History tells us in the 15th Century the Scots would neglect military training in a bid to lower their handicap. So much so, King James VII banned his people from the links, citing the sport as a potential cause of failure to hold off an English invasion.
But with Scotland boasting more courses per capita than any nation on earth, it would seem they didn’t listen. It also, of course, means there is a wonderful array of courses to choose from on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall.
When Golfmagic was offered the chance to head north and sample Fairmont St Andrews’ two tracks and Kingsbarns, we were devastated to find the dates clashed with a prior engagement.
So we sent our friend David West, who you may know as Novice2Scratch, to do our dirty work. Here’s what he had to say…
Since taking up my challenge, golfers around the country have told me I should go play in Scotland at least once. So when AP told me he had an invite to play three great courses in St Andrews but he was too busy to accept I didn’t think it would hurt to show a bit of front.
Nonchalantly, I pondered the idea. “I reckon I could probably fill in for you,” I said calmly, while screaming with excitement on the inside.
Fairmont St Andrews would provide the first 36 of my 54-hole Scottish adventure with their two on-site courses - the Torrance and the Kittocks.
The former, a Sam Torrance-design, was extensively upgraded three years ago, including an expansive practice area, and served as an Open qualifying venue last year.
I knew what to expect; unrelenting tight fairways, gorse on both sides, Himalayan greens, rain and wind. The course met expectations but the weather didn’t as sunshine and a fresh sea breeze provided perfect conditions for playing, which made my 18-over par front nine all the more disappointing.
Coming home in a far more respectable six-over allowed me to enjoy my game and the course a little more. It is a course in the best traditions of Scottish links and provides a very good challenge for all levels of golfer. You certainly don’t need to be an Open qualifier to enjoy playing here.
24 hours later, we moved onto the Kittocks and I was lucky enough to play with director of golf Jason King. We had a good chat about golf in Scotland and life in general, but spent most of the round purring about how stunning the course ahead of us was.
A personal favourite, the 15th, sees you teeing off blind over a ridge toward the cliff top before hitting an approach into a raised green that appears for all the world that anything left, right or long is heading for the North Sea.
Next on the agenda: Kingsbarns. If Fife is a galaxy of great golf courses, the Kittocks and Torrance are stars. Kingsbarns is a supernova.
It’s hard to believe that as little as 12 years ago this course only existed on Kyle Phillips’ drawing board and in the imagination of a few committed people.
Alan Purdie has been the pro at the course all that time and in the six holes I shared with him I was impressed as much with his passion for the golf course as I was with his golf, which was faultless.
My own form didn’t even matter. I’d line it up, hit it as far as I can (usually with a nice big slice), hit it a few more times, putt, enjoy the scenery and move on. If you ever get to play a course as beautiful as Kingsbarns I recommend you do the same. Don’t try and go round in 64 shots. What’s the point? Linger. Take as long as you can. It’s worth it.
Scotland has left a marked impression on me. I feel that I’ve experienced a style of golf that you just don’t see anywhere else and I learned to play some shots that will help my game.
My advice? Get among the stars. Get yourself to Scotland. Go to St Andrews. Play some of the best golf courses in the world. They’re right on your doorstep.
And they are fabulous.
Where to Stay
Between rounds, the Fairmont Hotel provided a luxurious and restful accommodation. Just a short drive from the centre of town, this award-winning resort sits high above the sea, nestled between two golf courses and with views across St Andrews providing a marvellous site each sunset.
The spa team even offer a pre-golf treatment that concentrates on stretching and relaxing the muscle groups used in the golf swing leaving you with no excuses for duffing that first tee shot. And with six dining options and a pub it would have been perfectly possible to never leave the resort – but St Andrews is around the corner and well worth a visit for its own attractions.
The Fife coast offers fabulous opportunities for sightseeing, walking and enjoying surprisingly long and attractive beaches. And then there’s the golf.
This area of the world has been blessed with so many great courses. On a clear day you can see Carnoustie across the bay, look west across the Castle Course and the town to where the famous old links lie. Swing east and you’ll discover great golf all the way around the East Neuk coastline.
Where to Play
Fairmont St Andrews
The Torrance Green Fee: £100 (visitor) or £80 (resident)
The Kittocks Green Fee: £85 (visitor) or £70 (resident)
Play both courses for £150 (visitor) £130 (resident)
Address: Fairmont St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8PN
Kingsbarns Golf Links
Green Fee: £185
Address: Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8QD
It’s Scotland, so you can drive, of course. But if several hours staring at the M74 doesn’t float your boat, you can always fly.
David flew with British Midland International. bmi offers up to seven daily direct flights between Heathrow and Edinburgh with fares from £87 return including all taxes and charges.
This includes free checked baggage to a total weight of 20kg, free allocated seating and time saving benefits such as online and mobile check in.
Visit the bmi website for more information and to book.