East Lothian vs Ayrshire - What Really is Scotland's Golf Coast
Rich with history and deep with quality, Scotland is renowned worldwide as being the Home of Golf, a globally recognised status that brings with it thousands of international tourists yearly and the prestige of hosting many of the biggest championships in the game.
Like any good home, there are several comfortable and welcoming rooms to choose from, which accurately reflects the widespread diversity of courses found in each corner of the nation. So, you really can't go wrong with any particular region, albeit you could make an impassioned debate for which of them offers the very best of Scottish golf.
In Fife, beyond the legendary landscape of St Andrews Links, you have the likes of Crail, Elie, Lundin Links, and the modern classics of Kingsbarns and Dumbarnie Links. Perhaps it's the Fife-resident bias that clouds my vision, but I perceive the East Neuk as being the perfect encapsulation of the special formula that makes golf in Scotland so internationally intoxicating.
However, beyond that, the county of Angus can boast destinations like Carnoustie, Panmure, Monifieth and Montrose, while visitors to Aberdeenshire are rightly charmed by Cruden Bay, Murcar Links, Royal Aberdeen and Fraserburgh.
And then you have the scenic majesty of Perthshire and the rugged beauty of the many layouts dotted throughout Argyll and the islands that eagerly await the most intrepid of travelers.
That said, for a 'signature' location that stands above the rest, East Lothian and Ayrshire may have the ultimate claim to fame, with the former being marketed widely as Scotland's Golf Coast.
Considering there are 21 courses seemingly flowing simultaneously along the coastline within reach of Edinburgh, the capital city, many naturally consider East Lothian to be the undisputed golf coast of Scotland. But is it, really?
Again, cynics may question whether it's my west coast origins shining through, but I believe that Ayrshire holds a stake to be declared Scotland's Golf Coast.
The identity of Scotland is often perceived to be the tale of two contrasting cities - Glasgow and Edinburgh - but its golfing profile may also be the story of two coastlines, Ayrshire and East Lothian.
It's only right that we start with the 'official' Scotland's Golf Coast - East Lothian. Should you be searching for championship pedigree, then you only have to stop by the simply brilliant Muirfield - arguably the finest on The Open Rota. Elsewhere, the three courses at Gullane (a wonderful place) have something for everyone, while the West Links at North Berwick is one of the most enchanting and influential natural creations in the game.
Maybe history is your thing - so playing the unique nine-holes of Musselburgh Links is essential. The game as we know it today was forged along the eastern coastline of Scotland, so that heritage must be recognised as a major factor to consider.
Beyond those headliners, the supporting acts are what makes East Lothian hard to beat. Here you can experience designs such as Dunbar, Longniddry, Craigielaw, Kilspindie, Luffness New, Archerfield, The Glen, and Winterfield, all of which hold significant appeal to golfers near and afar.
The sheer density of the courses in East Lothian makes it suitable for comfortable exploration, suggesting that its position as Scotland's Golf Coast is hard to deny - but we'll still try anyway.
If Edinburgh is the gateway to East Lothian, then Glasgow is the driveway to Ayrshire, which boasts a thrilling golf coastline of its own.
Should you love The Open and walking in the footsteps of legends, then you have Royal Troon (next hosting in 2024), while the storied links of Prestwick was the original home of the game's oldest championship. The Ailsa Course at Turnberry is also fondly recalled for delivering many a famous moment, with its revamped design even better than the one conquered by Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Nick Price and Stewart Cink.
Like East Lothian, Ayrshire also showcases a spectacular array of courses beyond the most revered, most of which are concentrated around the towns of Irvine, Troon and Prestwick.
What about Irvine Bogside, Gailes Links, or Kilmarnock (Barassie), which Golfshake Ambassador Matt Holbrook described as being "a great place to play golf. It provides a warm welcome, history, and a challenging course in great condition that will only get better as the years progress."
Dundonald Links has become a contemporary masterpiece on its own terms, both as a golf course and hub from which to base yourself, while Western Gailes could objectively be the most underrated great layout in Scotland.
When you consider the merits of Ayrshire, how can you definitively say that it's NOT Scotland's Golf Coast? Ultimately, both places are extraordinarily good and offer something to please all tastes, which is great news for residents and visitors to our nation.
Should you be judging them fairly, then East Lothian is Scotland's Golf Coast (A+) and Ayrshire is Scotland's Golf Coast (A-), or could it actually be the other way around? Let's call it an effective tie - with a favourite changing by the day or hour. We'll let you decide.
Like Glasgow and Edinburgh are to the social and cultural footprint of the country, both coastlines are integral to the reputation of Scottish golf.
There are really two Scotland's Golf Coasts - and that's a fact we should all celebrate.
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