Golfing in Scotland: Emergency 18s


There’s an expression in golf that is sometimes used after an especially satisfying round, and then a refreshing pint at the 19th hole afterwards. The plan at that point usually calls for players to head to their various homes and families. But one of the golfers will suddenly blurt out: “Let’s play an emergency 18.” It is a call for another round, and it is one my friends and I are sometimes inclined to answer, whether it means playing another 18 holes on the course we have just completed, or heading off to a nearby track for a taste of something different. The concept of an Emergency 18 works very well in Scotland for a number of reasons. First of all, most traveling golfers are far from families and homes when they are visiting the Home of Golf, and as a result do not have anything pressing, like yard work or youth soccer games, to keep them from returning to the golf course. And secondly, there is a lot of time to fit in an extra 18 or two, for Scotland is a place of very long days and very short nights in the summer months. It is not at all unusual, then, for a player to complete three full rounds, for a total of 54 holes, in one day.  I know because I have done it several times myself. I thought of Emergency 18s as I played my way around Scotland on my latest trip. My itinerary called for two rounds on two separate courses in each of the four primary golf regions. But I could not help but think of all the other golfing options in those locales. Following are a few suggestions for other layouts in those spots:

St. Andrews

If you were looking for an emergency 18 on the Links here, I’d opt for either the New or Jubilee courses. Only in historic St. Andrews could a course built in 1895 be called “New.” And if the Old Tom Morris-designed track was located anywhere else but next door to the Old, it would receive much more acclaim. My advice is to play that marvelous links, if at all possible. Another good choice is the Jubilee Course, opened in 1897 and named in honor of Queen Victoria, who celebrated her Jubilee that year.

The North

I am often inclined to play a second round at Royal Dornoch if an Emergency 18 is called in that part of the country, simply because I think it is one of the best courses in the world. But if I had to select an alternative in that area, I’d go with Nairn. Laid out on the Moray Firth, it is a flattish links that is all about the bunkering. It has an impressive architectural pedigree, with Old Tom Morris and five-time Open Champion James Braid tweaking it at different times over the years. And it has hosted its share of important tournaments. Colin Montgomerie won the 1994 British Amateur at Nairn, for example, and it also hosted the Walker Cup in 1999, and the Curtis Cup this past summer.

The West

The obvious Emergency course here is Royal Troon, which can be seen from Prestwick and is part of the Rota, having hosted eight Opens and been recently tapped to be the venue for the 2016 championship. It is truly a classic links, as is nearby Western Gailes, another fabulous layout that serves as a qualifying course whenever the Open Championship is played at Turnberry or Troon.

East Lothian

You cannot go wrong here with either Dunbar or North Berwick, both of which are qualifiers for the Open whenever it comes to Muirfield (as it will in 2013).  I enjoy the history of the links at Dunbar, which was first laid out in 1856. But North Berwick, which began as a club in 1832, has two of my favorite holes in the world on its West Links, the short par-four 13th dubbed the Pit, which features a sunken green behind a stone wall, and the par-three 15th, called Redan, with a design so excellent that it has been copied by golf course designers throughout the golf world.

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