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16 miles W of St Andrews
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Old Tom Morris, Laurie Auchterlonie Jr.
In the tranquil heart of the Kingdom of Fife lies an enchanting, sandy tract of land where the whin, heather and pine smells divine. The Howe of Fife provides Ladybank Golf Club with a natural shelter in the valley of the River Eden between Strathmiglo in the west and Cupar to the east. It’s a Top 100 regular because it is one of Scotland’s best inland courses. Clearly it’s up against some serious competition in Fife, but mix in this peaceful heathland surprise, alongside the more famous links courses in and around the Home of Golf, and we guarantee you will not be disappointed. You’ll certainly be less windswept!
In 1879, Old Tom Morris was charged with laying out a six-hole course. This was extended to nine holes in 1910 and in 1962 the layout was doubled in size to 18 holes by Laurie Auchterlonie Jr., son of the 1893 Open Champion, Willie Auchterlonie. Laurie later became Ladybank's honorary club professional.
Ladybank is regularly used as a Final Open Qualifier and it’s a tough cookie where accuracy and positioning are all important. The smallish greens are always in outstanding condition but your iron play will need to be on song to find the firm and fast putting surfaces. The crisp fairways are relatively flat and even – it is very rare to get an uneven stance. Measuring over 6,800 yards, it’s a challenging course – keeping the ball in play will pay dividends and save you from losing shots and balls. The problem is that Ladybank teases and cajoles you into hitting a long ball – if you’re accurate, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. It’s a tricky call.
We are sure that there is a sprinkling of Worplesdon, a dash of Woking and spot of West Hill at Ladybank. But wait a moment, perhaps it’s the other way round, Ladybank was here first. Anyway, there is no doubt that Ladybank has got its own unique character and you will certainly receive an exceptionally warm welcome from the members.
In December 2019 the club announced an ambitious quarter of a million pounds bunker makeover programme, spearheaded by the KimberGlen firm of architects. More than fifty bunkers were transformed over two winters utilising the “Blinder” bunker lining system.
This is an intricate golf course that gets better each time you play it. Similar to what many say about the Old Course, the first time you play it you might feel underwhelmed, but the more you play the more enjoyment you get from trying to work out the best way to plot your way around.
Having played it numerous times now, there are still many holes where I haven't yet worked out what the best play is.
It's a golf course that rewards shot shaping and careful positioning, and punishes most mistakes. You'll probably find your ball, but you'll have to take your medicine.
Condition is great, the turf is very links like despite being well inland meaning it drains surprisingly well. New bunker complexes will take a bit more time to bed in but should be great once they do.
A good, honest members club that is worth a visit if you want to take a break from the coast.
A pretty course but honestly was repetetive as some tree lined courses can be.
Greens were not in great nick and around the course was a bit scruffy in places.
Lovely club house and welcome but after having been recommended this by many friends I was underwhelmed I am afraid.
Well, this was round 15 on the trip and on an afternoon after the very clever decision to play Duke’s in Buggy … can’t imagine my legs walking after what could have been a very demanding morning. Ladybank is another of the recommended to me, this one by Bob Ford who qualified for The Senior Open some years ago in this course. Located some 20mins from St Andrews it could be another one of the forgotten or overshadowed by big neighbors and it would be a mistake!! Imagine a nice forest with heather, firm fast sandy floor, nice rolling fairways and tough to read very well kept greens … and you will get this beauty in front of you again beginning with a nice Soup of the Day lunch in the beautiful Club House.
After 14 rounds body and soul were starting to fail and this round was the witness of the weakest putting of the tour and this disappoints when you just get overplayed by greens that look “easy” but can get you by feeling some putts are slow (and then they are fast), some breaks you just can’t read and make you miss short ones but this is what Ladybank is about: strategy off the tee, placing the ball on correct spots on the green and focus on breaks because sometimes they don’t show and they are there.
How can you not love an Open Qualifying Venue? How can you not love a course where from Pro to Members everybody are as friendly as your own family? How can you not open the wallet and get some souvenir with that beautiful logo. How can you not forget how tired you can be and just keep fighting a very demanding layout even when your Driver and Putter surrender?? This is The Home of Golf and something special gets your spirit fighting even when it is over. And great courses like Ladybank make it feel that way.
The mix of fast fairways with tree lined holes demanding moving the ball both ways is one of the challenges this course has and then just focus on club selection, it will be always good to land it short and let her roll, the biggest danger will be over club your approach shots.
Ladybank game me my favorite par 5 of the Trip: 7th hole is a beauty as good as it can get with a left dogleg for the tee shot and a right turn for the second with a cross bunker placed in the exact spot to avoid your cut driver off the deck to roll to the green (yes, I was there!) and then a wide long green with a big range of possible pin positions.
Other holes to highlight?
13th par 5 is quite long and good, you need to be sharp off the tee.
12th is a beast of a par 3 into the wind. Some tree cleaning on the left side made it even a better image off the tee.
Sharp dogleg left 16th is one of those tee shots I hate to face because of the lack of my right to left trajectory off the tee but it was nice to hit a very high cut over 15th fairway, the other fantastic hole on this course.
The image of the carry needed on 18th is a nice last picture from the course.
