It’s no surprise that the list of the oldest golf courses in the world is made up purely of entries from Scotland – it is the home of golf, after all! While variations of the game were popping up in China, the modern game as we know it today began on Scotland’s east coast during the reign of James II. And the first course was established back in 1552. What is surprising is that all of these historical courses are still operational today and open to the public, including household names such as Carnoustie, Musselburgh and the mighty St Andrews.
But which golf course is the oldest in history? Read on to find out the top 10 oldest golf courses in the world!
10 – Carnoustie Golf Links.
Founded in 1842, this course stretches 6,941 yards and has a par of 72 (71 for The Open Championship). Carnoustie first played host to The Open in 1931, which was won by Scotsman Tommy Armour of Edinburgh. It has since hosted it a further seven times, most recently in 2018 when Italian Francesco Molinari took the title. Amateur golfers can follow in the footsteps of golfing greats by staying at the fabulous Carnoustie Golf Hotel And Spa – an incredibly popular bucket list experience.
9 – North Berwick West Links.
Situated close to the Firth of Forth, this course opened in 1832. The 6,506 yard course is a par 71. This coastal links is known for the local high street that looms over the first tee! The course sits between the coast and the town, shielding it from the elements while offering views of the small and uninhabited islands of Bass Rock, Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra.
8 – Scotscraig Golf Course.
Situated in the small town of Tayport, this historic course opened back in 1817. The length of this course is 6,669 yards with a par of 71. Just a 25 minute drive from St Andrews, it’s also home to the oldest medal in golf, which has been competed for over 200 years after beginning in 1818! Even the clubhouse is historic after it first opened its doors in 1896.
7 – Kinghorn Golf Course.
Having opened in 1812 and providing amazing views across the Firth of Forth, Kinghorn was originally designed by golfing legend Tom Morris – ‘The Grand Old Man of Golf’. The course measures 5,141 yards and has a par of 65. It’s not just golf that makes Kinghorn Golf Course historic – during WWII many parts of the course were used to grow food.
6 – Kingsbarns Golf Links.
This stunning course is laid out on nearly two miles of coastal terrain close to St Andrews with beautiful views over the North Sea and dates back to 1793. This stretches to 7,224 yards and is a Par 72. Like, Kinghorn, Kingsbarns also played its part in WWII – this time as a defensive measure. Land mines were dotted across the course to prevent attack. The current layout of the course (minus landmines) was designed by Kyle Phillips and took nearly three years to develop, opening in July 2000.
5 – Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club.
The first documented evidence of golf being played here dates back to 1702 in a letter from Mr George MacKenzie of Balconie, Provost of Fortrose to his Edinburgh law agent. By 1793, a golf club called Fortrose Golf Society opened and has since developed into a stunning links course stretching 6,085 yards and a par of 71. Among the incredibly rich trivia at this course is the fact that in 1940 the course and its clubhouse were requisitioned by the military for use as a training ground for D-Day landings. King Haakon of Norway even visited during this period as Norwegian forces trained alongside other allied forces. To this day, there are still some concrete bollards on holes 3 and 4 that were constructed during this period.
4 – Musselburgh Links.
Not to be mistaken for The Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, this course was once certified as the oldest golf course in the world by none of other than Guinness World Records after documentary evidence was found that golf was played here as early as 1672. Despite this, there are undocumented rumours that Mary, Queen of Scots did play here even earlier than that – in 1567 according to soke claims. This remains a short 9-hole course with a length of 2,968 yards and a par 34.
3 – Elie and Earlsferry Links.
Golf dates back here, in some capacity, to 1589. However, the club says that the first evidence of an official course layout is from 1770, with reference to a Short Course and Long Course. Holes 4, 5, 8 and 17 now sit where this is mentioned, demonstrating the change the course has gone through over the decades. The course now stretches 6,251 yards in length and is a Par 70.
2 –Montrose Golf Links.
Located by the coast, just off Montrose Bay protecting the town from the coastal weather, this beautiful links course dates back to 1562. This challenging course measures 6,585 yards and is a par 73. Noted for its stunning scenery along the Angus coastline, this course is considered the most redeveloped golf links in the world – no surprise given its long history!
1 –St Andrews, Old Course.
It’s not called the Old Course for no reason. This infamous course is officially the oldest golf club in the world. The first golf ever played dates back here in as early as 1552. This course has influenced the development of the game as we know it today including the standard of 18 holes. The Old Course has hosted The Open an incredible 30 times – most recently in 2022 at the 150th Open! The Old Course measures 7,305 yards and has a par of 72 with some of the most recognisable features in golf such as The Swilcan Bridge, Hell bunker, and Road Hole Bunker.
The oldest course in the world outside of Scotland – Pau Golf Club.
The Pau Golf Club in France (close to the border with Spain) is the oldest golf club in Continental Europe having opened in 1856. It was designed by English professional golfer Willie Dunn of Scottish descent. The length of this course beautiful parkland course is 5,386 yards and Par 69.
Scotland is filled with golfing history, so makes the perfect location for a UK golfing break. Contact us today to start planning your trip back in time.