The World's Top 100 Course Rankings

Scotland, Ireland & England


Scotland has the land mass of South Carolina, yet has fifteen golf course variously rated in the world’s top-100, and six in the top-20.

Turnberry 10th green

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The Golf Mine


3 St Andrews Old Course
5 Royal Dornoch Golf Digest
8 Turnberry, Ailsa Course
9 Muirfield Golf Digest
26 Carnoustie Golf Digest
37 North Berwick
43 Kingsbarns
51 Royal Troon
52 Royal Aberdeen
53 Castle Stuart
54 Trump Aberdeen Golf Digest
63 Cruden Bay
75 Prestwick
81 Ardfin
91 Machrihanish Golf Digest

The Golf Digest ranking is a bit dated now as they’ve since split their ratings into American and Non-American. We’ve used their last published world-ranking. 100bestgolfcourses tends to skew European. Golf Magazines rankings are often regarded as the benchmark. Scotland still has thirteen entries on their list


1 Royal County Down Golf Digest
11 Royal Portrush
21 Ballybunion
25 Portmarnock Golf Digest
29 Lahinch
93 European Club
97 Waterville


35 Royal Birkdale Golf Digest
58 Royal Lytham
65 Hoylake

Royal Portrush, 5th green

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Royal County Down

Ireland's top

St Andrews

Scotland's Top

Royal Birkdale

England's top


Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Royal Dornoch 5th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Royal Dornoch

In the high north of Scotland, Royal Dornoch is often something of the ‘odd one out’ amongst those visiting golfer’s who are trying to assemble their bucket list of elite courses. Geography ensures that this is the most difficult to fit in. Dornoch’s par 3’s, ‘Foxy’, the 14th, described as the ‘most natural hole in golf’, plus the notorious gorse bushes all make for a tough examination of iron play and one you’d ideally like ‘to bag’.

Royal Dornoch can be included as part of a tour, but you’ll need to accept some mileage and be strategic about when to introduce it. The secret probably hangs on Gleneagles. Discover how


Carnoustie has an altogether more blue collar heritage than the somewhat aristocratic St Andrews. If St Andrews is champagne the Carnoustie is vintage port. If St Andrews is Mozart, Carnoustie is Beethoven. It’s length and exposure, plus its turning nature which means you encounter headwinds, tailwinds and crosswinds make it a sterner examination. It’s usually the name that golfer’s give you when you ask them which is the hardest course on the Open Championship rotation. Yet it’s strangely beautiful too, even if this needn’t be immediately obvious. It’s a course you learn to love and perhaps one that endures in the memory more than most

Carnoustie 16th

Image thanks to Colin McLeod, Carnoustie Golf Links

Castle Stuart 11th

Prestwick 1st, 'the Railway'

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 


Prestwick is the home of the original Open Championship from 1860, and naturally the birth place of tournament golf. Perhaps this is where a past-time became a sport and ultimately an industry. Prestwick last hosted in 1925, which to some extent ensured it’s been partly locked in time. Prestwick didn’t need to observe the paradigms of championship design. It was able to retain its quirky old blind shots and capricious fairways. The 17th is the original 2nd from 1860, and still in its original configuration. This makes it the oldest hole in Championship golf, and features the notorious ‘Sahara’ bunker, Europe’s biggest. The blind par three 5th, ‘Himalayas’, is a played over a hill using a marker board on the top. The par five, 3rd, ‘the Cardinal’ is a favourite too. It would be mistake to think Prestwick is a gimmicky old curio though. Prestwick stands-up on merit, holding a world top-100 ranking in it’s own right.


Built in 1906, Turnberry was the newest course to hold a world top-100 until Kingsbarns came along in 2000. They said it couldn’t be done, designing a links layout. They were wrong. Since 2000 Castle Stuart, and Trump Aberdeen followed Kingsbarns onto the prestigious world ranking. Dumbarnie looks destined to join them. Although they fell short of the global list,  Dundonald, and the Renaissance Club were also built in the shadow of Kingsbarns and have gone onto Scottish Open. Machrihanish Dunes, might have danced to a slightly different tune but is another quality 21st century addition. Kingsbarns spurred a building spree that rejuvenated Scottish golf. Does this make Kingsbarns the most important golf course built in Scotland?

Kingsbarns 12th,

Image by Iain Lowe courtesy of Kingsbarns

The Top Courses

Take a look at the elite courses that are likely to form the core of a Scottish 'Bucket list'


The Famous Holes

It's not just about the course. Some of golf's most famous holes can also be 'bagged'


The Road Hole

No hole on the Open Championship rotation is more feared than the 17th at the St Andrews old Course. Take a look at its challenges


Smart Plays

There are some less appreciated opportunities that can add value without necessarily incurring a burden


Scottish Itineraries

An easy reference menu that covers Scotland's golf playing regions and various combinations to pull two or more together


Open Championship Courses - Itineraries

The Open Championship rotation often features prominently in golfers plans. This itinerary menu focuses on trying to include the lot


Scotland with Ireland

This menu introduces you to options to include the best of the Northern Ireland to reinforce your Scottish trip with Portrush and Royal County Down


What is the Best Golf Vacation Possible

There are two global hotspots. If you're aiming at the very apex of the possible, then it really means combining Scotland with a bit of Northern Ireland


Weekend Breaks

A number of courses combine a communication infrastructure, championship standard 2nd and 3rd courses, with on-site accommodation. This means they can support high-quality weekend breaks


How to add Dornoch

On its high northerly latitude Dornoch isn't easy to include. This explains how best to try



OK, it's not Scotland, but there are opportunities to weave some of Ireland's top courses onto a Scottish trip. No harm in showing you a few!