Travelling to St Andrews is much more than a visit - it's a reverent pilgrimage. It's a joy to see an entire town given up to golf, but there is inevitably an air of expectation when a new course is built so close to the "home of golf". All eyes were on Bruce Devlin the headline designer, former Australian Open champion and himself an Aussie. Assisting Devlin on a consultancy basis was “the Squire”, the legendary late Gene Sarazen, but the true architect behind the design was Denis Griffiths. In the summer of 2002, the Devlin course at St Andrews opened for play to a rapturous standing ovation.
You'll find the five star Fairmont St Andrews resort a couple of miles outside the “auld grey toon”, en route to Kingsbarns. It's an amazing location with the resort's flagship Kittocks course sited on elevated ground next to the cliff-tops. The views across the River Tay estuary with the famous medieval town in the background are simply breathtaking. The design is dramatic too, with the natural features of the land being used to great effect, most notably a deep ravine called Kittock's Den, which cuts frivolously through the course. Undoubtedly, the most striking holes are those that border the rugged North Sea shoreline, a number of which will remain etched permanently in the mind.
Bruce Devlin's design goal was “to build great golf courses within the contours of the natural surroundings which challenge the best golfers and yet can be equally enjoyed by the novice”. We think he and Denis Griffiths have achieved the target with four distinctly different teeing areas. You'll need to be either an exceptionally good player or a masochist to play this par 72 from the back tees (7,049 yards) but with four areas to choose from, there's a tee for all abilities (5,195 yards from the forward tees).
The Kittocks course (previously known as the Devlin) has been constructed in an American-style with two man-made lakes, but the layout honours the tradition of golf at St Andrews with two double greens, numerous deep pot bunkers and, of course, the most important ingredient, the feeling.
After a fairly gentle start, the Kittocks goes wild when the par five 5th stretches along the edge of Kittock's Den. The vista opens up and the land begins to pitch and roll. From here on in, there's no looking back... from the par four 7th, which is squeezed up against the rugged coastline with its green perched on a promontory to the awe-inspiring signature hole, the long par four 15th which doglegs towards the hanging cliff-edge green. The 17th and 18th from the original Torrance course now form the closing two holes on the Kittocks (with the 3rd and 4th from the old Devlin now played on the Torrance) and these two strong par fours round off the new Kittocks course in great style.
The Kittocks is a valuable addition to the St Andrews experience. It's a course to be savoured and should be included on any serious golfer's must-play list.
I played this course as the final of four rounds in a single day in the Fife region, starting at Drumoig, Scotscraig, St Andrews (New) and then finally here. It was a charity event with a small group of work colleagues and we raised some money for Help for Heroes.
The day had started in darkness at 0345 at Drumoig, so by the time we arrived at Fairmont about 1800, weariness had started to set in. And add in that it had been raining since hole 10 of 72... It had rained so much over the Fife region throughout the day that when we arrived at the Fairmont for our final round of the day, the staff advised that their courses had been closed. However, because they knew we were playing for a charity event they allowed our small group to go out and play.
And play we did: probably quite poorly and slowly due to the sodden ground but there was still the challenging course to negotiate and the wonderful coastline views, as well as a sense of euphoria which developed over the final few holes. We finished at 2215 local time with still enough light for maybe a few more holes, but by that stage a bottle of bubbly had been opened and maybe a cigar or two had been lit, so golf was well and truely off the agenda.
I really do need to go back and play the course again, because although I have a scorecard which showed me playing six over handicap (with birdie on the short par 4 7th) I can only recall general feelings that it was a nice course, maybe a little sterile compared to nearby links courses, but sufficiently challenging and with some great views along the coastline.
Some people claim, that when visiting Fife to shoot some golf, one should visit the classic links venues only.
If I would have followed their reasoning, I would have missed my Kittocks experience on the Fairmont golf resort. We decided to play some non-links tracks as well during our last trip in May this year. We were lucky: we played Kittocks under blue skies with a gentle breeze, after a long period of drought. I can imaging that if the wind is blowing at Fairmont, it will offer additional challenges by its own.
Kittocks is decent golf venue, American-style design, located along the Scottish coastline. Although the overall design is slightly better at Kittocks, the beautiful & dramatic seaside views reminded me of Pinnacle Point, with Pinnacle Point winning clearly on the wow-factor.
Kittocks is adjacent to the coast, it has fabulous views over St Andrews, it has a linksy feeling turf now & then, but Kittocks is not a links course by nature. At a traditional links course, I have the feeling that all the humps and bumps are there by nature, at Kittocks some of the contours had a less natural feel. It is more suited for the aerial gunners then those who use the lower trajectory to attack the large putting surfaces.
