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Whisky and Golf: Two inseparable Scottish icons

PGA Tour website article The following article was originally written for PGATour.com by David Brice, President of Golf International. The articles represent trips available to Golf International customers.

On a global scale, Scotland is a very small country, but that has never stopped the Scots from making their presence known through their innate creativity and inventiveness. Precious things come in small packages and for its tiny population of only some 5 million, Scotland has given more to the world than most countries ten times the size. From penicillin to the telephone, television and refrigerators, to the steam engine, pneumatic tires, Peter Pan and Sherlock Holmes, paved roads, raincoats, logarithms and marmalade, Scottish creativity and innovation knows no boundaries.

Think Scotland and for most, golf also springs to mind as another creation from the country that gave birth to the Royal & Ancient game more than six centuries ago. Whisky will probably also be high on most people’s list of Scottish icons and for golfers, there is good reason — according to the Scotch Whisky Association, golfers represent one of their most important market segments.

It may have been Irish monks who introduced “the water of life” to the heathen Scots back in the 7th century when it was used to some advantage in saving their souls, but it was Scotland that made whisky famous. Today there are more than 100 whisky distilleries scattered across the country and some of the best are located close to Scotland’s most outstanding courses.

They may not all be the most recognizable names in golf, and including a few of them on your trip may take you a little off the well beaten path followed by most visiting golfers, but without exception, they are courses well worth searching out. You’ll be off on a journey of discovery that will be more than rewarding, seeing a side of the real Scotland, missed by so many. All it takes is a little know-how and some careful planning through a golf travel company that knows its business, such as Golf International.

Play Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course, Scotland
Machrihanish Dunes

The links courses of southwest Scotland are not blessed with an abundance of distilleries close by, but there is a choice of a couple of side excursions from Glasgow that any golfing whisky lover will find irresistible. It’s only a 30-minute flight from Glasgow Airport to Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre and one of Scotland’s most highly regarded links layouts at the Machrihanish Golf Club, now with a new neighbor, the stunning, Machrihanish Dunes, an amazing but pure links gem from the drawing board of David McLay Kidd of Bandon Dunes fame. The Springbank Whisky Distillery is also located here, producing one of the most refined of single malts.

Alternatively, the flight from Glasgow to the tiny island of Islay (pronounced Eye-lah) takes only 5 minutes longer and literally within minutes of arrival, you can be on the magnificent links of Machrie, just be prepared for as tough a test of links golf as exists and then there is the whisky. There are seven distilleries on the island including Lagavulin, Bowmore, Laphroiag, Ardbeg and Bruichladdich. Either Campbeltown or Islay can be taken in a daylong air excursion from Glasgow, but better to take an overnight trip to gain the full experience.

If you are fortunate enough to be playing Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane, Craigielaw or some of the other wonderful links courses squeezed into golf-rich East Lothian, then Glenkinchie Distillery should be a must on your itinerary. The beauty of this tiny county, located only a short half hour away from Edinburgh’s city center, is that everything is so close and no matter where you stay, Glenkinchie will be within a 15-minute drive of your hotel. Take the opportunity to pop into Edinburgh and visit the Scotch Whisky Heritage Center located next to Edinburgh Castle.

There are excellent links courses in the area surrounding the city of Aberdeen, with Royal Aberdeen, Murcar, Trump International and Cruden Bay heading the list. Not too far away are a number of whisky distilleries of note, including Glendronoch and Royal Lochnagar and from here the whisky Mecca of Speyside is only a little further.

Speyside, the region bordering the River Spey, is the easternmost reach of the Scottish Highlands, it’s also the heart and soul of Scotch whisky and home to the most prestigious names of the industry. The Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Knockando and Glen Moray are just a sampling of the more than 40 distilleries to be found in this small region — it’s a whisky aficionado’s paradise and golf is never far away.

Moray Golf Club is an excellent place to start, boasting two excellent links courses and one of the most welcoming clubhouses you will ever find, complete with an impressive array of Speyside whiskies by way of an introduction to the region. The Old Course dates from 1889, an authentic Old Tom Morris design, while the New Course was upgraded by Sir Henry Cotton in 1979 presents a totally different kind of links challenge. Located in the coastal town of Lossiemouth, gateway to the Speyside distilleries, other nearby courses include an Alistair Mackenzie parkland course, Duff House Royal, the much lauded inland layout at Elgin and James Braid’s heathland design at Boat of Garten. All are convenient to Speyside and its wealth of whisky producers.

Glenmorangie Distillery
Glenmorangie Distillery

Further west and north in the Highlands, Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn are probably the three links layouts best known to visitors and both have distilleries close by. Clynelish Distillery is in the small town of Brora, just north of Dornoch, which also has an Old Tom Morris links course that calls out to be played. Even closer to the south of Dornoch is the picturesque, Balblair distillery. Glenmorangie and Dalmore are two more of the better-known distilleries in the immediate area.

Whisky and golf make an interesting mix for sure and if you combine any of these regions with St. Andrews you’ll have the makings of a rather special Scottish golf trip. For more ideas on how to include a few whisky distilleries on your Scottish golf trip, contact the Scottish golf and whisky experts at Golf International.

©2015 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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