The 10 Best Golf Holes in Scotland

Ten of the very best golf holes in the Home of Golf, if not the world!

Scotland’s many famous golf courses are mythologised by golfers across the planet; therefore it’s no surprise that many of their individual holes have developed an identity of their own. Some have defined major championships, while others simply encapsulate the beauty and charm of playing in the country that brought the game to the world. They all have a story to tell.

Here are ten of the best.

1.    11th St. Andrews, Old Course – Par 3 – 174 yards

Arguably the best hole of the legendary Old Course, ‘High’ is one of the world’s great par threes. Often referred to as being the shortest par five in Scotland, this wonderful hole is the most exposed of the famous 18, and lays before the stunning backdrop of the Eden Estuary.

Measuring 174 yards from the championship tee, the approach shot can require anything ranging from a wedge to a 3-wood depending on the wind direction. With a sloping green that is guarded by two deep bunkers (Strath and Hill), the pin position can alter the hole dramatically.

2.    18th Muirfield Golf Course – Par 4 – 473 yards

For many observers Muirfield is the finest course on the Open Championship rotation, and its closing hole typifies the understated elegance and challenge of this historic layout that has crowned the likes of Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo, Els and Mickelson as Champion Golfer of the Year.

The 18th is a long par four that has a tee shot (which typically plays into a crosswind) fraught with danger due to three fairway bunkers, two on the left side and one on the right. The examination doesn’t end there, however, with the approach to a well-guarded sloping green providing equally difficult.

With the aesthetics of the clubhouse in the backdrop and a variety of bunkers (including one with an island of grass in the centre), the hole is a fitting conclusion to a memorable test of golf.

3.   14th St. Andrews, Old Course – Par 5 – 618 yards

Along with the beautiful 13th at Augusta National, the 14th of the Old Course is surely among the greatest par fives in major championship golf. Facing towards the iconic skyline of St. Andrews, the hole is intoxicatingly strategic.

The drive is intimidating, as out of bounds peers imposingly on the right side, while perfectly placed bunkers are destined to capture more conservative tee shots on the left of the fairway. Like much of the legendary course, your options aren’t limited to one fairway, as many (including former Open champion Nick Faldo) elect to play up the short grass on the fifth hole.

All routes are intended to avoid the devastating brutality of the aptly named Hell Bunker, which has become a landmark on the old links. Jack Nicklaus was left cursing his luck in 1995, when he took four shots to escape its demonic face.

4.   8th Royal Troon, Old Course – Par 3 – 123 yards

The iconic Postage Stamp, which will be showcased during the 2016 Open Championship, measures 123 yards and ranks among the planet’s most famous par threes.

Playing from a raised tee – frequently into the prevailing wind – a long but narrow green is protected by five deep bunkers and a number of depressions, which will ensnare any shot that is even the slightest bit inaccurate. It can embarrass the best players, and provide an amateur with a taste of greatness. It is perhaps the most democratic of all the most revered holes in the game.

In 1973, Gene Sarazen (aged 71) made a hole in one at the Postage Stamp during the Open, etching one of the great moments in the history of Royal Troon.

5.   1st Machrihanish, Championship Course – Par 4 – 428 yards

This is one of the great – and unnerving – opening tee shots, with anything pulled left destined to find a watery grave in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a hole that typifies the exhilaration of playing Machrihanish, which is one of the most thrilling courses in the world.

Situated in the relative wilderness just north of the Mull of Kintyre, it takes quite an effort to reach the majestic layout. It was originally imagined by the legendary Old Tom Morris, who remarked that “the almighty had golf in his eye when he created this place.”

1st hole machrihanish

6.   12th Kingsbarns – Par 5 – 566 yards

Perhaps Scotland’s answer to the famed 18th of Pebble Beach, the 12th at Kingsbarns is an immaculate and stunning par five, with a right-to-left dogleg hugging the spectacular coastline and offering the best of Kyle Phillips’ highly regarded layout.

Visually the hole is hard to beat, especially when the sun is shimmering down upon the water and beach, and it retains a sense of risk that will excite players of all standards. Hitting a draw off the tee is advantageous, particularly if you’re able to catch the ridge on the right side of the fairway, which could help make your approach to the green even more enticing.

7.   17th St. Andrews, Old Course – Par 4 – 495 yards

The challenge of this formidable par four is equally as unique as it is unsettling. Much like the entirety of the famous layout, the hole tests your nerve and resolve.

Facing a tee shot over the old railway sheds that sit at the corner of the Old Course Hotel, just how aggressively will you play it? Taking on the right side is a beckoning of disaster; therefore a bailout drive towards the second fairway becomes an ever more tempting option as anxiety increases.

The second shot to the narrow, angled green is one of the great approaches in the game, with the infamous Road Hole bunker ominously perched to consume any slightly wayward ball. For balls that run through the green, the road (in play) and wall (yes, in play) are potentially devastating hazards, as Tom Watson famously discovered in 1984.

8.   3rd Castle Stuart Golf Links – Par 4 – 290 yards

As a regular host of the Scottish Open, the modern classic of Castle Stuart is rightly considered one of the finest courses to emerge in recent decades, and the brilliant third hole is a perfect example of the ingenuity and craftsmanship that has made the design so popular.

Measuring 290 yards, the short par four runs alongside the Moray Firth and presents a number of options from the tee. Attempting to drive the green – sure to appetise some – requires a shot of the utmost accuracy, with a variety of undulations and bunkers providing steadfast obstacles.

 

9.   6th Royal Dornoch, Championship Course – Par 3 – 161 yards

The short holes on this magical course are brilliant. The second perfectly illustrates the classic raised greens that are famed at Dornoch, while the 11th runs attractively beside the Firth. However, it is the sixth that stands out for its challenge as a potential card-wrecker.

Measuring 161 yards from the back tee, like all great short par threes, it is a hole that rewards accuracy rather than length. Hitting towards a small green, anything missed to the right will run down a significant slope, that has bunkers situated ominously to the left and a deep one just short.

Royal Dornoch demands precision and can be punishing to those who fall foul of its traps. Following the stunningly bunkered fifth hole, the sixth is a tremendous par three that will set you up for the break-taking panoramic view from the seventh tee.

10.   6th Carnoustie, Championship Course – Par 5 – 578 yards

Carnoustie is the quintessentially understated Scottish links course. Not dazzling from a visual standpoint, but utterly exhilarating from the sheer fun of testing your skills on one of the most challenging layouts in the world.

Hogan’s Alley is one of two great par fives on the Championship Course (the other being 14), and it places the utmost importance on the tee shot. With an out of bounds fence running alongside the left of the fairway, and a succession of deep bunkers on the right-centre, there is only a narrow pathway to safety. During the 1953 Open, Ben Hogan (in his sole appearance) successfully found that slim alley on each of the four rounds of his famous victory.

Carnoustie and Hogan were made for each other. Following his footsteps on the sixth is a thrill.

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

 

Kieran Clark

Author, Keiran 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.