Praise for the new King of Fife justified
Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.
I read this joke somewhere on the Internet a few days ago:
While this particular joke isn't any funnier than any other in the "light bulb" genre, it did ring true for me. Back in Texas, I have more than a few hipster friends. These are people whom I can tell are inwardly rolling their eyes at me when I say I'm going to see U2 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium because they'd much rather take the cool route and see, say, Fleet Foxes at a club in Austin. Most of the time we peacefully coexist, though there was a rather heated argument last December when I had all I could take while discussing the many "best of the decade" album lists that were coming out at the time.
However, I'm starting to sympathize a little more with my hipster friends, because it seems I'm sort of becoming a Scottish golf hipster.
The pub where I hang out here in St. Andrews is populated by golf tourists, mostly Americans, who come through the door all aglow about the golf they played that day or the golf they're looking forward to the next day. And since it's an ever-changing population, my two most-often-asked questions are "Where did you play today?" and "Where are you playing tomorrow?" Most of the time the answer to at least one, if not both of the questions, is The Old Course or Kingsbarns. This causes me to inwardly roll my eyes and wonder to myself "Why not Crail? Or Scotscraig? Or Ladybank? Or Lundin Links? Or Elie?" or any of the less beaten tracks in the Kingdom of Fife.
The Old Course is understandable. The Old Course is The Beatles. But, and this is simply because the current version of Kingsbarns is just 10 years old, the constant adoration of such a new course is kind of like everyone I meet telling me their favorite singer is the latest American Idol winner.
But that's just the golf hipster in me.
Sometimes I have to put the need to be esoteric aside and realize, once again, that things like golf courses which become hugely popular are more often than not hugely popular because they're just that darn good.
That's the truth about Kingsbarns, anyway.
Because I planned to stay in St. Andrews for a little more than four months, I put playing Kingsbarns on the back burner while I sunk in my roots elsewhere and got to know some of the courses that not everyone gets a chance to play when they're here. But last Friday I met Mercer Baggs of The Golf Channel at The Dunvegan, the aforementioned pub, and I was anxious to chat with a fellow media type for the first time since I left Texas almost two months ago. He said he was playing Kingsbarns on Sunday and I knew the time had come to head up the road and see the new kid on the block.
Kingsbarns was the first course my dad and I played on our initial venture to Scotland in 2004. I remember it was spectacular, but I've also come to understand that just because a golf course is spectacular doesn't mean it's always that much fun to play. But Kingsbarns doesn't fall into this trap.
The par-5 12th hole and the par-3 15th — interchangeably Kingsbarns' signature holes — are brilliant but far from impossible. They're challenging but fair, as is the entire course. Kingsbarns has its quirks here and there, like the bowl at the back of the 6th green, but it doesn't sacrifice playability for them.
Add to that the customer service at Kingsbarns, which is exemplary — though, that's kind of the norm here in Scotland — and an elegant-yet-comfortable clubhouse make Kingsbarns well worth the 165-pound green fee. After all, an American has already paid at least a grand to fly here, so why start pinching pennies on golf.
So I'm going to try to subdue my inner golf hipster. U2 sells out football stadiums for a reason and Kingsbarns attracts tourists like flies for a reason.
(Photo: The locker room window at Kingsbarns offers either a pregame or postgame view of a spectacular course.)