Scotland is known for its whisky, lochs, and tartan, among other things. However, it’s the country’s golf courses that truly put it on the map! Home to over 500 courses, it’s one of the premier golf destinations in the world. Scotland even invented the modern version of golf that we all know and love today.
Most golf fans (and even non-golf fans) have heard of St Andrews, Carnoustie, and Turnberry. But what about the country’s lesser-known courses? Scotland is home to hundreds of hidden gems that are just waiting to be discovered. From Brora in the Highlands to Blairgowrie in Perthshire, there is no shortage of amazing courses to tee off from.
Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. This guide will take you on a tour of the best hidden gem golf courses in Scotland so you can plan the trip of a lifetime to the birthplace of the game. Let’s get stuck in!
Nairn Championship Course
Also located on the edge of the North Sea, Nairn Championship Course is one of the most spectacular seaside courses in the world. Located just 17 miles from the Capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness, it’s been redesigned multiple times over the years by some of the most recognisable names in golf course architecture, such as James Braid and Tom Morris.
The current version pays homage to the distinctive style of each designer, making for a truly unique golfing experience. Yet, it isn’t just the layout of the course that makes Nairn Championship best suited to advanced players. Most holes boast ocean views which provides a pleasant playing experience but means you might need to carry a couple of extra balls!
Being so close to the ocean, high winds also regularly make an appearance at Nairn Championship which can test even the greatest of golfers. So whether you’re up for a challenge or just want a round at one of Scotland’s most renowned links courses, this seaside fairway is guaranteed to give you a game to remember.
Brora Golf Course
Despite its far-flung location on the shore of the North Sea just 1.5 hours from John o’ Groats, Brora Golf Course is a must-play for both local and international lovers of the game. From stunning views of the ocean to the mountains in the distance, you’ll struggle to concentrate on the game! But this links course offers so much more than just its surroundings.
Designed by James Braid in 1923, the course has remained virtually unchanged for over 100 years. The layout, which was later nicknamed Braid’s Plan, is somewhat simple compared to some of the country’s more popular courses. Still, you’ll be guaranteed a world-class golfing experience when you play at this classic links course.
Because of its exposed location, high winds can impact your playing ability and make it difficult to keep a steady hand. So bear the weather in mind before you book your trip.
Brora Golf Course is also home to hundreds of sheep who call the course home but they shouldn’t bother you too much if you stay out of their way.
Brora is one of Scotland’s most unique courses and certainly worth the extra miles it takes to get there.
Western Gailes Golf Club
Located just 10 minutes from Troon, Western Gailes Golf Club is a stellar example of Scottish links golf and makes for an exceptional golf experience. Famed for its unusual layout, it isn’t the largest golf course in the country at just 6,700 yards but the stunning sea views more than make up for its size! On a clear day, the course boasts fantastic views of the Isle of Arran.
What really attracts thousands of golfers to Western Gailes Golf Club every year is the course’s reputation. Although not one of Scotland’s most well-known courses, it has been used as the final qualifying venue for the Open Championship. This means it has been graced by golfing greats such as Gary Player, Tony Jacklin, and Tom Watson, just to name a few.
From deep bunkers to meandering burns, Western Gailes Golf Club is no walk in the park and can be challenging for even the most experienced of golfers. Like most Scottish golf courses, its exposed location also makes it susceptible to high winds which can make accurate putts a challenge. The clubhouse is also, somewhat unusually, located in the middle of the course.
Western Gailes Golf Club is one of Scotland’s most unique hidden gems and is well worth a visit on your next visit to the Ayrshire coast.
Lundin Links Golf Club
Located just 22 minutes from the unofficial home of golf, St Andrews, Lundin Links Golf Club is a 5,825-metre golf course with a fascinating history. Originally split into two courses and shared between two clubs, it has the unique honour of being designed by both Tom Morris and James Braid and very few modifications have been made since.
This makes for a uniquely interesting golf course with a little bit of everything mixed in. From blind drives and testing bunkers to high winds and excellent greens, Lundin Links Golf Club isn’t for the faint-hearted. The second, third, and fourth holes are exceptionally close to the beach, making for an expensive game if you don’t get it right on the first few tries.
It’s not just the course that keeps visitors coming back time and time again. The views from the top of the hill on a clear day are well worth the climb and the aptly-named Hole in 1 Bistro Co. is the perfect spot for a bite to eat after a day of putting. Whether you play golf monthly or annually, Lundin Links is a great course for both casual and expert golfers.
Elie Golf House Club
Elie Golf House Club is perfectly situated in the East Neuk of Fife, just 13 minutes from Lundin Links Golf Club. The course can be traced back to 1589 when a royal charter was granted, giving local golfers permission to play on the links. Originally a nine-hole course in the 1800s, it underwent several expansions to become the standard 18-hole course it is today.
The course is one of the oldest courses in Scotland, third only to the Old Course at St Andrews and the Old Course at Musselburgh. But despite being a relatively short course, it’s commonly regarded as the finest links course in Scotland. This is mainly due to its undulating fairways and multi-directional holes which, coupled with the wind, make for an interesting round.
The Kingdom of Fife is home to over 45 courses and each boasts their own unique reasons to visit. As a course with as much history as it has natural beauty, Elie Golf House Club should top any golfer’s bucket list. Oh, be sure to keep an eye out for the periscope that belonged to the HMS Excalibur until 1966 in the starter’s hut!
Rosemount at Blairgowrie Golf Club
Nestled in the Perthshire countryside, Rosemount at Blairgowrie Golf Club is a truly beautiful course that must be seen to be believed. Consistently voted one of the top 100 golf courses in the UK, it’s surrounded by lush rolling hills and thick trees. This also makes it much more sheltered than some of Scotland’s other courses which are typically located along the coast.
