Top 5 Hidden Gems in St Andrews, Fife, Angus and Perthshire

The region's best lesser known golf courses!

So many of Scotland’s golf courses have become world-famous sporting landmarks. The Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Gleneagles can all be found in the varied segment of the country that consists of Fife, Perthshire and Angus. However, much intrigue and pleasure can be derived from the courses that aren’t so widely known. “Hidden Gem” is a suspicious term, but there are some venues that perfectly fit that description.

  1.        Medal Course, Montrose

The sense of history has always been a draw for people travelling to Scotland. Medieval castles and towns, cathedrals and battlegrounds are all popular attractions. The same can be said of its golf courses. St Andrews, Prestwick and Musselburgh are places that golfers visit to experience that tangible history of the game, but the wonderful Medal Course at Montrose also deserves to be included in that category.

Reputed to be the fifth oldest course in the world, golf has been played on this natural and undulating landscape for more than 400 years. It is the quintessential links experience; rugged and windswept, with the trademark deep bunkers and gorse bushes that have become hallmarks of seaside golf.

Old Tom Morris made alterations to the (extremely) old course at the turn of the 20th century, and the challenge presented has stood the test of time. This is evident in the fact that Montrose was selected as one of the final qualifying venues for the 1999 Open Championship at nearby Carnoustie.

With the likes of Montrose, Monifieth and Panmure all within a short distance of the legendary championship venue, it would be fair to conclude that Angus is one of Scotland’s most underrated golfing regions.

medal course

  1.        Ladybank Golf Club

Scotland is rightly renowned and celebrated for its classic links courses, championship venues and quirky, thrilling layouts. However, there are many inland tracks that are worth visiting. The likes of (the exclusive) Loch Lomond and Gleneagles are well known, but Ladybank is a lesser-publicized gem that is up there with the best.

Situated in the heart of Fife, Ladybank is an immaculately presented heathland course. It has previously been an Open Championship qualifying venue when the game’s oldest major is being contested at nearby St Andrews.

Certainly a layout that favors straight hitters, trees and heather provide ominous penalties for anyone who dares hit their ball off-line. Even if you hit the fairway, the challenge doesn’t end. The greens are not particularly large, requiring accurate and well struck approaches to hold them. It’s a strong test.

An exacting challenge perhaps, but a wonderfully tranquil location to play golf. It’s a beautiful spot, and one which graced two of the game’s all-time greats more than 30 years ago.

Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros played an exhibition match at Ladybank in 1983, which is an event that is understandably recalled with fondness by members of the club. Nice history to have.

ladybank

  1.        Auchterarder Golf Club

Anyone who has played the PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles Resort in Perthshire, would have noticed another course running alongside the 15th fairway of the 2014 Ryder Cup venue. In many ways, it is superior to its more esteemed neighbor. Auchterarder Golf Club is a jewel that so many have unknowingly seen from a distance, but haven’t actually played.

Five-time Open Champion, Tom Watson once said that his favorite aspect of Scotland was the people’s attitude to how golf should be played. “I play fast; the Scots play fast. ‘Let’s get on with it.' There's no pretense. That's what I love most about the game over here. 'Let's go play.'”

That’s what Auchterarder is all about. Unpretentious, pleasant, speedy, golf the way it should be.

At only 5,775 yards on the scorecard from the back tees, distance is certainly not a challenge on the picturesque Perthshire course. Imagination, ingenuity and strategy are the tools required to succeed on this excellent and thoroughly enjoyable layout.

  1.        Eden Course, St Andrews

There are seven courses that exist under the revered umbrella of the St Andrews Links Trust. The Old and New are the most famous and historic, while the stout challenge of the Jubilee continues to grow in popularity. However, in terms of sheer fun and charm, it is hard to beat the wonderful Eden Course.

For Dr. Alister MacKenzie, co-designer of Augusta National, the Eden was the second greatest course in Scotland. Only the adjacent Old Course ranked higher in the legendary architect’s mind. High praise.

Celebrating its centenary in 2014, the course was initially laid out by Harry Colt in an effort to match the increasing demand for golf in the Auld Grey Toon. Featuring many of his trademark undulating and complex greens, and ingenious par 3s, the Eden remains a popular favorite among many locals.

Unfortunately, due to the building of the driving range and golf center, some of the original holes were lost, with Donald Steel (who designed the modern Jubilee) being commissioned to complete the back nine.

The modern holes aren’t quite up to the standard of the classics, but that saturation doesn’t fully diminish the quality of the Eden, which remains a largely unappreciated course at the Home of Golf.

eden course

  1.        Pitlochry Golf Club

As anyone who has ever attempted to play the game can attest to, golf can be painful at times as well as frustrating, discouraging and uncooperative. However, it should always be viewed as a pastime, and something to be enjoyed. Spectacular and tranquil visuals can certainly aid that process, and few are better than Pitlochry.

The town of Pitlochry can be found in the northern segment of Perthshire, at the base of the Scottish Highlands. It’s a beautiful place that has long been one of the most popular attractions in the region. Its golf course certainly plays a part in that reputation.

Originally designed in 1908, there is a steep climb to the first three holes of the course, but the rewards make the exertion worthwhile. At the summit you are blessed with an astonishingly stunning panorama of a mountain landscape. It is a special sight that alleviates all stresses and ills in your mind.

The views are certainly breathtaking, but the course is no pushover. It has an assortment of wonderful and enjoyable holes that ensures a pleasant all-round experience for any visitor. A warm welcome can be expected at a club that is unquestionably among the finest in Perthshire. The county is often referred to as being the ‘heart’ of Scotland. Pitlochry offers the best perspective of that.

Request a quote if you are interested in playing any of these courses as part of your golf vacation with the golf travel experts at Golfbreaks.com.

Kieran Clark

Author, Kieran Clark

I began playing golf at the age of five on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. It was the start of a relationship that hasn’t waned, with it becoming a mission to tick off as many courses as possible, with the Old Course at St. Andrews being my favourite. I love everything that it represents. After securing a degree in history at the University of Stirling, I have attempted to establish a career as a freelance golf journalist to express my love for the game and Scotland. And I relish any opportunity to share that adoration with anyone willing enough to read.