St Andrews (Old)
What more can you say about this iconic links that hasn’t already been said? Quite simply, for golfers around the world, the Old Course at St Andrews is the ultimate place to play. It has been identified as the oldest golf course in the world and is generally accepted to be the birthplace of the modern game. Starting and finishing in the town, it is a quintessential links. Tee off in front of the imposing Royal and Ancient clubhouse; go for the green at the par-4 ninth; try to avoid the ‘Hell’ bunker on 14; avoid over-cooking your approach onto the road behind 17; pose for a photo on the Swilcan Bridge; and celebrate like Seve in 1984 on the 18th green. A round at the Old Course is a truly unique experience. There is nothing else like it. Every golfer should play here at least once in their lifetime.
Carnoustie (Championship Course)
Billed as ‘Golf’s Greatest Test’, the reputation of Carnoustie’s Championship Course is well earned, as anybody who has ever played it will attest. The host venue for eight Open Championships, one Women’s Open and two Senior Opens, it demands your full respect from the start. Pay particular attention on the sixth hole – the infamous ‘Hogan’s Alley’ – and keep something in reserve for the final three holes, which combine to make what is surely the toughest finish in golf. In spite of its difficulty, it’s almost impossible to play Carnoustie and not love it. It is golf at its absolute finest.
One of the oldest golf clubs in the world, Panmure dates all the way back to 1845. It is sometimes overshadowed by its near-neighbour Carnoustie – the two courses are only a few miles apart – but it is a splendid links in its own right. It was here, in fact, that Ben Hogan practised away from the glare of the media ahead of his only Open Championship appearance at Carnoustie in 1953 (which he won). A special mention, too, for the clubhouse, which was modelled on its equivalent at Royal Calcutta Golf Club in India – the second oldest golf club outside Great Britain.
Proof that there is more to golf in Scotland than spectacular links, Downfield is one of the finest inland courses in the UK and a fantastic place to play. Water comes into play on seven of the 18 holes but the real hazard – and an ever-present one at that – is the trees. There are over 100 different species of trees lining the fairways, so accurately threading your ball between them is crucial if you want to score well. Watch out for the par-3 13th, too. Named ‘Davy Jones’s Locker’, it is reportedly a favourite of the great Gary Player.