Monday, December 2, 2013

Golf House Club - Elie

Golf House Club - Elie, better known as Elie Golf Club, is one of my favorite courses in Fife.  Elie exemplifies the best aspects of a traditional Scottish club. The course is short and features strong inland and seaside holes (without a single par 5). The club has a great historical background, having been James Braid's home course. As with many of the great traditional Scottish links, the course is very quirky. Blind tee shots abound, the most prominent of which is on the first hole, where an old submarine periscope is used to ensure that the fairway is clear. The experience is very unique, and opinions on the course land on both ends of the spectrum. If you didn't like Elie, you either went into the round with the wrong expectations, or you don't know what Scottish links are really about. 
 Elie's membership is comprised of many powerful golfing figures. The club has a very large percentage of R&A members - some say the highest percentage of any club in the world. The course was first laid out in 1770 and the Golf House Club, which now owns the course, was established in 1875.
 I have played Elie quite a few times, and the particular morning last week was very cold and frosty. Although the course seemed to be frozen, play was not delayed, and the sun quickly melted everything by the 4th hole.

Hole #1 - 420 yards - "Stacks"
The first hole at Elie has a completely blind tee shot. If you have never played the course, you will fine it slightly unnerving. Aim slightly right of the marker post on the hill and you will be fine. The above photo shows the long downhill approach into this green. The first hole is a tough opener, come prepared.

Hole #2 - 284 yards - "High Hole"
This short par 4 works straight uphill, which makes the hole play longer than the stated length. All approach shots are blind into the green, and tough bunkers and thick rough line the fairway. Although it is a short hole, which seems like a birdie opportunity, I have not seen one during any of my rounds at Elie.

Hole #3 - 214 yards - "Wickets"
This is a great par 3. Approach shots can vary from long to mid irons on this hole, depending on the wind and firmness of the turf. During my latest round, the ground was fairly soft (frost had finally begun melting off) and I struck a hard 4-iron. Everything short and right will kick down and left onto the green. At the height of summer it is difficult to hold balls on the hard green. 

Hole # 5 - 365 yards - "Doctor"
After a straightforward tee shot, the fifth hole picks up pace from 75 yards into the green. Large slopes and some deep bunkers guard the sloping green, so distance control is paramount with this approach shot. The hole is said to have been named "Doctor" after the large number of medics who played at the club during its founding.

Hole #6 - 316 yards - "Quarries"
The sixth hole is another blind tee shot. Aim straight at the marker post and brace yourself for the amazing view once you crest the hill. The first views of the water, cliffs, and beautiful seaside area of the golf course are visible from the hilltop.

Hole #7 - 252 yards - "Peggy's"
There are plenty of short holes at Elie, and this is the shortest of the par 4s. The hole is a real birdie opportunity, but features another blind tee shot. The miss at this green is just short. A very old man in the group behind us hit his tee shot to five feet while we were putting out. His ball must have run 100 yards onto the green. Gotta love links golf!

Hole #8 - 382 yards - "Neuk"
The eighth hole is the number one handicap hole at Elie. It is a tough dogleg left par 4, where most mistakes come off the tee. This is one hole where local knowledge really pays off. If you were standing on the tee for the first time it would be very difficult to pick out a line. A single large bunker guards front of the large green, leaving many pin position options.

Hole #9 - 440 yards - "Martin's Bay"
The ninth has another blind tee shot. The view from the hilltop is stunning and similar to the view at the sixth. A large ledge sits directly in front of the green, putting a premium on distance control.

 Hole #10 - 288 yards - "Lundar Law"
The tenth hole has another blind tee shot... did you see that coming? I told you it was quirky. The view from the top of the hill is even more impressive than those earlier in the round. On a clear day you can see right across the water to East Lothian, with Berwick Law and the Bass Rock in clear view. This hole is short, and a very accurate drive can find the green.

The next three holes all hug the beautiful beach.

Hole #11 - 131 yards - "Sea Hole"
It is hard to capture the beauty of this hole in a single photograph. Water splashes up against the back of the tee box and the whole beach and sea stand to your left. The simple shot onto the green becomes much more when the entire setting is taken into account.

Hole #12 - 466 yards - "Bents"
I think this is the hardest par 4 on the course. It is a slight dogleg left, and again, the photo doesn't do the setting justice. The beautiful cliff line contains Elie's fun chain walk, which is out of frame just to the left. A long drive leaves a solid iron into the large and mainly flat green.

Hole #13 - 380 yards - "Croupie"
The beauty and setting of the thirteenth cannot be understated; it is my favorite hole at Elie. It is absolutely stunning and the hole is framed very well by the hills in the background. Drives have to avoid fairway bunkers, leaving a short shot into the raised and shallow green protected by a single bunker. Distance control is very important.

Hole #14 - 414 yards - "Suckielea"
The fourteenth begins a string of difficult finishing holes. No match is safe coming into this final stretch at Elie. The thick grass and OB on the left side of this hole make golfers naturally err to the right, which has a grouping of deep fairway bunkers. An accurate drive is followed by an uphill approach to the large green.

 Hole #17 - 439 yards - "Ferry"
The seventeenth is yet another tough hole in the final stretch. I forgot to take pictures of holes fifteen and sixteen because my match was about to end, but I did manage to snap this on the seventeenth. A dogleg left tee shot leaves a long shot into the guarded green. Just aim to the middle of this green and accept your par.

 Hole #18 - 359 yards - "Home"
The best way to play this final hole is a 3-wood to the 100 yard marker and then a wedge to the pin. I drove my final tee shot into the bunkers 50-60 yards in front of the green and was left with a difficult sand shot. A sloping fairway and large green allow for a challenging course setup.

I strongly suggest adding a traditional Scottish club such as Elie to any golf trip itinerary. Play the Kingsbarns, Castle Stuarts, and Turnberrys, but, if you really want the full Scottish links experience, visit a club like Elie.