What are the best golf holes in Scotland?

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What are the best golf holes in Scotland? Leading course architect Tom Mackenzie selects his dream 18 in the Home of Golf.

Golf course architect Tom Mackenzie, Martin Ebert's partner in Mackenzie and Ebert, spent his formative years in Dornoch. Here he takes on the tricky challenge of selecting his dream 18 golf holes in Scotland.

Golf course architect Tom Mackenzie selects the best golf holes in Scotland.

My selection is dominated by seaside holes and there is a recurring theme as most of them are in spectacular settings. As a result, there is a distinct weighting towards the north, for which I make no apology. These are, after all, my favourite holes which are often in my favourite places. It’s loaded with emotion and not a lot of logic.

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It all adds up to 6,575 yards and a par of 71, which is probably still too long for fun golf for those who are decidedly past their best like me. I’m going to tee it forward! 

1st hole: Muirfield 5th – 561 yards | par 5

The 5th at Muirfield offers birdie and eagle chances, but is peppered with bunkers to make things challenging and it has a delightfully creative green. The views out over the Firth of Forth help to make it a favourite.

The 4th at Cruden Bay is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

2nd hole: Cruden Bay 4th – 196 yards | par 3

The wonderful setting of the village, bridge and sea adds to the experience on what is also a really tough but excellent par three. 

3rd hole: Askernish 8th | 280 yards | par 4

My partner Martin Ebert helped resurrect this short par four. Go and see it on a sunny day and you will understand why it is on my list.

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The 10th on Turnberry's Ailsa course is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

4th hole: Turnberry Ailsa 10th | 565 yards | par 5

This is a majestic hole where, if you make a mess of it, you want to run back to the tee and play it again.

5th hole: Dornoch 12th | 560 yards | par 5

It took me about 30 years to realise how brilliant and under-estimated the 12th at Dornoch is. It is entirely about the green,
which dictates how the rest of the hole plays – subtle brilliance. 

The 13th on Gleneagles' King's course is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

6th hole: Gleneagles King’s 13th | 464 yards | par 4

‘Braid’s Brawest’ is my only inland selection, but it plays firm and fast and is both a great hole and a beautiful spot.

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The Postage Stamp 7th at Royal Troon is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

7th hole: Royal Troon 7th | 123 yards | par 3 

The Postage Stamp is a predictable selection, I know, but any hole that has been played at 99 yards in a Major deserves it in my book. Yard for yard, it is the toughest hole in golf and sets the pulse racing.

The 12th at Kingsbarns is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

8th hole: Kingsbarns 12th | 606 yards | par 5

I nearly dropped this out on principle when I saw that it was more than 600 yards, but it’s a dramatic and interesting par 5 with lots of options for all players.

9th hole: Muirfield 7th | 187 yards | par 3

An understated but rather devious hole that changes its challenge daily.

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The 14th at Royal Dornoch is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

10th hole: Royal Dornoch 14th | 445 yards | par 4

My golfing heart is in Dornoch, so choosing ‘Foxy’ is hardly surprising. Its green complex verges on being wicked and that makes this one of the scariest par 4s in golf. It’s also a great matchplay hole.

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11th hole: Durness 9th | 155 yards | par 3

I would argue that this hole is more memorable than the 7th at Pebble Beach – and, better still, you get to play it twice in the round on this glorious Sutherland nine-holer. It is always worth the pilgrimage. 

The 9th at Durness is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

12th hole : St Andrews New 15th | 394 yards | par 4

I am being rebellious in not choosing the Road Hole on The Old Course at St Andrews. Instead, I have opted for the 15th on the New, which is made by a green that is one of the very best at The Home of Golf.

13th hole: Hopeman 12th | 140 yards | par 3

Go to Hopeman in Moray to see this wonderful drop hole – ‘Prieshach’ – with its green alongside the beach. It’s good for the soul on this highly entertaining course. 

14th hole: St Andrews Old 14th | 530 yards | par 5

Options abound on this outstanding par five. I start looking forward to it around the 12th tee.

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15th hole: Brora 17th | 438 yards | par 4

The view from the high tee is my abiding memory of Brora and this is one of the best penultimate holes in the game.

The 14th at Nairn is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

16th hole: Nairn 14th | 219 yards | par 3

A dramatic downhill tee shot to a large green split by a diagonal valley. The backdrop is outstanding, too.

The 17th hole at Skibo Castle is one of the best golf holes in Scotland.

17th hole: Skibo Castle 17th | 304 yards | par 4

This selection is self-indulgent as I have long been involved with Skibo and the 17th tee may be where I choose to take my last golfing breath. It is a really sporty short par 4 where everyone has a chance of glory.

18th hole: Moray 18th | 408 yards | par 4

The 18th at Moray is one of the great finishing holes in golf and a par under pressure will not be forgotten.

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