St Andrews – Castle Course
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The Kingdom of Fife is a very surprising golfing destination. Most think of The Old Course immediately and rightfully so, yet the county is rich with golf even if The Old Course didn’t exist. The St Andrews Links Trust operates some of the finest golfing gems in Scotland and they include The Old, The New and the most recent addition to the line up; The Castle Course. Opened for play in 2008, the Castle overlooks St Andrews from a cliff-top position southeast of the city. Designed by David McLay Kidd, whose firm is responsible for Queenwood (near London) and Machrihanish Dunes (next door to Machrihanish), The Castle Course was meant to be on par with nearby Kingsbarns. To date, the course hasn’t quite lived up to the reputation Kingsbarns maintains, but the Links Trust continues to tinker with the design in the hope that someday its potential will be fully realized.
The course features two loops of nine holes playing back to a modern house with stunning views of the sea. Often times links can feel quite confined, while more fairly described as a seaside course, The Castle is spacious. The fairways are wide with a well balanced mix of bunkers, swales and mounds to create interest. The greens are large and have a reputation for being severely contoured; many are quite rambunctious to say the least! Indeed, some golfers and locals believe the greens need to be toned down for tourists to fully enjoy themselves. I can’t disagree, but I would hasten to add that it is better to err on the side being bold rather than dull.
Holes to Note:
A shortish par 4, the second swings right and plays generally downwind to a plateau green (one of many).
The long snaking three-shot 5th with a burn just shy of a green so large many would envy it for a garden.
The stunning 9th whose green is shared with the 18th can be driven, but there are serious risks with bunkering covering the right side of the fairway and the Firth of Tay the left.
#10 is a cracking par 3 to a rolling green.
Turning left and reaching for the sky-line green, the 12th is quite demanding.
Yet another short par 4, the 14th begs the golfer to take on more rough than he can handle in trying to drive the tumultuous green.
While it will always be difficult to suggest forgoing an extra game on The Old, The Castle can provide a load of fun. Here is hoping the glitches of overly-rolling greens and wet turf can be sorted sooner than later.
Carnoustie Burnside Course: A Classic James Braid design which is easy on the legs.
Carnoustie Championship Course: A must play links.
Kingsbarns Golf Links: One of the classy newcomers to the Scottish golfing scene.
St Andrews New Course: An Old Tom Morris delight.
St Andrews Old: The mother of all architecture.
I have not yet had the pleasure, but trusted sources claim Golf House Club Elie, distinguished by its sixteen par 4s, is very much worth a visit.