- +44 (0) 1334 460860
7 miles SE of St Andrews
Course closed Dec-Mar – contact in advance
According to golf historian Bobby Burnet, golf at Kingsbarns dates back to 1793. A nine-hole golf course once played over part of the current layout. The “nine-holer” was commandeered by the military at the outbreak of the Second World War because they felt that the beach at Kingsbarns was an invasion risk. The golf course disappeared until American architect Kyle Phillips came along at the close of the 20th century.
Phillips studied various courses, including Royal Dornoch, to ensure that the end design would look natural. The earthmovers then rumbled in and shifted hundreds of thousands of tonnes of earth to create the moonscape that is now Kingsbarns.
The course opened in July 2000 to rapturous applause and the layout appears so natural that you would think that it had been there for years.
One of the many delights of Kingsbarns Golf Links is that you can see the North Sea from virtually every part of the course. What’s more, it has its own burn (the Cambo), which was uncovered during all that earth moving. The terrain is perfect for golf, rippling fairways, humps and hollows.
“As a piece of construction work, Kingsbarns is one of the best projects I’ve ever seen,” commented Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses . “It started out as a flat field above a small bowl of linksland, but I wouldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t seen it for myself, because the reshaping and grassing of the landscape was so well done.
The routing of the holes takes excellent advantage of the 2 km of sea frontage, though more for views than as a hazard, because the golf had to defer to the coastal walking paths. For me, the 4th and 5th holes on the upper deck may be the best of the bunch, using the edge of the plateau in their strategy and the sea beyond to intimidate. The overlap of fairways between the 6th and 7th holes and the incoming 16th and 17th is brilliant in blurring the edges of the work and helping to make the course feel more natural.”
Situated just six miles from St Andrews, Kingsbarns is an important addition to the ancient links courses in this area. It's one of only a few true links courses to be built recently along Scotland’s coastline, so it is just as well that this course is a cracker and deserves its status as one of the greatest links courses in the world.
Kingsbarns co-hosts the annual Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour, together with the Old Course at St Andrews and the Championship course at Carnoustie. The tournament is played as a four-day pro-am, with each team comprising one amateur and one professional. A 54-hole cut is made after teams have played each of the three venues, with the leading professional players and teams advancing to the final round at St Andrews.
The club also hosted the Ricoh Women’s British Open (now named the AIG Women’s Open) in 2017, when South Korea’s In-Kyung Kim won the event with an 18 under par four round total of 270, beating her nearest rival Jodi Ewart Shadoff by two strokes.
We played Kingsbarns on a Saturday morning in late October at the end of a three day trip to St Andrews. We had already played the New, Castle, Jubilee and Fairmont (Torrance). As you’d expect when paying top dollar the greeting was warm, welcoming and the set-up (practice range, chipping area and putting green) was excellent.
As for the course well, it is breathtakingly good. The condition was exceptional for the time of year. The greens were the equal of those in down-town St Andrews, and despite having relatively recently been dressed they were true and quick enough. The 1st hole gets you going and the 2nd (Par 3) is a little unremarkable but its tee box gives you a taste of what is to come. 3rd has a real wow factor skirting the beach to a raised green. Most holes give you a view of the sea, and though those running down the coast are the most spectacular, there is no let up in quality throughout the round. The 6th is a great example of a hole not needing to be long or next to the water to be a classic. The 8th is a fun par 3 if the hole is set front left as it was for us. 9-11 are all strong holes, but are clearly just building towards the main event. 12 is as testing (it was playing into the breeze) as it is gorgeous. 15 is clearly a wonderful golf hole and a back right pin required a bold stroke. The closing stretch extends the crescendo but to my small group the 18th was felt to be a little anti-climatic.
I appreciate there are some out there that find fault with this course. I get it, I mean I always thought Claudia Schiffer’s legs were just a little too long… Unfortunately Old Tom Morris wasn’t alive in the year 2000 so they had to make do with Kyle Phillips and he’s done the golfing world a great service. This course is equal parts stunning, fun, gettable (depending on the tees) and fair. If you are in the area and have the money do not leave this off your list. I am glad we played Kingsbarns last because every other course we had enjoyed was cast into its shadow.
