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First impressions count.

That’s why it’s so important for golf courses to have a strong opening hole.

We’ve handpicked some of our favourite ‘firsts’ in Scottish golf. Does your own No.1 make the cut?

Let’s take a look…

1St Machrihanish


Par: 4 Yards: 423

Named ‘Battery’, the first on this beautiful, remote course – tucked away on the Kintyre peninsula – fancies itself as the best opening hole in the world. It has a strong case, too. The fairway, which lies adjacent to the beach, requires a tee shot to be played across the sand and the lapping waves, to give you the best possible chance of going at the green in two. The beach, it should be noted, is in play and not out of bounds… but do you really fancy playing your second shot of the day from amongst the shells, seaweed and sandcastles? More info


Par: 4 Yards: 297

Taking its name from the rocks on the seaward side, the ‘Ardassie’ hole is a wonderfully fun introduction to what is a wonderfully fun round of golf. The fairway doglegs gently from left to right, so we recommend you favour the right side ever so slightly with your tee shot (which is semi-blind, by the way). The small green slopes from front to back and nothing good comes from missing it left. Aim for the middle, not necessarily the flag. The views beyond the putting surface, meanwhile, are to die for, with the North Sea lapping at the rocks. The great James Braid clearly had his thinking cap well and truly on when he laid out this timeless masterpiece. More info

Boat of Garten

Par: 3 Yards: 189

Named ‘John’s View’ in honour of John Grant, the club professional from 1955 until 1971, the opening hole at this Highlands gem is deceptively tricky. For one thing, there’s an out of bounds fence on the right but, if you were thinking of just going left to eliminate that risk, you’ll bring two horrible bunkers into play. The best bet is to aim for the right half of the green – but don’t overcook it or you’ll find a third bunker waiting at the back of the green. If you time your visit properly, a delightful dose of charm comes courtesy of the steam locomotive that chugs along the Strathspey Railway to your right as you tee off. A wonderful sight and sound to savour. More info



Par: 3 Yards: 228

The marvellous ‘Whelkie Haugh’, above, is the pick of the eight par-3s on the card at Winterfield in the East Lothian town of Dunbar. It is also, without doubt, one of the toughest opening holes in Scottish golf. Measuring 220 yards from the tee, it requires pretty much everything you’ve got to reach the small, elevated green. And trust us… this is no place to catch a dose of the duck-hooks. Do that and you’ll be re-loading, as the shoreline runs the entire left-hand side of the hole. More info

Gleneagles (King’s)

Par: 4 Yards: 362

A devilish hole that is actually much trickier than it looks from the tee. A generous fairway appears to give you plenty margin for error if your first swing of the day is a bit stiff – but don’t be fooled. You need to (a) knock it some way down there and (b) put it in the right spot, just right of centre, to give you any hope of holding the raised green with your approach. The putting surface also slopes significantly from back to front. It is protected by two large bunkers at the front and two pot bunkers on the right. Underestimate it at your peril. More info

Prestwick 1St Hole

Prestwick (Old)

Par: 4 Yards: 345

Quite simply, one of the most famous opening holes in the game – not to mention one of the most fearsome. Here’s the deal: you’ve got out of bounds all the way down the right side of the hole courtesy of the Glasgow to Ayr railway line. Go left? Not so fast. A series of mounds line that side, blocking your view of the small green and the three large bunkers that surround it. Favour the right side of the fairway off the tee. Just not too much or you’ll end up meeting the 11.55am service from Glasgow Central head on. A classic golf hole. More info

Castle Stuart

Par: 4 Yards: 434

The late Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse created a modern masterpiece when they built Castle Stuart Golf Links near Inverness just over a decade ago. From the word ‘go’, it offers an exhilarating, unforgettable experience. The first hole ticks all the boxes: a beautiful location right by the water’s edge on the banks of the Moray Firth; spectacular views across the water to the Black Isle and back towards Inverness and the spectacular Kessock Bridge; and challenge. Lots and lots of challenge. Go too far right and you’ll be in the Firth. Go too far left and you’ll be lost in the steep wall of gorse that flanks that side. Word of advice: the fairway is a lot wider than it looks from the tee. Some 60 yards wide, in fact. Favour the left side to leave the best angle into the green. More info

Royal Aberdeen

Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie)

Par: 4 Yards: 409

Royal Aberdeen’s brilliant Balgownie Links got a long-awaited slice of top-level tournament golf when it hosted the Scottish Open in 2014, showcasing its well-established, wonderful wares to a watching world. Much is made of the stretch of holes from two to nine but the first, above, is a terrific test in its own right. Teeing off from immediately in front of the clubhouse windows – a real knee-knocker of a start – it offers a wide fairway that plays slightly downhill before dropping into a deep hollow just before the raised green. Uncharacteristically large, the green also leans towards you and slopes to the left. The sight of tankers in the sea beyond the green provides an interesting, eye-catching backdrop. More info


Par: 4 Yards: 420

What’s not to love about ‘Stacks’, the opening hole at Elie? For one thing, it is home to a periscope salvaged from the HMS Excalibur submarine in 1966. It sits atop the starter’s hut and is used to confirm it is safe to play away over a hill that makes your first shot of the day a blind one. With out of bounds and a cluster of bunkers down the right, anything more than a gentle fade will be punished. And if you can walk off the huge green without three-putting, you will have done very well. This is proper links golf. More info

