What are the best golf courses in Scotland? The Golf World Top 100 ranking reveals all so you can plan you visit to the Home of Golf.
Welcome to the Golf World Top 100 Courses in Scotland ranking.
When I was handed the reins of Golf World’s Top 100s in 2008, I thought there was a better way to do it; a more well-travelled panel, a better system for assimilating views, and a clearer way for us to explain our choices to the people who matter – the readers. Thirteen years later I feel fairly satisfied.
The systems have been in place for a good while (when we started ‘marking’ courses, people frowned – now everyone does it), but for this best golf courses in Scotland ranking, I’ve been lucky enough to assemble what I think is the ultimate panel.
It is very different from more illustrious GW panels of the past, which had famous names on them – people who have achieved a lot more in the game than any of us – but whose knowledge was limited to a fairly low percentage of shortlisted courses.
The ability to compare the large majority of the considered courses is essential in my opinion, rather than just, say, 19 of them. It means we get a joined-up, consistent rating of the courses, and thus a more accurate reflection of the best of each country
Well, this panel has three – Alan McPherson, Susie Robertson and Neal Stewart – who have played every course in Scotland, and a fourth, Douglas Mill, who is a handful short (he really needs to be less half-hearted…). So there is literally no course we haven’t experienced. Then we have panellists such as myself with extensive knowledge of most – by that I mean at least 75 percent – of the 140 courses shortlisted for ‘marking’. Finally, we have some specialists, such as the intrepid Sam Cooper, who has specific knowledge of remote links as well as the superstar venues.
All this knowledge and research has one drawback… finding room for the vast number of very strong contenders! As with England last month, some wonderful courses miss out, courses whose exclusion will raise an eyebrow to say the least.
Whatever you think of the list, one thing is sure; it was compiled by a panel with unparalleled knowledge of courses in Scotland, using a transparent and comprehensive assessment process – exactly the scenario I hoped for in 2008.
As always, we welcome your feedback on all of our rankings and know that everyone will have an opinion on their favourite’s position. We’d love to hear from you via email, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
What is the Golf World Top 100?
How we ranked the best golf courses in Scotland
Each shortlisted course was marked with a total of 100 marks awarded, in these criteria…
Design (40 marks) A key category, split into three sub-sections: Does the course take advantage of its landscape (20); the green complexes (10); the routing (10)?
Setting (15 marks) The aesthetic value of the surrounding views and the course itself. The overall ‘atmosphere’ of the course.
Memorability (15 marks) How easy is it to recall the holes? Are they distinctive, varied and interesting? Are they strategic and heroic?
Playability (10 marks) Is it just too tough, possibly even unfair, for the majority? Or is it easily enjoyed by all?
Consistency (10 marks) Does every hole deliver all of the above, or is it let down by a few poor ones?
Presentation (10 marks) Two aspects: is maintenance at ease with its surroundings? And the conditioning of tees, fairways, bunkers and greens.
In the event of a tie, the Top 100 Editor adjudicates based on the breadth of opinions across the panel. Off-course facilities, customer service and tournament pedigree play no part.
Meet the Golf World Top 100 Scotland ranking panel
Members of our experienced panel are invited to take part because of their extensive knowledge of the courses in the country.
Chris Bertram: Golf World Top 100 editor. Handicap 11
Michael Bailey: Member at Formby. Handicap 14
Stuart Bendoris: Member at Hellidon Lakes. Handicap 14
Sam Cooper: Member at Royal Liverpool. Handicap 3
Olle Dahlgren: Member at Falsterbo, Sweden. Handicap 6
Alan Ferguson: Member at St Andrews (New), Glenbervie. Handicap 3
David Jones: Member at Archerfield. Handicap 9
Alan McPherson: Member at Dunbar. Handicap 10
Douglas Mill: Member at Kilmarnock Barassie. Handicap 14
Darius Oliver: Member at Kingswood, Aus. Handicap 8
Ben Sargent: Pro at The Wisley. Handicap Pro
Susie Robertson Member at Elie. Handicap 20
Neal Stewart Member at Haggs Castle. Handicap 8
THINK YOU SHOULD BE ON THE PANEL? Get in touch with us, here
Which courses narrowly missed out on a place in the Scottish Top 100?
Whittling the courses in Scotland down to the best 100 is hard. In order, these are the courses that missed out.
Monktonhall; Elgin; Craigielaw; Kilmacolm; Dalmahoy (East); East Renfrewshire; Haggs Castle; Spey Bay; Carnoustie (Burnside); Wick; Newburgh on Ythan; Reay; Forfar; Duddingston; Glasgow (Killermont); Murrayshall (Murrayshall); Mortonhall; Kings; Buckpool; Traigh; Ranfurly Castle; Mar Hall; Cardrona; Isle of Harris; Cawder (Championship); Hopeman; Rowallan Castle; Strathlene; Hirsel; Blairgowrie (Wee); Crail (Craighead); Carnoustie (Buddon); Dalmahoy (West); Pollok; Braid Hills; Musselburgh (Old); Corrie; Strathlene; Thornhill; Alyth.
