St Andrews: golf guide

The Old Course may be the holy grail but St Andrews is a rich pocket for golf

Andy Roberts's picture
Tue, 8 Sep 2015
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The Old Course may be the holy grail for golfers, but St Andrews boasts plenty of other esteemed tracks to underpin its reputation as the "Home of Golf".

As the bedrock of the game, the historic Old Course, with a roll call of Open Championship winners that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sir Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros, is in huge demand.

Prospective players must enter a ballot at least two days in advance, where the chances of success typically range from one-in-two to one-in-four.

But whether you are lucky or not, St Andrews and the surrounding area is one of the richest pockets of golf anywhere in the world. We highlight 14 of the finest tracks to sample on a trip to the Auld Grey Toon.

Crown jewels

Old Course

Steeped in history as the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world, the record-hosting Open Championship venue is like no other.

"I fell in love with it the first day I played it," said record 18-time major champion Nicklaus, who lifted two of his three Claret Jugs at the Old Course.

"There's just no other golf course that is even remotely close."

Although established in 1552, the Old Course is considered by many to be the "Home of Golf" because the sport was first played there in the 1400s.

A unique feature of the Old Course is the seven double greens, with hole numbers always adding up to 18 (eg 2nd and 16th, 3rd and 15th).  

You will also need to plot your way around myriad bunkers and several giant traps, such as the infamous Road Hole bunker to the left of the 17th green. 

If you can find some luck through the ballot, one of the greatest moments of your golfing career awaits, from the time you are announced on the first tee to the moment you pose for photos on the famous Swilcan Bridge. 

Length: 6,721 yards Par: 72 Price: £80 (low season), £170 (high season)

Carnoustie

The Championship Course at Carnoustie is widely recognised as one of the world's toughest courses. Much has to do with the snaking Barry Burn that golfers must navigate five times on the closing two holes.

Watch: Jean Van de Velde's Open collapse in 1999

Carnoustie might be a 45-minute drive from St Andrews, but nine-time major champion Ben Hogan, who lifted the Claret Jug there in 1953, believes it is worth it: "Nobody's experience can be complete without playing Carnoustie."

Fashioned by Old Tom Morris in 1857 and extended by James Braid in 1926, Carnoustie will host its eighth Open Championship in 2018 and continues to stage the three-course Dunhill Links every October. 

Carnoustie might not be the most scenic layout - rarely will you catch panoramic glimpses of the sea - but it is a long, testing track with fearsome bunkers, well-plotted burns and several clumps of knee-high rough. 

What the tour professionals admire about Carnoustie, however, is that it remains honest. "The golf course is hard, but it’s fair," said Tiger Woods. "I think it is a fantastic test."

Those who have left cursing it "Carnasty" may care to disagree. 

Length: 6,948 yards Par: 72 Price: £80 (low season), £160 (high season)

Kingsbarns

Seven miles south of St Andrews lies Kingsbarns, a man-made links course designed in 2000 by Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinnen. 

Although a relatively new addition to the St Andrews portfolio, the golf origins of Kingsbarns date back more than 200 years when it was home to a nine-hole course and golf club.

Blending together all the advantages of a modern course with the traditional features of old links, it is easy to see why some fans are calling for Kingsbarns to be added to the Open Championship rota in the future. 

It will get its first major chance to shine, however, at the Women's British Open in 2017.

Length: 6,804 yards Par: 72 Price: £226 

Castle Course

Opened in 2008, the Castle Course represents the seventh and most recent addition to the St Andrews Links collection.

Combining breathtaking beauty with memorable golf, the course is set on a dramatic cliff-top location with stunning views over St Andrews Bay and the North Sea. 

Designed by leading Scottish course architect David McLay Kidd, the Castle Course sits on 220 acres of land, has more than one mile of waterfront and embraces the rugged Scottish shoreline to provide a unique, yet challenging experience. 

The signature short 17th is somewhat of a hidden gem with an all-or-nothing long iron played over a beautiful ravine on the edge of the cliffs and into a prevailing wind.

Castle Course: Full review

Length: 6,759 yards Par: 71 Price: £60 (low season), £120 (high season)


Best of the Rest

Torrance Course

The Torrance Course is one of two courses that make up the Fairmont St Andrews resort - roughly several Rory McIlroy drives away from the Old Course. 

Originally designed by winning European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, the course has recently been re-designed with eight new holes and now includes classic Scottish revetted bunkers throughout.

This championship course, used for Open Championship qualification, is a great test of golf and has stunning views across the bay to St Andrews and Carnoustie. It has also hosted the Scottish Senior Open Championship.

Length: 6,642 yards Par: 72 Price: £40 (low season), £80 (high season)

Kittocks Course

Opened in 2002, the Kittocks Course (formerly called the Devlin Course) at Fairmont St Andrews is another new track to the St Andrews golf portfolio.

Set on elevated ground next to the cliff tops, this amazing location gives spectacular views of the town of St Andrews from the eastern side.

The Kittocks Course has been constructed in an American style with man-made lakes, but the layout still honours the traditions of St Andrews with two double greens and numerous pot bunkers.

Length: 6,752 yards Par: 71 Price: £40 (low season), £80 (high season) 

Jubilee Course

The Jubilee Course is considered by many to be the most challenging course on the famous St Andrews Links.

Built in 1897, it was originally intended for use by ladies and beginners, but because of its prime location between the New Course and the sea, it was converted to a championship layout in 1988.

The raised tees provide great views but also expose golfers to prevalent winds, which sweep in from the bay. 

