We round up ten of Scotland’s best golfing resorts, all of them beloved of the golf world and celebrity fans of the sport alike, but with plenty to offer the golf widows and widowers too.
The forerunner to the Ryder Cup took place at Gleneagles back in 1921, when the first American golf side assembled took on Britain’s best in what was dubbed the International Challenge, and this September the fully-fledged event returns to the five-star Perthshire resort’s Jack Nicklaus-designed PGA Centenary Course.
With three world-class courses – the PGA Centenary, challenging King’s and picturesque Queen’s - Gleneagles has been the venue for tournaments including the Dunhill Trophy, Bells Scottish Open, the PGA Cup and McDonald’s WPGA Championship of Europe. Celebrities known to enjoy a round there include Gavin Hastings, Kenny Logan and Kenny Dalglish. And if your game isn’t quite up to pro level, they offer an Ultra Fit For Golf Package at the PGA National Academy, designed to develop your game with the help of the Gleneagles golf professionals as well as attending to fitness, conditioning and nutrition.
For those neglected in favour of the green, the iconic hotel, built in 1924 and boasting its own railway station, also has on offer in its 350 acres an award-winning ESPA spa; clay pigeon shooting; an equestrian school; croquet; tennis; The British School of Falconry; fishing; off-road driving and a choice of four restaurants, including the two Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie. In a year they get through 30,000 litres of fresh orange juice, 500,000 free range eggs, 20,000 hand-dived scallops, 75,000 scones and 100,000 dinner rolls, so guests are unlikely to go hungry.
Carnoustie Golf Hotel
Golf pros who have played at Carnoustie include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Corey Pavin, while famous faces who have putted in their footsteps on the Carnoustie Golf Course include Bill Murray, Greg Kinnear, Sir Ian Botham and Jamie Redknapp.
This 18-hole course is recognised as one of the top three courses in the country and has hosted the Open seven times, as well as the Seniors Open, Ladies Open and Dunhill Championship, while the Burnside course includes the infamous 17th hole, considered one of the hardest par fours in golf, and the Buddon Links course makes for a good introduction to links golf. The resort will also play host to the shooting events of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
For those (happily) left behind in the hotel, there’s an Elemis spa, swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool, steam room and gym, plus the award-winning Dalhousie Restaurant, which boasts an AA Rosette. Venture out and within striking distance you’ll find Glamis Castle, Arbroath Abbey, Dudhope Castle and Broughty Castle, plus water sports at Monikie Country Park, with Dundee and its attractions including the RRS Discovery (and from 2015 the V&A) a twenty minute drive away.
Located on those bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, the most beautiful of water hazards, and with nine holes on the high road and nine on the low road, the Carrick has been named as one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses. Opened in 2007, the 7,082 yard championship course was designed by renowned Canadian golf architect Doug Carrick and has hosted the 2007 and 2008 Ladies Scottish Open on the Ladies European Tour as well as the PGA Cup. Sir Alex Ferguson is an honorary member of the club and it’s popular with Celtic and Rangers players.
The Wee Demon is the nine-hole course, with a reputation for being devious and tricky, while the Golf Academy offers practice facilities of two putting greens, a designated short game area and a driving range, plus PGA professional coaches, including Scott Henry and Kylie Walker, standing by to give pointers. You’ll find a halfway house in the form of The Highland Laddie – a restored Thames river boat that now serves as a pub for golfers after a few mid-course refreshments and some sustenance, plus there’s a golf shop on hand and the hotel concierge will transport guests to the course.
Those being ditched for the golf can take refuge in the Carrick Spa, where the signature treatment is the exotic-sounding Rainshower massage, or head out for high-end shopping at Loch Lomond Shores – it has its own branch of Jenners, where you’ll find brands such as Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Barbour, and a Valvona & Crolla foodhall. The Loch Lomond Antiques & Art Centre has a gallery with works by Peter Howson and John Bellany. Continuing on an art kick, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House is less than five miles away in Helensburgh, or for more physical pursuits, Xscape at Braehead 13 miles away offers indoor skiing, snowboarding and climbing. Meet up with your golfers at The Boat House restaurant by the marina, which serves Loch Fyne seafood.
