NCG Top 100s Scotland: an informed area guide

NCG Top 100s editor Chris Bertram helps you decide where to go for your next golf break by identifying the best golfing areas in Scotland

With such a bewildering array of great courses to choose from, it can be hard to know where to go for your next golfing trip to Scotland. Fortunately, we can help narrow the choices down.

Best for depth: East Lothian

With 13 of our Top 100 being located in the area to the east of Edinburgh , this was quite an easy selection – despite strong competition from Ayrshire, Fife and Aberdeen.

The great thing about East Lothian is that its quality goes on and on and on. Seemingly  forever. So at the very top end you have top-10 superstars Muirfield and North Berwick to gorge on. Then a tier down from them you have fabulous courses such as Gullane 2, Kilspindie (pictured above) and Longniddry.

Even beneath those, and sitting outside the 100 are the likes of Gifford, only nine holes but one of the best in Scotland. And don’t forget Musselburgh Old, the nine-hole course next to the racecourse that hosted six Opens. It is actually an essential part of an East Lothian itinerary. Deciding to go to East Lothian is the easy bit; deciding which courses to visit when you are there is extremely difficult.

Ultimate Open Championship layout

Best for Open pedigree: Ayrshire

Prestwick. Royal Troon. Turnberry. Nowhere in the world can match this little stretch of the west coast for Major-hosting allure.

I always think Prestwick is strangely under appreciated. A fabulously entertaining links that hosted 24 Opens (24!) Why it is not even more revered is plain odd.

Troon is similarly undervalued. Way more scenic than it is credited for, it starts with holes that ease you in then expands into some all-world ones. On the back nine it makes you dig as deep as anywhere in Scotland.

And then there is the Ailsa. Previously, in my opinion, dramatically over-rated, it has been improved sufficiently to be our No.1.   

Royal Dornoch
Best for mystique: Highlands

I mean, Royal Dornoch pretty much wins this on its own for my money but it is ably supported by several other links.

Part of the mystique, admittedly, is in its distance from the rest of the country. Dornoch is four hours’ drive from Glasgow. From Glasgow! So the effort to get there makes it feel special before you arrive.

But it’s not just that. It is the tranquility of life in the Highlands, the welcome from locals impressed you’ve made the pilgrimmage and the pockets of unpretentious but charming links. I dare you to come back from the Highlands and claim you weren’t captivated.

• View the NCG top 100: Scotland’s best golf courses

Best for inland courses: Perthshire

It does help that Gleneagles, with two courses in the top 15 and a third at No.43, is in Perthshire, but there is another multi-course venue that gives the region this title.

Blairgowrie has two contrasting courses in the 100; the dreamy, playable Rosemount and the exacting Lansdowne. Plus the fabulous Wee.

And then there is picturesque Auchterarder at No.87 – plus Gleneagles’ King’s, Queen’s and PGA Centenary, which are all slightly different.

Best for value: Dumfries & Galloway

There could be a bit of bias here because I’m from Dumfriesshire, but I do genuinely think it offers sensationally good value. The only course even vaguely costly is Southerness at £55. It’s a Britain and Ireland Top 100 course though and will be one of the cheapest courses in that list. Underneath Southerness are Powfoot, Stranraer, Portpatrick and Wigtownshire. You can play this quartet for under £150. Amazing!

Meldrum House

Best for variety: Aberdeenshire

The most under-rated area of Scotland. That there are eight Aberdeenshire courses in our 100 will surprise many. But it’s not just the depth that makes Aberdeenshire stand out, it’s also the variety. Yes, links dominate but away from the coast you have the inland charms of Meldrum House and Newmachar (Hawkshill) plus the latter’s Swailend (Next 100).

Scotland golf

Best experience: Argyll and Islands

Not my favourite golf trip in Scotland. Not my favourite golf trip in Britain. Not my favourite golf trip in Europe. My favourite golf trip full stop.

Take the ferry from Ardrossan to Arran and play Shiskine.  Another ferry to Kintyre to play Machrihanish, Machrihanish Dunes and Dunaverty over the next day and a half.  Then a day trip via the ferry to Islay to play the all-new Machrie.  From either island hop your way back or take the drive of a lifetime up the Mull.

• View the NCG top 100: Scotland’s best golf courses