100. Royal Burgess
Design 29.9 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.3 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 8.1 Total 75.2
“Rivals neighbouring Bruntsfield as Edinburgh’s best course,” says one panellist, and if you’re looking for a game while staying in Edinburgh, the 20-minute journey to Burgess will be rewarding enough. Immaculate, mature parkland course at a club steeped in history.
99. Wigtownshire County
Design 29.3 Setting 12.3 Memorability 12.1 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.0 Total 75.3
“An easy-walking course with greens that sit in the natural contours – which is usually flat.” “Old fashioned links golf.” That’s how unheralded Wigtownshire County is summed up. A links that we feel has bags of potential to be higher in the list, but is extremely appealing just as it is.
Design 29.4 Setting 12.7 Memorability 11.3 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.3 Total 75.4
“Incredible views after a formidable initial ascent,” says one panellist of this Perthshire beauty. Designed by Willie Fernie, Pitlochry sits at the gateway to the Highlands and offers breathtaking views of the Tummel Valley. Enough good golf holes keep this sub-6,000-yard gem in our Scottish 100.
97. The Roxburghe
Design 29.8 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.3 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 8.1 Total 75.3
A modern Dave Thomas parkland with well-designed greens and plenty of large bunkers to avoid. This is a good driving course which is imaginatively routed through its lovely setting, providing rolling fairways which are maturing well. The ‘Viaduct hole’ is the Insta-worthy moment.
96. Portpatrick (Dunksey)
Design 29.5 Setting 12.2 Memorability 12.2 Playability 7.5 Consistency 6.7 Presentation 7.3 Total 75.4
Terrific location with views out to sea taking in Kintyre, Cumbria and Ireland on a clear day. Comprises rolling parkland-moorland-clifftop terrain and although not too long at a touch under 6,000 yards from the medal tees, the regular breeze keeps things interesting.
95. Royal Dornoch (Struie)
Design 29.7 Setting 11.7 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.8 Consistency 6.8 Presentation 7.5 Total 75.4
Dornoch’s second course, just 6,256 yards, retains its place with the panel liking the newer holes by the burn, restored to their old winding nature by Robin Hiseman when he oversaw a revamp. Some up and down holes on the flat are less appealing, but it’s a links worthy of your attention.
94. Meldrum House
Design 29.9 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.3 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 8.3 Total 75.4
“Faultless presentation and conditioning, but no pushover,” says one panellist. This modern parkland by Graeme Webster, routed around the stately, historic hotel offers much more interest than others of its ilk. Water’s in play on 10 holes and it is well-bunkered, but also good green complexes.
Design 29.5 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.6 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.6 Total 75.4
Sitting quietly in the lee of iconic neighbour Gleneagles, the routing takes fine advantage of the scenic landscape. A pretty course with a strong fan base; as one panellist says, “Locals jest it’s a top-three Gleneagles course.” Plenty of interest in holes which are presented with nous and diligence.
Design 29.9 Setting 11.6 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.3 Total 75.4
Less well known than Southerness, its neighbour along the Solway Firth, but worth a detour especially if travelling from England to Ayrshire. The parkland phase is undoubtedly lower in quality, but the links holes – including a terrific start – keep it in the 100. Unassuming, but enjoyable.
Design 29.8 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.7 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.1 Total 75.5
“Loved this course – a true gem” was typical of the comments about Covesea. Only nine holes, but all perfectly formed. Beautiful views while navigating some crazy terrain. It doesn’t affect its ranking, but the £10 green fee is crazy value.
Design 29.9 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.6 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.1 Presentation 7.2 Total 75.6
A new entry for a course the panel found to be brilliant fun – and a contender for our soon-to-be-released GB&I Top 100 Fun Golf Courses list. James Braid and Archie Simpson advised on Stonehaven and there are holes over ravines and cliffs. The four on the other side of the railway are modest, but the rest are superb.
89. The Carrick
Design 28.0 Setting 13.0 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.6 Total 75.6
Exquisite location offering superb views across Scotland’s National Park and Loch Lomond from the elevated holes in particular. The famous downhill 14th is followed by a fabulous three-shotter along the loch. Loses some marks for consistency, but scores well on memorability.
