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.
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 returned here five years after my first time on the course and, mindful that an awful lot of water has flown under a great many golfing bridges that I’ve crossed in that time, I was probably more critical in my appraisal process this time around. Nonetheless, Kittocks still ticked most of the boxes in terms of what I was looking for, even if its famed greens were far from their best, having just been top dressed -- a real pity, but understandable.
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.
Although the Devlin has been marketed as the more exclusive of the two courses at St.Andrews Bay, I think the Torrance is a better course. I played the latter in May 2004 and was very taken with its 'Kingsbarns like' risk/reward design on many of its holes. However, the review is about the Devlin and it too is a great new course.
I was unfortunate to play on a very blustery day in March 2004 when the wind was so strong my tee shot into the gale did not make it over the gully from the tee at the 14th and was lost. I hope the conditions did not overly influence my feelings towards the course but it's difficult to not take them into account when your ball will not stay on its spot when trying to putt!
What I like about BOTH courses is the choice of tee position you are allowed to take (your choice, as it should be, not as dictated by the starter) and the greens are as links-like lightening fast and firm as you will find along the road at the other St.Andrews courses.
The clubhouse is ultra modern, a little pricey, but then you only play top venues like this every so often so get the five pound bacon butties down your neck before you start and fill your boots with a club or steak sandwich for a tenner when you are finished. Better still, come for the day and play both courses.
The guy who financed St.Andrews Bay was Don Panoz, founder of Elan nicotine patch company and his investment was FIFTY EIGHT million pounds and it shows! Oh, and the views from the clubhouse overlooking St.Andrews and beyond, up the East coast into Angus are just breathtaking. Just as well there's a big deck built outside to let you sit there and take it all in on a good day.