Drams and Pro-ams: Golf Scotland’s Highlands

Scotland is famous worldwide for Whisky and Golf.

Global Golfer’s Scotland Editor Thomas Marr reveals his guide to playing Scotland’s best golf courses for less by entering Pro-am’s and Open Competitions.

Scotland is the “Home of the Golf,” and a place of pilgrimage for international golfers wishing to fulfill a life long ambition of teeing up at The Old Course in St Andrews or tackling the famous Scottish links courses which make up the vast majority of The Open Championship rota (Muirfield, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Troon).

The Swilken Bridge at The Old Course St Andrews
The Swilken Bridge at The Old Course St Andrews by David J Whyte

Organise your own Tour
There is no shortage of tour operators who specialise in luxury and bespoke golf tours to Scotland’s trophy courses.

Links Golf and Adventures in Golf St Andrews are two who stand out in being able to secure access to tee-times at the best Scottish courses.

This guide is designed to provide an alternative to paying the extra commission taken by a golf tour operator or having to spend hours researching and designing your own Scottish golf break.

The secret is to plan to play in Open Competitions and sign up now.

The courses suggested here are not the famous old Open venues but they are among the best golf courses never to have held the Open Championship and consistently rated in the Top-20 courses in Scotland by leading golf magazines and websites.

18th hole at Castle Stuart Golf LInks Inverness
18th hole Castle Stuart Golf Links - credit Kevin Murray Photography

Planning your golf outings around Open competitions makes sense for three reasons:

  • The course you visit is almost guaranteed to be in its best possible condition
  • Entry fees for Open events are normally far lower than the normal green fee
  • You’ll get to play off the medal tees and if you play well you might win a reasonable prize

Here’s Global Golfer’s Drams and Pro-Am’s itinerary 2012:
Day #1, 1st September: Fly or drive to Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland.

On arrival, drive 14 miles north of Inverness and take the A82 to Fortrose for the Fortrose & Rosemarkie Open.

£15 will get you entry to an Open competition over this Victorian-era course which was tweaked by James Braid in 1932. The layout is spectacular with beautiful views of the Moray Firth and there’s a strong chance that you’ll see dolphins leaping in the bay as you play the first nine holes.

The normal green fee is £47. The course is across the water from Castle Stuart Golf Links on the north side of the Moray Firth.

Day #2, 2nd September:  Drive approximately 20 miles east from Inverness towards Aberdeen and you’ll soon hit the town of Nairn where Nairn Dunbar Golf Club is located.

The entry fee for its Open is £20 compared to a normal green fee of £50.

Although it’s often overshadowed by its illustrious neighbour Nairn West, Nairn Dunbar is an excellent course in its own right and provides a stiff test; any track with vital statistics of Par-72, SSS-74 clearly has sharp teeth.

Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness
Day 3, 3rd September: From Nairn, head to Castle Stuart, host of the Scottish Open and one of the best courses in the UK despite its young age.

The green fee is £170 but it’s worth every penny.

This isn’t an Open competition but Global Golfer ranks this course so highly that it would be criminal not to play it while you are in the area.

The 9th at Castle Stuart Golf Links
Castle Stuart Golf Links: one of Scotland's best new courses photo Kevin Murray

If a tour of the north captures your imagination but you’d like someone to organise everything for you then have a look at the Tomatin Single Malt 3 Day Pro Am to be played over Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch and The Nairn Golf Club between 1-3 October 2012.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club 2nd hole photo Kevin Murray Photography
Royal Dornoch: favourite of Trophy Hunters photo Kevin Murray Photography

Entry fees are a cool £1700 (+VAT) per team of three people but that does include a prize-giving gala dinner and the company of a PGA professional for the duration of the event.

Tom Watson was so fond of Royal Dornoch that he travelled to practice his links golf play there before almost every Open Championship he played in during the height of his career.

Bang for your buck?
Can you say value-for-money? A total of just £205 in green fees and entry monies allows you to experience one of the finest new courses in the world and  also to compete in two popular Open competitions at well-established traditional links courses.

Ramada Encore, Inverness. £226 per person for 2 nights http://www.encoreinverness.co.uk/

Premier Travel Inn, Inverness. £82 per person for 2 nights http://www.premierinn.com

Regular flights to Inverness are available from airports around the UK.

For example, return flights from Gatwick to Inverness on Friday morning and Sunday evening are currently £208 including taxes using British Airways.


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