I know, I know…how could it not be the home of golf, The Old Course at St. Andrews? An iconic course that gets points just for being what it is. And definitely a must play for any first-time Scottish golf trip. However, from my humble perspective, I would take Carnoustie or Turnberry over the old dame. Carnoustie for its brutal layout and Turnberry for its pure golf aesthetic. But none of these three are my favorite course in Scotland. You see, after several trips playing iconic Open courses I started venturing out to courses favoured by the locals (you see how I did that British thing). Stunning links courses that rival anything the R&A would use to host an Open (albeit shorter, 6,000-6,700 on average). Just in East Neuk alone you have Lundin Links (a once Open qualifying course), Levin Links (a raw layout with a proud and competitive membership), The Golf House at Elie that boasts a WWII periscope in the starter’s booth for the blind first-tee shot. I LOVE this track. But my favourite (there’s that spelling thing again) track in all of Scotland (thus far) is the Balcomie Links at the Crail Golfing Society that I am proud to say I hold an international membership. I came upon Balcomie by chance. I was playing a round at Kingsbarn just north of Crail when my two playing mates, bloaks from England, mentioned this little gem just south in passing. I had no time in my schedule that year to fit a round so I scheduled it in the following year. Real Scottish golf away from the hordes of golf pilgrims that infest the major venues. As I stood on the first tee overlooking the delicate expanse of prime golf real estate I knew I had found my Scottish golf home. A light har blew in from the North Sea, a boat house sat just off the first green, collies frolicked about, just enough heather and fescue to challenge concentration and execution. Not another soul in view. As I teed off on one I came to realize that fairways crossed and several green were shared, bunkers swallowed balls hit astray, and the North Sea challenged greedy drives. Golf perfection and all mine that glorious July day in 2013. So for you first-time Scottish Links pilgrims, by all means, play the iconic venues. It is a trip of a lifetime. But for those of you lucky enough to return to the home of golf, go visit the gems off the tourist’s map and play with a Scottish lad or lassie and learn how the game was meant to be played. My gift to you.
Next post: Match your tee box to your handicap…PLEASE!