108 Scottish holes, not a bad one among them


The 340 yard 7th at Crail Balcomie Links plays even shorter than that downhill and downwind, but the blind tee shot, out of bounds on the right and rough on the left makes the conservative play the best option.   


    We are on the train from Edinburgh to London after a week of golf in the Kingdom of Fife.  We bracketed our week with rounds at the Crail Golfing Society's Balcomie Links; otherwise, we played a different course every day.
    My son Tim and I are comparing notes and can't recall even a mediocre hole we played.  I suppose a couple of short par 3s came closest, those that lacked bunkering or any other visible hazards from the tees, but invariably when we arrived at the green on those, the contours in front and on the surface seemed hazards in their own right.
    We agree that the Old Course at St. Andrews was the best for all the clichéd reasons related to history and classic course design - some might say "ancient" course design.  I wrote about our round at the Old Course a few days ago and won't belabor again the emotional delight of the experience.  Suffice to say it lived up to all expectations.
    Sometimes, though, the most memorable courses are those for which you have no expectations whatsoever.  Count Scotscraig Golf Club, 20 minutes north of St. Andrews, in that category.  Our hosts for the week, Georgescotscraig16thgreenbunker.jpg and Dorothy Horsfield of Crail (and Glasgow) invited us for a round at Scotscraig Tuesday after George learned there were no tee times at the fabled Kingsbarns.  Any disappointment was more than assuaged by our round at Scotscraig, the only inland, non-links course we played during the week.  Somewhere between a heathland and parkland layout, Scotscraig's charms were fully on view from the tee boxes and fairways; no hidden bunkers here, although plenty of nasty ones.  In a few days, Tim will contribute more elaborated thoughts about Scotscraig in this space.
    I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite from among the rest.   After the Old Course Saturday, I may have lowered my expectations a bit, but Lundin Links on Sunday was no major comedown, perched as it is above the Firth of Forth, with plenty of sea views and excellent links turf.  If anything, the greens could have been faster.  All the courses on the Fife coast are short, at under 6,200 yards, and with a little discipline, you should score low when friction, especially on the greens, works some magic on the ball.
    Elie Links, our Monday choice, provided dramatic views from a little bit inland of the sea cliffs.  Elie Links appears to have been shaped by some significant volcanic activity.  The 10th green, for example, is framed by a severely vertical rock mountain, and a sheer rock cliff behind the 13th green dominates many of the views on the course.  Views aside, I found Elie to be one of the sterner tests of the week and, as well, the toughest walk for this sexagenarian.
    Balcomie Links featured the best combination of views and stellar golf holes of our entire week, better even than the Old Course (because of the more dramatic views at Crail).  From the first hole to the last, the sea is always in view at Balcomie.  The first day we played the course, the renowned Scottish wind was rather tame, but on the sunny day that wound up our week of golf, the strong breezes caused a typical two- or three-club change on most shots.  Many of Balcomie's greens are pitched forward, elevated enough to require shots that must negotiate the false fronts and still stop within, say, 20 feet of the hole, by no means a given on such firm greens.  Again, Tim the golf architecture maven will hold forth in the coming days with more detail here about Balcomie Links.
    More later.


The views at Elie Links feature not only water, but also some impressive hard rock formations -- like this one behind the 10th green -- the most dramatic backdrops of the week (except for the city of St. Andrews at the Old Course). 

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