The course is pretty consistent from start to finish but, in a surprising twist, leaves some of the more challenging holes until the very end. Both amateur and expert golfers are recommended to bring a variety of clubs to cater to the combination of holes that this course throws at you.
Overall, Rosemount makes for an extremely pleasant and enjoyable game of golf and is a course that is more than worthy of a visit if you’re in the area, even if just for the stunning scenery alone. There can be some challenging holes but compared to some of Scotland’s more well-known courses, such as the notoriously difficult Carnoustie, it’s a walk in the park.
Dunbar Golf Club
One of the most underrated links courses in East Lothian, Dunbar Golf Club is another coastal beauty that is neither too difficult nor too easy. Located on Scotland’s ‘Golf Coast’, it is in competition with some of the country’s finest courses, some of which are just minutes away. Yet despite its esteemed location, Dunbar Golf Club is in a league of its own.
Dunbar Golf Club is home to the kind of ocean views that are standard at most Scottish golf courses. But in an interesting twist, the first and last holes are set back from the coast and separated by a wall. This provides a nice mix of classic links golf and parkland golf but can come as a surprise for first-time players expecting uninterrupted sea views from holes 1-18.
East Lothian has its fair share of great golf clubs but Dunbar is one of the region’s true hidden gems. With beautiful links and stunning scenery, it has everything you could ever want in a course. Just remember to bear the weather in mind. Dunbar is Scotland’s sunniest town but due to its coastal location, it’s rarely wind-free!
The world-famous Gullane Golf Club and Muirfield are also less than a 30-minute drive away if you have time to squeeze in a couple more great courses on your trip.
Spey Valley Golf Course
Sitting in the shadow of the Cairngorm Mountains, Spey Valley Golf Course is one of the country’s most prestigious inland courses. Located in prime golfing territory between Boat of Garten Golf Club and Kingussie Golf Club, Spey Valley holds its own and is certainly worth a visit for any golfing fan looking for a beautiful game in gorgeous surroundings.
Despite being resort-owned, you can guarantee a warm welcome when you visit this 7,118-yard course.
Spey Valley’s opening times can vary due to its mountainous location and snow is a hazard all year round. Wildlife, such as deer, osprey and red squirrels, have also been known to wander onto the green but usually get spooked when they see you so shouldn’t cause too much of a distraction.
From fairways lined with heather and strategically positioned bunkers, there are plenty of obstacles to keep you on your toes throughout. The course is also famous for its long holes (the fifth being the longest in Scotland) so make sure you have your walking shoes on before you start playing!
Golspie Golf Club
The Scottish Highlands are renowned for Royal Dornoch, Nairn, and Boat of Garten. But Golspie is a true hidden gem that is full of character and charm. Situated on the Dornoch Firth between Carnegie Championship Links and Brora Golf Course, it’s in great company! So, what makes Golspie Golf Club one of Scotland’s most underrated courses?
Well, it’s one of the few courses in the country to be made up of classic links, heathland, and parkland holes, meaning it starts as a links course but ends as a woodland course. The course also regularly switches between short and long holes which helps to keep things interesting from the first to the 18th hole.
Golspie’s remote location also means it’s only usually visited by golfers that know it’s there. So if you’re looking for a quiet round of golf while surrounded by some of the country’s most awe-inspiring natural beauty, look no further. Situated on the North Coast 500 route, make a point of stopping off at this wonderful links course on your travels, you won’t regret it!
Tain Golf Club
Boasting panoramic views of the Dornoch Firth, Tain Golf Club is another contender for Scotland’s most picturesque golf course. Founded in 1890, it was also designed by Tom Morris who, at the time, opened the course with only 15 holes. Today, Tain Golf Club is a standard 18-hole course with twists and turns to test golfers of all abilities.
The course combines a mix of links and heathland and is bordered by thick gorse which acts as a barrier between fairways. The river that meanders through the course also requires some expert manoeuvring but makes for an interesting round if you’re up for the challenge.
Situated on the opposite side of the Dornoch Firth from one of the country’s most celebrated courses, Royal Dornoch, Tain Golf Club is a true hidden gem. Its close proximity to some of the region’s more well-known courses also means it’s never too busy. So if you’re looking for a challenging course with plenty of variety, be sure not to pass up a visit to Tain Golf Club.
There are over 550 golf courses in Scotland, the most per head out of any country in the world. This makes sense given that Scotland is widely considered to be the birthplace of the game as we know it today. Most are located on the east coast.
Locals play golf all year round in Scotland. However, the golf travel season typically runs from April to September. This is when Scotland experiences the best weather (although rain can, unfortunately, be a daily occurrence!)
Links golf courses are courses built on sandy coastland. This makes for a firmer playing surface than most modern courses which tend to be built on parkland or heathland. It is the oldest style of golf course and it is said to have originated in Scotland where links courses are still most common.
If you consider St Andrews to be one of the best courses, then yes! Even the historic Old Course remains open to all.
When it comes to hidden gem golf courses, Scotland has it covered. From the Scottish Highlands to the ‘Golf Coast’, there are hundreds of less well-known courses just waiting to be discovered. But while some are easily accessible from main cities and transport links, others are well worth the extra miles it takes to get there.
Scottish golf courses are known for their coastal and links courses and with stunning scenery in every direction, it’s not difficult to see why golfers travel across the world just to play a round. While the country’s most popular courses might provide the best overall experience, others are hidden gems simply because they haven’t been discovered yet. Why not take a golf tour of Scotland with Private Tours Scotland and discover the best links courses in the world.
The best hidden gems are also often a fraction of the price of their more well-known counterparts. So if you’re looking for a relaxing round of golf without breaking the bank, always start with courses that are off the beaten track.