Dalmahoy, just outside Edinburgh, is a course popular with both the city’s footballers and visiting rugby teams playing at Murrayfield, and has also been graced by golfing greats Sam Torrance, Bernhard Gallacher, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman.
The East Course is a championship course which has hosted the Solheim Cup and the Seniors Open, while the West Course is smaller, with testing tight fairways - both were designed by legendary golfer and course architect James Braid. Facilities also include a floodlit driving range, chipping area, putting green and golf shop, and pro golfer Scott Dixon is on hand for lessons of all levels.
The four-star Dalmahoy hotel and country club, set in 1,000 acres of landscaped grounds, has a pool with sauna and steam room, tennis courts, walking and running trails, a gym and even a dance studio. There’s a spa offering Clarins treatments, and two bars and restaurants, including the AA Rosette-awarded Pentland Restaurant which has views over the East Course’s 18th hole. If that’s not enough to sustain you through another round, Edinburgh is about a twenty-minute-drive away.
Britain’s first purpose-planned golfing resort, Turnberry, which opened in 1906, is home to three courses: the Ailsa, the Kintyre and the Arran, with views across the Irish Sea and to Ailsa Craig and the Turnberry Lighthouse, which overlooks the 13th century ruins of Bruce’s Castle, reputed birthplace of Robert the Bruce.
Ailsa has played host to the Open Championships four times, including the legendary 1977 ‘duel in the sun’ at which Tom Watson held off Jack Nicklaus. Other famous golf fans who have played the course include Bill Clinton, Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas.
Golf widowers have six restaurants and bars to choose from in which to pass the time, as well as an ESPA spa with hydrotherapy baths, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi and a swimming pool overlooking the sea with wave motion and underwater lighting. To get slightly more active there’s archery, quad biking, shooting, water zorbing, GPS treasure hunting, Highland games, plus pitch and putt for golf without the commitment, while nearby you’ll find Culzean Castle and Ayr Race Course.
Fairmont St Andrews
Two miles from St Andrews, the home of golf, Fairmont St Andrews boasts two championship courses on its 520 acre estate, designed by famed golfers Sam Torrance, Bruce Devlin and Gene Sarazan – the Torrance and the Kittocks. Other golfing pros to appreciate their work firsthand have included Sam Torrance, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Constantino Rocca, Peter Senior and Justin Rose.
The challenging Torrance has hosted the Final Open Qualifying and Scottish Seniors Open, and was refurbished under the direction of former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance. The Kittocks, opened in 2001, has also recently been upgraded and has panoramic views of the Eden Estuary and North Sea. It can be played from four sets of tees, with golf buggies available, making it ideal for players of all abilities.
For the non-golfer, the resort has one of the largest health spas in Scotland, which offers massages, facials and relaxation therapies using Pure Lochside products, made from organic Scottish ingredients. There’s a state-of-the-art gym with classes available including aqua aerobics, spinning, step class, yoga and pilates, plus a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and swimming pool. And if you can drag yourself away from all that, close at hand is the Isle of May, home to seabirds and seals; the Fife Coastal Path, taking you to Elie, Fife’s most picturesque fishing village; Falkland Palace; and St Andrews itself.
Nestled in the Cairngorms National Park in the Highlands, the Macdonald Spey Valley Championship course opened in 2006 and has hosted the Scottish Hydro Challenge Cup for the last five years, as well as the Northern Open. Designed by former Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas, it lays claim to having the longest hole in Scotland - a par five measuring 635 yards.
Other Ryder Cup players who have taken to the course include Edoardo Molinari and Oliver Wilson, with the uninterrupted views of the Cairngorm Mountain Range no doubt an additional draw. The new £1 million clubhouse opens in August, with changing areas, a golf shop, a lounge bar, restaurant and a terrace for al fresco dining.
For those looking for entertainment not involving the donning of a Pringle jumper, there’s a 3D cinema at the resort, plus a dry ski slope offering skiing and snowboarding lessons, bike hire, a spa, fishing, a pool with flumes and a wave machine, and a luxury shopping centre where you’ll find brands including Barbour, Hunter and Joules, homewares from Portmeirion and Bronte and beauty products from Burts Bees and Arran Aromatics. There are several dining options available, even pizza delivery to the four-star lodges.
