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
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