeral. Those traveling to Scotland should consider partaking in a round or two, especially on one of the historic traditional courses, which can be found both in remote areas and within the cities.
Whether you want to play the iconic links at St. Andrews or relax along the shore at Royal Dornoch's championship course, Scotland has many picturesque golf courses to choose from. Most of the famous courses welcome visitors, provided they book tee times well in advance, so you can turn your Scotland vacation into a golf holiday.
Castle Stuart Golf Links
Castle Stuart Golf Links is a championship course that overlooks Moray Firth. It's a visually stunning course, boasting amazing views from most holes, and it has an Art Deco-style clubhouse that offers a similarly impressive view. The course is open between late March and late November and the price varies depending on the time of year. One round costs 165 pounds in April and November and 225 pounds from May to October, with discounted rates for PGA and BIGGA players. Reservations can be made in advance via phone or email. Castle Stuart Golf Links also has several on-site accommodations, which can be booked as a Stay & Play package during specific months.
St. Andrews Links
St. Andrews Links is probably one of the most iconic golf courses in the world. The links has existed for over 600 years and now has seven public courses, as well as three clubhouses and a golf academy. Players can select which course they'd like to book, including the centuries-old "Old Course." Fees per round range from 95 pounds during low season to 195 pounds during high season for the Old Course, and are more affordable for the other courses, with prices as low as 8 pounds during low season. Be sure to make a reservation online to guarantee a tee time.
Royal Dornoch is a championship links that dates back to 1616. The golf club, located along Dornoch Firth, has amazing views of the water and two courses: the Championship Course and the Struie Course. The courses are open to the public seven days a week and advance booking is highly recommended. The cost per round ranges from 105 pounds from November through March and 195 pounds from April through October for the Championship Course. The Struie Course is more affordable, at 35 pounds per round from November through March and 50 pounds from April through October. The fees tend to change each year, so check online for the most updated rates.
North Berwick Golf Club
North Berwick Golf Club is famed for its historic West Links course, which has been played on since the 17th century. The course overlooks the Firth of Forth, with views of the town of North Berwick, and members of the public are welcomed to the golf club daily. Fees per round vary depending on the season, starting at 100 pounds and going up to 160 pounds from April through October. Check the visitor hours online and be sure to reserve a tee time in advance. As the links are a championship course, it's recommended only for experienced players. North Berwick asks that golfers have a handicap of no more than 24 for men and 36 for women.
Cruden Bay Golf Club
Located north of Aberdeen, the Cruden Bay Golf Club first opened in 1899 (although the area has a history of golf that dates back to 1791) and welcomes both members and visitors year-round. The course edges against the beach, with views of Slains Castle and Cruden Bay. Fees per round on the Championship course start at 145 pounds during the main season and the nine-hole St Olaf starts at 20 pounds per round. There are discounted fees available during the winter. Book a tee time via email or phone.
Muirfield, which opened in its current location in 1891, is home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and is host to many pro and amateur championships. The course itself is incredibly scenic, with views of the green hills and Firth of Forth, and it's a short drive from Edinburgh. A round of golf costs 270 pounds during the main season and 110 pounds during the winter, although the fees change every year so it's best to check online for the current rates. Reservations can be made online for the next year.
Gleneagles, which boasts three championship courses and one nine-hole course, is one of the top names in Scotland's golf scene. It has expansive facilities, including a hotel and numerous restaurants, and the golf club is home to the PGA National Academy for Scotland. The courses are open to golfers of all abilities throughout the year and can be booked via the hotel or online. The fees vary depending on the time of year, with rates per round ranging from 75 pounds to 200 pounds on one of the 18-hole courses. The smaller course is a good way to get a taste of Gleneagles on a budget, with rates per round from 20 pounds to 37.50 pounds. Don't miss the spa, which is perfect for a visit after you finish golfing.
Carnoustie Golf Links
Found on the North Sea coast of Scotland, Carnoustie Golf Links is a championship course with a history that goes back to the 16th century. The links also features the Burnside Course and the Buddon Links Course, which were opened more recently. Fees start at 180 pounds during low season and go up to 252 pounds during high season on the Championship Course, with lower rates available for the other two courses. Look for package deals on the course's website to save money if you're planning to golf for more than one day.
Kingsbarns Golf Links
Kingsbarns Golf Links is a traditional Scottish golf links found near the coast of Fife. The course is closed between mid-November and mid-March, but visitors can book a tee time during the rest of the year (reservations far in advance are recommended). The rate per round ranges from 260 pounds to 312 pounds depending on the time of year. Caddies, who are notoriously good at this course, cost an additional 55 pounds. Last-minute bookings are hard to get at Kingsbarns, but visitors can check upcoming available tee times online via the course's website.
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club was founded in 1780 as the Society of Golfers at Aberdeen and its royal patronage was awarded by Edward VII in 1903. Visitors can join members on the links throughout the year, with prices per round starting at 95 pounds during the winter and going up to 195 pounds between May and October. Tee times for visitors are limited to specific hours on certain days, so be sure to check the golf club's website when making a reservation (which is best done via email). Visitors can also attend open tournaments at the course several times a year.
Loch Lomond Golf Club
Take in the views of Loch Lomond from the Loch Lomond Golf Club, a memorable, high-end golf course with its own spa. Unfortunately for the public, Loch Lomond Golf Club is a private members club, which is notoriously hard to get into. If you're connected, however, the club has one of the most pristine courses in all of Scotland and is a favorite with players all over the world. If you're dying to play there, there are charity events occasionally held on the course, where visitors can donate to get access to the links.
Nairn Golf Club
Like the rest of Scotland's best golf courses, Nairn Golf Club sits on the water. The course, built in 1887, overlooks Moray Firth and its beaches. Although it's a private members club, Nairn welcomes visitors of all ages and abilities throughout the year. Greens fees range from 90 pounds to 180 pounds, depending on the season, and visitors can also try to the smaller Cameron Course for only 20 pounds per day. Don't skip the course's historic bothy, situated between the 9th and 10th green, which now serves snacks and refreshments; It's a great place to take in the views between holes.