5 Aside: Unique Scottish Holes You Should Play
The centuries-old links that dot Scotland’s coastal landscape have an abundance of unique holes that you won’t find on modern course designs. Here are a few favorites:
St. Andrews' Old Course - 17th
The Old Course’s penultimate hole is not only the most challenging hole at the famed old links, but also the most peculiar. Depending on your handicap, you can either play it as a sharp dogleg right that plays around the Old Course Hotel or a straightaway par 4 that plays over the hotel’s old railway sheds. Either way, you will have to negotiate one of the toughest second shots in golf: a narrow green guarded on the left by the harrowing Road Hole bunker and on the right by the iconic “Road” and stone boundary fence.
Prestwick - 3rd and 17th
Prestwick dates back to the 19th century and many of the course’s defining characteristics haven’t changed much since then. Just about every hole is unique in some way, but if we had to select a couple of particularly interesting holes, they would be the 3rd and the 17th. The par 5 3rd plays across railway ties that sit atop the Cardinal Bunker and it takes either a caddie or a yardage book to figure out that the hole veers right from there along the Pow Burn. The 17th is the only remaining hole from the original layout (and the oldest hole in championship golf!) and plays across the “Alps” dune ridge to a blind green guarded by the massive “Sahara” bunker.
Elie - 1st
Elie Links, home to the Golf House Club, has a history that dates back to the 18th century (if not earlier!), making it one of the world’s oldest golf clubs. The course is exciting throughout but it’s most interesting feature is at the 1st. A periscope, salvaged from HMS Excalibur in 1966, towers over the starters hut and provides a view of the fairway to make sure it is clear for play.
Cruden Bay - 14th and 15th
Any discussion about Cruden Bay starts with the blind shots that characterize the middle of the back nine. The approach at the 14th is completely blind, as you play uphill to a punchbowl green that sits deep beneath the fairway. Things don’t get any more straightforward on the par 3 15th, where local knowledge is required to pick the correct line over a massive dune that blocks any view of the green. Love it or hate it, its definitely unique.
North Berwick - 13th
The 15th “Redan” hole at North Berwick is said to be the most copied hole in the world but it is definitely the 13th that stands out to visiting golfers. “Pit,” as it is called, plays along the shores of the Firth of Forth to a sliver of a green that is completely guarded in front by an ancient, 3-foot, stone wall. If there is one hole that epitomizes Scottish golf in terms of beauty, history, strategy, and fun, the 13th at North Berwick would surely be it.