Scotland really does have some amazing courses to enjoy. The range reflects the long history of the game here, as well as the way the game has evolved. You can find 12 hole courses in little towns and villages you have never heard of, through to the major Championship venues like Muirfield. I have not played many courses in Scotland to be honest. I moved first to England, then to The States, so in my 60’s I plan to put that to rights and play 100 courses over the next decade, assuming my hips and knees will allow!
There are any number of really great guides to courses, but one way to think about arranging a tour is to go look at the map and split up the country into 4 regions. It’s not impossible by any means to stop into all four areas and play the marquee courses, but it does mean you will be spending a bit of time in the car or bus. That’s ok in the middle of the country, but more taxing the further north you go.
My suggestions are to think about a base in an area as suggested earlier for East Lothian. You can do the same on the West Coast and play the likes of Turnberry, etc etc.
In the middle belt you have Loch Lomond, and head East to Fife with St Andrews, Kingsbarns and many fabulous less well known links courses.
The head a bit further north to Nairn, Royal Aberdeen, Castle Stewart, Dornoch and Brora for example.
Each one of those groupings could easily represent a magical golfing experience over 3 or 4 days. So if you have a week, I’d choose a combination of two of those areas. Then come back next year and do the other pairing.
Golfing in Scotland
Muirfield Not just because the House is so close by, but every time I played it I came off elated at the test provided. The set up outward and backwards ensures no benefit from the prevailing wind. Cutting the rough once a year is interesting too…. I love the history of the place too. I have watched a couple of great tournaments there, the most recent being Phil’s win in 2016. It was a scorcher of a week and everything was running fast. Tough to master the greens.
I also watched a Championship there when Faldo won. That was years ago. But my abiding memory was Ballesteros. He was playing poorly, well out of contention, and a good friend and I were about the only ones watching at a tee box, I think 14, and we had not being paying much attention when this guy walks up and stands next to us. Seve. Big smiles, handshakes. It was an awesome moment for me. Hard to believe I would years later own a House quite so close to the Club.
Carnoustie. Some call it “Carnastie”, for a reason. It can be very tough! Everyone knows who Jean Van der Veld is and what can happen especially if you over think this course. I last played there with my father in law and we had a blast. My grandfather used to take his family there for their summer holidays while he played the links. Carnoustie is a must and the course is only two hours from the House.
Royal Dornoch. Now this is an amazing place. It’s a good 4 hours drive from the House. But I think it’s totally worth it. Just as Hogan is forever associated perhaps with Carnoustie, so I think Tom Watson might have called it one of his favourite courses. There are a number of other really magnificent links around here. Check them out on google maps. Don’t miss out on Brora. My parents used to take us on our holidays in rv’s as kids and we’d hire a caravan and play down on the beach at Dornoch. I am sure I was too young to even know they had a golf course there, but it was great to go back and play a couple of years ago.
Pitlochry. Pit where did I hear you think? Yes, you won’t find this course on the pro tour. But my father in law was Captain of this gem of a highland course a few times, I am a Member there, and Pitlochry is on your way to Dornoch. So take a quick detour and for a few quid you will have a fun experience.
Loch Lomond. A very good friend was part of a group of guys that effectively saved this magnificent inland course from going bankrupt. It’s in a terrific location and on a sunny day there are few better views to enjoy. The golf course and Clubhouse are superb.
72 hours in gullane
Suggestions for a visit to East Lothian with 72 hours in Gullane:
I am going to assume you are here primarily to play golf but I also will make some suggestions about other things to do should you want to check out the area or perhaps dont want to play 36 holes a day.
Arriving at Edinburgh
If you arriving at Edinburgh airport, this is easy to navigate as it is a small and friendly place about 30 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh City, and about 45 minutes from the House. It will likely be early morning so grab an Americano at Starbucks on the way to the car rental place. You will feel better!
Get the rental vehicle sorted out in advance. The service at some of the hire companies at EDI can be a bit hit or miss in my view. Hertz is pretty good. Just be aware that what they call a “full size” car over there isn’t. If you don’t have a private van, get a bigger car than you think you might need.
Better still hire a van and get them to meet you at the arrivals. I can arrange that if you like. There are a couple of tour services located in and around the Gullane area who will look after you.
Ok, relax; you have a 45 minute ride by passing around the City of Edinburgh and on to East Lothian. The views are great, but if you came in overnight, take a quick nap.
