Each of these courses is younger than 30 and has yet to host an Open. Nevertheless, their scenery, challenges and early lore make them must-plays on your Scottish itinerary. Scottish brothers Gordon and Colin Dalgleish—the travel experts at PerryGolf—share their tips for the ultimate Caledonian getaway.
Trump International Golf Links Scotland
Aberdeen; trumpgolfscotland.com; $206–$305
Ranked No. 48 in the world (47 spots lower than its namesake owner would prefer) GOLF’s Best New International Course of the Year in 2012 is a spectacular Martin Hawtree creation (with input from the Donald). Massive sand dunes, North Sea views, exposed back tees perched on sandhills, a remarkable set of par 3s and 7,428 yards from the tips—this blend of aesthetics and challenge has no peer in links golf.
PerryGolf’s Take: “Hyperbole aside, the dunes on the North Sea are among the grandest in the world.”
Castle Stuart Golf Links
Inverness; castlestuartgolf.com; $199–$270
So smitten was Phil Mickelson after his first trip around this course in 2011 that he gushed, “It should almost be a prerequisite to play Castle Stuart before you’re allowed to design golf courses nowadays.” Lefty would win the Scottish Open here in 2013, and after two years away, the event returns in July 2016. GOLF’s Top New International Course of 2009 is ranked 69th in the world, thanks to an inspired Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen links design that entices with wide fairways, wild and woolly bunkers and eye-candy panoramas of Moray Firth and the Highlands.
PerryGolf’s Take: “A meticulously maintained modern links….Six holes hug the shoreline, while the others are played overhead on an escarpment that divides the golf course. As such, you are never not looking at the sea.”
(PGA Centenary), Auchterarder; gleneagles.com; $106–$263
This inland 1993 Jack Nicklaus design polarizes course critics. With its cart paths and American stylings, it’s clearly not an authentic Scottish links. What it does possess is tranquil spaciousness amid the Perthshire countryside, with handsome vistas of the Grampian Mountains. It’s also a terrific challenge. More significantly, it will forever hold the distinction of hosting the 2014 Ryder Cup, won by Europe 16 ½ to 11½, reason enough to check it off your bucket list. It also lets you experience the hotel itself, quite possibly the finest golf property in the world. A regular venue on the PGA European Tour, the course will again test the best in 2019, when it hosts the Solheim Cup.
PerryGolf’s Take: “A parkland treasure with the usual Nicklaus features—huge corridors, large greens, bold bunkering and, of course, a tempting number of risk-and-reward opportunities.”
Kingsbarns Golf Links
St. Andrews; kingsbarns.com; $338
One of the venues for the PGA European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, this 16-year-old Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen creation seven miles from the Old Course boasts a world ranking of 65 and the respect of links aficionados everywhere. They warm to such holes as the 606-yard, par-5 12th, which rounds the bay, and a 212-yard, par-3 15th that demands a daunting carry over the sea.
PerryGolf’s Take: “Everything changed in 2000 when Kyle Phillips reinvented links golf at Kingsbarns, along the North Sea. This is the first of the “modern classic” links layouts.”