Few regions in the world capture the imagination of the golfer as much as the "Kingdom of Fife" where Elie sits within a small seaside village facing south across to Edinburgh and East Lothian. Golf at Elie can be officially dated back to 1589 when a royal charter was passed granting the villagers official permission to play over the ancient links. But in reality, golf was probably played here much earlier, as a competitor to archery. In 1832, the Elie and Earlsferry Golf Club was founded and, after the clubhouse was built in 1875, the club changed its name to the Golf House Club.
A number of clubs have playing rights over the Elie links and, at the age of fifteen, James Braid joined one of them, the Earlsferry Thistle Golf Club. Writing in Advanced Golf, Braid declared that a man in Earlsferry who did not play golf, unless for good and obvious reason, was a crank. So it will come as no surprise that the game is taken very seriously here in the hometown of the illustrious James Braid, son of an Elie ploughman, prolific architect and five times British Open Champion.
Initially nine holes, eleven, fourteen and then, Old Tom Morris stretched Elie to eighteen holes in 1895. There are so many great courses in the Kingdom of Fife and Elie is certainly one of them, but it’s also an unusual course, which is apparent right from the off. The opening drive is blind and there’s a vintage submarine periscope located at the starter’s hut on the 1st tee – salvaged from HMS Excalibur – to see over the hill to make sure that the group in front is out of harms way. A quiet spell follows until the sea views open up at the 6th after a drive over the hill.
The round continues with views over the Firth of Forth to North Berwick, Muirfield and Gullane, though beware concentrating on the views in the tricky mid section of the course. The inevitable wind from the Forth ensures the golfer is well aware of its seaside character. Playing to handicap will be challenging because the holes run in all directions so the wind plays an even more pivotal role.
With no par fives and only two par threes, you would expect many monotonous par fours, but Elie is actually an exciting course. It’s also very strong, with six holes measuring more than 400 yards. The most memorable holes are those that run alongside the Firth of Forth. The 12th is the longest hole on the course, measuring 466 yards, and it follows the curvature of the golden sandy beach. “The best hole in golf” was how James Braid felt about the 13th hole, sheltering beneath the cliffs of Kincraig Point. Setting out for home from the 14th, the course continues to present the challenge of undulating fairways, and a variety of shots to subtle greens. The closing two holes take you back into the middle of the town in a similar vein to the way in which the Old course concludes at St Andrews.
If you are interested in history and you want to play an exciting but challenging links course, then look no further than Elie. You will not be disappointed.
Elie is one of the hillier links you’ll find, and that helps to keep a course with 16 par 4s incredibly diverse. The only similarities I found between a couple of holes were greens with blind approaches and fun slopes to roll your ball down. These holes are all very different in length. Pitching on to one after a trademark toed iron, it’s very much a case of chip 20 yards, watch your ball roll 25.
The fairways have some of the biggest humps and hollows that you’ll find, with lots of collection areas around greens to enjoy/endure as well. It’s a pretty wild routing, with various swoops down to the sea that peak at the short par 4 10th (pictured). Playing along or even from the beach, the long 13th finishes seaside in front of a big rocky hill that looks like something from Game of Thrones.
Elie is high on the quirk-scale, but there is also an understated class around the land that helps find a fine balance between fun and stern test. I’ve played most of the mid-price links in Fife now (not Crail), and would put this above St Andrews New, Leven and marginally above Lundin.
Despite playing Elie around 10 years ago, I can still picture the periscope on #1 - which helps determine if the blind fairway up ahead is clear. I’m sure when I looked through it I saw a lady doing something that would make Patrick Reed look like a choir boy (but perhaps I’m imagining it now). There is recall of a decent short hole sweeping downhill at #3. I also can’t forget hitting a window on #4. My heart was in my mouth but the club pro I was playing with simply laughed it off. He’d obviously seen it all before.
Then there was the tricky undulating short par 4 #6 that heads down towards the beach, that saw my rumpled kilt thin somehow weave its way past a plethora of bunkers and mysteriously come to rest in the green. The imaginatively named #8 was another highlight that sticks in the mind for no particular reason - but maybe it was the Dutch who brought golf tonFife after all. And from a purely golfing perspective there is a lovely stretch of holes from #10-13, which would be worth the admission price alone if only the green fee was a little more friendly. A birdie at #16 confirmed that was obviously, with absolute certainly, the best hole on the course.
This place, where James Braid learned to play, is not a hidden gem - it can’t be at a £105 a round peak season. I’ve bought Ford Escorts for less. It also has a few average holes. But it’s an idyllic little corner to enjoy some golf - and the course left me with more vivid memories than you can shake a stok at.
Having heard so many wonderful comments about The Golf House, I was eager to include Elie in my Fife itinerary which proved to be a huge success. The opening two holes take you out and back before the elevated tee box on the splendid downhill par 3 3rd hole gives you a superb panoramic view of the town of Elie and what’s ahead of you out on the course as you migrate towards the sea. A string of medium length par 4s have challenging angles and bumps bring you down towards the end of the property before the drivable 7th turns you back around.
