If you could play in one professional golf event based on the venue alone, would it be Augusta National? The Monterey Peninsula courses at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am?
Or what about the host courses at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship?
While this European Tour event is mostly an afterthought to most of the golf world here in America, it’s trio of courses, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns are as coveted by golf travelers as any venue in the game.
The Dunhill Links presents an opportunity for tour pros to play two historic, major championship links, plus one of the shining new stars of Scotland. And many of the game's best are competing, including Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Dustin Johnson.
For golf travelers, it's a good blueprint for how to see the best links on Scotland's east side. Even better, it's a showcase of just how varied links courses can be.
We’re all quite familiar with the Old Course and Carnoustie, both of which are regulars on the Open Championship rota. Kingsbarns, opened in 2001 seven miles from the town of St. Andrews, is wildly different both in playability and to the traveling amateur.
While it’s easy to find historic Scottish clubs charming, their property is usually cramped, which means a short course and facilities often stuck in yesteryear. Kingsbarns, however, had plenty of land and cash. The result thus far is one of the great successes of modern golf course development - and one that can stand alone without any real estate attachment. Amenities include an onsite driving range, marvelous views (which include a couple holes that wrap around the sea - something St. Andrews and Carnoustie can't offer), ferociously fast, large greens and fewer golfers on the course.
The St. Andrews Links Trust and Carnoustie, both operating three or more courses, are both busy places to be on most days. But one-off Kingsbarns, with no residences or anything else on property, feels more like a high-class links club.
If you want to take in professional links golf without the Open Championship crowds, the Dunhill Links is a good time to visit Fife and mix both your own golf with watching the very best (and some celebs competing in the Pro-Am). Late September and early October is the British Isles' shoulder season, which means rates are about 1/4 to 1/3 cheaper and tourist crowds are dying down. There isn’t as much daylight, sure, but you can still easily play 18 of your own on the Old Course once the European Tour has packed it up.