Plan Your Dream Golf Vacation in Scotland

Castle Stuart (Image: Castle Stuart)

Opened in 2009, Castle Stuart Golf Links is one of Scotland’s newest headliners. (Image: Castle Stuart)

The Old Course, Carnoustie, Muirfield…the northeast coast of Scotland offers the world’s most impressive selection of links courses. Pack the sticks for the golf vacation of a lifetime.

Like everyone who loves the game, you’ve fantasized about a golf vacation in Scotland.

With more than 550 courses, golf’s birthplace offers an almost overwhelming choice of possible itineraries. But nowhere is Scotland richer in famous links than along its northeast coast, where the roster includes Muirfield, Cruden Bay, Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart, Carnoustie, Nairn, Royal Aberdeen, Kingsbarns, Trump International and the Old Course in St. Andrews. All belong on any ranking of the world’s top 100 courses.

Rent a car and happily spend a week or two golfing your way along the rugged coastline. But if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to spend so many hours behind the wheel, then consider basing yourself in Edinburgh, a city of almost unrivalled Georgian splendour, and make easy daily treks for golf to the adjoining district of East Lothian. Marketed as Scotland’s Golf Coast, this stretch of the Firth of Forth coastline offers 22 courses, including Muirfield and two other world-class links, North Berwick and Gullane No. 1.

Edinburgh (Image: Visit Scotland)

Edinburgh is a city of almost unrivalled Georgian splendour. (Image: VisitScotland)

See the Sights

Historic towns and villages—most memorably Dunbar, North Berwick and Haddington—dot East Lothian, a still largely unspoiled district defined by stunning coastal scenery.

But many visitors will choose to stay close to the bright lights of Edinburgh. During your stay be sure to visit looming Edinburgh Castle, the symbolic heart of Scotland since the 12th century, as well as magnificent crown-spired St. Giles’ Cathedral, lovely Princes Street Gardens, and the lavishly renovated Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Edinburgh’s Summer Festivals

Every August Edinburgh’s world-renowned Summer Festivals take over Scotland’s capital. Artists from over 70 countries participate in over 45,000 performances in over 300 venues. The Festivals have been the stage for emerging actors, artists, musicians and authors such as Emma Thompson, Mike Myers, JK Rowling and Alan Cumming.

The Courses

Muirfield green (Image: Muirfield)

East Lothian standout Muirfield has hosted the Open Championship 16 times. (Image: Muirfield)

East Lothian, where golf has been played since at least the early 17th century, is ripe with brilliant courses. A must-play is famously scenic North Berwick Golf Club, overlooking the Firth of Forth, with stirring views of Bass Rock and Craigleith Island. North Berwick is also home to one of the game’s most copied holes, Redan, a heroically long par three played to a sloped plateau green.

Of the three excellent courses at Gullane Golf Club, the best is No. 1, a classic links that hosted the local qualifying round for the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.

Equally historic—and thrilling to play—is Dunbar Golf Club, a wind-swept links laid out in 1856 on the thin strip of shoreline where Oliver Cromwell encamped his troops before the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

Where to Stay

The Caledonian, a refurbished former Victorian railway hotel now part of the Waldorf Astoria chain, is an Edinburgh landmark. An equally luxurious option is The Scotsman, a boutique hotel housed in the baronial former offices of The Scotsman newspaper. And a good bet for the more budget-conscious is popular Point Hotel, offering views toward Edinburgh Castle.

Planning to play Muirfield? Not more than a pitch shot from Muirfield’s clubhouse is Greywalls Hotel, an intimate and luxurious retreat favoured by Tiger Woods. Another good bet in East Lothian is Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa, a recently renovated Victorian-era jewel overlooking the fairways of North Berwick Golf Club.

Eat Locally

One of stylish Edinburgh’s hottest restaurants is Hadrian’s Brasserie in the Balmoral Hotel, where the emphasis is on Scottish produce, game and seafood.

Another red-hot bistro focusing on local flavours and influences is The Honours on North Castle Street.

Got a thirst for a downtown Scottish pub-crawl? Raise your first pint at lively, modish Cambridge Bar on Young Street and end the night with a journey back in time at Pear Tree on West Nicolson Street, a beloved local institution for more than 250 years.

St. Andrews The Old Course (Image: Visit St. Andrews)

The Old Course in St. Andrews is a must-play for every golfer. (Image: VisitScotland)

The Essential Side Trip

Impossible to resist is a side trip to starkly beautiful St. Andrews, the cradle of the game and a town as recognizably Scottish as the kilt and sporran. Waiting less than two hours from Edinburgh by car or train are the Old Course, the British Golf Museum, Scotland’s oldest university and the palpably present shades of Old Tom Morris and other golf immortals.

Once settled in at Rusacks Hotel or the Old Course Hotel, enter your name in the ballot to play the Old Course, the experience of a lifetime. Or purchase a three-day unlimited pass and play to your heart’s content on the six other courses managed by the St. Andrews Links Trust here on the old sod where it all began.

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