Old Course Hotel
Given that golf has played at St Andrews Links for 600 years - Archbishop Hamilton’s charter recognised the right of the people of St Andrews to play golf at the Links in 1552, which they had been doing since the early 1400s - the Old Course is not just a clever name. The St Andrews Links Trust has seven courses: Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Castle, Strathtyrum and Balgove, taking up a combined 400 hecatres, with more than 230,000 rounds played on them each year. Annual turnover is £18 million, with all profits reinvested, thanks to the Trust’s charitable status.
Old Course has hosted the Open Championship 28 times – more than any other venue, and will return there in 2015. The Old Course is, quite simply, the home of golf, with enthusiasts, royalty, Presidents, celebrities and professionals alike travelling from around the world to play it. Bill Clinton played there last month, and amateurs in the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship included Greg Kinnear, Huey Lewis and Michael Phelps. The 700-year-old Swilcan Bridge golfers cross as they walk the final fairway has become an iconic symbol of the course, with legendary golfers having their farewell picture taken on it having become a tradition.
The St Andrews Links Golf Academy features four technology studios equipped with the latest biomechanical coaching systems, 60 practice bays, a short game area, three practice greens and a putting green. Also on site is the world’s oldest golf shop; the Tom Morris Shop, which was opened by the four-time Open champion in 1866.
For non-golfers, the hotel was kind enough to open the Kohler Waters Spa in 2006, voted Best Hotel Spa in the 2012 Good Spa Awards. It boasts a swimming pool, complete with waterfall, a rooftop hot tub and a thermal suite with hydrotherapy pool, sauna, Japanese steam room and plunge pool, and also offers hydrotherapy, facials, body treatments and massage. Golfers are welcome too though, to partake of the Golfer’s Massage (designed to ease tension and increase flexibility) and the Golfer’s Foot Renewal. Restaurants include the triple AA Rosette-awarded Road Hole, with views across the Old Course, and the Jigger Inn, the most famous 19th hole in golf.
Marine Hotel Troon
In the heart of Burns country, Royal Troon Golf Club will play host to the 2016 British Open Championship. Overlooking the 18th hole of the renowned course is The Marine Hotel, which has been offering food and shelter to golfers for more than 100 years.
Founded in 1878, the Royal Troon is acknowledged as one of the finest championship courses in the world, with the Old Course widely accepted as the most demanding of any course on the Championship rota – thanks to the wind and the deep rough, with its gorse and broom. The Portland course is shorter and more sheltered, while the Craigend consists of nine par three holes and is used mainly by junior players.
On site at the hotel is the Fairways Restaurant, with two AA Rosettes, and the Arran Bar, where Champagne afternoon tea is served with views across to the Isle of Arran on the side. There’s also a health club with a pool, squash courts and beauty treatments available. But the real attractions here for non-golfers are found in Burns Country - Burns National Heritage Park at Alloway, including the restored Burns Cottage, is 12 miles away and previous visitors have included John Keats, Clark Gable and Muhammad Ali.
This 7,111-yard par 72 championship course on the Roxburghe Estate in Kelso, home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, was designed by Dave Thomas and opened by Colin Montgomerie and Sir Nick Faldo in 1997. It has been the venue for the Scottish Senior Open and the Roxburghe Challenge, during which Sergio Garcia set the course record in 2000 with a round of 66, while other notable players of the course include The Duke of York, Hugh Grant and Rory Bremner.
The course held the 2008 Amateur Boys championship - a competition inaugurated back in 1921 by two members of the Royal Ascot Golf Club, and is the fifth top inland course in Scotland. Set on the banks of the River Teviot, the course’s signature hole is the 14th - a 585-yard par five known as The Viaduct.
Luckily for the non-golfers, the hotel, owned by the Duke, is aristocratic country grandeur all the way, with log fires and four poster beds in rooms decorated by the Duchess using furnishings, books and paintings from her own home; country pursuits including pheasant, patridge, grouse and clay pigeon shooting, riding and some of Scotland’s best salmon fishing on offer on the estate. Ingredients foraged from the Roxburghe Estate are served in the award-winning restaurant, alongside wines selected by the Duke from the cellars of his home, nearby Floors Castle, Scotland’s largest inhabited castle, to which visits can be organised.