By Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla of Golf Nook, Scotland

St Andrews Old Course
Carnoustie - Championship
Gullane - No 1
Royal Aberdeen Balgownie

Scotland is proof that great golf doesn’t have to be played on 7,000 yard courses and take five hours for a round. The country is dotted with wonderful smaller golf courses that you can play and at modest rates.

In a series of 4 blogs, we focus on some of the major championship courses – the “Big Boys” – around Scotland that have delightful “Little Brothers” – shorter, less-demanding courses that treat you to a round of genuine Scottish links golf.

We’ve divided Scotland into 4 areas to bring you excellent examples of the less difficult links courses that can be found:

In this blog we concentrate on the second area and take a look at the Little Brothers for Crail and Carnoustie.

Don’t let the mighty Big Boy golf courses intimidate you into staying home or not enjoying some memorable Scottish links courses. A rewarding golfing experience awaits you, no matter what your handicap.

These Little Brothers have lower green fees than the championship courses and are usually more available. Often sought out by scratch golfers and touring pros wanting to relax or practice, they are one of the best kept secrets of Scotland. You too can discover them – links courses you can manage and can be comfortable with. Look into it, because a whole new world of golf will open up for you.

Bear in mind too, with only two exceptions (Anstruther and Dunaverty), these courses share the same land, the same superintendents, the same consistency of greens, and the same weather conditions with their bigger brothers – a key factor in their quality.

Read St Andrews Old Course tee times – 4 ways to guarantee success to find out how to get a tee time on the Old Course or for help and advice.

Crail – the Big Boys

2 exciting golf courses here:

Crail - BalcomieThese courses perch fearlessly on the corner of Fife called Fife Ness, where the broad waters of the Firth of Forth flow into the North Sea. It’s a wild and beautiful promontory, and just seeing these two beauties sitting out there alone and exposed on that ancient tract of land tells you at once that neither of these courses is for the faint-hearted.

The winds, the terrain, the layouts can challenge even the best of golfers.

Anstruther Golf Course – the Little Brother

Anstruther golf courseIf you are not ready to take the Crail challenge, drive back through the town (Crail) and follow the A917 for about 6 miles to Anstruther, where you’ll discover a beautiful little golf course that may suit you better.

This is a dandy little 9-hole golf course right on the sea in the picturesque old fishing village of Anstruther. Great scenery, plenty of up and down fairways, and a well-maintained course. Lots of fun and a good sample of links golf for you to enjoy. Known by very few out of the area, this interesting little golf course is suitable for golfers of any age or expertise. (You’d be surprised how many scratch golfers play it as a pleasant diversion.)

Anstruther Golf Course is 2249 yards with a par 31 and contains ‘The Rockies’, the devilish 245 yard 5th hole voted the toughest par 3 in the UK by Today’s Golfer in 2007.

Carnoustie – the Big Boy

Carnoustie - ChampionshipCarnoustie is about an hour from St Andrews and the Big Boy – Carnoustie Golf Links, Championship Course, venue for the 2007 Open Championship, challenges the most adept golfer.

Carnoustie – the Little Brothers

Carnoustie boasts two other courses in the family, both of which will suit the not-so-adept golfer. They are shorter, much less costly, 18 hole courses, and even have some trees on them, which is unusual for a Scottish links golf course:

Carnoustie-Burnside
Carnoustie-Buddon
  • Burnside Links measures 6028 yards with a 68 par.
  • The Burnside is often overshadowed by its illustrious neighbour but it oozes character and from the back tees is a splendid test of golf. It was here in 1953 where the great Ben Hogan shot 70 to help him qualify for the Open Championship which he subsequently won.

  • Buddon Links completed in 1981, measures 5420 yards with a par 65.
  • As would be expected given its location, it is an excellent example of links golf. Although shorter than the Burnside it still packs a pretty hefty punch around the turn with the 7th, 9th, 11th & 12th holes all testing the players accuracy and control.

Many people seem to prefer the Burnside, but either way you are playing on Carnoustie terrain.

It’s true. Scotland, the home of golf, offers great links golf for every level of skill. Golf is still “pure” here, taken seriously, and accepting of even the beginner. And the only way you’ll get to play these delightful links courses is as an independent golfer. The commercial golf touring companies don’t frequent them. Keep in mind also that these golf courses cost less…MUCH less…than the legendary ‘big boy’ courses.

Click here to see the other blogs in the series.

This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Golf Nook Scotland

Did you know: All three Carnoustie courses are rated in the top 50 Links courses in the UK and Ireland (Golf Digest June 2011)?


Richard and Mary-Alice JafollaRichard and Mary-Alice Jafolla, Golf Nook Scotland

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