Caledonian Classics

Craig Morrison, co-author of the beautifully presented 18 Greatest Scottish Golf Holes, takes us on a whirlwind tour of the country's finest and most memorable courses

Scotland’s golfing assets are considerable and unique. Most of its courses are historically significant and a great many are amongst the best on the planet. The vast majority of them – and it has 560 courses, more per capita than anywhere else in the world – are open to visitors. Only a handful are not.

In Scotland, unlike in so many other countries, golf is entirely egalitarian. It might be the home of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and The Honourable Company – distinguished-sounding organisations with their fair share of grand members too – but people in Scotland don’t play the game for slavish society reasons. Consider St Andrews (where The Royal & Ancient can be found) and Gullane (where The Honourable Company resides), two small towns gloriously given over to golf, each boasting more courses, more world class courses, than is reasonable or necessary. In these places almost everyone plays golf.

Historical & Historic

Thinking about golf in Scotland, the birthplace of the game, most of us look backwards: many Scottish courses – the majority of Scottish seaside courses –are more than a century old; Young Tom Morris was already dead when The New Course at St Andrews was opened in 1895; Mary Queen of Scots was playing the game in the sixteenth century (it’s a matter of historical record that she was golfing in February 1567, two days after the death of her husband); further into the mists of time a St Andrews shepherd perhaps took dead aim at a pebble with his crook and fired it gloriously over a sand dune (had he missed he may have abandoned the enterprise and we’d all be playing curling); and long before that, 20,000 years ago, the last Ice Age retreated and left a small northern European country with the greatest natural golfing real estate the world will ever know.

Yet, beyond its historical layouts, newer courses have sprung up, and some of them are in their own rights historic.