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Kingsbarns Golf Links©

Kingsbarns #6

Kingsbarns Golf Links is one of the finest golf courses in the world.

Okay, okay, I haven't played all the golf courses in the world, so how would I know? Well, when you play Kingsbarns you'll know why I think it is. And obviously I'm not alone in this thinking.

--"Best new international golf course..." (GOLF DIGEST, 2000)
--"46th - Top 100 World Ranking" - (GOLF MAGAZINE, 2001)
--"13th - Top 100 British Isles" - (GOLF WORLD, 2002

The Kingsbarns Golf Links folks envisioned that someday their brand new golf course would take its place alongside St. Andrew’s Old Course, Crail Balcomie Course and some of the other great golf courses in the Kingdom of Fife and became a “must play.” The first time I played it in 2001, I predicted it would happen. Well, it has—and fast!

Kingsbarns was opened only in July of 2000 (the week Tiger Woods won the Open Championship at St. Andrews) and it was immediately recognized as the best new golf course in the world. In addition to the accolades I've listed above, for the last two years it has been awarded Most Outstanding Golf Course by the Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators Association. In addition, Perry Golf’s customers rated it numero uno. PerryGolf is one of the most prestigious of all the golf tour operators.)

Kingsbarns #6 Tempting, isn't it?
If a sight like this doesn't get your juices flowing, then you're probably not a golfer.

Kingsbarns, with a first-rate championship layout, has matured into an even greater course.

A few years ago they added 6,000 gorse bushes in the rough areas which has made the golf course even more beautiful. Before you play it, however, realize it is the most expensive course in all of Fife. When I first played it in 2001 it had been opened less than a year and they were charging £105 for 18 holes. By 2002 I was paying £125. In 2008 it was £165. (Check out their website for the latest prices.) That’s more than triple the cost of many of the fine courses in the area. Consider this: The Old Course charges much less and it has more history, is in just as good shape and, though not as challenging a layout, is quite a good test of golf. (The Old Course is truly a “must play.”) In addition, Crail’s two terrific courses, Balcomie and Craighead, together are less than one-third of what Kingsbarns Golf Links charges and, for my money, are great fun to play. The same holds true with Lundin Golf Club. But Kingsbarns Golf Links is a magnificent course, I want to make that clear--surely one of the best in the world and certainly one of the best I've played. It’s a truly fine layout and some holes are absolutely outstanding. And for a golfing experience, it’s hard to beat. I'm only commenting on the price.

Apropos my comment that it's expensive, David Scott, the former Director of Golf at Kingsbarns, said, “…we believe that we have created not only a nice golf course but an experience that is hard to beat…. We do not want to fill the golf course full with golfers every day. We would instead prefer to have it less busy and have the course in good condition through the season, thus offering good value for money.” Every aspect of Kingsbarns reflects David's statement. As a result, Kingsbarns is not a "nice" course, it's a fabulous course. And it's not kept in "good" condition, it's kept in perfect condition. The Kingsbarns staff is serious--almost obsessive--about creating a memorable day for all golfers.They want the golfer's experience to be "seamless" from the time you pull up to the bag drop to the time you leave.Their desire is that you be treated to a superb golfing experience with free range balls, friendly caddies, fine food and, of course, one of the world's great golf courses.

If you’ve played the “must play” course in the area—The Old Course--and have some time and money left, by all means head just a few miles down the road and play Kingsbarns Golf Links. You will never forget it.
About the golf course --

When I attempted to purchase a yardage book at the pro shop as I registered to play, they told me it would be given to me free by the starter. Sure enough, after telling us the local rules and reminding us to keep up with the group in front and repair our ball marks, the starter gave us all a nice plaid pouch which contained a scorecard, pencil (with eraser—my favorite end of the pencil), ball mark repair tool, and a yardage book. A nice touch, although I probably would rather have paid a bit less and supplied my own condiments.

