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A trip to the Home of Golf makes for the ultimate travel experience

As a keen and committed golfer there are certain things you really need to tick off on your golfing ‘to-do’ list. A trip to the Masters in April would be high on most agendas; witnessing the atmosphere of a Ryder Cup would be right up there, too. A luxury holiday with golf among the palms is likely to feature strongly. To that list, though, you really should add a more realistic journey: a trip to sample the game in its spiritual home, Scotland.

It’s thought that they have been playing golf in Scotland for over 500 years, and while the exact origins of the game are often disputed there can be no argument over the part that Scotland has played in making the game of golf the global phenomenon it is today. Yes, when it comes to golf, Scotland has it all covered, and for that historical thread alone there is nothing on God’s good earth that comes remotely close to playing there.

With its unrivalled heritage, Scotland’s roll-call of legendary golf clubs seems to go on forever; Turnberry, Royal Troon, Prestwick, Gleneagles, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch and Muirfield – there’s an embarrassment of riches that is the envy of the golfing world.

At the epicentre of all this golfing greatness, of course, is St Andrews and a trip – more accurately a pilgrimage – there is one that will live long in the memory. To stand on the 1st tee at the Old Course, staring down the wide expanse of fairway that has greeted the greatest names in the game, from Old Tom Morris to Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods, brings a whole new meaning to first tee nerves. And while the Old Course remains hallowed turf, there is much to be said for the neighbouring layouts in the ‘Auld Grey Toon’. The newer layouts that have sprung up in recent years not only compliment the existing ones but add a modern dimension to the experience.

Among the most notable of additions are the Torrance Course, at the award-winning Fairmont St Andrews Resort (opened in 2001) and Kyle Phillips’ masterpiece at Kingsbarns, which has barged its way into the world’s Top 100 within a decade of opening its doors. And if the wind whipping in from the sea is playing havoc with your swing, there’s no better place to recapture your rhythm than on the glorious Peter Thomson-designed Duke’s Course, just a couple of miles in land, the only non-links in St Andrews. That said, wherever you venture in Scotland you are assured of some truly exceptional golf. From the western delights of Ayrshire, where mighty Open venues Royal Troon and Turnberry sit comfortably alongside lesser known – but equally impressive – treasures such as Western Gailes and Glasgow Gailes to the coastal charm of East Lothian, where perhaos the world’s finest links, Muirfield, enjoys a strong supporting cast in the form of Gullane, Longniddry and North Berwick. There really are so many genuinely great golf courses in this beautiful land that the toughest decision of all is where you’re going to tee it up.

Some of these clubs are, of course, centuries old, while some, like the new Trump International Golf Links, further up the east coast at Aberdeen, are new arrivals. Certainly, the Trump course, with its natural landscapes and stunning sea views from just about every hole, sits well with the Scottish links ideal. It’s wild, it’s windswept and, at over 7,400 yards, it’s a real handful, too.

Head to the Highlands, meanwhile, and not only will you travel through the most naturally dramatic landscape in the United Kingdom but you’ll discover a fantastically diverse offering of golf courses, all of which blend beautifully with the setting. You want links golf?

Try Nairn, the impossibly scenic Tain, or, on the other side of the Dornoch Firth, esteemed Royal Dornoch. Venture inland, into the heart of the Highlands, and you’ll find gems like Spey Valley, near Aviemore, and the gorgeous Boat of Garten, just a little further north on the road to Grantown-on-Spey.

There are over 550 golf clubs in Scotland, and the bottom line is that you will be hard pressed to find any single one that doesn’t reward you with a great experience. But then this is the kind of country that not only embraces the golfing traveller but rewards him with a variety of landscapes and challenges they simply won’t find anywhere else. From breathtaking natural links to picture-postcard Loch-side gems, if you can’t find a golf course in Scotland that reinvigorates your spirit, well, you’re really not a golfer at all.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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