Pages 29-34 From Winter 2009 Florida Golf Magazine ©Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved. Subscribe at

Historic Scotland
The Birthplace O’ Golf

by Joe Stine

Picture below is a photo of an 1836 Survey of St. Andrews’ Old Course which is on display at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine Florida. Back then, St. Andrews’ narrow nine hole track through the thorny gorse bushes, had no double greens and actually only had ten holes, eight of which were played twice. To play an eighteen hole round, it was necessary to play the same holes, going out and coming in. So, the 1st hole was also used as the 17th hole.
Golf’s history is still being written, but unfortunately the record of its origin is an incomplete collection of documents and artifacts. One thing that is certain is that golf began in Scotland. For it is in Scotland after all that golf has its roots and its soul. It’s also where the ‘grande auld geme’ is understood and appreciated ‘jist a wee bit’ differently than anywhere else in the world.
         Florida Golf Magazine decided to visit some of the oldest golf courses in the world. With this goal in mind, we undertook an extensive tour of the country that touts itself as being the birthplace of the game we love.
Map of Scottish golf courses, from

         To anyone planning a golf vacation to Scotland, we would recommend the use of an experienced and reputable travel agent. We did some research and contacted a company called to help us organize a tour of some of Scotland’s truly historic golf courses, and their guidance proved to be invaluable.

         After speaking with a very personable Irish chap named Eamonn Kennelly at, it became evident that we could not visit every old golf course in Scotland, so we decided on whirlwind tour of eight historic courses in ten days. The folks at made all of the travel arrangements and helped us plan an itinerary around an eclectic cross-section of historic Scottish golf courses, which included in order, Gleneagles, Brora, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Crail, St. Andrews, Kingsbarns and Prestwick.

  The historic Gleneagles Hotel
         We started our Scottish golf vacation by flying into Glasgow International Airport. From there we rented a car and drove to the historic and luxurious Gleneagles Hotel. They have three courses at
Gleneagles, the Kings, Queens and a new course designed by Jack Nicklaus called the PGA Centenary Course, but we were there to play the historic King Course design by Open Chapion, James Braid in 1919
         James Braid's plan for the King's Course was to test the best players' shot-making skills over the eighteen holes. When they play the King's, the world's greatest golfers admire the cunning and craft with which he achieved that goal.
         You find out all about it with your first approach shot. If you have driven straight and long from the tee, you will have what looks like a simple pitch to the elevated green. But you must be sure to select the correct club, because the shot is always a little longer than you think, with the wind over the putting surface often stronger than you can feel it from the fairway.
         Selecting the right club for each approach shot is the secret on the King's. It is certainly one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places to play golf in the world, with the springy moorland turf underfoot, the sweeping views from the tees all around, the rock-faced mountains to the north, the green hills to the south, and the peaks of the Trossachs and Ben Vorlich on the western horizon.

The 5th Hole at Gleneagles, designed by James Braid
Gleneagles (Kings Course)
The Gleneagles Hotel
Auchterarder, Perthshire
Founded 1919
Course Architect James Braid
Par 71, Length 6790 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts Yes
Caddies Yes
Pull Trollies Yes
Catering Yes

         After staying two nights at the Gleneagles we drove to Tain, Ross-shire, and stayed at a marvalous Bed and Breakfast that is owned by the Glenmorangie Distillery callled the Glenmorangie House,
         While there we played two old courses, Brora and Royal Dornoch. The course at
Brora Golf Club was also designed by James Braid. Braid won The Open Championship in 1901, 1905, 1906 and 1908.
         Brora Golf Club was established in 1891. In 1923 James Braid, five times Open champion and prolific designer of golf courses, the most famous of which is Gleneagles, visited the course and redesigned the 18-hole layout which has stood the passing of time and remains a fair and challenging test of a true traditional links course.
Brora Golf Club
Brora, Sutherland
Founded 1891
Course Architect James Braid
Par 69, Length 6110 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts Yes
Pull Trollies Yes
Catering Yes

The 9th Hole at the Brora Golf Club, designed by James Braid

         As with all seaside links there are some very special places throughout this course; the panorama of seascape and landscape from the second tee, the proximity of the sea to the 9th green and the beauty of the 13th green, one of the jewels in Braids crown. Brora golf course represents all the attributes of a traditional Scottish Highland links, with a classic layout, and well worth a visit when in this part of Scotland.

