Category: Kingsbarns


July 20, 2011

Scotland Golf Trip, Part I: Kingsbarns

Posted at 5:32 PM by Golf.com

Kingsbarns_650x371

By Charlie Hanger

On Monday after the British Open, I drove to Heathrow with three colleagues. As they took flights back to the States, I headed to Edinburgh on a noon flight. My friend Brad Reagan, who had flown in earlier to play North Berwick and watch the Open with the locals, met me at the airport, and from there it was an easy and scenic drive to St. Andrews for the start of a four-day golf trip. Here is the first of a four-part diary.

Monday
We checked in at the Old Course Hotel, so close to No. 17, the Road Hole, that sliced drives bang onto the metal roof on the first floor and guests enjoying the view from their balconies are wise to keep an eye out for incoming shots. This is the place made famous by, among other things, years of British Open broadcasts in which pros use the hotel's sign as an aiming point for their tee shots, which carry a corner of the structure.

After dropping our bags, we headed to Kingsbarns for a 5 p.m. tee time and our first round of the trip.

It stays light until about 10 p.m. here this time of year, so we had plenty of daylight. On the way to the course, about 20 minutes southeast of St. Andrews, we considered stopping at one of the many golf shops in town to pick up a rain jacket. I'd failed to get one before leaving the states and had balked at the prices for the British Open-logoed models at Royal St. George's. The forecast was good, and the tee time was fast approaching, so we drove on. (We would regret that decision 24 hours later, but we'll get to that in Tuesday's post.)

Kingsbarns, a Kyle Phillips design that opened in July 2000, is a truly spectacular place, with prices to prove it. At £185 (about $300), it’s a splurge, but the views alone are worth the price. With five oceanfront holes and countless stunning views of the North Sea, it's a rolling links that's challenging without being punitive. My favorite holes were No. 3, a par 5 with the ocean running the length of the right side; No. 12, another oceanfront beauty that's reminiscent of the 18th at Pebble Beach; No. 15, a 185-yard par 3 that requires a shot over beach and water; and No. 18, a par 4 fronted by a severe slope that feeds any short shots back into the "cundie," a stream that was originally built to drain water from the surrounding fields. (After steeling my nerves and getting a 6-iron on the green, I three-putted for bogey, choking a short putt. This would become a theme of the week.)

Rainbow_298x224 The weather was spectacular, low 60s with skies that fluctuated between bright sunshine and ominous clouds, but we stayed dry and even got to see a rainbow right out of a Scottish golf brochure (photo right). We were back at the hotel in time to have a late dinner and beer in the Road Hole Bar, which provides sweeping views of No. 17 and the Old Course. That helped ease our disappointment about failing to win Monday's ballot, the daily lottery-style drawing for open tee times on the Old Course. We'd have to try our luck again on Tuesday for a Wednesday time.

Up Next: Tuesday
A round at The Duke's, an inland course, in which we were passed by two fast-playing 60-something women and their dog, Gatsby; an afternoon round at the New Course, which borders the Old Course; and a massive downpour.

(Photos: Charlie Hanger)

June 01, 2010

Praise for the new King of Fife justified

Posted at 4:59 PM by Chad Conine

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:

Q — How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A — Probably some number you've never even heard of. Kingsview

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.)

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