The Castle Course, St Andrews, delivers intrigue, spectacular views and a challenge of perseverance
The Castle Course should be a part of every adventurous golfer’s golf tour to St Andrews and Scotland, here’s why…
No other course in the infamous St Andrews golfing region seems to polarise golf lovers as much as The Castle Course. It is somewhat over-the-top in course design and agronomy, including its seemingly perilous cliff-top location with truly spectacular views, all of which appear more pronounced against its six traditional and understated sibling St Andrews courses.
The Castle Course has certainly received equal amounts of acclaim and irreverence from golf legends and critics. Renowned course architect Tom Doak famously gave the course a ‘zero’ rating in his 2014 release of his ‘Confidential Guide to Golf Courses’, the only course to receive a goose-egg rating.
In stark contrast, The Castle Course has a 4.5-star rating average on reputable travel review site, Trip Advisor, where the reviews are posted by avid golfers giving frank accounts of their first-hand experience.
One could argue that the richly-contrasting reviews are due to The Castle being an acquired taste and certainly not for the feint-hearted golfer; the greens are huge and wild and steep, and due to its elevated position, the winds can be strong and gusty and play a significant role in any round. Furthermore, the thick and woolly tufted-hummocks that ‘plague’ The Castle’s fairways in disproportionately high numbers and indiscriminate positioning are an additional obstacle for the uninitiated, oftentimes presenting unplayable lies.
However, it’s certainly true that the conquest of The Castle Course delivers, once defeated, an immense reward; truly incredible and breathtaking views from its unique and daring cliff-top position.
Unique Features of The Castle Course, St Andrews
The Castle Course couldn’t be more different from its six sibling courses in the Links Trust of St Andrews; it is the only course to be built outside of the St Andrews town, and due to its position on the seaside precipice, it is not a links course. However, The Castle Course has an intrigue and design that lends it to a great sense of romance and history.
Perched atop clifftops, the panoramic views from The Castle course are literally breathtaking and quite possibly the best in St Andrews; uniquely, almost every tee and green provide a vantage point for the spectacular vistas over St Andrews, the Bay and the North Sea.
The 6,759-yard course was designed by Scottish architect David McLay Kidd and sits on 220 acres of clifftop just outside the Auld Grey Toon. It opened in 2008 as a highly-anticipated modern edition to the existing courses of St Andrew’s Links Trust (The Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Balgove and Strathtyrum). The course has two loops of nine holes, with each half set rising up to the clubhouse and falling back away, and the final holes hugging the rugged coastline.
History of The Castle Course, St Andrews
The land sits on the site of Kinkell Castle, home to the Moneypenny family, who purchased the land from the Prior of St Andrews in 1211. In fact, the stunning escarpment of Kinkell Ness, the site of the former castle, is now home to the dual ninth and 18th green.
Stand-out holes of The Castle Course, St Andrews
The signature hole at The Castle is its 184-yard par-three 17th hole with its striking coastal position and dramatic ravine at the Kinkell Braes, which requires an impressive strike from a strong iron to surpass.
Never understated, the Castle Course has a number of other remarkable holes worth mentioning. The stroke-index three par-four second hole is a veritable test off the tee for one hoping to veto the six strategically placed bunkers, and if that’s not enough, the shape and length of the hole mean judging the distance to the tee is a challenge any most find difficult.
The fifth hole is the hardest on the course for its length of 536 yards combined with its incredibly-oversized green. Making par means three strategic blasts up the fairway and then navigating your way to the pin across the huge green in two.
Some have described the final four holes as the most awe-inspiring in Scotland, quite an honour given the nation’s golfing prowess. The final stretch starts with the mammoth 15th hole of 585 yards, followed by the dramatic and rugged coastal par-four 16th, the precariously perched cliff-top 17th and the breathtaking 18th par-five hole.
The verdict on playing The Castle Course as part of your next golf tour to St Andrews, Scotland
The narrow fairways and severely sloped greens, given the stiff breezes in these parts, could add up to a course that is too perilous for some. In fact, with a strong prevailing wind, the steep inclines of some greens can render them close to unplayable.
However, the putting surfaces offer some forgiveness, rolling steadily well. And the course’s five different tee boxes options on each hole means golfers of all levels can choose the length that suits them (anywhere from 5,300 yards through to 7,200 yards). Furthermore, many of the famed hummocks have been reduced.
The spectacular position and scenery of The Castle is so unique that this really makes playing there a must-do; after all the greatest reward often comes from surpassing the greatest challenge. Plus, mid-handicappers could really enjoy playing creative shots and making the most of the distinctive slopes on the greens. Just be sure to
If vertigo isn’t a problem for you, be sure to play The Castle once, and then again to really appreciate its fusion of ancient romance and modern ingenuity.
If you’d like to play The Castle Course, be sure to join our 2018 or 2019 British Golf Tour to Carnoustie and St Andrews, Scotland. Find out more here.