The following day we played Royal Dornoch Golf Club which was designed Old Tom Morris. Dornoch, pronounced with a soft ‘h’.
         Royal Dornoch Golf Club is said to have the northernmost Championship course in the world. It is of such high quality that many professionals hone their game at Dornoch leading up to the Open Championship each year. Its isolation is the main reason for it not having hosted an Open Championship.

Royal Dornoch the 5th, 6th and 11th

         The course is a typical old links with nine holes running away from the clubhouse and nine holes coming back. When the gorse bushes are in flower, it is a magnificent sight and its proximity to the ocean affords water views on all holes.
         Most tees at Royal Dornoch are elevated high above the level of the fairway allowing the wind to take your ball at its whim and adding to the challenge. The greens are generally long and narrow and some are quite undulating. The putting surfaces are wonderful and will reward a good stroke.
         It is no surprise that Royal Dornoch is regularly rated among the top 20 courses in the world, and after you play there, you are certain to agree.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Dornoch, Sutherland
Founded 1877
Course Architect Old Tom Morris
Par 70, Length 6,514 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts No
Caddies Yes
Pull Trollies Yes
Catering Yes
Major Events: British Amateur

The next day we drove south to St. Andrews where we stayed at the beautiful Old Course Hotel overlooking the Old Course.

The Jigger Inn and the Old Course Hotel

While staying in St. Andrews we played three courses, the first being Carnoustie. The Carnoustie Golf Links, like St Andrews, is a public golf course. The Championship course has hosted several Open Championships, most recently in 1999. Sadly, that tournament will be best known for the 72nd hole antics of Frenchman, Jean Van de Velde, where he had a triple bogey including a visit to the Burn to force a playoff with Justin Leonard and the eventually winner, Paul Lawrie.

The Carnoustie Clubhouse

         The course is widely thought of as the most difficult Open venue. The wind plays a big part in the way the course is played and a calm day here is uncommon. The holes are generally long and are so well bunkered that position off the tee is paramount to a good score. Carnoustie has no weak holes and requires a well-rounded game to score well. Accurate chipping to the large greens is crucial and it is best to avoid the bunkers as they are deep and well placed.
         The finishing holes are as good a collection as you would find anywhere. The 16th is a punishing par three of over 250 yards to an elevated green. The 17th is a par four where it is possible to cross the burn three times during the journey to the green, and the 18th is a difficult driving hole across the burn and the approach must also carry the burn as well.

Carnoustie was designed by Alan Robertson in 1842
Carnoustie Golf Links
The Links,
Carnoustie, Angus
Founded 1842
Course Architect Alan Robertson
Par 72, Length 6,941 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts No
Caddies Yes
Pull Trollies Yes
Catering in the Hotel complex
Major Events: Open Championship (6 times)
British Amateur (4 times)
Dunhill Links Championship (European Tour)

Swilcan Bridge crosses Swilcan Burn on The Old Course in St. Andrews.
St Andrews Links Trust Photo

         The Old Course at St Andrews is loved or loathed, appreciated or misunderstood, but as the birthplace of golf, it is universally respected.
         Standing on the first tee of the Old Course at St Andrews is the realisation of a dream for many golfers, yet with the widest fairway in the world ahead, it's amazing how many are overwhelmed by nerves and put forward a less than ideal beginning to their round.
         The subtle bumps and hollows make for uncertainty on every shot, the placement of the bunkers and other natural hazards and the varied slopes and swales on the massive double greens make for a golfing experience without peer.
         The golf links at St. Andrews is where the game of golf developed for over six centuries. Hacked through the gorse bushes originally known by locals as the thorny whins, the Old Course has staged more Open Championships than any other golf course and has provided the backdrop for some of golf’s most memorable moments.

The 17th green on the Old Course, dubbed the Road Hole.

          Pictured above is the green of the 455 yard dogleg right Road Hole of the Old Course. Drive over the dark green sheds on the right side if you dare, and you are still left with a difficult shot into a shallow green set at 45 degrees to the fairway. Play it long, and the ball will lie on the road that runs behind the green. Play it short, and the notorious Road Hole Bunker lies in wait.
         Our caddy told us that the prudent shot is to the front right corner of the green.

