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2 miles inland of St Andrews
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The Duke’s is the course belonging to the famous Old Course Hotel and it’s the only non-links course in St Andrews. The Duke’s is situated a couple of miles inland but, if you are lucky enough to stay at the hotel, they’ll provide transportation to and from the course. Despite the hotel being strategically sited next to the infamous Road Hole, no hotel can guarantee tee times on the Old course. Naturally, the Old Course Hotel decided to build their very own course.
Peter Thomson, who was affectionately nicknamed the Melbourne Tiger, designed The Duke’s course with his partner Ross Perrett. The five-time Open Champion's motto was that “a golf course should be a bit wild” and they certainly created a seriously challenging layout, which measures 7,512 yards from the tips, but with five tee boxes the Duke’s is manageable for all golfers. The Duke’s opened for play in 1995 and the name presumably came from Prince Andrew the Duke of York who hit the first tee shot in an opening match with former Scotland Rugby Captain Gavin Hastings.
A gentle opening par five called “Highland” takes you quickly away from the luxurious clubhouse with the first real challenge coming at the 2nd, a hole called “Drumcarrow”. This tough par four is flanked by trees and a solid drive down the left will leave a tricky long approach shot to a long, narrow green which is very difficult to find in regulation. When you reach the turn, spectacular views open up over St Andrews town and the sea beyond.
“Braw View”, the par four 13th, is one of the most scenic holes in St Andrews. Panoramic views to the north and of the “Auld Grey Toon” might make your mind wander but beware as you will require an accurate tee shot to a bottleneck fairway, avoiding fairway bunkers on the left and right, to set up the best approach shot that requires precise clubbing to hold this small, downhill green. The 18th provides a great climax to an enjoyable round. “Ice House” is a challenging uphill par four, an accurate drive is required followed by an approach shot to an elevated green that will require an extra club. Enjoy the view of St Andrews before heading for the sanctuary of the 19th hole.
The Duke's course was revised and renovated in 2006 by Tim Liddy, an understudy of the renowned golf course architect Pete Dye. Significant bunker changes were implemented coupled with three new closing holes and alterations to the greensites on holes 13, 14 and 15. Additionally, the club has made significant improvements to fairway drainage such that the course now plays in a more traditional heathland style.
In 2009, complimentary use of the driving range was introduced for all golfers and strategic areas of rough cut back to allow a wider latitude for play, making for greatly improved scoring and enjoyment.
St Andrews is one of only a few places in the world whereby you can enjoy stunning links golf and, just a couple of miles away in the shape of the Duke’s course, outstanding inland golf. Let’s hear it for St Andrews – the Home of Golf.
The Old Course Hotel is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
The Duke’s has moved up a number of notches in the Scottish listings since last year but some might still find it hard to believe there are four inland tracks in the country ranked higher than this place. Returning here just over a year since my last visit, the Duke’s enthralled me once again from start to finish.
It’s such an expansive course on a massive property overlooking the “Grey Auld Toon” that you can easily become overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all – so choose your tees correctly and you’ll enjoy the fair challenge of a top track where the bold bunkering is quite simply the best that I have experienced in all of Scotland, bar none.
It’s really unfair to single out any holes from such a strong card but the par three 8th is a terrific short hole, especially as it’s often so difficult to generate interest in an uphill par three.
On the back nine, the par five 11th - where the two-tiered green sits behind an intimidating burn - is well worthy of its stroke index 1 classification.
Our group of four were well catered for in the clubhouse with bacon butties before our round then soup and sandwiches afterwards so absolutely no complaints on that front from us. If you like your golf on a grand scale then the Duke’s is an absolute must play.
Often you return to play a course that you loved first time around and you leave wondering what all the fuss had been about. Occasionally, you will be so glad you came back because it more than surpassed your already high expectations. Well, my visit to the Duke’s yesterday – in all its yellow-gorsed majesty – falls comprehensively into the latter category. What an absolutely fantastic course!
This is big time golf in a vast setting that will blow you away with ease if you’ll let it. It’s easy to see what the main intimidation factor is too – the bunkers. They’re not hidden so if you end up playing from sand, it’s because you failed to negotiate a known trap between tee and green. And these bunkers are not just holes in the ground filled with sand; as an earlier reviewer stated, they’re “miniature works of art” that I don’t mind telling you I spent lots of time during the round just admiring for their artistry.
The routing of the two nines is also to be admired with several pleasing changes in elevation on both the outward and inward halves – the downhill 7th looks fantastic from the back tee whilst the uphill 15th is another wonderful par four hole.
At this moment in time, the Top100 website has seven non links courses in Scotland ranked higher than this place but I can tell you now that all bar two, possibly three, of those layouts do not come anywhere near the stature of the Duke’s.
Our 3-ball availed itself of the club’s special Tuesday twilight green fee between 3pm and 5pm – the best £35 I have parted with in a long time. If you get the chance to take up this offer yourself you will walk off the 18th, albeit a little weary from the walk on a long, demanding course, but with the biggest smile on your face, knowing you have picked up the best bargain that any golfer will find at any of the top Scottish tracks this year.