The stretch of 9 through 12 hug the dramatic coastline and present the beautiful backdrop of the famous Elie cliffs. The rugged nature of those holes is a sight to behold including the epic downhill approach into the 9th with the water in the background. I really enjoyed the short par 3 10th and the heroic 11th which requires a tee shot over the water from the medal tee. The 12th hole is arguably the most scenic hole on the inward half with the high cliffs within arm’s reach just behind the green-site. The closing 6 holes have a brilliant routing that traverse nicely across hills and are hugely impacted by the wind direction.
Elie is hugely enjoyable to play as you have plenty of birdie opportunities and really must study to land to determine where to land your ball among the humps and bumps. Great value for money, wonderful golf, commendable topography and without the hassle of St. Andrews makes Elie a must-play when you play your holiday to Fife. It’s a refreshing golf course that will certainly be a highlight.
#ElieGolfClub is exciting, with spectacular views and lots of character. Home town of James Braid....but surely he can’t have spent much time here considering how many courses he was involved in!
Located by the twin fishing villages of Elie and Earlsferry, if you’re searching for golf with charm and character when visiting Fife, then look no further than Golf House Club Elie. Routed surprisingly close to rows of seaside cottages before heading out to a breath-taking stretch along the coast, Elie is one of the most eccentric courses that I’ve played.
Starting bizarrely with the famous periscope located by the first tee and featuring double flag greens at both 9 and 18, Elie is nothing if not quirky. But there’s more to Elie than just its oddities. It’s a course that combines architectural diversity with, at times, outstanding beauty. Of the opening holes, the 2nd would be my personal pick where this modest length par four is played uphill to a raised green that marks the most elevated point of the course. After passing by, or preferably via the pub adjacent to the 4th tee, the 5th is the next most memorable hole amongst the front nine, notable mainly for how you’ll be challenged with bulges and lumps when approaching that green. Otherwise, whilst the residential surroundings make for an intriguing setting, my observations regarding the opening nine are that it can get a little fieldy in places, and the rough can be somewhat clumpy making it easy to lose your ball if you have a tendency to be a little wayward from the tee.
Elie’s qualities really begin to shine when playing the second shot into the 9th, a half blind approach shot into a sunken green that provides a taster of the world-class series of holes that’s to come between holes 10 through 13. The 10th is a big dipper of a hole that rises to a high summit before crashing back down to the rocky beach at the shoreline. A sweet little par three follows, where the tee is set back against the coastline before a curving, yet demanding par four guides you along the grassy bank beside the seafront at the 12th. The beautifully photogenic 13th must be regarded as Elie’s signature hole where a shelf-top green hangs under the cliffs of Kincraig Point at the far corner of the property. 14 and 15 then play parallel to one another before the course returns back to the clubhouse via the closing three solid, albeit less dramatic holes.
My honest assessment is that Elie is probably a little inconsistent to be labelled amongst Scotland’s great courses, but beyond the quirk and the handful of spectacular holes mid-round, there’s also a sense of wistfulness and melancholy about a round at Elie that I’ve never experienced before on a golf course, something that borders on the eerie, and it’s for this combination of factors why Elie must be included on any golfing itinerary to the region.
Another course worthy of a visit. The only time I have used a periscope !
A pleasantly strange feeling of playing through a village at certain points on the course but really enjoyed the visit.
Stating the obvious, there are a lot of great courses in Fife and East Lothian. When my buddy who arranged the rounds for this day of the trip (Leven and Elie) I said "Elie, never heard of it" and questioned the quality of a course with 16 par 4's and 2 par 3's. Boy was I wrong. This place is SPECIAL. It is the quintessential links which has not been ruined by trying to keep up with modern technology. Just because it's short on the card doesn't mean it's easy- the home stretch from 12-18 is relentless, especially when it's back into the wind. There are so many world class holes on this golf course- and most of all, it captures the soul of the game: golf is supposed to be FUN and this place is that in spades. Trying shots off backboards, sideboards, you name it. The ultimate hidden gem and close to top 100 in the world.
I am making my way through Scotlands Top 100 and took my father down to Elie for a game at the end of the summer in 2018. We had an excellent trip, playing on a quiet mid-week day. The course is a traditional links which provided some great and interesting shot making. As a James Braid fan it was great to see where he learnt the game and it was a scunner to bogey his favourite hole, in all golf, the 13th. Mid-way around the front nine you get clear views of the sea and you go through a great sequence of holes. The course was in good condition, the clubhouse and starter were excellent. We felt like we had stepped back in time, this is meant as a complement, I think too may courses get caught up with length and getting the 'championship' feel, this is not the case at Elie. A great fun course, which proves difficult when the wind blows.
Scotland must be full of these courses but Elie is one of my favourites. The submarine thing on the first is a bit silly but we all loved it so maybe more blind holes should have one!!! Pulled my drive left early on and it even went in someone’s garden bounced back off a window thank god it didn’t break not often you get a chance to do that. Not enough Par 3s can only remember 2? which was the only shame but all the holes are still quite different with various types flat but not too flat and all sorts of directions and it was all very natural and traditional. Wind kept us on our toes! Hardly a soul around wish golf was always like that we whizzed around. The 3 or 4 holes at the water were just perfect who needs cypress beach!!! We didn’t have time to eat there and can’t remember how much we paid but we all agreed it was great value. Cyril.
Elie is a ."Delight" to play. From the walk to the 1st tee with the "Periscope" starting house, to the raised 18th green, Elie offers every facet of Golf.