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Scotland - St Andrew's Region

The area around Fife near St Andrews boasts a vast array of golfing riches over and above the 7 courses operated by the St Andrews Links Trust.

I'm sorry to be dogmatic, but anyone who doesn't appreciate the Old Course just doesn't appreciate real golf. You need to play it several times before the intrigue really sets in. I might add that golf was very much invented as a game of skill to be played on the ground, not just in the air as modern professional golf has become.

I highly recommend any of the main links here, namely the Old, New, Jubilee and Eden (in that priority order) and I would be interested in your assessment of the new Castle Course.

Much of it I liked particularly how they have pretty much made it into a links course even though it was heavier farm soil in its previous life. The jury however is still out on the green designs. They are rock hard and contain many undulations that can make chipping and putting a nightmare on a windy day -and this an exposed clifftop location above the town of St Andrews so it is pretty much going to be windy most days.

     (photo St Andrews Castle Course)

A few miles south of St Andrews are the relatively new courses at Kingsbarns and the two courses at St Andrews Bay. Kingsbarns is a brilliant work from Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen. You can be forgiven for thinking that the course has been there for a hundred years. St Andrews Bay has undergone some changes to each course and  are equally enjoyable in the category of clifftop links. I probably slightly prefer the Kittocks Course (formerly known as the Devlin) to the Torrance but a cart is adviseable as there are some long walks from green to the next tee.

Not far further south you can explore the delights of  Elie, Lundin Links, Leven and the two courses at Crail.  Peter Thomson is a fan of Elie -my personal favourite of this group is Lundin which has some quirky holes and wonderful views over Largo Bay. The old Balcomie links are most peoples choice at Crail but I was pleasantly surprised when I also played the newer Craighead Links designed by Gil Hanse.  A little inland from St Andrews is Ladybank which should definitely be on your play list. It features firm tree lined fairways and good greens.

    ( photo Lundin Links)

Just to the north is the enjoyable experience at Scotscraig - a links course that also has a heathland feel. Near the town of Cupar, with the help of the National Trust, the 9 hole course at Kingarrock has been resurrected. I can't wait to experience the delight of this location where you play with hickory clubs and a choice of ball from either the late 1890's or 1920's. A little further on from nearby Dundee is Downfield, a lovely heavily treed inland course. Worth playing if you are in the area but it can get a little wet here and the course is hard to find.

If you continue north along the coast will next arrive at Carnoustie. This is a great test of golf which I believe has attained an unfair reputation in terms of its difficulty and enjoyment factor. My 50th birthday present was a round of golf at Carnoustie - it was the first links course I ever played so you might say it was a real baptism of fire.

If you travel to this area then make sure you also play Panmure nearby. This was where Hogan practiced in solitude in preparation for his victory at Carnoustie in 1953, his only British Open challenge. Panmure looks a bit dull when you see the opening and closing holes but the rest is brilliant.

Just north of Carnoustie you will find Monifieth  -an interesting old fashioned sort of links with the first 6 holes all running beside the railway line. It is one of the many good 'second tier' courses that abound in Scotland. These courses are usually easier to access at short notice and of course are not nearly as expensive as the big names.

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