Dumbarnie Links

Par: 4 Yards: 419

It’s appropriate that Scotland’s newest golf course should have one of the country’s finest first holes. A picturesque opener, it plays from an elevated tee towards a generous, wide fairway. There are no bunkers in the landing area but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a straightforward start. A burn runs down the left hand side and crosses in front of the green. The temptation is to take an extra club to guarantee you clear it. However, there are two revetted pot bunkers at the back of the putting surface awaiting any over-earnest approach shots. It’s all about execution. More info


Par: 3 Yards: 165

Look up ‘hidden gem’ in the dictionary and you ought to see a picture of Kilspindie staring back at you. Located just a few minutes’ drive from Gullane, it is a criminally underrated course that occupies one of the most idyllic pieces of linksland in East Lothian, a.k.a. ‘Scotland’s Golf Coast’. It opens with a short par-3 that, uniquely, plays in a due north direction and towards the Firth of Forth. That means you have a pretty special backdrop to savour right from the off but don’t be too distracted by the views as you’ve got several nasty bunkers to negotiate between the tee and the small green. You’ll settle for a three here all day long. More info



Par: 5 Yards: 493

Perhaps James Braid’s most underrated course design, Golspie is a truly exceptional layout and a beguiling mix of links, heath and parkland. Its opening hole sets the tone for a fun, challenging round. It doglegs to the left, yet the fairway slopes to the right, so it’s all about finding the right position off the tee. The best advice is to aim at the power line tower on top of the ridge in the distance. And if you’re going for the green in two, be careful not to pull your approach to the left, otherwise you’ll bring Little Ferry Road into play. It’s a fabulous hole from start to finish. More info

Lundin Links

Par: 4 Yards: 423

Founded in 1868, Lundin Links is a truly superb Old Tom Morris/James Braid golf course just 20 minutes from St Andrews. The opening hole is enough to make even the most confident player tremble in their spikes, with water and the beach all the way down the left hand side… a particularly fearsome sight if you’re a left-hander and have to stand facing the water for your very first shot of the day. Finding the centre-left fairway off the tee should take the bunkers out of play and allow you to focus on executing a perfectly struck iron into a small, raised green that slopes from front to back. More info

North Berwick

Par: 4 Yards: 342

It’s impossible to play North Berwick and not have an obscene amount of fun. Even if you play terribly, you’ll still enjoy it. It sets out its stall right from the start with a quirky opening hole that has a beach – which is in play – all the way down the right hand side and a tumbling, rolling fairway that is bisected by a path not unlike Grannie Clark’s Wynd on the Old Course. Your best bet is to lay up short of the path with a long iron or hybrid. That should leave you a mid-iron into what is the biggest green on the course. More info

Fortrose Rosemarkie

Fortrose & Rosemarkie

Par: 4 Yards: 329

As well as being the 15th oldest golf club in the world, Fortrose & Rosemarkie is also one of the most extraordinary. Contained with the Chanonry Peninsula – a thin ‘fang’ of land that juts out from the Black Isle into the Moray Firth – it is a spectacular place to play. Its first hole takes its name, ‘Fort George’, from an 18th century barracks and, on the face of it, is a relatively straightforward opener. However, with whins both left and right and water awaiting any tee shot hit far too far left, it pays to be sensible. Keep the driver in the bag. Go with a fairway wood or even a long iron. Be just as cautious on your approach, too, as the green slopes towards the water. More info

Crail (Balcomie)

Par: 4 Yards: 322

The Balcomie Links at Crail is a ‘must visit’ for any golfing visitor to Fife. It is a quintessential links golf experience that is a real throwback to the era of its designer, the great Old Tom Morris. Your round begins with a drive from an elevated tee. Assuming you find the fairway (which is by no means guaranteed), you are then faced with a pitch over a fearsome bunker and a turf wall to a blind green that is guarded by more sand traps on each side, not to mention a burn that will gobble up any over-cooked approach. Fabulous fun. More info

Leven Links

Par: 4 Yards: 426

One of the oldest courses in the world, Leven Links is a proper, old-fashioned course that asks questions of you from the off. A good drive to the centre-right of the fairway will leave you with a mid-iron into a large, undulating plateau green, which sits approximately 20 yards on from the top of the ridge (hence the name ‘Table’). Throw in a strong, swirling breeze and you’ve got all the ingredients for a card-wrecker before your round has even properly begun. Par is never a bad result. More info



Par: 3 Yards: 155

The first of two par-3s to open your round at this beautiful Fife gem, the first at Aberdour is a legitimate classic. ‘Bell House’, as it is known, plays from an elevated tee down to a green that sits on a rocky outcrop. You can play it a number of ways: launch a full-blooded iron high into the air and hope you’ve judged the wind to perfection; hit a low runner that lands short-right and let the natural contours of the ground do the heavy lifting for you; or club-up, grip-down, take dead-aim and hit a three-quarter punch. Whichever option you go with, make sure to enjoy the stunning view before you tee off. It is surely one of the best (and, like the course itself, most underrated) in Scottish golf. More info

St Andrews (Old)

Par: 4 Yards: 376

How could we possibly leave out arguably the most iconic opening hole in the game? And yet the first at the Old doesn’t qualify for this list on sentiment alone. Far from it. This is a seriously good golf hole that sets the tone for an unforgettable round. Assuming you connect with your ball on the tee – your nerves will be amplified by the fact that there will, in all probability, be an audience – you’ll be driving onto one of the widest fairways in golf. And yet, with out of bounds both left and right, you can’t just take an aimless swipe as former Open champ Ian Baker-Finch has previously demonstrated. Your line is the small gorse bush to the right of the Swilcan Bridge. That will take the burn largely out of play. With your second, aim for the heart of the green. No need to be a hero. Not with a snaking stream showing interest in your ball. More info

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