10 Most Famous Scottish Golf Courses

Home to five of the six leading courses in the UK&I, Scotland has a great claim to being the home of golf

10 Most Famous Scottish Golf Courses - St Andrews - Old Course - Hole 1
Looking back from behind the first green on the Old Course to the iconic R&A clubhouse
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most Famous Scottish Golf Courses

There is not always a direct link between 'the best' and 'the most famous', but in golfing terms, this is very often the case. And while this is sometimes slightly complicated by famous club as opposed to famous course, this look at the ten most famous Scottish courses happily has a strong correlation with the Golf Monthly Top 100 rankings

It therefore seems sensible to approach them in 2021-22 Top 100 order, with the first three having between them held every number one spot since the Golf Monthly rankings started in 2005-6.

St Andrews - Old Course

St Andrews - Old Course - Hole 17

The view from the green on the Road Hole with the par-4 Home Hole beyond

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  • Location St Andrews
  • Founded The mists of time
  • Architect Nature, Old Tom Morris
  • GF £295 (2023)
  • Par 72, 6,721 yards
  • Contact St Andrews Links Trust

What can we say about The Old Course that has not been said before? Very little! This is quite simply the most famous golf course in the world, an ever-present on the golfing bucket list and a must-play of the highest order. Here you will find more atmosphere, more potential drama, more history, and more shivers down the spine than anywhere else. If you have played it, then hopefully you agree - and if not, then this is THE course for your pilgrimage.

Read full St Andrews - Old Course review


Muirfield - Hole 18

The approach to the closing hole at Muirfield overlooked by the stylish clubhouse

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While the Old Course has quirk and even eccentricity, Muirfield does not. This magnificent links is recognised the world over as one of our very finest and fairest Open Championship tests. Its superb, flowing and expansive design is packed with exquisite bunkering and brilliant greens. It has no signature hole, or perhaps 18 of them, and is simply one of the purest and most perfect tests of golf anywhere. In a very golf-rich area, it tops the list of the best golf courses in East Lothian. Book early to avoid disappointment, and a visit over the winter can offer terrific value for money.

Read full Muirfield course review

Trump Turnberry - Ailsa Course

Trump Turnberry - Hole 9

The par-3 ninth on the Ailsa Course adjacent to one of the most distinctive halfway houses in golf

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  • Location Turnberry
  • Founded 1902
  • Architect Willie Fernie, CK Hutchison, Philip Mackenzie Ross, Mackenzie & Ebert
  • GF £395 Mon-Thu, £425 Fri-Sun - discounts for residents - check for packages
  • Par 71, 6,511 yards
  • Contact Trump Turnberry Golf Club

The Ailsa Course is currently number four in the UK&I and was the beneficiary of a comprehensive and widely acclaimed upgrade by Martin Ebert in 2015. The most dramatic changes were those around the turn with the 9th now a spectacular par 3 along the clifftops. The lighthouse was also transformed into an iconic halfway house, and the back nine begins with an excellent par 5 following the cliffs and another breath-taking short hole at 11. What was already a great course has become even more wonderful. And while it may command one of the most expensive green fees in the UK&I, many of the best things in golf come at a price.

Read full Trump Turnberry - Ailsa Course review


Carnoustie - Championship - Hole 16

Barry Burn - the par-3 sixteenth at Carnoustie is the prelude to one of the toughest finishes in golf

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  • Location Carnoustie
  • Founded 1825
  • Architect Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, James Braid
  • GF Round £270
  • Par 70, 6,589 yards
  • Contact Carnoustie Golf Club

The Championship Course at Carnoustie is one of the best links courses in the UK. Along with the Old Course and Kingsbarns, it is one of the stars each Autumn in the Dunhill Links. It is a supreme test of golf, a links for the connoisseur that is distinguished by its superb, revetted bunkering. There are plenty of highlights such as Hogan’s Alley and the Spectacle bunkers, and an amazing sting in the tail taking in the mammoth par-3 16th and the two closing par 4s where you must cross the Barry Burn no fewer than five times.

Read full Carnoustie - Championship Course review

Royal Dornoch

Royal Dornoch - Hole 10

Looking down on the green on the short tenth at the far end of Dornoch’s fabulous course

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  • Location Dornoch
  • Founded 1877
  • Architect Old Tom Morris, JH Taylor, John Sutherland, George Duncan, Mackenzie & Ebert
  • GF Round £270, Day £335
  • Par 72, 6,626 yards
  • Contact Royal Dornoch Golf Club

Without wishing to age myself, I first played the Championship Course at Royal Dornoch when I had just graduated and the green fee was £10. This is a world-famous links that attracts golfing enthusiasts from all over the globe. Running over a narrow strip of linksland bordered by a glorious beach, the traditional, out-and-back design is a superb test of golf that will reward accuracy and punish mistakes. Recent Tom Mackenzie changes are starting to bed in, and the course is tough but fair. Packed with gorse and broom, this is one of the finest links in the world.

