Long Live Kingsbarns

Travel and Leisure Golf

After an agreeable, inland six-mile drive south on the A917 from St. Andrews, turn left past a rusty old gate, meander through a towering grove of beech trees and emerge onto a brief porch of land revealing, not a mile distant, the shimmering teal and gray of the North Sea. In the space between you and the sea sits the world’s newest ancient golf course, Kingsbarns Golf Links, which is routed beautifully across land on which golf was played as early as 1793. In 1939, the site was usurped by the British Ministry of Defence during World War II and was left unrestored until now.

Thanks, in part, to an interest-free loan of one million pounds from the R&A, American entrepreneur Mark Parsinen hired former Robert Trent Jones Jr. associate Kyle Phillips to transform this unique littoral property into a course created less by the elements than for them. A par-seventy-two layout measuring a punishing 7,100 yards, Kingsbarns has a true linksland sensibility. Not a single hole is without an ocean view, and nowhere will you find shelter from the gales. Man-made swales bow gently toward the sea like monks kneeling for prayer. Or perhaps they are genuflecting to such eye-popping holes as the 590-yard par-five twelfth that scythes hard along the shoreline, or the 215-yard par-three fifteenth, which calls for a Cypress Point-like carry across a ragged elbow of an inlet.

Although the price of playing this gem ($135) will be similar to that of the Old Course, Kingsbarns will have to cope with a problem the Old Course manages well: the pace of play. Kingsbarns is a very difficult test. If the wind howls (Scotland ‘s meteorological equivalent of death and taxes) and you are finding the thatched fescue, a round could last considerably longer than the four hours locals consider the outer limits of acceptability. Still, it’s a problem worth having. There have been rumblings of one day slotting the course into the Open rota. There’s a new temple in St. Andrews. Let the pilgrimages begin. For a tee time, call 011-44-1334-880222.


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