Looking back on our July trip to Scotland, Elie remains one of the top three highlights for me. Everything was turned up to full blast that afternoon – the sun, the burned out fairways, the views, and the quirkiness of the routing. As noted in the episode the reality of sixteen par 4’s/two par 3’s is more of a strength than a weakness. The two par 3’s are wildly different (#3 plays 200 yards downhill to a green sloping left to right, #10 plays flat and blind to a green that slopes wildly from right to left), there are a variety of drivable holes in the 230 to 320 yard range (#’s 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 15), some proper two shotters (1, 4, 8, 9, 18) and some total ball-busters (12, 13, 14, 16, 17). The variety of holes sets the tone for “par = whatever.” For example, #7, which plays 252 yards uphill, and #12, which is almost twice as long, are both par 4’s and don’t have anything else in common.
Beyond the variety, the routing does a masterful job of utilizing the land and maximizing the views throughout the round. Many links courses are plotted in parallel out-and back-fashion with coastline interaction limited to just a few holes. The stretch from 10 to 13 takes full advantage of the coastline (more on that later). What takes Elie to another level is the way it uses the downhill slope toward the water to offer up green sites that trundle down toward the coast in dramatic, perpendicular fashion on 6 and 9 (pictured below), and then brings an unexpected late flourish on 15. The reveal on each of these holes seems like an added bonus to the round, as most other courses would feature another layer or two of parallel holes where these greens sit. It does the unexpected.
SPECIFIC HOLE NOTES:
We glossed over the first two holes in the video – they’re rather standard inland fare beyond the blind opening tee shot. 3 and 4 are cool (the fourth features a split-level fairway), but the course doesn’t truly get going until 5. Pictured below during a return trip later in this year (hence the greener grass), 5 plays to 365 yards and features a beautifully rippled fairway leading up to an elevated green.
6 (pictured below in greener conditions) and 7 offer a multitude of options: bang one up close to the green and risk finding a brutal bunker or opt for a surgical approach with a wedge. A raised road diagonally bisects 8 just short of the green and makes the hole appear more challenging than it actually is. 9 is a brute at 440 yards, but the hole falls off dramatically starting around 100 yards out and the proper play is to land the ball about 20-30 yards short of the green and trust the immaculate landing area to do it’s job.
As the episode makes clear 10 is one of the best holes in all of Scotland. A blind tee shot over the crest of the hill to a rock-hard fairway that sends anything with even the slightest momentum trundling down to the green. Could’ve played this one eighteen times in a row and not been bored. Here’s Guido Dan (from Season 1 of Tourist Sauce) putting from 80 yards out. 11 and 12 are all-world, too. 11 features prominently in the video, and 12 is a 465 yard brute to a green protected by two bunkers about 30 yards short, right in the landing area for most long irons and hybrids. You get the shit knocked out of you then head to 13 (pictured below), which is no easier with heather down the left and a centerline bunker about 280 off the tee. A long, skinny green looms over the fairway at a 45 degree angle and rejects anything short or left. James Braid labeled this the best hole in all of golf, and while the Elie native was certainly biased, the hole presents a thoughtful case for such acclaim.
You reach the 14th gasping for air and facing a visually deceptive tee shot that goads you toward the bunkers down the right. 15 is another half-par short four that heads back down to the coast before the trek back to the clubhouse starts on 16. At this point Randy had had enough and was showing signs of overdosing on great golf. 17 and 18 are evocative of 1 and 2 in that they are relatively basic, solid par 4’s that get you where you need to be. The meat of the course (holes 5 through 16) is as good a time as I’ve ever had on a golf course – never thought I’d say that about a stretch comprised of eleven par 4’s and one par 3.
THE COURSE IN ONE WORD: vigorous
WEIRD COURSE TRIVIA: Golf has been played over the land currently occupied by the course since 1589. Old Tom added the second nine in 1895. James Braid later modified it, and said of anyone who lived in Elie/Earlsferry who did not play golf was a “crank.”
WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE PLAYING THIS COURSE?: Check the weather forecast and try to plan this one for a bright, brilliant day. The views across the Firth of Forth to East Lothian and Bass Rock add a mystical quality to the round. Also make sure to set a pair of pants aside so you’re not subjected to the same fate as DJ 😉
CLUBHOUSE/FOOD: We didn’t set foot inside the clubhouse during our Tourist Sauce trip – went straight to the starter hut (where the periscope is) and then teed off. the 19th Hole is an outstanding stop for beers, lunch, dinner or all of the above. I wish we’d had time to go back once more after our round.
TEE TIMES: Can be booked well in advance via The Golf Club House, Elie’s website.
GREEN FEES: Green fees range from £47 in low season to £125 for weekday peak season. All day rates are also available.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Only 12 miles from St Andrews and is an easy drive through small villages and farmland. Recommend staying closer to the action.