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Golfing in Scotland

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”
-Winston Churchill

2520751304_5f8af2c7a6At some point in the 12th century, the Scots invented the modern game of golf. There were certainly precedents of a ball being hit into a hole (rather than a net or hoop) in Rome and China among other places, but the game we know today began in Scotland. Americans can also thank the Scots for exporting the game to the United States, since it was a shipment of clubs and balls from Leith to Charleston, South Carolina that helped to found the first American golf course.

Golf has grown into one of the world’s most popular sports, with over 60 million active golfers around the world. Once thought of as a game only for the wealthy, it has become a more inclusive sport in the past few decades. Certain areas of Europe, particularly Scandinavia, have become particularly fond of the game, and it is spreading now through eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Ever since the game was developed, people have been coming to Scotland to play, and considering the size of the country, there are an almost absurd number of courses (552 to be exact). Each has its own personality and difficulty level, from local amateur chip-and-putts to the greatest championship courses in the world.

It might surprise and delight the first-time golf tourist that over 99% of the golf courses in Scotland are open to the public. There are fees, of course, but the days of the closed membership course are mostly over. With tourism bringing golfers from around the world to Scotland, even the oldest and most traditional clubs realize the benefits of opening their doors.

Golf Courses in Scotland

Here are just a few of the famous and notable courses in Scotland:

  • St. Andrews Links: It was here that the modern game of golf was first developed, and St. Andrews remains a mecca for serious golfers today. It has hosted numerous international tournaments, including the 2010 Open Championship. St. Andrews was also the first to establish a ladies club, in 1867.
  • Musselbrough Old Links: St. Andrews can claim to be the birthplace of the game, but the course there was built later, and the oldest playing course in the world today is at nearby Musselbrough. The course has been played for at least 350 years and probably at least a century longer than that.
  • Turnberry: Located in southwestern Scotland, this series of courses (there are three) is part of a world-class golfing resort that includes a 5-star hotel, bars and restaurants and every other luxury imaginable.
  • Nairn Golf Club: Maybe the best course that most golfers have never heard of, Nairn is located just outside of Inverness, and offers incredible views of the Moray Firth. A hidden gem of Scottish golf.
    >> Read more about Nairn

Photo credit: 6th Tee, Royal Durnoch Golf Club by foxypar4 on Flickr