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Scottish Links Golf

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What others say

Scotscraig Golf Club ©

When Scotscraig Golf Club was founded in 1817, there were only twelve other golf clubs in the world. I love playing such an old and historic course, and really enjoy being part of the ongoing history.

Evidently 13 was not an unlucky number for Scotscraig.

Scotscraig golf club is a final qualifying course for the Open Championship

Scotscraig Golf Club is not just an historical monument to golfís past. Itís a good course and well worth playing. In fact, it is so highly thought of that when the Open Championship is held at nearby St. Andrews Old Course, Scotscraig Golf Club is used as a qualifying course. This honor alone makes it quite special.

Scotscraig Golf Club pot bunker
The course is filled with these nasties. Play it safe rather than challenging them. They can mug you before you know what hit you.

This is not your typical Fife links golf course, however. First of all, while not situated alongside the sea, it does have many of the characteristics of a links course. Itís got humps and hollows in the fairways. Itís got lots of rough, including patches of that nasty gorse. It also has the hard and fast-running greens that make links golf so challenging. Yet there are lots of trees, which links courses typically donít have. This added dimension makes the course all the more demanding and makes your drives all the more important, not to mention the beauty it adds to the landscape.

Scotscraig golf course is a great choice for the independent golfer

Scotscraig golf course is a great choice for the independent golfer. Golf tour operators will seldom schedule it simply because it's not that well known, and that's a shame, really, because it's a good choice if you're looking for a great day of golf at a moderate price.

When you play Scotscraig Golf Club, ask the pro if you can get a game with a member.
Itís an interesting course and a member will make the game all the more appealing. Itís not always obvious what the best line off the tee is (or even where the next hole is!). When I called for a game the first time I played it in 2000, I didn't think to ask to play with a member but the pro arranged that on his own. Typical of the thoughtful Scottish professionals, they realize how much a game is enhanced when someone who knows the course plays with you. He took it upon himself to call someone who was scheduled to tee off a half hour after me and asked him if he would like to start a bit earlier with ďa visiting Yank.Ē It was a gracious touch and so typical of Scotland and of the members and staff of this club.

Scotscraig golf course third green
With a stroke index of 5, this 3rd hole is an oddity. Seldom are par 3s treated with such respect but at 214 yards to a well-bunkered green (there are 3 bunkers) the SI is well deserved. The greens are a pleasure to putt on.

About the course

Scotscraig has beautiful greens and they are kept in perfect condition. It's a pleasure to putt on them--even when the ball doesn't go in. With none of the exaggerated wrinkles and folds of some other courses in the area they do not look as impressive, but that doesn't mean they are easy. As I said, most of the breaks are subtle, so take some time reading them. When you do putt your ball, however, you can be sure it will roll true.

The fairways are very fair and are cut three lengths. The first cut is the fairway itself. The second is cut a bit longer and usually extends about 15 or 20 feet on either side of the fairway. If you land in this longer grass it will cost you on average about a half a stroke, especially if you are trying to hold the green with your next shot since you will inevitably have grass between the ball and your club and will not get the necessary backspin. Next cut (I should say "non-cut!") is the really long grass. This will easily cost a stroke because, unless you are blessed with an extraordinary lie, you will have your hands full just getting the ball back on the fairway. And last but not least is the gorse and broom. How many strokes will hitting into those cost you? As they say in Brooklyn, New York..."Fuhggedaboudit!."

One of the members characterized his course as a "links course with trees." That's a simple and accurate thumbnail of the course even up to the authentic links turf that is used throughout. Also, unlike typical USA courses which have only a 2 or 3 foot apron of short grass around the greens, Scotscraig has a generous cut of 10 or 15 feet of short grass around each green and much, much more short grass in front. On the 17th hole, for example, there is at least 50 yards of short cut. This allows putting from far off the green which is so typical of links golf.

Play It smart

Pay attention to your position off the tee on this course. On many holes itís better to take a 3 wood off the tee and play for position rather than automatically banging away with the driver. There is lots of rough and lots of gorse, neither of which is a bargain and both of which will almost certainly cost you strokes. The 7th is a good example of this. It plays 401 yards off the championship tees. Sounds easy--after all, how difficult can a 400 yard hole play? Plenty, because the first half of the fairway is on a higher plateau than the last part of the fairway, the two halves separated by a gully. So you have a choice off the tee of hitting less than a driver to a raised plateau but leaving yourself a second shot that is downhill and is at least 180 yards to the pin. Or you can belt a driver and hope it carries beyond the plateau into the humps and hollows and rough. If it does, you have a much shorter second shot but you run the risk of a bad lie because this portion of the fairway has much undulation.

Scotscraig golf course fourth fairway
This view from the fairway only slightly hints at the difficulty of this fabulous 4th hole.

