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The Golf House Club Elie

Would you call a golf course that has a genuine submarine periscope sticking up 30 feet above the starter's hut a bit quirky? What about a course that has no par 5s and only two par 3s? How about one with a whole bunch of blind tee shots? And what about a golf course whose official name is The Golf House Club?

Starter's hut with a genuine submarine periscope so the starter can see if the fairway over the hill is clear.

Elie golf course periscope overlooking 1st fairway Elie viewed from periscope
Mary-Alice looks through periscope 1st fairway viewed from periscope

Welcome to the seaside links in Elie. Elie may just be the most unique golf club you've ever visited. A bit of history may help explain why.

Elie #9, Fife, Scotland
Over hills and dales and bumps and lumps--a golfin' we will go. This is one interesting and fun golf course. Be sure you give it a play.

Quite likely people have been knocking little balls around the hills and dales of Elie for more than half a millennium. Yes, you read that correctly--half a millennium! Columbus was still getting up the nerve to ask Ferdinand and Isabella for a loan when golf (in some form) was already being played here. How do we know this? Because an act of Parliament in 1471 prohibited the playing of golf. It was feared it was distracting English soldiers from practicing their archery (and the longbow was the 15th century equivalent of a fighter jet in its capacity to induce terror in an enemy). About 100 years after that, though, the King of Scotland granted a charter to the citizens giving them the right to play golf on this land. In the late 18th century an actual course was laid out. However, a wealthy landowner whose land bordered the golf course laid claim to some land on the golf course and plowed up a field right in the middle of one of the fairways (perhaps the first example of someone knocking one "right down the center"). It took 20 years for the legalities to be worked out, the court ordering that the disputed area be as wide as the best player could hit a ball. Talk about 1st tee jitters! Unfortunately, the best player must have hit a stinker, because the land was not really wide enough to make a satisfactory joining of the two ends of the course. The version I like is that the chosen one, nervous about being picked, had a few too many whiskeys to settle himself down.(I guess the Mulligan--best friend of the weekend golfer--hadn't been invented yet.)

Anyway, there's much more to the story with the formation of golf clubs and the disbanding of golf clubs, the leasing of land from neighbors, more court cases, the moving of holes and redesigning of the course. Finally, in about 1896, the course as it stands today took shape. But the course is designed more by nature than by nurture--more as if it evolved than was premeditated. Mother Nature gets most of the credit for this layout.
The Elie golf course

You'll start out your round with an "all clear" from the starter, who will have checked his periscope to see if the fairway is clear (or to see if any destroyers are lurking in the area). The tee shot is uphill and you'll be hitting blind, unless, of course, you have your own periscope. Just keep your drive straight and long and you won't have too much trouble. Not very imaginative advice, is it? Yet it's true--especially on this golf course. And be sure you get over the hill. If you do you'll get a substantial roll, especially if the ground is hard. If you don't, you won't be able to see the green on the other side of the hill on your approach shot.

The 2nd is a bit of a teaser. At only 287 yard and a par 4 how tough could it be? How about the 3rd most difficult on the course? The reason is that the fairway, like the 1st, has more humps and bumps and mounds and undulations than a Sharpei puppy's face, and the 287 yards is up the same hill your ball just rolled down after your first drive. That's really typical of the entire course. It's filled with rolling terrain.

Elie #2 green
The approach to the 2nd green. Typical of the bunkers on this golf course, these bunkers mean business.

The 3rd is worth a mention. Ken Nagel called it one of the best in the country. It's 225 yards but sharply downhill. This makes club selection critical. When the wind is blowing you'll be hard-pressed to choose the right club. Plus, the green is severely sloped from right to left. Any shot left high is an automatic 3 putt because there's no way to stop the ball from rolling past the hole. I can't understand why it's rated only 17th most difficult, but that seems to be the fate of par 3s. They are never rated highly . Like Rodney Dangerfield, par 3s"...don't get no respect."

The view from this tee will show you a good part of the golf course.

Elie #3
Looking down from the 3rd tee. Notice the terraced green.