First review on this website although I’ve used as a source of guidance to many a course. To date I’ve played 34/100 in Scotland.
Kingsbarns is worth the visit if you don’t mind splashing a bit of cash. SGU rates were £164 per person. That said I think it was tremendous.
Condition of green on 1 was disappointing. Thankfully things improved. When crossed over to 2 I got my first proper view and it’s not hard to see why people are wowed by the views. Birdied 4 with a nice drive rewarded. 1
12 is a bit special down the coastline and 15 is one to trust your judgment and club up.
Overall, yes I enjoyed the day and the experience is superb. Greens overall were 8.5/10. If you like golf, and have plenty of time then add this to your list.
Last word is that 18 is a great closing hole. Picturesque. Each good shot is rewarded. Make a birdie and walk away happy.
Not sure i can add much to the dialogue. The reviews of Kingsbarn are probably the most polarizing of any course that I have read. True, the Kingsmen seem to overpower the usurpers by 4 to 1. Kingsbarn is a lovely golf course. It is a lovely American golf course on steroids that just happens to be in Scotland. If you are in Scotland, i would encourage you to play it. I, however, will not be going back.
Which reviews are you referring to ? (I would challenge the use of the word polarising with regard to Kingsbarns - only 4 reviews posted on this website in the last ten years are less than 5 balls and 3 of those were 4.5, including yours).
Phil Dean, Charles, Ben Payne....
Kingsbarns is a fantastic place to play links golf. It is very easy to like as everything is laid out in front of you. If budget does not matter to you, it is also a course to return to, as there is so much variety that you are very unlikely to be bored.
Like many others, I appreciated the most obvious eye candy (sea views, holes 12-15) the first time, while subsequent visits have opened my eyes to the quality of the slightly less spectacular holes.
My favourite hole is now the short par 4 6th. Everyone who claims Kingsbarns is simplistic should play this hole a couple of times and study their progression. Without engaging the grey matter (or outside expertise) you are likely to get yourself in trouble with your tee shot, or at least discover that you are in the wrong place to get close to the pin with your second shot.
I also like the short par 3 8th, where the hollow and bunker left front have played devilish games with my mind in the tough windy conditions I have encountered during all my visits. Just goes to prove that short is not the same as easy.
It is equally easy to list all the things Kingsbarns does not have: members, musty changing rooms with lots of history, quirky blind shots, great value for money etc. But, honestly, that feels a little bit like complaining about the bubbles in a great champagne. And, besides, there is a plethora of places in Scotland where you can go to get all that.
So, while I have since learnt to appreciate the subtle pleasures of more understated links golf and Kingsbarns therefore is no longer at the very top of my personal top-10 list, it is still a course I would not hesitate a moment to recommend to any visitor to the region. Looking forward to my next visit!
Excellent course with a few wow holes close to the sea, unfortunately when we played the condition was not as anticipated and the speed of play was ridiculously slow so it did take the edge off the day. However the customer service from Kingsbarns was first class and rectified the situation, looking forward to a return.
An amazing golf course with great routing, challenging undulating greens and incredible views. A fantastically warm welcome on arrival, a great driving range to warm up on and a wonderful clubhouse to enjoy post round. I’d return in a heartbeat. Quite simply, you need to play this course.
Kingsbarns is many times spoken of as the American course in St Andrews. Unlike so many courses in Scotland, when you show up at Kingsbarns they allow you to play off a variety of tee boxes. They have a range so you can warm up. I refer to Kingsbarns as the best course in St Andrews. And it is. It doesn't have the Old's history but it is pure great golf. A tremendous set of par 3's. Great starter which seems routine but is anything but. The 18th is one of the toughest holes anywhere...period. They are so overwelmingly welcoming...Ha...If I had to choose just one as my every day play for life...Here it is.
