5 Scottish and Irish Golf Courses on Every Golfer’s Bucket List
Whether you’re a seasoned professional golfer or a social player enthusiastic about the game, you’re likely to have a links golf bucket list – a collection of must-visit courses you simply have to play before you’re no longer able to swing a club. While this bucket list might vary from golfer to golfer, there are certain golfing destinations that are often common across the board - such as the Old Course at St Andrews, widely considered to be the holy grail of golf links and top of our recommended Scottish and Irish bucket list. Golf has been played in Scotland and Ireland for centuries and is, particularly in Scotland and in line with the country’s egalitarian tradition, a pastime enjoyed right across the social spectrum. In Ireland, golf has a rich and colourful history and the country is currently one of the nations with the most golf courses per capita in the world. Both destinations offer some of the best links in the world with settings, scenery and hospitality second to none. Even if you’ve got your bucket list set in stone, don’t discard any of these courses we feel should join your list of top golfing experiences to tick off. The Old Course at St Andrews The Old Course at St Andrews in Fife, Scotland is considered to be the "home of golf"; historic records show that golf has been played at St Andrews for more than 600 years. This prestigious golfing destination is steeped in history and boasts iconic landmarks such as The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse and Swilken Bridge. Considered by many as the holy grail of tee-offs, St Andrews’ iconic Old Course is open to the public (with advance booking, of course) and offers golf enthusiasts the chance to truly follow in the footsteps of legends. St Andrews also offers guided tours of the facilities and links which allow you to soak up the rich history of the game and the fame of this esteemed location. Executive Golf & Leisure takes the prestige one step further, offering guaranteed tee times and the opportunity to travel to St Andrews by helicopter.
Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale
Located in County Cork on the Southwest Coast of Ireland, Old Head Golf Links is a truly spectacular creation with the course jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Opened in 1997, members and guests of this exclusive club can enjoy unparalleled luxury in the 5 star accommodation and spa facilities.
The Old Head Golf Links is built on a 220-acre diamond of land framed by unspoilt cliffs, archetypical of Ireland’s rugged coastline, with splendid views of the Atlantic Ocean from all eighteen holes. Nine of the holes are played along the cliff tops and, with the ever-changing sea breezes, the Old Head course provides a stern challenge to even pro golfers who visit here.
The Royal County Down Golf Club Located in Newcastle, County Down in Northern Ireland, The Royal County Down Golf Club is one of the oldest golfing destinations in Ireland, having opened its doors in 1889. It is located in one of the world’s most naturally beautiful settings in the Murlough Nature Reserve with the Mountains of Mourne as a stunning backdrop. Royal County Down has two 18-hole courses, the Annesley Links and the Championship Course which stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay, offering a different vista from every hole.
The Championship Course is famous for its ‘bearded’ bunkers which feature overhanging lips of marram, red fescue and heather, as well as its ninth hole which is among the most photographed in the world because of the panoramic view from the large mound at which golfers tee off, some 60 feet above the tee.
The Annesley Links at Royal County Down shares the same magnificent setting as the Championship Links and, although it is shorter, it is still a very challenging course and offers magnificent views of the sea, sand dunes and surrounding mountains. Muirfield is a privately owned links situated in the golfing village of Gullane, East Lothian, only 30 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh. Muirfield is home to ‘The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’, the oldest organised golf club in the world and responsible for the original 13 rules of golf. Originally designed by Old Tom Morris in 1891, further land was secured over the years and the course was adjusted by Harry Colt and Tom Simpson in 1928. Unique in terms of layout for traditional links golf, Muirfield consists of two concentric rings of 9 holes, meaning you never play in the same direction for more than 2 consecutive holes. This is a design that has stood the test of time and it is widely opined that Muirfield provides the fairest examination of championship golf among all the great and historic courses of the British Isles. Muirfield has hosted the Open Championship on sixteen occasions with Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo (twice), Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus leading the list of world class winners. The Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry TrumpTurnberry is a golf resort located on the rugged South Ayrshire coastline in southwest Scotland. Acquired by Donald Trump in 2014, the resort boasts three links golf courses, a golf academy, and a five-star hotel, making it a popular destination for golfers from around the world. The iconic Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry has hosted the Open Championship four times and has also played host to other important golf tournaments including the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the Walker Cup. The course is named after the third Marquess of Ailsa, who owned the land on which it was built. Probably the most scenic of the Open Championship venues, nobody can forget the famous ‘duel in the sun’ played out by Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977, the first time the course hosted the tournament. Stimulated by the Trump investment, the Ailsa course was recently remodelled by renowned architect Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert, a multi-million pound project which improved the course and emphasised the spectacular coastal views and the beauty of the Arran and Ailsa Craig backdrop. The Ailsa links now features five of the world’s best par 3’s and is considered one of the finest golfing destinations in the world, worthy of feature on any bucket list.
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