Read full Royal Dornoch - Championship Course review


Kingsbarns - Hole 15

The thrilling par-3 fifteenth at Kingsbarns has quickly become one of the best-known short holes in golf

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  • Location Kingsbarns, nr St Andrews
  • Founded 2000
  • Architect Kyle Phillips
  • GF £374 (2023)
  • Par 72, 6,842 yards
  • Contact Kingsbarns Golf Club

Golf was first played over this stretch of the Fife coast as long ago as 1793 although the original course was converted to farmland in the mid-19th century. Today’s layout was designed by one of the leading golf course architects, American Kyle Phillips, and it opened for play in 2000. Rather than a standard out-and-back routing, there are three sections to the course; the main body which has the majority of the holes, the clubhouse and extensive practice facilities, and two wings which are home to holes two to five and twelve to fifteen. The course has ridden high in the Golf Monthly rankings since their inception and continues to receive universal praise from its worldwide visitors.

Read full Kingsbarns Golf Club course review

Royal Troon

Royal Troon - Postage Stamp

Postage Stamp - the eighth hole at Royal Troon and a short but very deadly par 3

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  • Location Troon
  • Founded 1878
  • Architect Charles Hunter, George Strath, Willie Fernie, James Braid
  • GF £315 (2023)
  • Par 71, 6,626 yards
  • Contact Royal Troon Golf Club

Everything at Royal Troon is impressive and on a grand scale, from the stately clubhouse to the expansive and superbly manicured course itself. This is a traditional out-and-back links with a twist as the middle holes loop their way inland and through thick swathes of gorse up by the railway. It is these holes that are the most memorable with the world-famous 8th, the shortest hole in Open Championship golf, as good a par 3 as you will find anywhere and truly one of the best par 3s in the world. Back tees at ten and eleven make the two railway holes super-tough, as indeed is the entire back nine when the wind is up.

Read full Royal Troon - Old Course review

Castle Stuart

Castle Stuart - Aerial

Looking back over the eighth green at Castle Stuart with the Moray Firth and Inverness beyond

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  • Location Inverness
  • Founded 2008
  • Architect Gil Hanse & Mark Parsinen
  • GF Round £270, Day £405 (2023)
  • Par 72, 6,592 yards
  • Contact Castle Stuart Golf Club

The youngest course in our list only opened in 2009 but attained instant fame by hosting no fewer than four Scottish Opens in its first seven years. Its design, as at Kingsbarns, proves that just sometimes, you can create an instant classic. Generous from the tee, the holes run over two levels on the southern shores of the Moray Firth. There are tricky humps and hollows, swaying fescue, jagged bunkers, infinity greens and fabulous views over water and distant mountains. Designed with enjoyment in mind, it has very much succeeded and the more recent addition of onsite accommodation only makes it more difficult to leave.

Read full Castle Stuart Golf Club course review


Gleneagles - Kings - Hole 9

The par-4 ninth on the King’s Course at Gleneagles in the beautiful rolling hills of Perthshire

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  • Gleneagles
  • Location Auchterarder
  • Founded 1913
  • Architect James Braid (King’s & Queen’s) - Jack Nicklaus (PGA Centenary)
  • GF £275 Round, £450 Day - all courses (2023)
  • King’s Par 70, 6,471 yards
  • Queen’s Par 68, 5,965 yards
  • PGA Centenary Par 72, 6,804 yards
  • Contact Gleneagles Hotel

To sum up the many delights of golf at Gleneagles would take way more than just a few sentences. It would fill an entire issue of Golf Monthly! There is the natural beauty and tradition of both the King’s and Queen’s Courses, each of which has staged important tournaments. Then there is the modern history, style and drama of the Jack Nicklaus-designed PGA Centenary Course which hosted the thrilling 2010 Ryder Cup. This stunning, undulating moorland estate is simply the best golf resort in the UK&I.

Happily, both of the original courses are firm favourites in the Golf Monthly Top 100, while the PGA Centenary is in the Next 100. This means there is more to enjoy reading about all three courses as follows…

Read full Gleneagles - King’s Course review

Gleneagles - Queen's Course - Hole 13

The par-3 thirteenth on the Queen’s Course, the first of beautiful back-to-back short holes

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Read full Gleneagles - Queen’s Course review

Gleneagles - PGA Centenary - Hole 18

The tough closing hole on the PGA Centenary Course

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Read full Gleneagles - PGA Centenary Course pictorial review


Prestwick - Hole 17

The penultimate green at Prestwick is protected by a cavernous bunker

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  • Location Prestwick
  • Founded 1851
  • Architect Old Tom Morris
  • GF £220 Mon-Fri, £250 Weekend
  • Par 71, 6,551 yards
  • Contact Prestwick Golf Club

The historic and unique links at Prestwick is perhaps as close to a living, interactive golf museum as you can get. It would be hard to find any course with more features, variety and character, and it was originally designed by Old Tom Morris in 1851 at which time it consisted of just 12 holes. In 1860 it hosted the inaugural Open Championship, and the tournament remained here for a decade. Extended to a full 18 in 1882, the course was substantially but subtly and sympathetically upgraded in 1999. It remains a timeless and very important classic and is one of the best golf courses in Scotland.

Read full Prestwick Golf Club course review

I have been lucky enough to play all of the courses in this feature, and I know that Trump Aberdeen and Royal Aberdeen both rank above Gleneagles. But are they better-known? And yes, both North Berwick and Dumbarnie Links currently rate higher than Prestwick and have a very strong claim to fame. Happily, there is no recognised measurement on the strength of fame, so let’s just simply say that ALL of the courses mentioned in this article are exceptional, and more than worth their celebrity status and the attention of keen golfers from all over the world.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for over 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2021, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He has been a member of Tandridge in Surrey for 30 years where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at r.smith896@btinternet.com.