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Punch Shot: Favorite Scottish course

Old Course at St. Andrews
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The Scottish Open takes place this week at Castle Stuart. Next week's British Open will be contested at Muirfield. And the Women's British will be held on the Old Course at St. Andrews. We asked the writers to name their favorite course in Scotland.


There may be better courses in Scotland from an architectural perspective than the Old Course, but nothing can beat the experience of stepping on the famed links.

Its nickname, 'the home of golf,' isn't some artificial branding; it's called that because the game has been played there for 600 years.

It has hosted 28 editions of the Open Championship, with its winners list reading like a who's who of the game's all-time greats: Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Tony Lema, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods.

Even the surrounding community is a paean toward golf history. There's hardly a golfer who hasn't punctuated a round by buying a round at the bar at the nearby Dunvegan Hotel.

But hey, don't take my word for it. Just ask Jones, who once said, 'If I had to select one course upon which to play the match of my life, I should have selected the Old Course.'


With apologies to the Old Course, the home of golf is not the best course in Scotland. In fact, Lee Westwood once deadpanned that the ancient links wasn’t among the top 100 best layouts in Fife, but he was joking ... we think.

For your scribe, Scotland’s best lies to the north, past Inverness and Aberdeen to Royal Dornoch. It’s where Donald Ross was born, raised and reared to become the greatest golf course architect of his time.

You don’t have to see Royal Dornoch to appreciate its singular brilliance. The swales and green complexes of Pinehurst and the ebb and flow routing of East Lake were both plucked directly from the northern gem by Ross.

The Old Course may hold the game’s history at every turn, but from a pure design perspective it is not in the same league as Royal Dornoch.

Although Dornoch starts slow with a short, relatively straight forward par 4 and routine par 3, as you climb the hill to the third tee the entire golf course unfolds in front of you – out along the top edge of a dune hugging the firth and back along the shore line.

Each hole is better than the next and you quickly understand why Ross was such a perfectionist – he grew up playing a perfect course.


The Old Course certainly has every course in the world beat in charm – it’s difficult to find a better atmosphere for golf than St. Andrews.

Full disclosure: I haven’t yet seen Muirfield, a place many Scots believe is the best course in the British Open rota. Next week I’ll get my first glimpse.

But I have seen Turnberry, and I love it. For starters, the rugged layout and the views along the coast of the Firth of Clyde are breathtaking. The lighthouse on the ninth hole, the ruins from Robert the Bruce’s castle and the Ailsa Craig (the big rock that’s visible well off the coast) all add to the experience.

Aside from all that, the course is fantastic. The first three holes are pleasant, but the next eight are spectacular and scenic. All lead to the final hole, which has the vast hotel as a backdrop atop the hill.

Turnberry has history on its side too. Sure, it’s hosted only four Opens, but all have been historic.

The first (1977) produced the Duel in the Sun, when Tom Watson defeated Jack Nicklaus. The second came nine years later when Greg Norman won his first major championship. Nick Price beat Jesper Parnevik by a shot in 1994 and Watson, 59 years old at the time, nearly did the unthinkable in 2009 by winning another claret jug, but eventually lost to Stewart Cink.

I reserve the right to change my mind next week after seeing Muirfield. For now, Turnberry is the spot. It’s the total package.


The Old Course at St. Andrews wins you over.

It may not always be love at first sight, but familiarity breeds devotion at the home of golf.

The great Bobby Jones is testament to that. In his first visit to St. Andrews for the British Open in 1921, Jones didn’t like the course. He was 19, and he endured what he would later call his “most inglorious failure” there. Struggling in the third round, he became so frustrated after hitting into the Strath bunker at the 11th hole that he picked up his ball without completing the hole. While he finished his round, he had disqualified himself. The British press criticized him. Six years later, Jones returned to St. Andrews and won. He fell in love with the course and the people of St. Andrews with him. “If I had to select one course upon which to play the match of my life,” Jones once said, “I should have selected the Old Course.”

That’s good enough for me.