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Leven Links Golf Club ©

Itís pronounced Lee-ven (as in ďevenĒ) and, typical of most Scottish links golf courses, this one looks easy and uncomplicated from the 1st tee. And like most Scottish links golf courses it's quite flat, with no trees. And like most Scottish links golf courses, when the sun is overhead, there seem to be very few hills or valleys or any breaks visible in the terrain. And like most Scottish links golf courses, go there at dawn or dusk when the sun is low on the horizon and youíll see more bumps, curves, and undulations than you will at a nudist convention.

Leven Links Golf Club
A pure Scottish links golf course layout that will give you all you can handle.

Leven Links directly abuts Lundin Golf Club (, separated only by a low stone wall. Whereas Lundin Golf Club is a combination links and parkland layout, Leven Links is strictly a links golf course. At 6,250 yards and a par of 71 from the visitor's tees, shooting par is a good test of golf--especially when the wind is blowing (as it usually is). When the British Open Championship is played at St. Andrews or Carnoustie, there will be players who will be trying to qualify or who have already qualified using Leven Links as one of their final tune-up courses. This golf course is a great choice for the independent golfer who makes up his own itinerary because it's inexpensive, fun, and a good test of links golf.

The unforgiving but fair rough, the strategically placed bunkers, and the large, true-running greens combine to offer a good round of golf for players of just about every ability. If you're someone who loves undulating greens, you may be a bit disappointed in Leven. The greens are rather flat and, some would say, uninteresting, but the breaks are subtle and you still have to knock the ball into a 4 1/4" hole. And because the greens are so large, you'll have lots of lag putting to clean up. The greens are kept in excellent condition so that if you hit your putt true with the correct speed, it will find the hole. But reading the greens is not one of the challenges of Lunden. Of course there are differing schools of thought about how greens should be designed. Peter Thomson, five-time Open Champion, believes, "Golf is a game of strategyÖthe real challenge should be getting to the green.... Once there putting should be fun on generally flat surfaces, just as you find on classic golf courses." Ben Hogan, one of the greatest ball strikers but not the greatest putter, thought whoever landed closest to the pin should win and that putting should be eliminated from the game. So you'll have to decide for yourself.

Running right next to Lundin Golf Club, Leven Links shares much of its topography--in fact on one hole there is only a small stone wall that separates the two courses. Leven Links is much flatter and has much more of a links golf feel, however, than Lundin does. On a sunny day with not a lot of wind present, I played it with two members who helped a lot in giving me a line off the tee. I would suggest you try to get a game with a member because some of the holes are devious in their design and the line you take off the tee is critical. Even with a yardage book it can be a bit confusing. Some of the holes are barely visible from the tee even if you know where to look.

Leven is a true links golf course
A true links layout through and through. Be sure you have a yardage book because you won't see all the bunkers from the tee.

Leven Links number 5--this 156 yard par 3 looks friendly enough until you realize there are eight bunkers guarding the green.
Leven Links, as with many pure links golf courses, has holes that can appear rather unimaginative--most all are straight ahead. But looks can be very deceiving. Ball position is everything and the humps and bumps and bunkers in front of the green can be exasperating if your drive or approach is in the wrong place.

One big complaint I have and one reason I have not rated Leven higher is that I consider some of the pars to be actually unfair. For instance, on hole #12 the championship tees measure 496 yards and the regular tees 476 yards. But the championship tees are a par 5 and the regular tees a par 4. Only a 20 yard difference but the championship tees get an extra stroke. The 13th is even worse with the championship tees a par 5 at 482 yards and the regular tees a par 4 at 471 yards--a mere 11 yards difference gives the championship tees an extra stroke. Why not move the yellow tees back to the whites and make them both par 5s? Seems such an obvious answer to this discrepency.

Photo is taken from behind the 18th green. Note the burn (stream) running in front of the green. At 456 yards it makes for a challenging par 4.