88. Gullane (No.3)
Gullane, East Lothian
Design 29.8 Setting 11.4 Memorability 11.6 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.1 Presentation 7.9 Total 75.7
“Pure greens, sensational views, short but not easy,” reckons one panellist. “I’m not sure it isn’t better than No.2 – certainly more fun and enjoyable,” says another. Short courses are usually more fun, and No.3 proves that theory in spades. Interesting and entertaining, it’s a welcome new entry.
87. Bruntsfield Links
Design 30.0 Setting 11.6 Memorability 11.4 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 7.7 Total 75.7
One of the world’s oldest clubs, dating back to 1761, but a forward-thinking one and it is its £1m Tom Mackenzie overhaul that keeps it in the Top 100. Mackenzie helped return the parkland to that moulded by Willie Park, Alister Mackenzie and James Braid, with specific and fine focus on the bunkers.
86. Kilmarnock Barassie
Design 30.4 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.4 Playability 7.3 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.7 Total 75.7
The ‘Barassie Links’ 18 is a mix of the old and new (from 1997). The old 18 (the gentle, scenic Hillhouse is the ‘discarded’ nine) wasn’t long enough for a championship-hosting course, so the new 18 incorporates most of the tougher original holes. Not all like the move, but it is a fine links.
85. Newmachar (Hawkshill)
Design 30.3 Setting 11.1 Memorability 11.1 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.9 Total 75.8
The Hawkshill is this Aberdeen club’s championship course (there is also the Swailend). It opened in 1990, designed by Dave Thomas. He created a typically testing layout; this one is more than 6,700 yards and you can’t thrash away mindlessly, as mature trees, water and sand await.
Design 29.7 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.7 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.7 Total 76.0
This heather-lined course 30 minutes south of Inverness is very easy on the eye. It was laid out in Cairngorms National Park by Willie Park (initially as nine holes) with later input from James Braid and it hugely benefits from that setting. Not long, but clever, cute and guaranteed to charm.
Longniddry, East Lothian
Design 30.1 Setting 11.3 Memorability 11.6 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.7 Total 76.0
James Braid, Philip Mackenzie Ross and Donald Steel have altered this woodland-links hybrid a little, but it is essentially a Harry Colt design. With no par 5s, almost half the course comprising par 4s over 400 yards, and a SSS three shots higher than par, it’s a test – but an enjoyable one.
82. The Glen
North Berwick, East Lothian
Design 29.3 Setting 12.8 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.4 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.4 Total 76.0
Glorious clifftop views and a course that will challenge you without making you feel too beaten up. The superb short 9th rivals the famous 13th (pictured). Spellbinding views from its elevated fairways, The Glen offers a very different experience from its East Lothian neighbours.
81. Prestwick St Nicholas
Design 30.8 Setting 11.3 Memorability 11.4 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 7.5 Total 76.0
Traditional links in a historic location with a number of memorable and unusual holes. At times a tight course offering little in the way of comfort once offline. Fast greens and is always in top class order. The fact it is No.81 illustrates the depth of Scotland, because St Nicholas is top class.
Design 30.5 Setting 11.3 Memorability 11.1 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 8.0 Total 76.1
Fast greens, towering trees and seclusion are what you can expect at Glenbervie. James Braid made predictably good use of the changes in elevation and the natural undulations to create one of Scotland’s finest parklands. Views of the Ochil Hills beyond the course’s myriad trees.
79. Nairn Dunbar
Design 30.8 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.6 Playability 7.7 Consistency 6.2 Presentation 8.0 Total 76.1
“The front nine especially is massively enjoyable,” says one panellist. “Some interesting holes in the middle of the round, but some less exciting ones early and late,” says another. The best of this hybrid course is really good, but Nairn Dunbar lacks the consistency to be higher. Top condition.
78. Royal Troon (Portland)
Design 30.8 Setting 11.3 Memorability 11.1 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 8.2 Total 76.1
Entered our Scotland list in 2016 and stays in place now, with work across 2020 upgrading it further. The Portland has some modest holes at the start, end and middle, but in between there is some terrific stuff. Willie Fernie created some especially fine par 3s and several superb green complexes.
77. St Andrews (Eden)
St Andrews, Fife
Design 30.2 Setting 11.4 Memorability 11.2 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.7 Total 76.1
It is a moot point how much of Harry Colt’s great Eden course really remains following work by Donald Steel, but even if it is not that much it still finds sufficient favour to get into the 70s. The quintessential simple Scottish links, it is playable, really well-maintained and has the St Andrews vibe.
Design 30.6 Setting 11.5 Memorability 11.1 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 7.7 Total 76.1
Laid out in 1895 by Bob Simpson, James Braid made changes in 1934 and it was then renovated by Martin Ebert in 2015. By the time Ebert arrived, it had morphed from its original heathland feel to parkland-woodland owing to the growth of trees. Always pleasant with some lovely touches.