The Spirit of Golf
For elite golfers and historians of the game then Scotland has always ranked high as a holiday destination. Tourists can find some of the most well-known courses in the world just putting distance from luxury accommodation such as Balfour House in St Andrews and Denfind House by Muirfield. These courses live up to their reputations as world class and the high standards, the history and sheer quality of the golf here draw thousands of visitors each year to support their favourite professionals or to try a round for themselves. Logistical reasons make it impossible for every visitor to be able to play on the impeccably manicured greens of the Old Course or the famous fairways of Royal Dornoch but with nearly 600 golf courses to choose from there is so much more to golf in Scotland.
Dotted throughout the country are scenic and historical courses where you can just turn up and play. These courses are often free and are accommodating for beginners as well as offering challenges for the more experienced. Playing here can take you back to the roots of the game and reinforce the idea that golf in Scotland really can be accessible for everyone.
In 1891 Old Tom Morris went to South Uist to create a course at the request of the wealthy land owner, Lady Cathcart, so that she could impress her high society guests. Old Tom created Askernish, an 18 hole course that was maintained by the local crofters until the early 1920s. Over the course of the next 80 years the course that Old Tom created was taken back by the wild. In 2005 a group of locals decided that they wanted their course back and set to work on the restoration. The result is one of the finest golfing experiences in the country, a links course that harks back to the origins of the game in a magnificent setting overlooking the Atlantic. Cuir na Bhoir is a somewhat appropriate place to stay when you visit as it is a restored thatched cottage. Traditional on the outside, but modern luxury when you step through the front door.
Brora Golf Club is a hidden gem often unfairly overlooked due to its proximity to the famous Royal Dornoch course. It is another historical course that has maintained its charm by refusing to adapt to contemporary golf fashion. Five times Open Champion Peter Thomson rates Brora as “the best traditional links course in the world” while writers and players galore glory in its fabulous setting, its superb condition and the devilish challenges it offers. The club also makes a virtue of its lack of strict dress code with the wearing of jeans being acceptable. Farthingworth is actually situated close to both Brora and Royal Dornoch (and a host of other fine courses) so you can have the best of both worlds on your holiday.
Described by the Scotsman as “The most beautifully sited nine-hole golf course in the world” Traigh, just north of Arisaig has a lot to live up to. Fortunately then its reputation is well deserved and a visit here is a must for any enthusiast of the game. It is based on a line of grassy hills, with the springy turf of a true links course and spectacular views over the sea. This is a subtle golf course that rewards accurate shotmaking, good players are made to work for their scores, and yet high handicappers are given every chance. Borrodale House is just five miles away on the road to the isles, perhaps just a bit too far to drive your golf buggy but close enough to nip back home between rounds.
Braemar Golf Club was formed in 1902 and the dramatically situated course here is the highest in the country at 1,200 feet above sea level. Golfers on this challenging 18 hole course will have a collection of natural hazards to contend with as well as the occasional intervention from some of the areas renowned wildlife. Nearby Drumrunie House overlooks the river Dee and lends itself perfectly for an outdoor break being right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.
So get practicing your golf swing, not just for the thrill of hitting the fairways but for the places that golf in Scotland can take you. These hidden gems not only offer great sport but come with the amazing added extras of history, scenery and wildlife.
Images copyright Traigh, Braemar & Askernish Golf Clubs