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​Top 100 Golf Courses of Scotland 2018

17 October, 2017

Top 100 Golf Courses of Scotland 2018

Welcome to the latest edition of our Top 100 for Scotland. We’ve taken a radically different approach to the Scottish ranking process this year, producing three separate regional Top 50 tables for West & Southwest, East & Southeast and North Scotland. We’ve then interwoven these three classifications, discarding the lowest fifty courses to fashion our new national Top 100.

Over the summer, we recruited four new panellists – Alan Ferguson, John Fraser, Alan McPherson and Neal Stewart – who recently helped shape the Scottish Top 100 for a leading golf magazine and we appreciate their assistance with our biennial review. Not only did they largely validate what we already thought, they also dug up a number of hidden gems that now occupy slots within our fifteen district listings.

At first glance, the newly updated table might appear a bit bland because more than half the courses have either remained in the same position as last time or moved up or down just one place. If that lack of movement makes the rankings seem too dull or boring then so be it; we think it merely confirms that we’re getting things right, with less need for significant intervention to line courses up correctly.

At the top of the new Scottish Top 100, the Old Course at St Andrews remains at number 1, a position it’s held for the last four editions of these listings. Ed Battye, founder of Golf Empire and a regular Top 100 Golf Courses reviewer had this to say about the Old Lady in a recent review: “In some way or other it has provided the inspiration for every other golf course in existence. There is no hole in golf that doesn’t have the Old Course in its DNA to some degree or other… Everything I love about golf is represented in the Old Course. No more words are needed.”

Shifts in position at the top of the table are both few and subtle: Western Gailes in Ayrshire (at number 14) swaps places with near neighbour Prestwick (at number 15) and James Braid’s Gleneagles King’s course (at number 16) interchanges with Old Tom Morris’s design at Machrihanish (Championship) (at number 17). The modern Tom Doak design at Renaissance Club rises two places to number 18, overtaking the historic old Championship course at Nairn which falls two places in the opposite direction.

The main talking point within the upper echelons of the chart is The Machrie’s long awaited entry into the Top 20 (up three to 19). We visited Islay last month to run the rule over architect DJ Russell’s redesign of the old links and were very impressed by what we found. Much of the routing has been altered, new holes added and a number of greensites re-established in one of the best remodelling projects we’ve ever come across. For traditionalists still mourning the loss of the old Willie Campbell layout, please get over it and embrace the new fit for purpose links layout as it’s the real deal.

The next big story in the top half of the new table is the mighty leap made by another renovated course, the King Robert the Bruce at Trump Turnberry, which soars 19 places to number 35. Formerly known as The Kintyre, the new layout is largely routed as before, except for a brilliant new sequence around Bain’s Hill which brings three fabulous new holes into play from the 8th to the 10th. Architect Martin Ebert also upgraded several other holes, introducing a wetland area between holes 5 and 13 and refurbishing all the bunkers in a very impressive course makeover.

Further down the chart, the main point to note is the significant change in fortunes for both Fairmont St Andrews courses, the Torrance (up ten to 58) and the Kittocks (up twenty-two to 72). It was obvious from the input of our new panellists that we’d been ranking these two courses too low (even though we had the Torrance at number 41 and Kittocks at number 56 in 2008) so we’ve now made appropriate adjustments to re-position these two tracks.

Other double digit upward moves include Kilspindie (up eleven to 62), which a recent reviewer thought “would not provide a big enough challenge for serious golfers but for fun and forgiveness it rates well,” and Bruntsfield Links (up sixteen to 84), where we visited a few months ago to see how the bunker renovation by Tom Mackenzie was progressing. We left here thinking there was no doubt about this course climbing even higher in the chart when the full extent of the upgrade work is completed.

Onto the new entries, of which there are four, though three of them are actually re-entries. Returning to the Top 100 after dropping out in 2012, we have the Alister and Charles MacKenzie co-designed 18-hole layout at Duff House Royal at number 93. At number 95, the old Willie Fernie/Willie Park Jnr design at Shiskine makes a reappearance, after falling by the wayside in 2014 and Edzell (Old), another Martin Ebert recent renovation, re-emerges after a two-year absence at number 99.

Brand new at number 98, the 18-hole links at Askernish in South Uist makes our national Top 100, nine years after it first opened for play. Perhaps Ed Battye helped to push it into the listings; “it takes a strong will… to reach Askernish… But if you have the desire and a love for pure, undiluted links golf it’s a voyage you must make… for it is here you will find beautifully raw golf distilled to its origins; a mix of simplistic brilliance and crazy genius… Askernish is a golf course like no other. A place your life will be better for having visited. Beyond words. Beyond brilliance.”

For those wondering about the four courses that slipped out of this chart edition, they were Dalmahoy (East), Glen, Rowallan Castle and Royal Musselburgh. A handful of courses just missed out on inclusion this time: Troon (Portland), Hilton Park (Hilton) and Hamilton from our West and Southwest region, Glenbervie from the East and Southeast region and Moray (New) from our North Scotland region. Perhaps next time for this handful of top tracks?

Another course that missed out on a very high ranking in our 2018 Scottish Top 100 is the new Bob Harrison-designed layout at Ardfin on the Isle of Jura. We ran a story last year (The impressive new 18-hole course takes shape on the Isle of Jura’s Ardfin Estate) and we revisited the course last month, but it’s still not officially open for play, so it was not selected for our West & Southwest review process during June and July – consequently it will have to remain as a GEM for a while longer before it has the opportunity to really shine on our site. Meantime, reviews from those who manage to play the course are very welcome.

We always welcome feedback after publishing new national rankings so please feel free to let us know what you think of our new Top 100 for Scotland. Have we missed out on a layout that should be included or have we listed a course that really shouldn’t be there? Perhaps there’s a course riding too high or lying too low in the standings? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the bottom of the page if you’d like to contact us.


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Scotland click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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