Markinch Golf Club was formed in 1905 and their 9-hole course was located on land to the north of Markinch village. Sadly, the course never recovered from extensive army manoeuvres during the Second World War and the club folded in 1947.
Golfing interest in the area revived in the late 1970s with members playing several times a year at various clubs throughout Fife. Fortuitously, Glenrothes Development Corporation purchased the nearby Balbirnie Estate and undertook the construction of an 18-hole golf course within the property which they subsequently leased to Markinch Golf Club.
The first nine holes were ready for play in 1983 and the second nine holes were completed the following year when the club was reformed as Balbirnie Park Golf Club.
The Georgian mansion house at the centre of the 400-acre estate – commissioned by the Balfour family, designed by John Nisbet in 1777 and extended by Robert Crichton in 1815 – has been converted to a luxury, 30-bed hotel and operates independently to the golf club.
Balbirnie’s rolling parkland is a little hilly in places but never unduly so. The layout suits those who hit long and straight off the tee whilst punishing errant drivers who can find themselves playing from punishing rough or from behind leafy trees.
The back nine starts and ends with a par five and the 496-yard 18th – “Back Burn” – is a very fine closing hole. It takes two stout strokes – both blind to the hole – to lay-up before a heavily protected putting surface in front of the clubhouse. The shot to the pin then has to negotiate bunkers on the right, a large tree on the left and a burn that runs along the front of the green. A five on the scorecard here is a very satisfying end to a round at bonny Balbirnie Park.
The Kingdom of Fife is renowned for its many links offerings but for those who might prefer to play further inland then the well-manicured course at Balbirnie Park is very reasonably priced parkland alternative. Laid out in two distinct 9-hole parcels around the upmarket Balbirnie House hotel, the course pitches and rolls across rather hilly terrain, with plenty of land movement on every hole.
It’s tree-lined all the way here (apart from the 5th and 6th where there’s housing to the right of either fairway) and a few holes are a bit tight off the tee, especially on the shorter front nine. Sad to say, none of the four short holes are visually appealing, especially the uphill 14th where a thin narrow strip of fairway appears to have been gouged from the hillside between tee and green.
A couple of small ponds have been introduced in recent years at both the 3rd and 12th holes but they’re purely ornamental water features; nice to look at but offering no strategic value whatsoever to either hole. The downhill 18th is lauded as the “signature hole” and it’s a great way to finish the round but the left doglegging 16th is a far better hole, which its stroke index rating of 3 suggests.
A previous reviewer mentioned the tree in the fairway of the long par four 12th but made no reference to a similar obstacle on the following hole – which is even an even crazier arboreal abomination, allowing a gap of less than ten yards on either side for an uphill approach to the green. I’m surprised nobody has yet succeeded in having both trees removed, either by fair means or foul!
Still, a round at Balbirnie Park is an enjoyable experience overall and you’ll do well to return a nett score on or below the par of 71. Tees, fairways and greens were all in great condition at a welcoming golf venue which you can tell right away on arrival is a “proper” golf club – and well worth the effort to seek out for anybody looking for a change of pace away from the coast.
Played two rounds yesterday. In the morning was very wet and heavy rain for the full round was very surprised it was still open. In the afternoon the rain subsided and after a few holes it drained superbly.
A few holes are very challenging with strategically placed bunkers on the fairways and green side. Greens were in fantastic shape and were quick even after the heavy rain. A stunning finish with the 18th being a great signature hole. Would definitely return on a warmer and sunnier day.