I’m sure if you took a straw poll of visitors to Scotland and asked them which course was their favourite, a general browsing of social media on the topic tells me that Kingsbarns would be near the top of that list. So after playing the course, I tried to answer the question as to why this is? The short answer is that it’s very pretty and it’s playable. Each hole at Kingsbarns is visually attractive and to the most part, in view of the sea. The large fairways mean that you don’t have to be fearful on the tee, big greens mean that there’s room for error for the handicap golfer, and there’s a nice amount of undulation to the putting surfaces without anything being particularly tricked up. The course is very fair too, there are no blind shots or awkward bounces and there is usually a side of the green or fairway which allows for a recovery if you mishit your first shot. And whilst it’s host of one of the championship days at the Alfred Dunhill (and here comes my attempt to be on-topic with the new WHS coming into play in the UK), Kingsbarns’ slope rating of 136 from the medal tees confuses me as I found the course quite scoreable, and I believe that this is a consensus opinion rather than just my own.
I’d describe the course layout as being split into three sections; firstly we have the main part of the property where the holes are split between a lower section that sits by the sea, and the more elevated upper section that’s on the same level as the clubhouse. The third section of the property lies between holes 12 and 15 which follows a short walk through the trees and where you’ll get to enjoy playing one of the best par fives in Scotland under the watchful gaze of Crail in the distance.
Kingsbarns is twenty years old now and it’s matured beautifully, the manufactured humps and mounds have weathered naturally and fit well within their surroundings and I hear that the course is always in excellent condition. As you’d expect of a course that ranks within all of the World Top 100 lists, it also has variety and its share of outstanding holes. I loved the approach to the 1st hole with the array of pot bunkers and collection points that await to catch a ball short of the green, whilst the aforementioned par five 12th that bends around the beach and the par three 15th where you have to carry the ball over the sea, are the holes that most visitors recall. Personally, I found the short 13th architecturally more stimulating than the 15th. This hole is bordered by a tall stone wall and has a small plateau green with an array of coffin-like bunkers surrounding it. I mentioned variety earlier too, as there’s a classic reachable par four at the 6th, a design concept which has been very en-vogue in recent years, but this shorty is the perfect marriage of both risk and reward with gorse bushes and revetted bunkers lying in wait. I do admit that the holes around the turn failed to excite me to the same extent as the previous holes, but they’re still solid and more than mere connector holes.
There are no members at Kingsbarns which means that the sizeable green fees are targeted towards the foreign visitor market, and I’d argue that the course is also designed with the same aim. Kingsbarns is the ideal introduction to links golf for someone who’s not had much exposure to the links game before as well as the perfect remedy for those who may be underwhelmed by the visuals at nearby St Andrews, but I’m not convinced that Kingsbarns would stand up to repeated visits in the same way as the old classic a few miles up the road. That being said, Kingsbarns has plenty of eye-candy and is both very well designed and constructed. There has clearly been a strong attention to detail with a pleasant flow to the round and each hole coming with its fair amount of swales and borrows to keep things interesting. For my own individual tastes, I felt that the late Mark Parsinen’s effort at Castle Stuart is the slightly better of his two Scottish courses, and when I’m travelling up to Scotland, I’m personally looking for something a little more natural and authentic, but if you don’t mind digging deep into your wallet for a round of golf, I think Kingsbarns will find a way to please most that come through its gates.
You can see why the Americans love this place. The club house is great, service is excellent, range is big and the putting green huge.
The course has some spectacular holes on it. What I think kingsbarns does well is that it is not the most difficult course in the world. The par 5s are all reachable meaning most players will have the chance of a birdie.
I think if you’re being ultra critical there are a few too many average holes which stops it being in the top 5. 4 is a bit bland and I’ve always felt 13&14 were squeezed in to allow 12 to play the way it does. Which is not necessarily a bad thing as 12 is so spectacular.
All in all I’ve thoroughly enjoyed kingsbarns every time I’ve played it and can’t wait to go back again soon
Arguably the best of all the "new" courses in Scotland. Beautiful and fun. The holes are excellent. It is a little to "American" for my taste and the lack of history keeps it off of my must play list in Scotland. This said, it is a wonderful track.