Arriving at the House
We’ll have arranged for you to be met at the House, where you can get settled and organize who’s sleeping where. We’ll show you round the house, all the security details etc.
And if you want breakfast just let us know and we’ll arrange that too.
Ok, I’m thinking it’s now around 11/11.30 am and golf beckons! My suggestion is to go start at Renaisssance which will host The Scottish Open in 2019. It’s a 5 minute drive from the house, has great changing rooms including plunge pools and a gym so you can get warmed up. It also has a terrific practice area with four full size practice holes.
You can start out around 1pm and play one of the great relatively new courses in the region. Fabulous holes down by the water. Take a caddy. This is a tough course.
You can then think in terms finishing around 5/5.30pm. Take it easy and go to the plunge pool, sauna etc. Then go have a beer in the terrific bar upstairs. The views of the course are sensational and if the weather is decent, go sit on the balcony outside and relax. Why not have a light dinner there? I can also arrange a private dining room if you wish. Just let me know.
It’s now going to likely be about 8.30/9pm and I suggest getting back to the House. Jet lag will be taking effect, and take it easy tonight on the Amber nectar guys, so you will be in great shape for 18 or 36 the next day.
I’d suggest a couple of options for day 2:
Set the alarm early, and go play Gullane Number 1 or 2 at 8am -ish. These two courses are really terrific tests of golf. They have hosted the Scottish Open there, and the set up is great, views terrific. The people at Gullane Golf Club are just superb. Finish an awesome experience and go buy some souvenirs in the pro shop (which has some gifts from Muirfield too).
Next, drive to the amazing North Berwick West Course. Have lunch in the Clubhouse upstairs. The staff are so friendly and the view from the Clubhouse is superb. Aim to tee off around 2.30pm. Enjoy another great round on an absolute gem of a links course, featuring the famous Redan hole (15) along with some of the most amazing holes in golf. (I once had a 13 on number 16 if you were really keeping score) You’ll be in the clubhouse by 6.30pm.-ish. Shower and change, then grab dinner according to some of the options suggested below. It’s only a 15 minute drive back to the House.
That’s a pretty good way to start the trip guys. You’ll have no problems sleeping that night...
Have a nice breakfast, you will be awake relatively early, so check those emails, and go play somewhere like Dunbar in the morning. It’s a great links course. Get picked up at 9am and aim to tee it up around 10.00am. It’s tight there! I feel some of the tees are almost half in the ocean. I played there some years ago with a group of 7 other guys and we had great caddies and just a terrific experience.
Take the van back and have a late light lunch at Archerfield. Go play one of the two courses there and you’ll be done by 7.30pm. These courses are inland and are a very nice contrast to Dunbar. Shower, change in the excellent locker room and you can have a very nice dinner there. The people at Archerfield are so nice and welcoming. The bar area is very cool and the balcony such a nice place to tell your buddies how you played. Again, I can arrange for private dining there if you like. The nice thing is it’s only 10 minutes back to the House from the Club.
Ok, that’s just a couple of suggestions. If you have been lucky enough to book Muirfield you will want to be there from 8am until 6pm. Remember it’s only a short walk from the House. Pay attention to the guest play rules and dress codes please. You will enjoy one of the great Scottish golfing experiences at this Club. And, if you want to do the day in style, book Greywalls for dinner that evening. That would be a sensational day. (See more below).
These are just very simple suggestions. The area really does have some great courses. Make sure to play both Gullane 1 and 2. They are outstanding courses. There are so many options, its just an amazing region for golfing.
Here’s a list with links to the Clubs in the region:
Musselburgh Links (Worlds Oldest Golf Course)
Visit Golf East Lothian for an extended list of golf clubs in the region.
Some are more private than others. So check them out to see if you can play.
And some of the other great courses in Scotland are really not too far away. For example, St Andrews is a less than 2 hours drive away. Carnoustie is a 2 hour drive. Those fantastic courses on the west coast like Turnberry, and Troon where Stenson and Phil played that amazing Open in 2016 are a similar distance.
Near by Golf Clubs
I started a blog with the intent of writing about all the courses I have been fortunate enough to have played. It’s a little bit of a WIP, but here’s a link to the blog.
I’d be thrilled if you had a moment to add any comments or pictures you might have about these courses. I have this idea that perhaps guys who actually play the game and make the effort to travel are in the best place to comment on the courses and the set up both at the Clubs and surrounding amenities like where to stay and dine and so on.