The 4th is another thinking personís hole. At only 366 yards it seems like an easy par 4. Trouble is, there is a deep valley running diagonally in front of the green and the green itself must be approached carefully because it is like an inverted saucer and very difficult to hold. If the wind is at all active, throwing up a high shot that will sit nicely on the green is chancey.

Both holes are quite typical of this nicely laid-out course. You have to think your way around it and take your bogie if you have to, rather than taking a double or triple bogie. There are some good opportunities for birdies, so be patient.

Scotscraig Golf Club is one of the fine hidden gems of Scotland.

I really believe that, and don't know why it is not more popular. Perhaps because it is a mile or so inland and golfers think it is just another parkland course. It's not. It's a links-ish layout that will test the skills of the most talented golfer (just ask the professionals trying to qualify for the Open Championship) while giving the mid-handicapper a fun-filled day of challenges.

This is a VERY friendly club. Take advantage of any chance you get to strike up a conversation with a member or the staff. It will add great enjoyment to your day.

Scotscraig Golf Club, clubhouse
A perfect place to unwind with a bit of food and drink and conversation. The staff is friendly and the food--simply prepared and served--is good.

The Golf Nook Scotland rating -- a BIRDIE. .

See below for things to do nearby
Mary-Alice suggests....
What to Do All Day near Scotscraig
You will need a car for this outing. Otherwise, stay with the sights and sounds and joy of the town of St. Andrews. If you do have access to a car, an enjoyable day awaits you after dropping off your golfer at Scotscraig.
Harbour at Tayport
From the golf course, make your way down to the harbour, which in itself is pleasant. Then follow along Tay Street, heading west. Always consult your trusty Ordnance Survery map for full details. And if all else fails, ask anyone you see for directions. It's very easy to find.

Once you are on Tay Street, it's only a short distance to where you'll see (but only if you keep a sharp eye out for it) a short wooden post on your right with a yellow symbol of a lighthouse on it, along with an arrow pointing to the right. Drive in and park in the little carpark where you will see a paved road/footpath heading downhill. You can walk this "road" for several miles along the wide Tay Estuary, and a beautiful walk it is. To reach this parking area you drive up the street that looks like a dead-end. You'll think you've made a mistake, but you haven't.

River walk along the Tay, near Scotscraig
The walkway taking you down onto the riverside walk.

New Acquaintances -- As with all your walks, you'll encounter some friendly dogs, always polite and well-mannered, usually on a lead, and almost never barking at other dogs. The UK is highly "dog-friendly." If you are a "dog person" like Richard and me, you will love some of these wonderful animals, whose owners, by the way, are generally eager to stop and let you make the acquaintance of their pets.

Need to stop for a rest? The walkway is liberally sprinkled with benches overlooking the Tay Estuary, as the salmon-rich river rushes to meet the North Sea. It takes only a few minutes to reach a small, un-used lighthouse, and not long afterwards the operational lighthouse.

Walk along the River Tay and you'll gather unforgettable sights

The harbour walk is a very fine walk indeed along this highy picturesque territory. If you continue you'll eventually pass under the Tay Bridge so high above you. But, as always when on a walk, be mindful of how far you've gone in your outward bound direction (and how long it's taken you), remembering you have to repeat that to get back.

The town of Tayport, a former ferry port, is situated in an advantageous position along the river, with many excellent views from the higher levels of town.

Tentsmuir Point is "landscape wizardry" and a local secret
What a discovery this national nature reserve was for me. While Richard plays golf at Scotscraig Golf Club, I often drive the narrow, winding 4-mile country road to nearby Tentsmuir--only a few miles away but a universe apart. I was captivated by this coastal forest area bordering the North Sea where the powerful Tay River pours itself into the sea.

Tentsmuir Point beach stretches for many miles, all of which can be walked, and it displays itself with a sudden beauty as you cross over the dunes. This is a place of "landscape wizardry," as their brochure promises--a mix of growth and loss of coastline teeming with lovely wildflowers and other plants, as well as eiders and other birds. And there are grey seals, too.

Tentsmuir Point, near St Andrews, Scotland Tentsmuir Point, a "landscape of wizardry"
Tenstmuir Point, where Tay River meets North Sea Tentsmuir Point, a magical place

A non-touristy place, Tentsmuir attracts the Scottish people who come to spend the day. I bring my lunch with me and find it difficult to leave this place of vast panoramas of sea and sand and empty space. If you are a nature lover, Tentsmuir is not to be missed. Admission into the car park is £1--the best bargain around. The St. Andrews Tourist Information Centre can provide you with directions and a brochure, and you will also be able to locate the site on your Ordnance Survey map of the St. Andrews area.