A sunny warm afternoon was the perfect scenario to walk Ladybank and one of those that I would definitely recommend for those who want to blend the Highlight Venues with the Hidden Gems, it will be a blast from 1 to 18 nonstop.
My Fife Favourite. I first played Ladybank three years ago and fell in love with it, the heathland course is set in such a lovely location and the course is immaculate. I returned to Ladybank in May 2022, playing it twice in four days and was amazed by the new and very tricky bunkering and runoffs that had been put in place since my original visit. This has certainly enhanced the course. Clubhouse staff, members and pro shop staff all very friendly and we were made to feel very welcome. Whenever I'm golfing in Fife Ladybank will be No 1 on the itinerary.
Almost exactly ten years since I was last here, I returned the other day to have a look at the recent bunker renovation that was carried out by Paul Kimber and Nial Glen from the KimberGlen design firm. They’re very experienced golf course architects with a tidy portfolio of successful projects in the UK and beyond and the quality of their work here far surpassed my high expectations.
Incorporating Blinder Bunker Liner as a base layer, the sand hazards have all been reshaped and refurbished. Not only that, on several holes (such as the 5th and 6th) the entire approach area in front of the green has been re-contoured to integrate better with the new bunkers on either side of the putting surface – an overhead look via google maps satellite images (which shows the old layout) confirms just how radical the reworked bunkers now are compared to the previous versions.
I understand a new head greenkeeper will be starting in a few weeks. Hopefully, the club will place high on his agenda the regeneration of heather along fairway fringes and the general management of trees within the property. Although a lot has been done to improve the course, Ladybank is more than capable of going a few notches higher in its already impressive course presentation.
The course narrative at the top of this page draws comparisons with the magical “three Ws” to the south of London and some might scoff at such a suggestion. Well, having played all of those top tracks in the past, I’ll confirm there’s more than a whiff of Surrey heathland golf in places here and with the right investment and sense of purpose, there’s no reason why this course can’t be refined even further.
It’s hard to believe that ten years ago I was surprised to find this course ranked above several other layouts in the Fife region – that’s no longer the case. After slowly sliding down the listings in recent years, the club appears to have made a conscious decision to reverse that ranking trend through proper investment in its most prized asset.
played in an open at the end of a large field and the course certainly stood up to the wear and tear, despite heavy showers. A very long (6900 yards) and testing track with every hole lined with pine trees that call for accuracy off the tee with any slightly wayward shot resulting in a struggle for the golfer. The green complexes and surfaces were good and overall this is a superb golf course. The practice facilities are also second to none for that pre round warm up, if your ever heading up to St Andrews to play make the small detour and play this place you will not be disappointed.
We'd managed to secure an early tee time on the Old Course and decided to add Ladybank to our itinerary with a 3pm tee time.
We all felt the front 9 was fairly nondescript, but the course came to life on the back 9.
A good members course that is probably more parkland than heathland in layout, and was in very good condition.
Probably the tougher of the two main non-links courses in the area, (even) more trees than Scotscraig.
Both well worth a visit.
If you’re in Fife and looking for a game away from the links then Ladybank would be as good a choice as anywhere.
In fact few courses away from the coast in Scotland can better what is on offer at this mature and well-conditioned private-members venue.
Most of the holes, some of which have a more parkland feel, bend slightly through the narrow woodland of Scots Pine and Silver Birch although the third is a sharp dog-leg and the par-five seventh is a tricky S-shaped design. Others have a more modest dog-leg and getting in position from the tee at Ladybank is paramount to recording a good score. This is not always easy though due to the slender nature of the playing corridors.
The terrain is quite flat and it isn’t until the ninth that we see any sort of significant movement in the land with a deceiving dip located just in front of the green. The back nine contains some further modest changes in elevation towards the end of the round.
All of the short holes are pretty and have well defended greens but it is the par-fours that are the real strength of Ladybank. The par fives work well too.
Offering good value and with a strong reputation Ladybank is more than very pleasant, provides a fine test and comes highly recommended – especially the warm welcome you receive from the Pro Shop - but it doesn’t quite stir the golfing soul like the links courses of Scotland but then again what does.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Given all the reviews on this website and its 8th place in the Fife ranking, we went with high expectations to this inland golf venue in Fife.
I felt a bit underwhelmed when arriving at Ladybank, but maybe I did not realise I was not at a venue set-up to accommodate the majority of golfers visiting Fife, but at a typical members course, set-up just to service its members and the occasional visitor.
The calm & peace that this venue radiates, took some time to sink in. It lasted a few holes before I thoroughly enjoy the surroundings and the tranquillity of this venue. It offers the ideal setting for playing a relaxing round of golf. And despite my mediocre score, I had a very satisfied feeling when we left the last green.
The course offers a nice collection of holes that charmingly meander through the pines. The design is fairly mature, not overly difficult or spectacular, but very well maintained. I found the green complexes very good in design: a challenge to approach and I enjoyed to subtle breaks of the putting surfaces.
So if you are looking for a golf course offering all the bells and whistles of a spectacular round of golf, maybe Ladybank does not meet all your expectations.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a charming & tranquil golf test at a welcoming members club, Ladybank will not disappoint.