Crail (Balcomie) - Fife - Scotland

Crail Golfing Society,
KY10 3XN,

  • +44 (0) 1333 450686

  • Golf Club Website

  • 10 miles SE of St Andrews

  • Welcome - book in advance - not before 10am or between 12 & 2pm

Ten miles from St Andrews, on the easternmost tip of the Kingdom of Fife, lies the Balcomie Links. It's laid out on a narrow promontory, often blasted by North Sea gales. There are magnificent views across the beach to the Firth of Forth. Nearby stands Balcomie Castle, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a boy who was starved to death inside the castle walls nearly 400 years ago. In 1538, Mary of Guise stayed at the castle on her way to marry King James V at St Andrews.

Balcomie is the relatively modern home of the Crail Golfing Society, the ninth oldest golf club in the world, which was formed in 1786 at a meeting in the Golf Inn at Crail. In the early days, the Crail Golfing Society played their golf on an 8-hole course at Sauchope, located closer to the pretty fishing village of Crail. According to early club records, failure to show up for a match resulted in a fine of "a half mutchkin of punch". In the mid-19th century, a local farmer laid out a nine-hole course at Balcomie and in 1894, Old Tom Morris was called in to improve it. He returned four years later to extend the course to 18 holes.

Measuring a mere 5,922 yards from the men's medal tees, Balcomie is by no means a championship course, but with a lowly par of 69 and the ever-present wind, the yardages are often meaningless. The opening hole falls away from the clubhouse towards the sea and the next four holes hug the shoreline – it's a thrilling start. The next nine holes are a little less dramatic – inland in character, but nevertheless enjoyable. A return to the shoreline concludes the round.

You'll want to play Balcomie more than once because there's a great deal of variety, not least in the balance of the two nines - six par fours on the front and only three on the back. We suggest you buy a day ticket and play Balcomie twice. Or, if you are feeling up to it, perhaps you'd like to emulate those who play in Crail's annual tournament, the Ranken Todd Bowl. It's contested over 54-holes on a single September day.

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Description: The Balcomie Links is the relatively modern home of the Crail Golfing Society, the ninth oldest golf club in the world, which was formed in 1786. Rating: 6.6 out of 10 Reviews: 41
Jim McCann

This review should be exclusively for the Balcomie but you really have to know about its realtively new wee brother, the Craighead. This course was newly built when I played it in 2001 and although much of it lies further inland, presumably on what was farmland before, it feels every bit as much a links course as the Balcomie – the point I am making is, do yourself a big favour and buy a day ticket for both!

The Balcomie is traditional, old fashioned, links golf. It has a great opening half dozen holes by the shoreline and four of the final six holes are par threes! The clubhouse is well geared up for visitors and you will take in stunning views of the coastline from the main lounge after your round. Places like this are where visiting golf afficianados should come to as well as (or instead of?) other, better known, but in many ways, more inferior venues.

Jim McCann

January 22, 2005
8 / 10
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