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Kingsbarns brings St. Andrews golf into the 21st century.
Kingsbarns brings St. Andrews golf into the 21st century. (GolfPublisher.com)

Between legendary links, try these modern Scotland golf gems

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - Tradition and history make Scotland the destination for many golfers. St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Turnberry and Royal Dornoch ooze the stuff.

Many visitors never get past the century-old classics. But the country has produced some world-class modern golf courses too, all vying for a little respect among the elders. "Traditional" may be the highest accolade in Scottish golf, but these 21st-century golf courses have plenty offer as well.

For one thing, they're far more woman-friendly. For Old Tom Morris and James Braid, ladies' tees were an afterthought, plunked down at the end of the men's tee box. Today's designers know the importance of multiple tee boxes in attracting women to the course.

Whatever your gender, some of Scotland's newer tracks fair challenge the oldsters for stellar play.

Must-plays

Kingsbarns Golf Links, St. Andrews: The course literature stresses the property's golf history dating to the late 18th century, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any contemporary art or photos in the clubhouse. But make no mistake: Kingsbarns is a modern marvel.

Despite competing with the legendary links course seven miles up the coast in St. Andrews proper, this well-manicured newcomer has earned respect fast after opening in 2000, joining Carnoustie and the Old Course as venues for the Dunhill Links Pro-Am.

Landing zones are large and most tees give a straightforward view of the entire hole. The challenge is in the greens - big, multi-tiered and full of subtle breaks. When pins are tucked, two-putting for amateurs becomes an ordeal. The 12th and 15th, playing around the rocky shore, are rapidly becoming known as two of Fife's best. For more info or tee times, call (800) 348-4902.

The Carrick, Loch Lomond: Slated to open in May 2007 (but previewed by GolfEurope.com), the Carrick is set to rival neighboring Loch Lomond G.C. as the area's best and turn the five-star Cameron House Hotel into a full-blown golf destination.

Architect Doug Carrick - no stranger to sculpting courses out of prime scenery in his native Canada - got a great piece of land to work with along the shores of Britain's largest lake, and the results are visually stunning. Plenty of elevated tees accentuate the views, and and most holes play with Ben Lomond as a backdrop.

The setting sets the bar high for course officials, and they are aiming accordingly, already putting in a bid to host the Solheim Cup.

"Being in a prime area in Loch Lomond, I think it's going to be renowned as one of the top courses in Scotland," grounds manager Alan Glachan predicted.

For more info or tee times, call (800) 262-5725.

The Duke's Course, St. Andrews: Opened in 1995, the Duke's sports an even newer look thanks to U.S. golf mogul Herbert Kohler, who bought it in 2004 along with the Old Course Hotel.

Original architect Peter Thompson's design was revamped by Pete Dye protege Tim Liddy, who also worked on Kohler's Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. The final four holes were reconstructed, and more than 100 bunkers were rebuilt in a more jagged, visually arresting "blown-out" style.

"The Kohler Company felt there was more the site could yield in terms of interest and the golf experience," said Andy Campbell, the course's golf and landscape manager. "They felt there was more there than was being shown. It was 'pretty good,' but it wasn't 'special.'"

For more info or tee times, call (888) 364-3219.

Solid seconds

Spey Valley, Aviemore: The Highlands is a hot region for new-school upscale courses like Spey Valley, opened in June 2006 at the Macdonald Aviemore Highlands Resort.

The River Spey winds through the parkland layout, which features one of the British Isles' longest par 5s at 641 yards. Four-time Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas was behind the design. For more info or tee times, call (888) 209-4094.

PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles: One of the pacesetters in the "newbie" field, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Centenary course will host the 2014 Ryder Cup.

While James Braid's classic King's and Queen's courses at Gleneagles have more than stood the test of time, the Centenary, opened in 1993, that offers a different taste, featuring more target-style holes and plays through wooded terrain. For more info or tee times, call (800) 284-8884.

Torrance and Devlin, St. Andrews: Perched above the town, the Fairmont St. Andrews resort boasts two links courses, the Torrance (opened in 2001) and the Devlin (2002). Both offer stunning sea views; the Torrance is viewed as the more traditional course, but most golfers seem to prefer the Devlin. For more info or tee times, call (866) 260-4407.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

 
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