Length: 6,742 yards Par: 72 Price: £37 (low season), £75 (high season)

New Course

Designed by Old Tom Morris and opened in 1895, this St Andrews Links track is the oldest "new" course in the world.

Boasting undulating fairways and challenging, deep, contoured greens, the New Course represents a classic test of links golf.

The course is characterised by well-designed greenside and fairway bunkers, as well as tough homeward holes. 

Length: 6,625 yards Par: 71 Price: £37 (low season), £75 (high season)

Eden Course

The Eden Course represents a more forgiving option at St Andrews Links, but by no means is it a walk in the park. 

Built in 1914 and originally designed by Harry Colt before being altered slightly by Donald Steele in the late 1980s, the course features severe bunkers throughout and numerous tricky par fours that require accuracy rather than distance off the tee.

The par-three holes also rank as some of the best that St Andrews has to offer, and although they are not particularly long, they can wreck scorecards on any given day. 

Length: 6,250 yards Par: 70 Price: £22 (low season), £45 (high season)

Strathtyrum Course

Designed to complement the tougher championship layouts at the Home of Golf, the shorter and easier Strathtyrum Course was opened in 1993.

There may only be 15 bunkers dotted around this track but they are cunningly placed, meaning there is a premium on accurate driving and iron play.

The greens themselves are large and have slopes and borrows which can test even the most confident putters.

Length: 5,620 yards Par: 69 Price: £15 (low season), £30 (high season)

Balgove Course

The Balgove Course is the only nine-hole course at the Home of Golf and primarily caters for families, children and beginners.

Featuring bunkers and a double green, this course is the perfect practice ground for links golf and consolidates St Andrews’s reputation as a destination that caters for all ages and abilities.

A great track to hone that short game or simply get the little ones into the sport. 

Length: 1,520 yards Par: 30 Price: £8 (low season), £15 (high season)

Duke's Course

Originally designed by five-time Open champion Peter Thomson in 1995 and redeveloped by Tim Liddy in 2006, the Duke's Course represents a classic Scottish heathland test.

Overlooking the town and bay of St Andrews and run by the historic Old Course Hotel, the course offers spectacular views of the historic town and Fife coastline.

Demanding accuracy, creativity and distance off the tee, the Duke's Course was a perfect fit for hosting the 2014 International European Amateur Championship - one of the four majors in the world of amateur golf.

Length: 6,550 yards Par: 71 Price: £50 (low season), £95 (high season)

Scotscraig Golf Club 

Scotscraig is an Open Final Qualifying course that is conveniently located 15 minutes from the town of St Andrews.

It was founded in 1817 by some members of the St Andrews Society of Golfers (later to become the R&A) who wished to play more golf than the Society's occasional meetings afforded them. 

Scotscraig has largely remained unchanged and presents a fair but serious challenge to all golfers.

Length: 6,669 yards Par: 71 Price: £85

Crail Golfing Society 

The Crail Golfing Society was formed in 1786 and is the seventh oldest golf club in the world.

Consisting of two courses, the Balcomie (1895, Tom Morris) and the Craighead (1998, Gil Hanse). Crail is situated only nine miles from St Andrews.

The Balcomie Course is set on a magnificent coastline and is highly regarded for its testing holes, standard of greens and breathtaking scenery, while the newer and longer Craighead Course represents a worthy alternative to its historic neighbour.

Craighead: Full review

Balcomie - Length: 5,861 yards Par: 69 Price: £35 (low), £65 (high)
Craighead -  Length:
6,651 yards Par: 72 Price: £35 (low), £65 (high)

Lundin Links

Lundin Links Golf Club was founded in 1868 and designed by Tom Morris, before being extensively re-designed by five-time Open champion James Braid in 1909.

Fine links fairways and excellent greens have ensured this track has regularly been selected as a final qualifying golf course for the Open Championship.

Narrow fairways, bunkers, burns, and ever-changing winds guarantee a testing but rewarding golfing experience.

Length: 6,371 yards Par: 71 Price: £60 (weekday), £70 (weekend)

Leven Links 

Whilst golf has been played at Leven since 1820, the game dates back to 1846 on parts of these links with the current configuration coming into being in 1909.

The strength of the course lies in its undulating fairways, revetted bunkers and large true running greens that provide a stern test for even the most accomplished putter. 

Adding all that to its fine bents and fescues, humps, bumps, hollows and wispy rough, Leven represents the very definition of a true links. 

Length: 6,506 yards Par: 72 Price: £55 (weekday), £60 (weekend)

Elie

Just over 10 miles south of St Andrews, Elie dates back to 1589, featuring panoramic views over the Firth of Forth and a finish akin to the Old Course as the closing two holes take you back into the middle of the town.

Five-time Open champion James Braid described the 13th hole at Elie as "the best hole in golf". Another five-time Open champion Peter Thomson labels it as "quirky" and the "most enjoyable course I know".

Elie has previously hosted the British Seniors Championship, the Scottish Professionals Championship, the Scottish Ladies Championship and qualifying rounds for the Open Championship.

Elie: Full review

Length: 6,273 yards Par: 70 Price: £77 (weekday), £88 (weekend)

Ladybank

Ladybank Golf Club is one of the premier courses in the Kingdom of Fife, having hosted Open Championship final qualifying on seven occasions since 1978.

The course blends parkland and heathland and features carpet-like fairways that are often lined by pine trees. 

Located just 10 miles west of St Andrews, Ladybank represents the perfect course to play on either your way in or out of the Auld Grey Toon.

Length: 6,580 yards Par: 71 Price: £25 (low season), from £50 (high season)

Have you ever played golf at St Andrews? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the forum, on Twitter, on Facebook or visit us on YouTube.

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