In case you missed my incessant tweets, overabundance of Instagram posts, or fanboy podcast regarding my recent buddies trip to St. Andrews a few weeks ago, I’m going to do my best to summarize it all here. First of all, let me note that this is not an advertisement, and is in no way sponsored, although it is certainly going to read like Visit Scotland sent this over word by word for me to post. A few of you asked for a breakdown of our trip, the courses, the logistics, and the stories, etc. Hopefully these posts will inspire someone to do a similar trip, and help with some of the planning if so. I’m going to try to break the trip down in separate posts for the sake of length.
If you missed Part I on the Old Course, you can find that here. Also included in that link are some logistics of how to get on the Old Course, where to stay, as well as advice on planning your trip. This post will focus on Kingsbarns.
From the minute I mentioned that I was going to be going to St. Andrews, anyone who had ever set foot on this part of the Earth immediately demanded: “You HAVE to play Kingsbarns.” Located just 20 minutes down the road on one of the most fabulous pieces of property you’ll ever lay eyes on, no trip to St. Andrews is complete without playing this gem.
As mentioned in Part I, in April 2015, we booked a tee time to play Kingsbarns on July 31 at 9:10 AM. All of the courses that we played in Scotland require you to pay for the tee time when you book it, and Kingsbarns is the most expensive of them all. The 225 pound hit (about $340) hurts when you’re months away from playing it, but it’s a necessity. When we were unexpectedly able to get off the Old Course at 6:30 on that fateful Friday, we were faced with the realization that this meant skipping our 9:10 Kingsbarns time with no guarantee that we could move it. Once the pro shop opened at 8:00, we gave them a call from the Old Course to ask if we could move our tee time back. Without hesitation, they set us up at 2:40 that afternoon. The phone call lasted 50 seconds. When I say that the service in Scotland is first class, I really mean it. They genuinely want you to have the best time of your life.
As far as advice for Kingsbarns, you really don’t need much. As tricky and as complicated as it is to get on the Old Course, it’s as simple as emailing the golf shop about tee times (months in advance) and reserving/paying for your tee time. Oh, and bring your camera.
I’m guessing that the reason a lot of people (particularly Americans) rave about this course is the fact that it is a near perfect blend of Scottish and American golf. It doesn’t force you to play “Scottish” golf, yet the elements of links golf are all still present. Golf has been played on this strip of land since 1793, but this layout is very new (opened in 2000). I’m someone that puts a lot of value on views and scenery, so Kyle Phillips’ masterful touch of ensuring that every hole has a view of the sea really tugged at my golf emotions. I would describe Kingsbarns as a poor man’s Pebble Beach, or a rich man’s Bandon Dunes. Above all things, the course is just flat out fun.
The fairways are generous, the greens are absolutely perfect, and everything about the place just screams “pure.” It’s not overly challenging, but it’s certainly not easy. Even without the views, the course itself is fantastic. It may be blasphemous to say, but if you were to strip away the history and the allure of the Old Course, and compare just the golf courses side by side, Kingsbarns is the best course in the area in my opinion.
Although playing the Old Course and Kingsbarns on the same day made it the greatest golf day ever, I almost wish that we would have devoted an entire day to Kingsbarns. It’s that good. St. Andrews is an easy walk, but we were a bit fatigued from the 4 AM wake up call, and the 18 hole walk in the morning, so parts of the round are a bit of a blur in our memories.
Out of our foursome, I was probably the highest on Kingsbarns, and I’m guessing that it has to do something with me playing my best round of the trip. I love a big ballpark that gives you a lot of space to be dumb and wild off the tee, yet still makes you play strategically when it comes to your approaches to the green. One thing I noticed with Scottish golf is that they have more places where you just absolutely cannot miss than a normal American course, meaning the punishment for missing in a particular location is more than a slap on the wrist. This includes short siding yourself, as well as bunkers that are going to make you take your Tylenol PM, and pitch out sideways. This is where the caddies are a great help to you, as they will flat out tell you “left is not an option here,” or “there’s skeletons buried to the right of this green.” Good swing thoughts! These elements are absolutely in play at Kingsbarns.
We took caddies here, although I would say it is not 100% essential here as it was at The Old Course. While there is not an abundance of blind or unclear shots, it is much more hilly, and a more difficult walk, so from the physical aspect, it makes more sense than from a strategic standpoint. My caddie was a former European Tour player (I’ve since forgotten his name), so to hear his stories of playing in the Open Championship during the Duel in the Sun in ’77 were interesting to say the least.
As mentioned above, my play (which you surely don’t care about) at Kingsbarns was the best of the trip, mostly aided by the purity of these greens. I had a 15 footer on 18 to shoot even, which I proceeded to choke 3-putt as the rain started, and left a bit of a vomit taste in my life. But let me be one more person to utter this phrase: You have to play Kingsbarns.
Here are some pictures from the day:
From the Old Course, to the Jigger Inn, to Kingsbarns, there was only one way to end this day. We were absolutely exhausted after walking over 20 miles on next to no sleep, but we dragged ourselves to the famed Dunvegan Hotel for some post-round scotch. This place is like the mecca of 19th holes, situated less than a block from the 18th green at the Old Course. Covering every inch of wall space (as well as the ceiling) are pictures from all eras of famous golfers at the Dunvegan, as well old school pictures of action at St. Andrews. You could spend an hour in this place just looking at the pictures on the wall.
This place is just swimming with Americans from all over, and you will inevitably end up talking to the guys around you, and your conversation will be the exact same no matter which direction you turn:
- Where you from?
- Where are you guys staying?
- Where have you played?
- Where are you guys playing tomorrow?
- What did you think of (insert course)?
- How long are you guys here for?
The wait staff helped us choose a scotch, and good times were had by all. The Dunvegan is a must visit when in the town of St. Andrews, without a doubt.