Cruise along the A91 towards St. Andrews at your own risk. As you reach the town the road runs parallel to the final hole on the Old Course where views of the valley of sin, red brick Hamilton Hall and of course, the R&A clubhouse are sure to take your eye off the road.
Teeing off in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse at the Old Course – to the world?s widest fairway ? is any self-respecting golfers idea of Eutopia, but in recent year?s, new arrivals have come to town. Recent developments on the surrounding rugged coastline ? notably Kingsbarns Golf Links, the Duke?s Course, and the Torrance and Devlin courses at St Andrews Bay ? mean that visitors are getting far more than just a pilgrimage to the Home of Golf..
The Old Course, with its status as the 2005 Open venue, and the historical and spiritual home of golf, remains Fife?s big attraction. Everyone wants to play the Old, so to make it fair golfers enter a ballot, a type of lottery, to get a tee-time. If you don?t manage to get out on the Old, don?t despair, the New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove courses all provide a challenge of varying degrees of difficulty.
Playing the Old is most fun, and not just the 461-yard ?Road Hole?, the toughest par-four in golf, with the notoriously deep bunker that shares it name. Putting on double greens like the 5th and 13th, measuring fully 100-yards, or avoiding the terrifying riveted bunkers like ?Strath? at the par-three 11th or ?Coffins? left of the 13th fairway, is fuel for lifelong boozy 19th hole recollections.
Playing the closing four-holes, with the ?auld grey toon? in view – and shadows cast across the links hummocks late in the day ? you realise you?re playing golf they way God wanted it to be played.
From the oldest, take the 5-mile drive along the A917, to one of the newest and best courses. Kingsbarns Golf Links, opened in 2000, plays all the way round within sight and sound of the sea. Every hole on this stretch of coast plays with a sea view, and the sound of waves crashing onto rocky shore intensifies the links experience.
At 7126 yards Kingsbarns is long but more a test of strategy than muscle. The 15th, a 212-yard par-three is Kingsbarns?the one most people remember. The tee is shielded from the wind by a wood, while the ball must carry 200-yards across rocks and crashing waves to find the green.
Two equally spectacular tracks are at the St Andrews Bay Hotel Resort and Spa, opened in 2001. A five minute drive away from St.Andrews up the coastal road will bring to the Resort. Both Devlin and Torrance courses offer stunning views over the famous old town, bay and beyond to the hills that surround Dundee. The Devlin is considered the better course as each hole plays untouched by other golf traffic, while the Torrance holes tend to run alongside each other out and back to the Hotel. But the view from the 17th on the Torrance is unmissable.
The Duke?s to the west of St Andrews, is a 7,271 yard monster designed by five-time Open champion Peter Thomson. But The Duke?s is certainly no links ? long, sweeping tree-lined fairways and shallow fairway bunkers make this a welcome change from the ?bump and run? links mentality.
In many ways, Fife is a strange place. Its status as the Home of Golf has attracted big investment to an area of local Scottish coastal beauty. And you can?t ignore the stunning new courses but it?s hard to beat the numerous established links that have served as Open qualifying venues. Lundin Links and Leven, overlooking Largo bay, wind through sandhills and bents. Separated from each other by only a drystone wall, which was erected in 1868, when the land was split and the two clubs formed. Once a year, the wall metaphorically comes down and a competition is played by the members over the original 18 holes.
At Elie, between St Monans and Earlsferry, you?ll find a hidden windswept links favoured by the Fife locals. The blind opening tee-shot can be deciphered using the World War II periscope taken from a German U-boat and kept in the starter?s hut. In Elie?s smoking room, you?ll find golf hospitality from a bygone day, and I heartily recommend the ?Golfer?s grill.? Whether you choose the Old or the new in Fife, you will not be disappointed, for it is Scotland?s golfing heartland.
Where to Stay
The Old Course Hotel
Tel: 01334 474 371
Five-star hotel overlooking the ?Road Hole? on the Old Course.
St Andrews Bay Hotel Resort and Spa
Tel: 01334 837 000. Follow signposts for Crail on the A917
The Old Manor House
Tel: 01333 320 368 overlooks Lundin Links.
The Victoria Hotel
01333 330 305
Situated on Elie High Street
Visit : Fife
Tel: 0870 850 4850
Scot Airways: Tel: 0870 606 0707
From the Edinburgh Forth Road Bridge, take the A91 to St Andrews.
WHERE TO PLAY
St Andrews Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum, Balgove courses.
Tel: 01334 46 6666
Green Fees:: High Season Apr-Oct
Kingsbarns Golf Links
Tel: 01334 460 860
Yardage: 7126, par 72
Green Fees:: Jun-Nov £135, Day £200
The Duke?s Course
Tel: 01334 474 371
Yardage: 7271, par 72
Green Fees:: May-Sept £75 wd/we
St Andrews Bay
Tel: 01334 837 000
Devlin Yardage : 7049, par 72
Green Fees: £70wd, we ? not available
Torrance Yardage: 7037
Green Fees:£60wd, £70we
Tel : 01333 320 202
Yardage: 6,394, SSS 71
Green Fees: £35 wd, £45 we
Tel: 01333 428 859
Yardage: 6436, par 71
Green Fees: £35wd, £40 we ( except Sat)
Elie Golf House Club
Tel: 01333 330 301
Yardage: 6273, par 70
Green Fees:: £40-£65