Scotland's 'Hidden Gems' & 'Smart Additions'

Sneaking a couple of shrewd ones in

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By the time you reach the serious planning stage, you've likely got a firm idea of where you want to play. Whereas few 'gems' are truly 'hidden' any longer, there are some smart moves you can still make which needn't be immediately obvious

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

North Berwick

Planes from America land in the early morning (about 09.00). Very often people’s first reaction is to dash straight to St Andrews. The thing is, the earliest you can probably be in a position to play would be about 12.30. You’ll have missed most of the days tee-times. Your chances aren’t that great anyway. Why not stop in Edinburgh for 24 hours and travel up the next day? The thing is, there’s a world-top-50 ranked course much nearer at North Berwick. You can play it, and be back in Edinburgh later that evening without stressing. It’s quite an easy way of adding some serious quality, yet is often overlooked because of St Andrewsitus

Machrie - from Glasgow

This needn’t be straight-forward to set up, but the Machrie course on the isle of Islay has long been known about. A regular on Scotland’s top-20 the obstacle has always been accessibility. There is a hopper flight from Glasgow however that lays on golf-day specials and gets you there and back. Sure it’s a bit of an adventure, but if you find yourself with a spare day it’s certainly worth considering playing this exposed outpost

Machrie

Image by Scott Cormie CC BY-SA 2.0

Montrose

Golfers rarely go north of Carnoustie. If they did, for 20 mins they'd find Montrose, an inexpensive gem and 5th oldest course in the world

Boat of Garten

Played along birch lined fairways, at 5500 yds 'the Boat' is a joy. Just off the A9 it's an easy and inexpensive addition to any trip into highlands

Royal Burgess

The exclusive parkland course of Royal Burgess is the oldest golf club in the world. Proximity to Edinburgh airport means we can often 'steal' it on the return leg

Moray Old Course

Royal Aberdeen

Royal Aberdeen from Edinburgh

A cursory look at the map might lead to a quizzical enquiry. What are we thinking? Aberdeen is too far north to be considered part of the Edinburgh sphere. The thing is though, the Balgownie links are on the edge of the urban fringe. They’re suburban rather than rural. This means they’re only about 15 mins from Aberdeen station. By happy chance the train that connects Scotland’s third biggest city with the capital is the world speed record holder for a diesel locomotive. Edinburgh’s Waverley and Haymarket stations are right in the heart of the city. It takes about 2 hrs 30 mins, so you can sit back and allow the train to take the strain. Suddenly Aberdeen is a whole lot nearer than many realise. Aberdeen might seem counter-intuitive at face value, but its actually ‘on’ It’s a bit of a shrewdie

Dumbarnie

This is a ‘futures’ bet.

Visitors are familiar with the trinity of St Andrews, Carnoustie, and Kingsbarns. We aren’t necessarily seeing evidence from enquiries received however that they’ve caught up with Dumbarnie yet. The word on the ground though is that Dumbarnie will enter the prestigious world-top-100 ranking the next time a list is published. Basically there’s a fourth course on the block in Fife, and for now at least, it needn’t be asking as much as the others for a round. We can play it ahead of the curve.

It seems ridiculous to talk in terms of ‘hidden gems’. Dumbarnie is going to get discovered soon, and this recommendation will date, but for now let’s ‘get it’

Dumbarnie

Machrie

Shiskine

Image by Hamish Bannatyne

Isle of Arran

The trio of Troon, Turnberry and Prestwick is well established on the west coast. The next tier features Dundonald and the two Gailes courses. It’s tempting to play them in two blocks and say that’s the package. It’s certainly the easiest! There might however be some currency in switching into a day on Arran instead, where we’ll encounter the cult classic at Shiskine and the nine-hole gem at Corrie. It’s adventure for sure, but that’s a big part of the appeal. The ferry takes 50 mins from Ardrossan, but once you’re there you can explore at will. It’s likely to be a ‘fun’ day as you encounter some particularly good par 3’s. Unable to maintain 18-hole courses, many of Scotland’s better 9-hole courses can be found in these less-populated remote locations. Quality isn’t compromised to the extent that you imagine it might be.

Old Musselburgh

We had to think hard about this one, as it needn’t be obvious.

Old Musselburgh is the oldest golf course in the world. It’s also a legitimate Open Championship venue having staged the event six times, last doing so in 1889. Ordinarily that would be enough to include it in any list. Here’s the issue though. It’s a very unremarkable flat nine-hole track, that plays inside a racecourse. You could only play it in conjunction with something else on the same day. It simply isn’t good enough to dedicate a day on its own merit. However, North Berwick and Gullane are nearby. The requirement to reinforce it isn’t onerous. If you wanted to add some spice, you could also play with some 19th century clubs and see if you could win an ancient Open Championship

Mrs Foreman's, the 4th

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