Scotland’s New Kingsbarns Course a Beauty

The Golf Page
By Dave Perkins

As the saying goes, not everybody likes the same thing. That’s why they have menus in restaurants.

Similarly, golf course rating is a personal game not everybody plays the same way. That said, a brand new golf course on the East Neuk of Scotland , named Kingsbarns, already rests at or very near the top of this personal list.

The sea-hugging course has been open officially less than two weeks, but the hype has built to considerable levels already and if a certain amount of skepticism was included upon approaching the links layout, some 13 kilometres south of St. Andrews , it evaporated quickly.

Kingsbarns is everything they say it is. Maybe more. Its developers, Californians Mark Parsinen and Art Dunkley, have hit a home run, no question. Its architect, Kyle Phillips, has produced a reputation-making course in his first solo project that one day may stand beside Pebble Beach as Jack Neville’s first time wonder.

Certainly, Pebble Beach has places where the scenery is more breathtaking. St. Andrews is a more pure links layout, with its clear-cut-out-and-back layout. Carnoustie is a more difficult course, although from the tips with the wind blowing, Kingsbarns stretched to 7,126 yards would give any calibre of player all they wanted. Augusta National has that manicured finery that no course can duplicate.

Yet, pound for pound, Kingsbarns can stand up to any golf course that this enthusiastic, if untalented, player has tried. My list is far from complete; in Scotland alone, Western Gailes , Muirfield, Turnberry, Cruden Bay and Royal Dornoch all await. The whole of both Irelands and Australia still beckon. But even for a golfer with only a partially complete education, Kingsbarns sent up serious shivers.

All 18 greens and 18 tees offer a view, usually memorable, of the North Sea and a generally rocky tidal coastline that, denuded of water at certain times of the day, presents a sculptured face that looks almost of lava rock. Fabulous scenery, in other words.

When a handful of Canadian reporters played last week, most of them for at least a second time, they teed off bright and early, second group of another stunning morning. Leading off was a foursome including U.S. touring pro Duffy Waldorf. His succinct comment: “This place is just spectacular.”

Waldorf shot 69, from the championship tees, with mostly centre-cut pins on the generally enormous greens. Fairways are wide open and generous at this point. Developers were trying to attract members of the world press to play and enjoy it, not suffer on it. It wasn’t only the press arriving; several touring pros, including Mike Weir and Gary Player, headed over for a round.

The design is what’s most striking about Kingsbarns. The marriage, in terms of layout to the gently sloping piece of land available, is just about flawless.

You could run out of words describing all 18 holes, but two particularly invite description. The par-five 12th resembles the 18th at Pebble Beach slightly, left-bending around the sea, but stretches to 606 slightly downhill yards and ends with a green a whopping 72 yards from front to back, pinched by bunkers left front and right rear. There is also a world-class short hole, the par-three 15th , that plays across water to a narrow point of land and plays 212 yards, almost all carry, from the back tees. It’s a less daunting 185 from the medal tees, which are recommended for golfers with handicaps of 12 or less.

There are no truly weak holes. The finishing hole, the 18th , is the least favourite here because of a downhill lie on the second shot across the burn and the stone bridge to a two-level green, but it provides great action for viewers nestled deep into the leather chairs at the (needless to say) comfortable and beautiful clubhouse.

It’s high-end public and a budget-denter at £85 (about $205 Cdn.) but, even in its infancy, no serious golf trip to Scotland could be considered complete without a round at Kingsbarns.


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