Best hidden gem golf courses in Scotland
Fabulous links, tranquil heathlands and stunning scenery, Scotland is full of little hidden gems, here are our top picks just for you.
Hidden gem courses offer the best of both worlds. An exceptional golf experience, often at a fraction of the price of their more illustrious counterparts. Nowhere in the world are there more undiscovered treasures than Scotland and wherever you travel in the country you will unearth fantastic courses just waiting to be discovered.
From the highly-ranked courses that often get overlooked in favour of their more famous neighbours to the quirky layouts that everyone must play at least once in their lifetime, we take a look at nine of our favourite hidden gem golf courses in Scotland.
Standing on the stunning 12th tee at Kingsbarns Links, visitors may notice another golf course a little further down the coastline. For most tourists visiting the Home of Golf this is as close to Crail as they are likely to get. It shouldn’t be.
Crail Golfing Society, the seventh oldest golf club in the world, lies twelve miles east of St Andrews and boasts two courses, both of which are more than worth a round. As well as the Craighead Links, Old Tom Morris designed the original Balcomie Links Course. Boasting dramatic views along the Firth of Forth, golfers tee off away from the clubhouse towards the sea before playing the opening holes alone the shoreline, it makes for an unforgettable start. With a mixture of inland and shore-hugging holes, there is plenty of variety to keep you coming back time and time again.
Take everything you’ve ever known about conventional golf courses and leave it back on the Scottish mainland. The 12-hole layout at Shiskine, on the Isle of Arran, may not resemble anything to which you are accustomed, but the beautiful links will blow you away with the sheer beauty and eccentricity of its design.
Hidden away in the small seaside village of Blackwaterfoot, overlooking the Mull of Kintyre, the course merges all the idiosyncrasies synonymous with links golf into 12 mind-blowing holes. The handiwork of Willie Fernie, best known for his work at Royal Troon and Turnberry, the layout twists its way up and over the Drumadoon cliffs like an old-fashioned roller-coaster, climbing to the top of the iconic rock formation, before careering back down to a set of dramatic holes nestled into the shoreline.
Dunbar is an unforgettable links course that rarely gets the attention it deserves. Situated on a stretch of coastline which could only have been moulded by the hands of the golfing gods, the classic links is just a few miles from East Lothian heavyweights like Gullane, North Berwick and, Muirfield.
Built on a narrow strip of links terrain that hugs close to the shoreline, the course serves up views of the Firth of Forth from almost every hole. Dunbar is by no means a hidden gem and the layout has hosted Final Open Qualifying, as well as an array of top amateur events. Nonetheless far too often overshadowed its worth remembering just how good the course really is.
Yet another one of those attractive and thrilling courses in East Lothian, Kilspindie is one of the most relaxing and welcoming clubs in the region, and can boast a layout that is highly memorable and enjoyable.
Featuring small and tricky greens, undulating fairways, and even shots over a beach, this short course (at less than 5,500 yards) is becoming more prominent in the minds of experts and visitors, who are consistently enchanted by its traditional and charming qualities. On a bright summer evening, there are few more agreeable and undisputed magical spots to play golf.
This classic links is perhaps the least well-known of the two dozen or so really phenomenal links courses in Scotland's Highlands, and despite its far-flung location is a must-play for all lovers of the game.
Brora is by no means a championship layout but with little in the way of protection from the elements, the course provides even the most accomplished golfer with a stern test, particularly when the wind picks up. Meanwhile, the greens, protected by a series of electric fences to ward off grazing cattle, are both slick and hard to hold. Rugged and charming in equal measure, Brora may be quite some distance off the beaten track but is more than worth the extra miles.
East Lothian is one of the most famous golf destinations in the world. It's perhaps a little surprising then that there are still some great courses along this prestigious strip of golfing coastline that fall under the radar.
Nowhere more so than the Glen Golf Club, North Berwick. This glorious links is the prime example of a course that lives in the shadow of its illustrious neighbour and while golfers flock to the upmarket town to play the quirky (and undeniably fabulous) layout at North Berwick Golf Club, it’s worth sticking around to play another round at the town’s other layout, the Glen, if just for the magnificent backdrop across the Firth of Forth to Bass Rock. With many of the par-4’s measuring less than 400 yards, it certainly isn’t the longest of courses but golfers are guaranteed an exhilarating golfing experience.
It’s understandable that visitors heading to the Home of Golf make a beeline for the coast. After all, with the Old Course at St Andrews and Kingsbarns just a few of the many top links courses on this renowned stretch of shoreline, it’s little surprise that Fife’s inland courses all too often get overlooked.
Head 30 minutes in from the coast however and you will find Ladybank, one of the finest inland courses in Scotland. Set in a tranquil heathland spot, the course winds its way through gorse, pines, and fir and offers a real challenge with small green and narrow fairways placing a precedence on accuracy. With the course measuring over 6,800 from the back tees, the former Final Open Qualifying venue will ask questions of every element of your game.
Murcar is yet another fabulous Scottish Links that is all too often overlooked in favour of its prestigious neighbour. Bordering Royal Aberdeen, on an exquisite stretch of golfing coastline, the Archie Simpson layout is renowned for being somewhat of a brute, with snaking burns, blind shots, raised greens and mountainous sand dunes all part and parcel of a round at this classic links gem.
The highlight of any round at Murcar Links is the views across the North Sea and to Aberdeen from the many elevated tees, which are sublime and add to what is an unforgettable golf experience.
It’s fitting that a golf course nestled in Scotland’s most popular mountain range for winter sports serves up some thrilling golf. That’s certainly what you get at Boat of Garten which is bestowed a truly spectacular against the backdrop of the Cairngorms mountain range.
Dubbed the Gleneagles of the North, the James Braid design winds its way through an enchanting mix of pine, heather and broom. Expect plenty of unexpected bounces and awkward lies, and while the course stretches a mere 5,900 off the back tees, the lack of length rarely equates with an easy round. Golfers heading to the Highlands will be treated to a heathland paradise, with a series of stunning holes played across beautiful undulating terrain.
Scotland & Ireland Team Leader