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Top 100 Golf Courses of Scotland 2020

18 November, 2019

Top 100 Golf Courses of Scotland 2020

Welcome to the latest version of the Top 100 for Scotland, a listing we’ve revised biennially since it was first produced in 2008. In the last few weeks, we’ve published three regional releases – North Scotland, East and South East Scotland and West and South West Scotland – and the relative chart positions from those reports have now been combined to form our new national standings.

Highlights include a new number one, a highest entry among six newcomers at No. 12, and a course which entered the table last time at #100 soaring 20 places upwards. There’s no place for the new Dumbarnie links in Fife as it’s not due to open until May next year but you’ll soon hear a lot about it, if the impression we gained during a recent preview round is anything to go by.

Dumbarnie Links

Unfortunately, courses continue to close around the country, including Brunston Castle in Ayrshire and Letham Grange in Angus. Still, looking on the positive side, this has allowed us to replace them with other tracks that might become better appreciated in the fullness of time. Let’s get down to business then and find out how things look across our brand new Caledonian chart.

The Ailsa at Trump Turnberry rises three places to the new No. 1 position. Originally established by Willie Fernie at the start of the 20th century, the course came close to closing on a couple of occasions after the site was used as an airbase during both World Wars but Philip Mackenzie Ross salvaged the situation with his reworking of the layout in the late 1940s.

Trump Turnberry Ailsa Golf Course

Although the Ailsa hosted the Open on four occasions between 1977 and 2009, it wasn’t really until Martin Ebert was called in by the new owner and given a sizeable budget to modify the course in 2015 that it finally realised its full potential, attracting recent review comments such as “I did not think the fantastic Ailsa course could get any better than it used to be [but] I was wrong… it was terrific before and now it is fabulous… a superb course and facility… having played all the courses on the Open rota, Trump Turnberry leaves all the others behind by some way.”

Moving forward one place in the chart might not seem like a lot, but when it occurs within the Top 10 positions then it’s actually quite a significant move. Two courses on the east coast ease up the listings by this small but notable margin: the West Links at North Berwick (to #6) and the Balgownie at Royal Aberdeen (now at #8). Golf was played at both locations as far back as the 17th century and these golfing grounds are still as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago – indeed, some would argue modern day golf course architects might learn a thing or two from close study of these old masterpieces.

North Berwick Golf Club

The highest of six newcomers to our Top 100 for Scotland is the Bob Harrison-designed course at Ardfin on the island of Jura, entering at an unprecedented No. 12 – just for comparison, you may be interested to know that Castle Stuart debuted at #16 in 2010, Machrihanish Dunes first appeared at #25 the same year, and Trump International Aberdeen entered the national rankings at #13 in 2014.

Ardfin Golf Course

Not many golfers have had the opportunity to play Ardfin which is laid out within a private 11,500-acre estate on the south of the island, overlooking the Sound of Jura, but several Top 100 Team members have been there a number of times since our first visit in September 2016 so we’ve seen how this place has developed over the last three years.

Fortunately, it looks like non-resident play might be possible (with advance notice) starting around April next year, allowing golfers to decide for themselves whether or not they agree with our International Correspondent David Davis's sentiments: ”it has my vote as a Top 20 course in the world. It’s that good and it’s one of the few courses you will ever play that have eighteen holes so different from one another that as you walk off the course the routing is totally and completely ingrained in your mind.”

Conspicuous upwards moves in the top half of the new table include those made by the 18-hole layouts at Elie in Fife (up eight to #35), Panmure in Angus (up nine to #37) and Corbie Hill at Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire (up eight to #41). All of these ancient links were at one time modified by Old Tom Morris then the latter two further refined by James Braid, so an authentic Scottish design pedigree is ingrained on every hole.

The Golf House Club, Elie

In the lower half of the listings, the Old course at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire (up eight to #60), the Balcomie at Crail in Fife (up seven to #67), and Powfoot in Dumfriesshire (up nine to #73) all head in the right direction, which is no doubt especially pleasing for fans of the Balcomie as it fell from the Top 50 in 2012 and has struggled a little in the popularity stakes over the past few years.

Peterhead Golf Club - Old course

There are reasons to be cheerful for a couple of Edinburgh clubs that have recently engaged architects Mackenzie & Ebert to improve their layouts. The courses at Bruntsfield Links (up seven to #77) and Mortonhall (up five to #78) – both originally shaped by Willie Park Junior then modified in more recent times by Fred Hawtree – have undergone extensive renovations, with new holes and bunker work carried out on the former and a two-phase bunker programme implemented on the latter.

Bruntsfield Links

Another satisfied Mackenzie & Ebert client is Edzell, where several holes on the Old course were upgraded a couple of years ago now. The course re-entered our Scottish standings at number 99 two years ago and it now climbs a commendable ten places to No. 89. Two other courses also make remarkable double-digit progress: Harry Colt’s Eden course at St Andrews (up 13 to #79) and the James Braid-designed course at Musselburgh Golf Club at Monktonhall (up 20 to #80), co-host for the U.S. KidsGolf Foundation European Championship last year.

Edzell Golf Club - courtesy P Walls

Looking at the other five new entries, the addition of the newly opened course at Kings in Inverness (in at #74) will surprise some who might not have even heard of it, but we’re confident you’ll know a lot more about it in the near future. The Glen in North Berwick re-enters at #83 after falling out of favour when we reappraised the chart two years ago, and it’s followed closely by two courses in our North Scotland district, Reay near Thurso (at #86) and the New at Moray (#87) which just missed out on a listing in 2018.

Kings Golf Club

Glenbervie in Larbert (#91) also came very close to a ranking position last time around and it now becomes the first course from our Central Scotland table to feature in the Top 100 for Scotland. That means Glasgow is now the only district without representation in the national chart, which presumably begs the question “are we being unfair on those golf facilities in and around ‘The Dear Green Place’ which deserve wider recognition, or are we merely reflecting a dearth of golfing excellence close to the Clyde?”

Glenbervie Golf Club


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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