Number 4 has a green that is not to be believed and number 5 has a deep dip in front of the green and a fairway that ripples like a giant potato chip (that's 'potato crisp' in the UK, remember). At only 367 yards it needs these obstacles to guard against the big hitters. You can be long on this course and tame it, but you'd better be accurate or it will tame you. Number 6 uses strategically placed bunkers in the fairway for the same reason.

The most difficult hole on the course is number 8, a 381 yard par 4 with strategically placed bunkers and a road running diagonally across the fairway. The joggers and dog walkers have the right of way, so be sure to be courteous. You'll get a break on #9 as long as you drive over the hill. If you don't, you won't get to see the green and your approach shot will be blind to a green far below.

Elie sixth green Other photos of the golf course Elie #12

For raw physical beauty and sheer fun, holes 10 thru 13 are among the finest 4 holes in a row I've ever played. Number 10 is a severe uphill tee shot that brings you to the jagged coastline. At 285 yards a big hitter can drive the green if the wind helps get him well over the hill, but the shot is blind so there's no percentage in going for it. Just aim at the aiming pole and be sure to get over the top. Number 11, perched high above the Firth of Forth on your left is flat out gorgeous but don't let its beauty beguile you. The crosswind blowing left to right can be wicked. If you are a slicer you will be aiming your tee shot well out to sea because the wind will be blowing it back. The 12th offers the classic risk/reward choice of a slight dogleg left with water if your tee shot is errant. And at 468 yards, you'll be tempted to cut off as much as you can on this par 4. Be careful, it definitely deserves its rating as the second hardest hole on the course.

Number 13 rounds out this quartet of exemplary golf holes. James Braid, winner of 5 Open Championship tournaments called it "the finest hole in all the country." I think if he came back today and saw it he might still feel the same about it. The deep creases of ridges and valleys directly in front of and running diagonal to the green make for the most difficult approach shot on the course--and possibly in the entire area. It's a heck of a hole and one of my favorites in all of Scotland.

Elie golf course bell to alert golfers Elie is full
Sign on Elie golf course
The 9th is a blind tee shot & the green is reachable, so you must ring the bell to let those behind you know when you're off the green. They must have known I was coming!

Elie may seem short at 6251 yards, but remember, it's only a par 70 (and there are no par 5s). That makes the average fairway shot distance 184 yards. That's just about the same as St/ Andrews and Carnoustie. (For an explanation of average fairway shot distance, see AFSD ). And don't forget the wind. It's almost always blowing off the Firth of Forth and it makes a tremendous difference. A 25 mph wind is nothing exceptional on this golfcourse.

Elie golf course is like entering a time machine

Golf House Elie is a very worthwhile golf course. Nothing fancy about Elie. It's almost like entering a time machine and being taken back a century to raw, natural, Scottish links golf. Treat yourself to a round on this unusual, exciting, and fun golf course. You'll have a great time.

There is a strict dress code on the course and in the clubhouse. If you are going to wear shorts, you must wear knee length sox.

Elie is walking only. No buggies (electric golf carts) available but you can rent a trolley (pull cart) for a few pounds. You can also rent clubs. It's not a sure play during the summer. There is daily balloting during July and August and the course is closed to visitors on Sundays, so be sure you make plans.

Watch your pace of play. Scottish golf almost never takes over 4 hours and usually about 3 1/2. Be ready to hit when it's your turn.

Golf Nook Scotland rating - BIRDIE


Mary-Alice suggests....

What to do all day in Elie

Elie is a perfect little town to walk around in and savour all the local scenes. Leave the car in the golf course carpark, walk down the driveway and turn left onto the High Street. As you pass lovely gardens and quaint old stone homes, you'll soon come to the combination Post Office/Police Station on your right--something you don't see everyday! (First photo below.) The town has some nice little eateries and coffee shops, and interesting other smalll shops that reflect the feeling of an earlier era.


Where to eat in Elie? Everyone will tell you ... the Ship Inn.

Ship Inn, excellent seafood restaurant Continue down the High Street and at the far end of the little park in the middle of the street, turn right, down the hill to the seafront. The white restaurant with blue trim is the Ship Inn, an excellent seafood restaurant we highly recommend.