By the way, the yardage book is a must--one of the best ever.
It clearly shows a plan of each hole and distances from various points, plus it gives advice on the best way to play the hole. One outstanding feature is a location marked Aggressive play off tee achieving advantage in angle of play to green.” This position usually assumes an accurate 265 yard drive (out of my league!). It also has a mark showing a “cautious play off tee providing a wide margin of error. This position often results in more difficult approach angle to green.” Great information to have when unfamiliar with a layout. Of course the ability to hit an accurate 265 yard drive helps.

A true links in every respect --
The word “links” certainly applies to Kingsbarns Golf Links. It is “linked” to the sea on many holes and the sea is in view on virtually all of them. Beginning at the second hole you begin an intimate relationship with the sea. Holes 2 thru 5 will get your competitive juices flowing presenting you with beautifully designed golf holes set in the most gorgeous terrain. Although holes 2 thru 5 are memorable, I have never seen a more beautiful run of holes than 11 thru 17 They are, in every sense of the word, spectacular. The North Sea is behind you on the tee or in front of you as you are firing at the green or on your left or right off the fairway, or is at least in sight. You either see it or feel it or smell it or hear it. It’s an exhilarating sensation and, on a sunny day, it is golf at its absolute finest.

Kingsbarns #2
The green on the 2nd is pretty typical.'ll come up with your own words for describing the holes at Kingsbarns. (Hopefully that word won't be "bogey.")

The fairways are wide.
But “wide” does not mean “easy.” Golf at Kingsbarns Golf Links is position golf. Where the ball lands on the fairway is equally as important as how far you've hit it. A drive that is twenty yards longer is not necessarily better than one in good position to approach the green. Like many of the links courses, the greens are not easy to hold. You need a high, soft shot to hold them but with the wind a constant challenge it’s difficult to control a high shot. That’s where position is important, because it’s usually better to land short and roll onto the green, which you can’t do if your drive has left you in a position where there is a bunker in your way.

Kingsbarns 13th green
With bunkers like this facing you on many holes, your position off the tee is important to setting up your second shot.

Fabulous Back Nine --
The back nine are an outstanding section of this course. As I said, holes 11 thru 17 are among the most beautiful you will ever see—ever! On all of them you are hitting directly facing the North Sea or the North Sea is directly off the fairway or you are hitting onto a green over the North Sea. The 12th is a long par 5 and at 566 yards rated 2nd most difficult. It is unbelievably gorgeous! (Along with the 15th hole I could play this all day and never tire of it.) The 12th starts out as a straight hole but has a dogleg at the very end. With the sea directly off the fairway to your left you need a drive down the right center. An approach shot again to the right side sets up a shot to the green which will take the sea out of play, unless, that is, you don’t draw your approach too much. The green is huge, measuring 72 yards long! Also, it has two plateaux, so make a note of where the flag is or you could be facing a 200-foot undulating putt. (You will be told the day’s pin location by the starter. PAY ATTENTION, it's valuable information. The greens in the yardage book will show the location of all of them.)

Kingsbarns #15--awesome !
The fabulous 15th hole. A 185 yard par 3, likened to Cypress Point's 16th, and...awesome!

The 15th is a 185 yard par 3 that can’t help but be compared to Cypress Point’s glorious 16th. It is certainly one of the most awesome holes I've seen. Not quite as long as Cypress Point, but depending on the pin location and the wind, it can be every bit as difficult. The hole is laid out with the North Sea to your right. Except for the extreme left, there is no fairway. Rather, your tee shot must carry over water and rocks. Shaped like a fishhook, about half of the green juts out to the right into the sea. When the pin is located on the extreme right side of the green, birdies are difficult because the shot must carry over the water and land softly and hold on a very narrow part of the green. So not only do you have to choose the correct club, you have to stop the ball when it lands. A shot too long or too short is wet. Two players in the fourball in front of me hit what looked like great shots, but they came in too flat and rolled over the green into the water. The smart play is to the fat part of the green but, again, don’t be long because a bunker will gobble you up. You can aim to the extreme left and take the water out of play entirely, but even if you land on this part of the green you are facing a long putt on an undulating green. This hole is only rated as the 10th most difficult but don’t believe it. Seldom are par 3s rated as low handicap holes (Why is that?). As I said, a beautiful hole but watch out...this beauty can bite!

