Golfing in Scotland
Historic golf clubs and famous links are par for the course in Scotland. The ‘Home of Golf’ literally dishes up signature must-play championship courses at every scenic turn. From 2014 Ryder Cup host Gleneagles to Donald Trump’s latest venture in rugged Aberdeenshire, you’ll find golf courses which are unrivalled anywhere else in the world.
Tee off: Expect top-quality golf at top-dollar prices at Donald Trump’s International Links course (Menie Estate, Balmedie, 01358 743 300), set on a beautiful rugged coastline – opened in 2012, it is the latest must-play championship course. A stone’s throw from Aberdeen, Murcar Links Golf Club (Bridge of Don, 01224 704 354) offers undulating fairways and fabulous views. Neighbouring Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Links Road, Bridge of Don, 01224 702 571), founded in 1780, will test even experienced golfers. North of the city, Cruden Bay Golf Club (Aulton Road, 01779 812 285), voted 61st best course in the world by Links magazine, is also a favourite.
Grab a bite: Aberdeen bustles with restaurants. Enjoy excellent Japanese at Yatai (53 Langstane Place, 01224 592 355) and mouth-watering seafood at Moon Fish Café (9 Correction Wynd, 01224 644 166). Sip cocktails over a game of golf on the Locker Room’s simulators (47-53 Market Street, 01224 592 900). Or tuck into Scottish salmon, dry-aged Aberdeenshire beef and haggis croquettes at Trump International Links’ brasserie-style restaurant.
See the sights: Check out spooky Crathes Castle (Crathes, Banchory, 0844 493 2166) with its resident ghost, the Green Lady, and Slains Castle (Cruden Bay, 01771 653 366), which is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Take time out to follow the Malt Whisky trail in Speyside and enjoy a dram at the Glenlivet (Ballindalloch, Banffshire, 01340 821 720) and Cardhu (Knockando, Aberlour, 01479 874 635) distilleries.
Insider tip: Aberdeen is teeming with oil workers so it is essential to book hotels, restaurants and tee times well in advance.
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Tee off: You’ll find three of the world’s greatest courses on the beautiful Ayrshire coastline. Founded in 1878, the Old Course at Royal Troon (Craigend Road, 01292 311 555) presents a challenge with deep gorse-lined rough and prevailing winds on the back nine – fortunately, the Portland Course provides a shorter, more sheltered haven. Beware the hazards at Prestwick Golf Club (2 Links Road, 01292 477 404), especially the railway line running alongside the first fairway and Cardinal Bunker at the third. Over at scenic Turnberry (Maidens Road, 01655 331 000), the Ailsa course reigns supreme, having hosted the Open Championship four times, while the Donald Steel-revised, 18-hole Kintyre course offers captivating views of Kintyre, Arran and the famous Turnberry lighthouse.
Grab a bite: Take advantage of Prestwick Gold Club’s reasonably priced lunch and golf deal. At Turnberry, choose from classical French Escoffier-inspired dishes at the retro 1906 Restaurant, innovative fine dining at The James Miller Room, or a burger and game of snooker at the Duel in the Sun sports bar.
See the sights: Near the golf courses, visit poet Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (Murdoch's Lone, Alloway, 0844 493 2601) and 13th-century Turnberry Castle ruins, where Robert the Bruce was allegedly born. Glasgow offers a vibrant arts and nightlife scene. Check out the free Kelvingrove Art Gallery (Argyle Street, 0141 276 9599) and Sub Club (22 Jamaica Street, 0140 248 4600).
Insider tip: If you want to use the services of a caddie, book one well in advance – definitely before leaving home – especially at courses like Royal Troon.
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Tee off: Hire hickory clubs and test your skills on the historic nine holes of Musselburgh Links (Balcarres Road, 0131 665 5438), the world’s oldest golf course (1672). Further up the coast, the opening hole at Muirfield (Duncur Road, 01620 842 123) is a true test of courage, but the club’s fame – it has hosted 15 Open Championships – means that tee times are not always easy to find. Open-qualifying courses worth playing include North Berwick West Links (Beach Road, 01620 892 135), Gullane No 1 Course (West Links Road, 01620 842 255) and Dunbar Golf Club (East Links, 01368 862 317).
Grab a bite: The area around Edinburgh is a foodie haven for locally sourced grub. Savour lobster alfresco at the Lobster Shack (North Berwick Harbour, 079 1062 0480), melt-in-the-mouth beef at Ducks at Kilspindie House (West Main Street, Aberlady, 01875 870 682) and delicious homemade deserts at the Fly-Half Grill (20 Dirleton Avenue, North Berwick, 01620 892 802).
See the sights: See Edinburgh’s sights on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Stroll along the Royal Mile, visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse (Canongate, 0131 556 5100) and enjoy a dram at the Scotch Whisky Experience (354 Castlehill, 0131 220 0441). Close to Muirfield, visit the gorgeous Tantallon Castle (North Berwick, 01620 892 727) and spot ‘birdies’ of a different kind at the Scottish Seabird Centre (The Harbour, North Berwick, 01620 890 202).
Insider tip: Don’t plan your golf around morning tee times at the popular member clubs, especially at the weekends.
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Tee off: Gleneagles (Auchterarder, Perthshire, 01764 662 231), St Andrews Links (Pilmour House, 01334 466 666) and Carnoustie Golf Links (20 Links Parade, 01241 802 270) boast nine courses between them. Follow in the steps of golfing legends on the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles after it hosts the 2014 Ryder Cup. The Queen’s and King’s Courses will provide further challenges. Carnoustie Golf Links’ three courses also have pedigree. The Championship Course, host to seven Open Championships, topped the 2012 ‘Rolex Top 1,000 Courses in the World’. All three courses are rated within the UK’s top 50. The Old Course at St Andrews Links has to be played for the sheer thrill. If you’re unsuccessful in the ballot, there are six other challenging courses to keep you amused.
Grab a bite: St Andrews bursts with bars and brasseries. The Seafood Restaurant (Bruce Embankment, 01334 479 475) dishes up seafood platters with sea and golf course views. Choose from 300 malt whiskies at the Road Hole Bar (Old Station Road, 01334 474 371). Enjoy a traditional ale at the historic 19th hole, Jigger Inn (Old Course Hotel, 01334 474 371). At Gleneagles (Auchterarder, 01764 694 267), Michelin-star chef Andrew Fairlie delights with his smoked, whiskey-infused lobster dish.
See the sights: Ships ahoy! Tour Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship, Discovery (Discovery Quay, 01382 309 060), built in Dundee, and wander around the well-preserved 46-gun warship HM Frigate Unicorn (Victoria Dock, 01382 200 900). Immerse yourself in golfing memorabilia at The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (Golf Place, 01334 460 000). The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral are also worth a visit (The Pends, 01334 472 563).
Insider tip: Your chances of playing St Andrews Links’ Old Course increase threefold from October to April. Request a tee time a year in advance from 1 September or enter the daily ballot (01334 466 666).
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