Five great links golf courses that will never host the Open Championship
Among the great appeals of golf in Scotland, the opportunity to tee it up on an Open Championship venue ranks near the top.
But stick to the golf courses you've seen the greats play on TV, and you'll pay a pretty penny for it. The cheapest Open Championship-rotation course we can find is Carnoustie and the Old Course at St. Andrews for £130 a piece. Muirfield and Royal Troon ask over £160, and Turnberry charges up to £200 on a summer weekend for the pleasure of 18 holes.
And the simple fact is that while the Open golf courses are wonderful, they've also achieved their status because of infrastructure - notably their preparedness to park thousands of cars, traffic 40,000 fans and identify "Tiger tees" that stretch more 7,000 yards for championship events only.
Plenty of links could never host an Open because of issues related to location or size. And that's exactly what makes them even better clubs, in some cases, for the traveling golfer to experience.
Here are five of the best non-Open Championship, historic links golf courses in Scotland, plus another worthy and affordable course nearby each:
Royal Dornoch Golf Club in the Highlands
It's too far north and too short to host an Open Championship any time soon, but those who visit the remote Royal Dornoch Golf Club aren't complaining. Royal Dornoch is considered one of Scotland's most magical links. The gorse is overwhelming, as can be the table-top greens. The greens, in fact, inspired former greenskeeper Donald Ross in his design of American courses built in the early 1900s, including a U.S. Open-host, Pinehurst No. 2.
And while Dornoch doesn't host the Open, it is home to one of the great, annual amateur-club competitions, the Carnegie Shield. The event is open to the public. But take note, spots sell quickly.
Chip shot: Nairn Golf Club, just south of Dornoch, hosted the Walker Cup in 1999. Its challenging links green complexes were crafted, in part, by James Braid.
Cruden Bay Golf Club in Aberdeenshire
Few, if any links, feature the up-and-down, roller-coaster theater of Cruden Bay Golf Club, an Old Tom Morris gem north of Aberdeen.
"Arguably, its slightly quirky," said Gordon Dalgleish, president of PerryGolf, a provider of personalized golf-travel experiences. "But clients who make the journey to the northeast and play it, really enjoy it."
At just 6,287 yards from the white tees, Cruden Bay gets skipped by most tournaments for the championship links closer to Aberdeen. But its history, dating to 1791, and one-of-a-kind shot values make it a tough links to ovelook for the traveling golfer.
Chip shot: South of Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen arguably includes Scotland's finest front-nine links on similarly dramatic dunes. It regularly hosts the Senior Open Championship.
North Berwick West Links in East Lothian
Past visitors to St. Andrews will notice a load of similarities at North Berwick Golf Club, and its no coincidence. The historic West Links starts and ends in town. A drivable No. 18 sits alongside a street with parked cars, so watch your slice. The rest of the golf course may vary more than even St. Andrews, with blind shots galore, including shots played over stone walls and beach. It's hard to have more fun on any links than at the West Links.
Chip shot: Gullane Golf Club's No. 1 links, situated on a volcanic hill, is one of the more unique links in Scotland. It includes not only fantastic links holes, but dynamite views from the top - even over to neighboring Muirfield.
Western Gailes Golf Club in Ayrshire
Because of its close proximity to Glasgow and illustrious history of hosting top European amateur events, Western Gailes Golf Club is hardly a hidden gem to the Scots. Still, it's often passed over by North Americans in favor of the golf course's southern neighbors, Royal Troon Golf Club, Prestwick and Turnberry.
Chip shot: Glasgow Gailes G.C., part of the ninth-oldest club in the world, remains a relevant championship tests. The 19th-century links is set to host the 2010 Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Championship.
New Course at St. Andrews in Fife
St. Andrews' New Course sits right next to the Old on similar, rolling-links land. Locals argue the New provides a better test than its quirky counterpart from the daily, yellow tees. There's just one double-green on the New, not the Old's seven. And while it has nothing famous like the Road Hole, it the New Course collectively offers an equally good test at half the price. And it's infinitely easier to score a tee time.
Chip shot: Scotscraig Golf Club boasts the world's 13th oldest golf course. A short drive north of St. Andrews in Tayport, Scotscraig ranks as a worthy Open-qualifying host in its own right, with a mix of links and heathland holes.
December 28, 2009