Is this the Best Course in Scotland?

For a long time, Ireland has laid claim that some of their courses have the world’s largest dunes. Courses such as Carne Golf Links, Lahinch, Portstewart (The Strand) and Enniscrone could all claim that their dunes were the largest and most dramatic. A Scottish contender has entered that conversation in recent years, Trump International Golf Links. This premier golf destination is a harmonious blend of nature’s raw beauty and meticulously designed fairways, providing golf enthusiasts with an unparalleled experience.

As you step onto the sprawling grounds of the Trump International Golf Links, you’re immediately greeted by the salty tang of the North Sea breeze and the majestic sight of dunes rolling into the distance. The course, crafted by renowned golf architect Dr. Martin Hawtree, opened in 2012. Both nines seamlessly weave through this coastal landscape, offering players a challenging yet rewarding journey. Each hole is a visual masterpiece with fairways and greens framed by the native marram grass and beautiful bunkering. The course conditioning is second to nine with immaculate fairways and perfect putting surfaces.

Hawtree’s Inspired Design

The layout of the course is a testament to its designer’s ingenuity, with each hole presenting its own unique set of challenges. From strategically placed bunkers to undulating greens, every aspect of the course demands precision and strategy from golfers of all skill levels.

One of the highlights of the Trump International Golf Links is the signature 14th hole, aptly named “Bewitched.” This par-4 gem has a set of tees perched atop a dune, providing stunning panoramic views of the North Sea. But don’t let the scenery distract you; navigating the swirling winds and hitting the fairway requires nerves of steel and pinpoint accuracy.

Our Dilemma

Normally when we visit a golf course, we select between six and eight of the best holes to talk about so that you get a flavour of the venue. Our dilemma when crafting this article is to decide which holes to leave out. There are just so many stunning golf holes on this course, it’s one of the most photogenic courses we have ever played. Of course, any holes we choose are in our opinion the best ones, those choices are always subjective. You may agree or disagree, but we hope you at least understand our dilemma when faced with so many beautiful golf holes.

The links have SIX sets of tees to choose from. The tees range from 5215 yards to the professional tees at 7452 yards. We were considering playing from the white tees at 6329 yards, with a slope rating of 140. It would be a challenge to play anywhere near our handicap. As always, don’t get sucked into playing from tees that make the course too long for you. Golf should be about enjoying your round, not about a war of attrition.

Right From the Start

Approaching the putting green next to the first tee, we are met by Bob Greig, one of the starters. Bob walks with us to the first tee, asks us our handicap and suggests we play from the white tees at 6329 yards. We thank Bob and off we go.

The Opening Hole

Right away, as you stand on the first tee you can see you are somewhere special. The hole is spectacular, a par 5 of 478 yards which plays uphill. It’s a hole that tests your strategic thinking right away. Depending on your tee shot, do you take on the green or do you lay up? The bunkering across the fairway makes you think. The ideal layup is over the bunker in the middle of the fairway. It was 3 three-shot hole for us and an opening par.

The 4th Hole

Our second choice of holes on the front nine is another par 5, the 4th hole. Measuring just 460 yards, it’s stroke index 1 on the card, the hardest hole on the course. Again, it’s a stunning-looking hole. There is a burn on the right and again the bunkering is brilliant in design. The green is set back into the dune and has two tiers. A cracking golf hole.

What a Par 3!

The 6th Hole

Just another visually stunning and intimidating hole. Dunes, native grass and a sliver of short green grass. At 165 yards it’s a medium length par 3 but it’s hit the green or bust. The walkway short is probably 5 yards wide at most. In the wind, this is a terrifying hole.

The 9th Hole

The front nine closes with a strong par 4 of 427 yards. The fairway turns from right to left with your second shot through the dunes to a raised green which slopes from back to front. Even down breeze it still took two well-stuck shots to get to the heart of the green. A fitting end to a cracking nine holes.

An Even Better Start 

The 10th Hole

The back nine, like the front, opens with a par 5, this time of 495 yards. Again, you have to think strategically and plot your way up the hole. Find the fairway, lay up to the right of the bunkers and leave yourself a short iron through the dunes to the green. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The longer hitters might fancy hitting a high draw for their second shot around the corner but even then we don’t think that shot would find the green. This is one of the best par 5’s anywhere.

The 13th Hole

The 13th is another lovely par 3 of 178 yards. Four deep bunkers protect the putting surface which has a tier running through the middle of it. Unlike the 6th, this par 3 offers you options with your tee shot, you can miss the green short or to the right and still make par. The four pathways through the dunes beyond the green are tantalising, what will they reveal?