But it does offer a very professional welcome at the clubhouse & immaculate service by all staff, presents a well-designed & well-maintained championship golf course, offering a very all-encompassing test for your golf game. We had a very satisfactory golf experience at Kittocks: we had the track almost to ourselves and we paid next to nothing (GBP35 pp.) for a 18 holes round of very decent golf.
Sometimes you have to enjoy a proper seaside venue to appreciate the attractive force of a true links course...
It's probably fair to say that the two Fairmont courses are overlooked by most visitors to St Andrews as they head for the more famous names along the coast. Until last month I had been guilty of doing the very same thing when planning my visits to Fife but having finally rectified the situation I can say that both offer challenging golf in a spectacular location. Our game followed two days of wet weather and although I wouldn't describe this as a classic links turf, the courses are well drained and our shoes required little, if any, cleaning afterwards. The Kittocks is generally regarded as having the more undulating and picturesque hole locations as so many are routed along the cliff tops. The 4th, a tough par-4 over a valley, could possibly be the hardest hole on the property and the 7th, which sweeps down from a raised tee along the cliffs to an attractive double green might well be the best. The unusual timbered bunkers and magnificent coastal backdrop only help to make this classy par-4 even more memorable. The 10th, a short risk and reward hole to the same double green is also worthy of a mention. Some may be tempted to go for broke with the driver but attacking a flag so close to the cliff edge makes it a potential card wrecker. The excellent stretch of finishing holes begins with two strong par 4's at the 14th and 15th followed by the lovely short 16th. Here the sea will swallow anything missing to the right and anything long or left is likely to put you on the wrong side of one of the numerous stone walls that come into play during the round. Two tough par-4's that once belonged to the Torrance course finish off an enjoyable round of golf. At the time of my visit I would position the course somewhere between a 4 and a 5 ball rating. Brian W
Plenty of challenge on this course, even off the yellow tees at 6300 yards. Very fair, you can see where you are going on the approach shot, so quite enjoyable and not frustrating for the first time player. Not too many holes where positioning is critical but you must hit good shots to score. Lovely views and setting far from roads. Very quiet the day we visited. Would not feel crowded anytime I suspect. Easy to walk, next tees always close by but not in the way of play so no worries about playing when someone is on the tee / green adjoining. Only lost one ball pushed OB over the cliff and rough not too thick so you don't waste time looking for looking for errant balls (of which I had plenty, playing 7 over my handicap). Course and greens in great shape. A very nice course, less hard work than Mach Dunes, for instance and just as much good golfing. Not very linksy in that running up shots to greens usually not an option, get out your wedges and lofted irons for shots to green.
The original 3rd and 4th holes now form part of the Torrance. The remaining sixteen holes still play in the same order and the 17th and 16th of the original Torrance are now the 17th and 18th of Kittocks.
The sea vistas are superb from the very pretty par five 5th hole to the 10th which shares a double green with the 7th at the edge of the cliff top. A hook on the 7th will send you over the cliff whereas a slice on the 10th will have the same result.
The 15th and 16th are fun and challenging with stone walls, bunkers and beautiful sea views all part of the package. Fifteen is a long par four requiring a blind tee shot over the crest of a hill. You then have a long downhill second to the seaside green, but watch out for the ravine on your right.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
The course for me started to get interesting from the 4th (SI 1), with holes 7 and 8 also very good. I found the back 9 a lot tougher with holes 12, 13 and the stretch of holes between 15 and 17 demanding. If I had to use one word to describe The Kittocks it would be challenging. There are so many holes that could wreck your card (4, 15 and 17 in particular) so you have to be on your toes at all times but I have to admit that I found it a very enjoyable place to play golf. When The Torrance gets up and running again St Andrews Bay will make a welcome return to Scotland’s 36 hole establishments and, for those who can’t make it into the Old Grey Toon itself, a more than adequate alternative. MPPJ
I noticed this time that the course takes a little time to get the juices flowing and, 4th hole apart, it doesn’t really get you visually excited on the tee box until the 7th hole is reached by the shoreline. From then on until the end, though, it sustains a high level of interest on every hole, culminating in the wise move that sees the 17th and 18th from the Torrance now played as the 17th and 18th on the Kittocks. The transitional hole at 11 which climbs back up to Kittock’s Den is a beast of a hole and far tougher than its stroke index of 7 would suggest. The 15th is another tremendous hole, plunging back down towards the water’s edge below the braes. Views along to St Andrews and beyond were obscured by an overcast sky which detracted a little from the playing experience but the Kittocks course still delivered big time for a four ball special offer winter tee time that was in place to the end of April.
Kittocks is living in the shadow of the Torrance just now (which is hosting the Scottish Seniors in August 2009 and Open Final Qualifying in July 2010) but I understand a substantial upgrade is soon to be made on the Kittocks (which is only seven years old anyway!) and this will obviously propel the resort back up the list of 36-hole Scottish golfing destinations. Jim McCann.