Top 100 Golf Courses: Northeast Scotland

1 of 11 No. 4 (David Cannon / Getty Images)
North Berwick Golf Club (West Links), North Berwick [011-44-1620-895040, northberwickgolfclub.com]: East of Edinburgh sits this fabled links -- at least in architecture circles. In terms of original holes and pure fun, 68th-ranked North Berwick has few peers.
2 of 11 David Cannon / Getty Images
Muirfield, Gullane [011-44-1620-842123, muirfield.org.uk]: Ranked No. 10 in the World, the club is more formally known as “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers,” but its simpler name, “Muirfield,” is what inspires awe and reverence, which was emphatically renewed during Phil Mickelson’s remarkable 2013 Open win. With few blind shots, outstanding change of direction and superior strategic bunkering, Muirfield is the favorite Open venue of many.
3 of 11 No. 10 / Matt Ginella
Cruden Bay Golf Club, Cruden Bay [011-44-1779-812285, crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk]: Drenched in quirky charm, this certified cult classic is a personal favorite of both Pete Dye and Tom Doak. Situated 23 miles north of Aberdeen and ranked 79th in the World, Cruden Bay offers one wild seaside adventure after the next, including holes overlooking the Water of Cruden and the fishing village of Port Erroll.
4 of 11 No. 7 / Courtesy of Castle Stuart Golf Links
Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness [011-44-1463-796111, castlestuartgolf.com]: GOLF Magazine’s Top New International Course of 2009 is ranked No. 56 in the world, thanks to a brilliant Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen design that was effusively praised by Phil Mickelson, who won the 2013 Scottish Open there. Wide fairways, wild and woolly bunkers and eye candy panoramas of Moray Firth and the Scottish Highlands are highlights.
5 of 11 No. 11 (David Cannon / Getty Images)
Royal Dornoch Golf Club (Championship), Dornoch [011-44-1862-810219, royaldornoch.com]: Ranked No. 14 in the World, the course where Donald Ross learned his craft is a superior seaside links in the Scottish Highlands, where cleverly contoured plateau greens place a premium on proper angles of approach and on precise chipping. After Tom Watson played here prior to his 1980 Open win at Muirfield, he remarked that the experience was “the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course.”
6 of 11 No. 14 (David Cannonn / Getty Images)
Nairn Golf Club, Nairn [011-44-1667-453208, nairngolfclub.co.uk]: Luke Donald and Paul Casey starred for Great Britain and Ireland in the 1999 Walker Cup Match at Nairn, but the real winner was the course itself, a links course just outside the Top 100 that dates to 1887. A half-dozen holes on the front nine play practically in the sea, yet the most memorable tests are the uphill 13th and downhill 14th that are virtual inland holes, while retaining stirring views of the Moray Firth.
7 of 11 No. 8 (David Cannon / Getty Images)
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Balgownie), Aberdeen [011-44-1224-702571, royalaberdeengolf.com]: The sixth-oldest club in the world, dating to 1780, Royal Aberdeen ranks just shy of the World Top 100, but its stock rose considerably after playing successful host to the 2011 Walker Cup. Undoubtedly, it will gain further scrutiny as the venue for the PGA European Tour’s Scottish Open in 2014. Its humpy-bumpy seaside terrain, thorny gorse bushes that girdle the fairways and penal sand pits mix to form a formidable test.
8 of 11 No. 18 (Andrew Redington / Getty Images)
Carnoustie Golf Links, Carnoustie [011-44-1241-802270, carnoustiegolflinks.com]: Dubbed “Car-nasty” after its brutal treatment of players in the 1999 British Open, the toughest of the Open rota courses has witnessed winners such as Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tom Watson. Its trio of closing holes, the mammoth 240-yard par-3 16th and the two rugged par-4s that follow have wreaked havoc on scorecards for decades, memorably to Jean Van de Velde’s in 1999, when his chances drowned in the Barry Burn.
9 of 11 No. 10 / Brian Morgan
Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Aberdeen [011-44-1358-743300, trumpgolfscotland.com]: Ranked No. 50 in the world in its initial year of eligibility, 2012’s Best New International Course of the Year is a Martin Hawtree creation -- with plenty of input from the course’s namesake, Donald Trump -- that boasts massive sand dunes, stunning North Sea views and a combination of aesthetics and challenge that has no equal in links golf.
10 of 11 No. 3 / Matt Ginella
Kingsbarns Golf Links, St. Andrews [800-441-1391, kingsbarns.com]: Co-host of the PGA European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, this 1999 Kyle Phillips design 15 miles from the Old Course boasts a World Ranking of 55 and the respect of links fans everywhere.
11 of 11 No. 14 (David Cannon / Getty Images)
St. Andrews (Old Course), St. Andrews [011-44-1334-466666, standrews.org.uk]: The rare life experience that exceeds sky-high expectations, a round at No. 4 in the World St. Andrews means following in the most famous golf footsteps in history, including British Open winners Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, on the oldest course on earth.