The Signature Hole

The 14th Hole

The 14th is the signature hole on this course and it’s the most photographed. From the tee, the fairway just looks like a narrow strip of green surrounded by dunes and long marram grass. At only 372 yards, if you hit the fairway, you’ll be left with a medium to short iron to the green. Play it well and you may walk away with a birdie!

The Closing Hole

At 586 yards, the closing hole is a monster. As with the previous par 5s, you have to plot your way up a hole littered with bunkers. If you are brave you take the line to the left, if not go up the right side, just avoid the sand. The same principle applies to your second shot, pick your line and avoid the cross bunkers. All the trouble on your shot to the green is short so take enough club to reach the middle of the undulating green. It’s a tough finishing hole and you will feel delighted if you make a par. The 18th is the perfect end to a magnificent golf course.

MacLeod House

The Stunning MacLeod House

We were very fortunate to be invited to stay onsite at the luxurious residence that is MacLeod House. Now, we should point out that staying here is expensive and not for everyone. It probably costs about the same as playing and staying at Gleneagles or Pebble Beach, but as always you get what you pay for. On arrival, we were met by Martin who took our reservation details and showed us to our room.

Our Opulent Room

As expected, the rooms are large and traditionally furnished but with all the mod cons. The ensuite was large enough to contain both a bath and a large walk-in shower. Before Martin left us he apologised and said that there would be a noisy intrusion in about 15 minutes. Sure enough, a helicopter landed outside our room and dropped off four golfers who were staying. How the other half live eh!

Outstanding Food

As you would expect from a high-end golf resort, the food in the clubhouse is fabulous. Our visit happened to coincide with our 29th wedding anniversary. We put a dent in my wallet by having a wonderful evening meal with wine. I had the sirloin steak and Sandra had the seafood linguine.

Our Food

Both meals were excellent and yes I did have chips with my steak, they are just not in the photo! Angus who drove us down to the clubhouse had mentioned to the chef that it was our anniversary. After we finished our main course, we were treated to a complimentary dessert plate with Happy Anniversary written on it in chocolate. The perfect end to a cracking meal.

Breakfast of Champions

The next morning, after a great night’s sleep, we headed back to the clubhouse for breakfast. Now, if you follow these articles, you know that I almost always have a cooked breakfast. The one I had before our round was right up there with the best. Perfectly cooked, organic poached eggs, local sausages, it was just magic.

Unexpected Surprise

Anyone who travels around and plays golf on different courses knows that your life experiences are enhanced by the people you meet. While we were playing at Trump International, there was a group of nine Americans playing in front of us. They had travelled to Scotland and had already been in Ayrshire to play golf. We talked to them on a couple of the tees on the front nine and they were apologising for the slow play. It wasn’t their fault and play was backed up from a weather delay due to the haar earlier that morning.

We arrived at the turn and their caddy said that we were to nip into the clubhouse as they wanted to buy us a drink. It was part apology and partly because they found out it was our anniversary. So thank you to Corey, Paul and Joe for their kindness, it was much appreciated. Also thank you to Sandra for allowing me to play golf on our wedding anniversary. xx

In Our Opinion

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an avid amateur, a day at the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen promises an unforgettable experience. With its breathtaking scenery, epic dunes framing a challenging course, and world-class amenities, it’s no wonder this destination ranks among the finest golf resorts in the world. Put it on your bucket list. We guarantee you will not be disappointed.

In the article header, we posed the question, is this the best course in Scotland? We have had the privilege of playing many of the best courses and in our opinion, the course is certainly in our top three. Design-wise, it’s in our top two. However, the course’s playability, aesthetics and conditioning when we visited, it’s our number one. You may think differently and have a different opinion. That is perfectly fine, after all, it is subjective. All we ask is that you play here before you finalise any opinion you may have.

Thank You’s

Thank you to Jamie Sangster, the resort’s Marketing and Communications Manager for inviting us to stay and play at Trump International Scotland. Thanks also to Jonas Hedberg for taking the time to chat with us and to Jack in the pro shop for looking after a couple of fellow Greenockians. Hopefully, we can visit you again when the second course opens in 2025.


At a Glance
  • World-class golf resort
  • Excellent practice facilities, driving range and short game area
  • Wonderful onsite accommodation
  • Excellent clubhouse with fantastic food
  • Well Stocked Pro Shop
  • 2nd course under construction
  • 20 minutes drive north of Aberdeen
  • Around 50 other courses are within an hour’s drive
  • For more info, go to



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