Golf Article

Are American Golfer's Ruining Scottish Golf

Are American golfers ruining Scottish golf?  Some golfers think so. 

By Peter Hellman Classic GOLF Tours


Scotland is on a golf-building binge of new courses, redesigns, fancy hotels and impressive clubhouses.  Interest in Scotland by American golfers is certainly part of the reason for this boom.  But, with American interest comes American tastes and some of those tastes are changing the golf experience and trends in Scotland. 


Probably the biggest change has been the increased appearance of our ubiquitous golf cart or "buggy" as the Scots call it.  Whoever thought we would see golfers "riding the links."   The Devlin Course at St. Andrews Bay Resort, just outside of the town of St. Andrews, has allowed "buggies" since it opened in 2001.  And, according to Stephen Carter, General Manager, new hard surface golf paths are currently being built to better satisfy their American clients for a smoother less muddy ride.  You can also order up a "uggy" at Gleneagles, Scotscraig, Blairgowrie and a few others.


"Resort golf" is another concept that was, if not foreign, at least not common in Scotland.  It used to be that golf courses were just that, a course and not a complex offering every amenity conceived by man.  Before resort golf, after a round of 18 and maybe a pint in a simple clubhouse, one returned to one's small hotel or guest house to clean up and then went to dinner at a nearby Pub or restaurant.  


At a golf resort you skirt the gorse in your buggy complete with drinks and a box lunch, return to a spa treatment and then attend a meeting in one of the conference rooms before your drinks in the lobby bar and dinner in one of three theme restaurants.  And, you do all this while never having to leave the resort.  St. Andrews Bay Resort, Gleneagles, Turnberry and Skibo Castle are all golf resorts and there are plans for more.


The final Americanization of Scotland is the private country club.  There has always been Muirfield, which is famous for its highhanded exclusivity.  But, with enough planning, you can play it.  Don't bother driving down to Lock Lomand, however, for a quick game unless you're with a member.     


There's a new private club in Scotland next door to Muirfield that promises to even top the others and is guaranteed to appeal to Americans.  It's called Acherfield Links.  With two courses, the Fidra and the Dirleton, guest rooms for its members in a refurbished historic manor house, a soon to be built grand clubhouse and golf course lots, on which a buyer can select from six model homes, Acherfield promises to make American country clubbers feel right at home.     


Don't get me wrong.  I love American golf!  We have the number and variety of golf courses that Scotland can only dream about.  Scotland, however, is about tradition and making the golf experience too much like an American golf experience misses out on what Scottish golf is all about. 


So, on your trip to Scotland play some resort golf or country club golf if you can.  They have fine courses that are well worth the play.  However, don't rob yourself of a true Scottish golf experience.  Put on your walking golf shoes and add a North Berwick Links, a Lundin Links, a Royal Dornoch, a Crail or Cruden Bay on to your itinerary.  Better yet, play nine holes on the original British Open course --- The Old Links at Musselburgh.  The pro shop can equip you with a set of hickory clubs and send you back into a simpler time.  Bring your own knickers and tweeds!


Peter Hellman is President of Classic GOLF Tours, which designs custom golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, Argentina and everywhere there's golf.  An exclusive agreement with Archerfield Links gives them tee times at the Fidra and Dirleton courses.  For information visit or call 800.359.7200 or 303.751.7200.