Discovering New Links at St. Andrews
By Ben Wright

St. ANDREWS , SCOTLAND — My return to St. Andrews for the Open Championship has been more hectic than I could have imagined. I’ve been buzzing about the Auld Grey Toon like a blue-assed fly running into old friends, golfers and members of the media I haven’t seen in years. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m palpably excited to be back at the home of golf and back amongst those that play and cover the game. Though I may have been away from the game for a spell, the game has never left me and always occupied the fullest portions of my heart and soul.

I came to St. Andrews via London , where I attended the Millennium Dinner of the Lucifer Golf Society at the Savoy Hotel. I was invited to join HRH Prince Andrew and Sir Michael Bonallack, who is Secretary and Captain of the R&A as a guest speaker at the dinner. The Lucifer Society was founded in 1920 just after the First World War, and Lucifer, aside from being the devil’s moniker, was a slang term used in World War I to refer to a light, or match. The function of the Society is to ensure that Commonwealth players have a game or that British subjects traveling to all corners of the empire have a place to play.

Representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, Kenya, South Africa, and Canada listened to Bonallack recount some humorous tales and then heard me deliver a few of my own lighthearted golf stories. Andrew, the Duke of York gave a rousing toast to the Lucifers and longevity of the British Empire . At the end of the program, a woman entered the room and broke into spirited song, inviting all to join her in a chorus of ” Land of Hope and Glory.”

A few days later, and only a few miles from the Old Course, I was again in the company of Sir Michael when I visited what has instantly become a “must visit” site at St. Andrews : Kingsbarns Golf Links. Monday was the first day that the Kingsbarns Links were open for play, and Bonallack and his wife Lady Angela joined their children in a fourball as the first group to play the course.

“This may be the last stretch of seaside land in Scotland suitable for developing links,” Bonallack said of the Kingsbarns site, located six miles east of St. Andrews on a bluff overlooking the Firth of Tay. In fact, I discovered that the sea might be viewed for literally every spot on these magnificent links.

Kingsbarns Golf Links collects 85 pounds per round from daily-fee players, and the club will make a pot load of money once the world discovers what will quickly become the second most- popular course in St. Andrews . American architect Kyle Phillips invited me to visit his creation, where two other American entrepreneurs, Mark Parsinen and Art Dunkley, are Managing Director and Director of the Links, respectively.

I covered the spectacular links with former South African Amateur champion Alan Jackson. My caddie was one of only two women caddies at Kingsbarns: Emily Thomson, a completely professional caddie who abandoned the old course to caddie on the links. She plays to a seven-handicap, and laughed heartily when I told her that I had to fire the last caddie I employed at the Old Course because he was plainly drunk. Thomson does not indulge. The seriousness with which this blond woman performed her duties is a sign of things to come.

I think I know my golf pretty well, and I find that Kingsbarns is like Pebble Beach and Ireland’s Old Head of Kinsale combined. The greatest thing I can say is that this golf course looks as if it has been here for centuries. It rolls along the dunes and even has trees, though they don’t play an integral role in the playing of the course. Countless deep bunkers with sod faces challenged for my attention while I was beguiled by the scenic views. Heather will be growing everywhere soon.

The signature hole is the par-three 15th, which played from the championship tees measured 212 yards, requires a shot across the bay to a green built on a headland. “Tighten yer kilt laddie, a good round can derail here,” reads the Strokesaver guide. The course plays to a yardage of 7,126. I returned to the tented village at he Old Course and the grin on my face, evident to my media colleagues, told the tale of Kingsbarns.


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