Kingsbarns #17
The 17th is 432 yards off the medal tees, so save enough energy for this beauty.

The last two holes are among the best finishing holes I’ve played. The 17th plays 408 from the regular tees and has the North Sea on your right all the way. (Slicers, beware! No, forget I said that...erase that image out of your mind.) The green is elevated so your second shot has a tendency to be short. A visually stunning hole.

Kingsbarns #18, taken from Clubhouse
This photo of the 18th green is taken from the clubhouse. You'll be coming in from the left on this 414 yard hole. Your second shot to this highly contoured green may be the most critical shot of the day. Too long is better than too short.

The 18th is a heartbreaker. It's one of those par 4s where you can make three good shots and still not par the hole. After a good drive you still have to negotiate a stream tucked in a deep valley that separates the fairway from the green. Anything short and your ball will roll down the hill and be taken out to sea. Even if you do land on the green you must be on the front part of the green since the back is terraced and is about 3 feet higher than the front. If you are putting from the back part of the green toward the front you run the risk of tapping your ball off the green down the hill, again landing in the stream.

The verdict? I love this course, one of my all-time favorites. It's a truly great course and the fine staff makes it a truly great course with a heart. If I had to choose one course to play for the rest of my life, Kingsbarns Golf Links would be in the running. By all means if you get a chance play it. My only caveat is the price, so don’t let the cost of your playing this fine course preclude your playing the other fine courses in the area.

Golf Nook Scotland rating -- a solid EAGLE

Head starter at Kingsbarns George Lawrence, Head Starter, will get you going on time & with sound advice on the best line off the tee. He'll also guide you to using the tee appropriate to your handicap. (See directly above.) Playing from the right tees will help you enjoy your game much more because you'll always have a better chance of reaching the green in regulation. Forget the macho stuff...tell George your real handicap.

Kingsbarns has just about anything a golfer could want. There’s a super driving range for visitors to warm up on. (You’ll be tempted to stay all day with the free balls and numerous targets to hit them at.) The fine clubhouse welcomes visitors to change and take a shower before they head into the bar for some drinks and good food, including a Scottish version of the Philadelphia cheese steak!. (The prices, by the way, are pub prices, not the usual inflated prices of most courses.) A first class pro shop will tempt you to do all your shopping at one place. (Again, the prices are very fair.) By the way, Kingsbarns Golf Links is the only golf course I have ever seen where both the pars and the stroke indices are the same for men and women. And take note too that there are two sets of woman’s tees. Note, too, there are slopes for women’s and men’s tees.

The caddie squad is outstanding. Caddies are employed for their personality more than their caddying skills. If they don’t have the caddying skills they are given special training. The emphasis is on “niceness,” the theory being that you can teach nice people to caddie but you can’t necessarily teach caddies to be nice people. A caddie is a good idea. They will save you at least 3 or 4 strokes per round. Hand trolleys are also available and there are a very limited number of buggys (golf carts) that must be driven by the caddy. Be sure to reserve one of these in advance.


Mary-Alice suggests ...
What to Do All Day near Kingsbarns

If you are not golfing, you just may want to spend the day in St Andrews. But if you like outdoor beauty and walking along the sea, at Kingsbarns you will find a public public path, which is part of the Fife Coastal Path. It's free, easy to find, and heavenly to walk. This public footpath runs directly through the golf course itself (golfers have right of way), providing magnificent views over the fairways and beyond to the sea. Spectacular and VERY worthwhile.