Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Other St Andrews Links Courses

            Imagine having an older brother who always gets more attention than you. You are one of seven siblings, but people always come to your house to visit him, not any of you. You are a very interesting person yourself, but you’re never given a chance. You are overlooked by nearly everyone. Every five years tens of thousands of people come to watch your older brother show off his goods. Living under his shadow is tough to deal with, but you struggle through it with the rest of your siblings.
            This is one way to imagine the relationship between the Old Course and the other six courses at the St Andrews Links. The other courses, especially the New Course and Jubilee Course, are overlooked and not given the credit they deserve. I would have added the Castle Course to that last sentence, but it has gained some limelight due to its recent construction and press. In this post I will be giving short write-ups of the other St Andrews Links Courses.

Jubilee Course:
            The Jubilee Course is considered by most locals to be the most difficult course at St Andrews. It is the closest course to West Sands Beach and is therefore the most exposed to the elements. The course has gorse lined, narrow, fairways and tough sloping greens. Dunes play a large role in the course design, which isn’t found on any of the other St Andrews Courses. The second green wraps around the side of a dune leaving very difficult approach shots depending on pin positions and angles in the fairway.
            The picturesque and very difficult ninth hole is a 225-yard par 3 from the medal tees. The green falls off steeply on the right side and has the tenth tee and OB lurking close on the left side. It is a very challenging hole leaving a difficult finish on the front 9. The short par 4 15th requires the player to think his way down the hole. The green is hidden from view off the tee by large dunes. A long iron off the tee leaves a short iron into a green with a massive false front and large dunes in the back.
            Breaking par on the Jubilee Course is very impressive. Depending on the wind, the back nine can be extremely difficult and yield some very high scores. Strangely, my lowest round in Scotland was shot on the Jubilee. If you’re in St Andrews and are looking for a good beating, play the Jub!

The New Course:
            The New Course is extremely underrated. It was built and designed by Old Tom Morris in 1895. The fact that many local St Andreans consider the New Course to be their favorite course speaks loads. Quite a few people consider it to be a better course than the Old. Its main weakness is its opening two holes. They are weak par 4’s that are nearly identical to each other apart from a few shifted bunkers.
            If the New Course was located somewhere else in Scotland, it would be considered one of the great Scottish links courses. Unfortunately, it lives under the shadow of its older brother. Similarly to the Jubilee, the 9th hole is a very difficult par 3. It is about 230 yards long and has the estuary to the left, and tall grass on the right. Luckily for the player, the green is a bowl, which can collect balls run up the center of the fairway. The 10th hole on the New Course in included on the list of the Golf Magazines 500 Best Golf Holes in the World.
            The finish to the course is very enjoyable and the 17th hole adds a challenge to the end of the round. If you are in St Andrews and you miss out on the ballot, try to play the New Course. Tee times are made on a first-come first-serve basis on the day of play. Many of the University club medals are played on the New Course. My first round in Scotland, which started my UK golf love affair, was played on the New!

The Castle Course
            The Castle Course is located ten minutes outside of St Andrews towards the Fairmont. David Kidd, the creator of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, designed the course that was opened in 2008. The course is set high above the water and features ocean views from nearly every single hole. The course opened to quite a bit of criticism because of its extremely tough and undulating greens. The greens were later redone and some of the unnecessarily difficult undulations were flattened out. Unlike many of the St Andrews locals and others who play the courses frequently, I really enjoy the Castle Course. I have been able to play it quite a few times and thoroughly enjoy getting out of town and playing the challenging beast. The course, even after multiple revisions, is still met with quite a bit of criticism from golfers.
            The final two holes are stunning and leave a good taste in the golfer’s mouth (even if the scorecard ruins that good taste…).  The 17th hole is a picturesque par 3 over a cliff line. The picture below will describe the hole design better than I can…
            If you are travelling to St Andrews for the first time, play the Castle Course in addition to the Old, New, or Jub. I wouldn’t recommend playing it in lieu of any of the other courses.

The Eden Course
            The Eden Course is an enjoyable round of golf and is not the most challenging course at the St Andrews Links. Tourists or other golfers taking trips around Scotland do not usually play the course. If you’re looking for a quick afternoon round, hop over to the Eden Course.

The Strathtyrum and Balgove Courses
            These courses at St Andrews are easy straightforward courses. The courses are typically played by new golfers whose handicaps are not low enough to play any of the other courses. The Balgove is only 9 holes. I wouldn’t recommend playing either of these courses unless you are in St Andrews for an extended period of time. For a reference, of the 120 or so rounds of golf I played at the St Andrews courses, I only played 1 round on the Strath. 

1 comment:

  1. Hole 14 on the New Course is kind of tough when a wall of fog rolls in off the bay: tough to play, tough not to get lost, tough not to panic.

    Been there, done that.