One reason Scotland is such a popular tourist destination -- and not only for golfers -- is that it's an incredibly hospitable country. There are bed-and-breakfasts and charming country-house hotels seemingly always in your field of vision when you're on one of the glorious rural roadways while traveling from course to course.
We love charming, family-owned accommodations as much as anyone. But sometimes it's great to have full-on luxury with all the best amenities.
When you want everything on site -- from hotel-owned golf courses to multiple dining options, spa, pool and more -- there are really only a handful of golf resorts to choose from in Scotland.
Fairmont St. Andrews
To understand why it's beneficial to stay at Fairmont St. Andrews on the outskirts of town rather than in the old town center, you only need to take one look at the view: This is one of the best vantage points for a glimpse of the Auld Grey Toon. Fairmont St. Andrews also has plenty of space on 520 acres to create a 209-room hotel, 36 holes of golf and a complete practice area.
Guest rooms are large with trimming you're unlikely to find in B&Bs: heated floors, a separate bathtub and shower and plenty of square feet. On-site food-and-beverage ranges from casual pubs to finer dining and Italian fare.
Fairmont St. Andrews' Kittocks Course and Torrance Course, both renovated since opening in the early 2000s, play high above the North Sea with great views in all directions. Both are championship-caliber courses, with the Torrance having hosted the Scottish Senior Open. You're also just minutes from Kingsbarns, and you can also enter the Old Course lottery while in town.
Just five minutes outside of town, the resort offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the old town. This hotel is also the best opportunity for points collectors to use in Scotland golf, as Fairmont Gold's loyalty program is one of the best for luxury golf travelers. The courses are also part of the Troon brand, which has its own loyalty program for members that can be used at facilities worldwide.
Gleneagles, while not offering any on-site links courses, remains one of the world's most complete, luxurious golf facilities. The breakfast buffet is a marvel of F&B, and the golf courses are wonderfully pleasant, starting with the little pitch 'n putt on the lawn of the hotel, to the lovely Queen's Course, to James Braid's renowned King's Course, and finally the Centenary Course by Jack Nicklaus, which hosted the Ryder Cup and hosts the European Tour each year. The hotel's guest rooms, many of which are individually styled, and common areas are as beautifully done as any resort in the U.K., and the activities list, ranging from kids clubs to falconry, are extensive.
Trump Turnberry Resort
Iconic Turnberry, host of some of the most memorable Open Championships in recent memory, is now in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump. When Trump purchased the resort, he got to work immediately on the Ailsa Course as well as the accommodations. Jason Scott Deegan visited the revamped property this summer and provided Golf Advisor with this recap.
Carnoustie Golf Hotel
Of all the current Open Championship venues, Carnoustie is the easiest and most affordable to play thanks in part to the addition of the golf hotel in 1999 right behind the 18th green of the infamous Championship Course. Along with 81 guest rooms, there are 10 suites and 12 conference rooms. The restaurant on the ground floor beside the 18th hole is large but cozy and plenty Scottish-feeling. Helping lick your wounds after an infamously tough round of golf, there is a full spa and heated swimming pool. (The hotel is currently undergoing a renovation that is expected to be complete by March 31, 2017).
Carnoustie has two other courses on site that are far easier than the Championship Course in case you need to get your confidence back, and you're only about 45 minutes by car from the courses of St. Andrews.
Old Course Hotel and the Duke's Course
There is no more famous golf hotel location in the world, and it's the only hotel that borders one of the greatest holes in the world, the Road Hole. Now owned by Herb Kohler of Destination Kohler, the Old Course Hotel's furnishings and amenities don't take a back seat to its coveted location. Guest rooms and suites are large and comfortable, and there is a full spa and multiple, excellent dining areas. The F&B on the fourth floor is the ace-in-the-hole, complete with a marvelous whisky collection and views of the links and town skyline.
The Old Course Hotel doesn't own the Links Trust courses and is treated just like the other hotels in town when it comes to stay-and-play packages, but the hotel has its own course, The Duke's, which while not a links course, is a very pleasant heathland alternative. It even offers golf carts, should your feet need a break but you still have an itch to play.
A few more top golf hotels
While most North Americans head to Scotland for links, perhaps the most beautiful part of inland Scotland is Loch Lomond. The Cameron House Hotel, a luxury DeVere property, sits on the shores of the lake and recently added the Carrick Course at Loch Lomond, a beautiful inland layout that overlooks the loch. There is also a short course called the Wee Demon. The property is a bit isolated from any of the top links courses on the west side near Glasgow, however.
In North Berwick, the MacDonald Marine House Hotel doesn't own the famed North Berwick West Links, but overlooks this and has a golf concierge that can set up bookings on the one-of-a-kind, old-world links. The property is a popular favorite among golf tour operators and has a full spa, pool and fitness center along with both a casual pub and fine dining.