Scotland is widely known as the birthplace of golf. For many, a trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without experiencing links golf. Our schedule only allowed us to scratch the surface of golf in Scotland. Fortunately our visit included some of the very best golf Scotland, and the world, has to offer. Sharing our recommendations below from our trip in May 2019.
Cruden Bay –
Situated on the Aberdeenshire coast, Cruden Bay is truly a gem of a course designed by Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson in 1899. It didn’t take long for us to discover why Golf Digest rated this stunning layout number 10 in Scotland and number 56 in the world.
The feeling at Cruden Bay is not of a layout that was carved, sculptured or created. Cruden Bay is more organic, as if it appeared naturally out of the dunes, which in fact is closer to how this course came to be. There are blind tee shots, “bathtub” greens, stunning ocean views along two miles of spectacular Scottish coastline and everything you would expect from links golf. It is not surprising that number 9 tee was recently recognized as having the best views of any tee box in Scotland.
During our round we were blessed with sunshine and light winds. Our caddie Richard expertly shepherded us around the course as only a member could. Richard even showed us Cruden Bay’s 19th hole. A wonderful par three played back towards the sea that is not part of the 18 holes played, but it is a hole any course would gladly have as part of its layout. At the end of the round, Richard left us in the capable hands of the restaurant team. After a relaxing lunch we departed Cruden Bay knowing we had kicked off our golfing adventure in Scotland at the right place, having experienced something truly special. The feeling both on and off the course, was very much that of a small, but inviting private club.
If you are planning a trip to Scotland, there may be more well known courses that you are thinking of playing, but if you are within a few hours drive of Cruden Bay, you should make the trip, it’s well worth it. And as we learned, if you haven’t played links golf, or if you aren’t familiar with a course, a caddie will enhance the experience and improve your score. Information on booking a tee time and reserving a caddie can be found at this link, click here.
The Carnoustie Championship course is one of the ten courses used in the Open Championship rotation. Alan Robertson is credited with the basic course design in 1850 with Old Tom Morris adding his touch in the early 1870s. Carnoustie is a true test of links style golf that will challenge every level of player. At this grand old golf course we found ourselves walking in the footprints of history. In 2018 Carnoustie hosted the Open Championship when Francesco Molinari became the first Italian golfer to win the oldest tournament in golf. Looking further back, three of the greatest names in golf have won the Open at Carnoustie; Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tom Watson.
The course sports a brand new state of the art club house, completed in May 2018 for the Open. Indoor hitting bays are available to warm up before your tee time. Ranked as the 21st best course in the world and 5th in Scotland, it was a dream come true to get the chance to play this historic course on our trip.
We were lucky to have a warm sunny day with a steady 15 MPH breeze. Jess and John were our two fabulous caddies who provided us with many years of local course knowledge in addition to recalling the lore and history of the course. A caddie is essential the first time you play here. The help they provide calculating distances to avoid the deep bunkers and burns, and reading the greens is invaluable. As much help as they were, it is a very demanding course. Carnoustie is known to have the five most difficult finishing holes in golf. We found out first hand that those holes live up to their reputation. Long holes lined with fescue, into strong winds, with the meandering burns, add up to a challenge that will require every ounce of skill and patience you possess.
Get ready for a great challenge. Information on tee times and reserving a caddie can be found at this link, click here.
The Old Course, St Andrews –
We were excited to play all four courses on our list, but the prospect of playing The Old Course at St Andrews Links, well that was another level of excitement. As soon as we arrived we could feel something special in the air around the 1st tee and 18th green.
The Old Course is situated on the east coast of Scotland, in the county of Fife. Golf in its early form was first played here in the early 15th century. Four hundred years later around 1863, Old Tom Morris made changes to the layout that resulted in the overall course design that we still know today.
We arrived approximately four hours prior to our 2:20 PM tee time. Our plan was to take in the atmosphere, shop for mementos, grab a quick pub lunch and hit the range. Sounded like plenty of time, but we ended up feeling rushed, there is just so much to see and do here. If you don’t have another tee time at one of the other six courses managed by the St Andrews Links Trust, you could easily spend the entire day in the town of St Andrews and not regret a single minute of it.
We stood on the first tee full of nervous anticipation. Heeding the advice of our caddies, Bruce, Stephen and Greg, we hit our tee shots and started the walk down the first fairway of the most famous golf course in the world. The sun was shining and the wind was a constant 10 MPH with gusts to 15. It was perfect. Later on the back nine the wind increased and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. It was still perfect. Our experience on the Old Course was everything we expected, and four hours after teeing off we were on the 17th tee, about to play the two most iconic finishing holes in golf. Thirty minutes later we were shaking hands on the 18th green. The round had lived up to a lifetime of expectations.
The Old Course truly is The Home of Golf and without doubt, the reason to visit St Andrews Links, but during our visit we also heard many superlatives about the other courses managed by the St Andrews Links Trust. One way to maximize your golf experience here is to purchase an unlimited pass. Information on an unlimited pass, tee times and reserving a caddie can be found at this link: click here.
Kingsbarns was opened in 2000 and has quickly become known as one of the most beautiful courses in Scotland. Along with Carnoustie and St Andrews Old Course, Kingsbarns has hosted the Dunhill cup since 2001. The Women’s Open Championship was also hosted here in 2017. Ranked as the 30th best course in the world and 7th in Scotland, the top notch amenities and helpful staff made for a memorable visit.
photo credit: Iain Lowe Photography
Our luck with the weather finally ran out the day we played Kingsbarns. We decided a bacon roll and tea in the clubhouse was a better idea than hitting the range. The cold and rain with constant winds of 20-30 MPH made for a very challenging round. Gavin, one of the most knowledgeable caddies we had on our trip, helped us get through the tough day. Kingsbarns is more of an American style links course. Wide open landing areas with large greens make it a great course for golfers of all skill levels to play. Pick the tee box that best suits the day and level of golfer. With great views of the North Sea on almost every hole, in terms of pure beauty, Kingsbarns is right up there with any course in the world. The six holes that play right along the sea are absolutely spectacular, the 15th hole, a par 3 that goes over the beach and sea, is particularly noteworthy.
After the testing conditions we have seldom been more happy to see the food shack at the turn. A shot of Kingsbarns Whiskey and the best sausage roll with brown sauce, just what was needed to warm the body and get the mind back in the groove for the back nine.
photo credit: Iain Lowe Photography
This was the final round of our trip and what a way to end it. We loved every course we played. All the caddies deserve a special call out, they praised our good shots and downplayed our poor ones. We will never forget the scenery on and off the courses, the people we met, and the history we were exposed to. All the courses we played are highly recommended. We cant wait to go back!!
Please click here for information on booking a tee time and reserving a caddie at Kingsbarns.
Written by Gary Southon & Jim Jergens
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Global Adventuress would like to thank those featured in this article for hosting our team.