The Old Course, St Andrews
St Andrews, Fife
Founded 14th Century
Course Designer Unknown
Par 72, Length 7,115 Yards
Facilities: Pro Shop Two Clubhouses (Links and Eden), both with Pro Shops
Carts No
Caddies Yes
Pull Trollies Yes (after midday)
Catering Yes (In both clubhouses)
Major Events: Walker Cup, Curtis Cup, Open Championship (26 times), Amateur Championship (15 times), Dunhill Links Championship (European Tour)

         The day after playing the Old Course we made our way to Kingsbarns Golf Links, and were we ever glad that we did. Known as the Pebble beach of Scotland, its vistas or breathtaking.
         Unknown to most people Golf has been enjoyed over the links land of Kingsbarns since 1793. This links served the golfing needs of the locals and holidaymakers until the onset of the Second World War when the Links was mined in the national security defence effort and it quickly reverted to rough pasture.
         It's not surprising that St Andrews locals believe the links at Kingsbarns will be added to the Open Championship rota in the future. Only six miles from St Andrews, I agree that Kingsbarns is one of the finest new courses in the world. If you haven't heard of Kingsbarns before, you will know all about it in years to come.
         Having converted an old nine-hole course into the magnificent creation took a great deal of imagination and foresight, and the results are almost beyond belief. With the sea visible from every hole, the holes are aesthetically stunning and magnificently designed to ensure ease of play from several tee locations. The greens are undulating and roll fast and true.
         The 15th, a par three along the water, is as spectacular a short hole as you will find anywhere. The final hole demands great courage with the final 50 yards being over a valley with a burn waiting below to swallow your ball
         A small number of courses are worth raving to your friends about, and this is certainly one of them. You will love it!

Kingsbarns Golf Links, called the Pebble Beach of Scotland, has to be seen to be believed.
Kingsbarns Golf Links
Kingsbarns, Fife
Founded 2000
Course Architect Kyle Phillips, Mark Parsinen
Par 72, Length 7,126 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts No
Caddies Yes, on prior application
Pull Trollies Yes
Catering Yes
Major Events:
Dunhill Links Trophy (European Tour)

         Located 10 miles along the Fife coast from St Andrews, the Balcomie Links at the Crail Golfing Society is the 7th oldest club in the world.
         Crail is one of the old, classically designed courses in Scotland. The sea comes into play on a number of holes, where a decision to gamble with the beach or take the easier dog-leg has to be made. Positioning of the tee shot is more important than length on most holes and some of the finest short holes to be found on any course will be a lasting memory.
         This course was first used permanently by the Society in 1895, when it was opened by Tom Morris who stated 'there is not a better course in Scotland'. The Balcomie course had been in existence long before this and there is a record of a society competition being played in September 1857.

3rd green looking to 4th green of Crail’s Balcomie Links
Crail Golfing Society
(Balcomie Links)
Founded 1786
Course Architect Old Tom Morris
Par 69, Length 5922 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts No
Caddies On application
Pull Trollies Yes
Catering Yes

Sahara bunker and 17th Green at Prestwick

         The Old Course at Prestwick was the original host of the tournament that became the Open Championship, the most sought after prize in world golf. It was used for the first 12 Opens and has hosted the tournament on 24 occasions in total.
         It is not long enough by today's standards to be on the current Rota of Open courses but remains a fine example of traditional Scottish links golf. In places, it is a tight and testing layout, where position rather than power is prized. In fact, on some holes, length can get you into more trouble than more conservative play.

Prestwick Golf Club, 18th Green and Clubhouse

         At first glance, Prestwick appears conservative and at peace with its place in the history of golf, however in fact it is a relaxed and friendly club that enjoys hosting golfers from all around the world. Visitors are encouraged to use their temporary membership to its full capacity, and enjoy the full lunch in the lavish Dining room or just a snack in the relaxed Cardinal room.

Cardinal Bunker and 3rd Hole at Prestwick Golf Club
Prestwick Golf Club
Links Road,
Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
Founded 1851
Course Architect Old Tom Morris
Par 71
Length 6,544 yards
Pro Shop Yes
Carts No, Pull Trollies Yes
Caddies Yes, on application
Catering Lounge, Bar & Dining room is available. Jacket, Collar & Tie required
Major Events: Open Championship (24 times)
Amateur Championship (10 times)
         Prestwick is arguably one of the most important old Scottish courses in the history of golf, second only to the Old Course at St. Andrews. If you golf in Scotland, it would be a mistake to not play Prestwick.

Pages 29-34 From Winter 2009 Florida Golf Magazine ©Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved. Subscribe at