The par four 18th is a fine finishing hole but it's usually played against the wind and at 456 yards is a bit too long for most players. It has a stroke index of only 12 and Iím not sure why because it has a stream that runs directly in front of the green and around the entire right side. So you canít roll your second shot up onto the green. For any chance at birdie you have to fire at the green and hit it on your second shot. And not only do you have to hit the green, you have to hold it--and these greens are hard, making them very difficult to hold. Sure, on a 456 yard hole I can hit a fairway wood on my second shot and have a chance of rolling it onto a far-away green if I hit it well but, remember, thereís no rolling onto this green. Whatís more, on the 18th, the wind is generally blowing at you so there is little chance you will be hitting a long tee shot to get yourself into position. I donít know too many people who can reach a 456 yard hole into the wind in two shots under these conditions, so why a par 4 and a SI of 12?

That's not to say the hole is not fun to play--it is. It's a challenge. The first time I played Leven Links we did not have much of a wind in our face on this hole and I had a fair drive, so I threw caution to the wind and chose to hit a 3 wood just for fun. On the tee I had told my playing partners that the week before, playing at Carnoustie, I had bounced over the stream in front of the 18th landing on the green after hitting a 3 wood from about 200 yards. Lightning struck twice! I was way short on my fairway wood on this shot but somehow it managed to bounce over this stream too! The ball rolled across the green, settling down a few feet off the back of the green. My playing partners couldnít stop laughing when I told them that was how I played it! It was pretty amazing. I didnít think I could improve on the hole after that but with Mary-Alice watching from the carpark above, I sank a 60 foot putt for a birdie. She blinked the car headlights in acknowledgement and appreciation, and I doffed my cap to the gallery (Mary-Alice). It was a great finish to a fun golf course.

Playing golf with a member will increase your enjoyment and lower your score

As I've said, Leven Links is a pure seaside links layout and, because of that, is different than most golf courses in the world. It's inexpensive and a real bargain. And the day ticket is an exceptionally good bargain. There are only two reasons I don't rate this fine golf course higher. The first are the greens which, although kept in fine shape, are not as challenging as some may like (Peter Thomson's opinion notwithstanding!). Keep in mind, though, they are always in tiptop shape and a pleasure to putt on. The second reason is what I feel is the unfairness of giving holes 12 and 13 extra strokes from the back tees. This makes absolutely no sense especially since visitors are not allowed to play from the white tees. It's like having a 2 stroke disadvantage before you even tee off. Having said that, however, you will still have a good time playing this fine layout. It's a solid links golf course, a bit quirky, but you'll have a good time on it. And if you do play it, try to play it with a member (and see if you can get permission to play from the whites). A very friendly club. Playing with a member will add so much to your enjoyment and a better score.

Golf Nook Scotland rating -- a solid PAR.


Mary-Alice suggests ...
What to Do All Day in Leven

Fortunately, every time Richard has played Leven it's been a beautiful day. The sky was clear and blue, and I could see across the Firth of Forth to East Lothian (the Golf Coast of Scotland. It looks SO close, the familiar landmarks very discernible.

Directly across the street from the starter's house on Leven Links Golf Course is the beach with plenty of places to park. Or you can leave the car in the golf club carpark. Either way, go to the beach with its wide, paved promenade along the seafront.

Leven Links 1st tee and seafront across the street Leven seafront promenade
View from Leven Links carpark, across 1st tee to seafront, which is so close. Leven seafront promenade--always a popular spot.

The sandy beach itself is very wide and very walkable. Dogs playing and running in the water, tiny tots being wheeled in their prams, quiet couples seated on the wooden benches and nodding off in the warmth--it's a happy scene. (Walk a few miles in an easterly direction and you'll come to Lundin Golf Club.) What a nice place this is to bring lunch and eat here--I do this every time Richard plays Leven Links.

Ice cream truck at Leven seafront
The ice cream truck--a popular tradition on the Leven seafront.

I also like to walk into the town centre, which is pedestrianized. Leave the car at the carpark by the sea or in the golf course carpark and it's a short stroll into the compact town centre. Leven is a nice little town. Amble into the shops and converse with the shop proprietors, who are all very friendly and eager to talk. It's fun.

All in all, Leven is a pleasant, un-touristy town for exploring and just relaxing.