The very best opening holes in Scotland



Par: 4 Yards: 423

The sign on the tee says it all – ‘The Best Opening Hole Of Golf In The World’. Whilst such matters are, of course, entirely subjective, there’s no denying that the first at Machrihanish – the ‘Battery’ hole – is very special indeed. From a slightly elevated tee, you have to hit diagonally across the beach towards a fairway that hugs the coast. And yes, the sand is in play. Question is, will you be playing your second from the grass or the sand?


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.

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.


Par: 3 Yards: 228

The marvellous ‘Whelkie Haugh’ 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.

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.

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.


Visitors are asked to be aware of the latest government restrictions relating to Covid-19. For more information go to the Scottish Government website and the VisitScotland website.

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