Rather than debuting in unfamiliar territory, the best new courses in the British Isles this year are located mostly in established golf meccas. In Scotland there's the Carrick course, the eagerly awaited new neighbor of the exclusive Loch Lomond Golf Club. Down the Ayrshire coast near Troon and Turnberry, Dundonald Golf Links, a Kyle (Kingsbarns) Phillips design, will open to the public for the first time. In the Highlands, Dave Thomas's Spey Valley course doubles the pleasure of a pilgrimage to James Braid's Boat of Garten. Likewise, Moyvalley, designed by Darren Clarke, joins a trio of Irish aristocrats—the K Club, Carton House and PGA National—in suburban County Kildare, west of Dublin.
A vintage crop perhaps, but next year's looks to be even better, beginning with the historic opening of the Castle course at St. Andrews, designed by David McLay Kidd (who is also creating a new links at Machrihanish).
The Carrick on Loch Lomond Dunbartonshire
It's taken six years for the De Vere Group, which owns the neighboring Cameron House Hotel, to deliver this $98 million development that includes upscale lodges, apartments and a spa. At the heart of it lies Canadian architect Doug Carrick's impressive new lakeside and heathland layout. The Carrick course doesn't quite match the scenery of nearby Loch Lomond Golf Club, but it's a shotmaker's test and a beauty in its own right. The tee on the downhill par-three fourteenth overlooks Loch Lomond National Park and demands a hybrid or long-iron shot to a tiny green that sits sixty feet below.
Greens Fee: $250. Tee Times: Call 011-44/1389-755-565 or visit www.thecarrick.com.
Dundonald Links Irvine, Ayrshire
For the past few years, Loch Lomond Golf Club has quietly accommodated inquiries from nonmembers at this challenging sister course an hour from the club's Tom Weiskopf jewel. But beginning this year, unaccompanied guests will officially be welcome. What they will find is a maturing grand-scale links, championship in caliber though lacking the history and scenery of nearby Troon and Turnberry. Dundonald is nearly unrecognizable from its early days, when the developers cut costs and almost prevented Kyle Phillips's vision from being fully realized. Were it not for its esteemed neighbors, this would be a links shouting for a place on the Open rota.
Greens Fees: $185-$245. Tee Times: Call 011-44/1294-314-000 or visit www.dundonaldlinks.com.
Spey Valley Golf Course Aviemore, Inverness-shire
There's a traditional image of golf in this country, a certain aesthetic that prompts aficionados to say, "Ah, Scotland." Spey Valley, however, is another story. At first glance, you'll think you're in the Canadian Rockies rather than the Scottish Highlands. And in this majestic setting surrounded by the snow-capped Cairngorms, Dave Thomas has opted for a distinctly American design. Absent is the vintage charm of nearby Boat of Garten; in its place lies an homage to the modern game. The wide-open, perfectly manicured fairways yield on either side to swaying fescue and purple heather. The greens, wherever possible, reach almost into the forest, and the vistas draw the eye toward the mountains.
Greens Fee: $135. Tee Times: Call 011-44/1479-815-100 or visit www.speyvalleygolf.com.