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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
£240,000 bunker makeover programme, spearheaded by the KimberGlen firm of
architects. More than fifty bunkers will be transformed over two or three
winters utilising the “Blinder” bunker lining system.
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.
I´ve been playing Ladybanks twice. First time on my first visit to Scotland (for golf) in 2006 and the second time last summer during the Open. I must say it surprises me that Ladybanks has slipped through the rankings and is now outside the top 100. Perhaps it´s should not be compared to the great links-courses that sits above it in the ranks. But for me it should beat Dukes any day of the week. Last summer on the morning of the last day of the Open me and my son played and I found it to be the same as it was almost 10 years earlier. A very very good - what you see is what you get - heathland course with holes that mostly runs by themselves (even if its a small amount of land) and just feels pleasant to play. For me it´s the opposite to Dukes and in a good way. A perfect members course and a lovely way to spend a few hours on. We played it in around 3 hours without any rush. It was in great shape and the greens were the best I played all last year. I can agree that the holes are not super-memorable but that´s ok because there not one bad golf hole on the course and that's rare. Played Leven on the same trip and I would put Ladybank ahead of that as well - even if it´s not fair to compare 2 such diffent courses. So do it right and put Ladybank back in the top 100. It belongs there as an example of that a course does not need to have great view or billion dollar investments to be a good course. For everyone who loves to play a great course without the rush and hype of Carnoustie or Old Course, perhaps as a day off the links in high winds or just to take a breather. Go here - you won´t be disappointed.
I took advantage today of a special October twilight green fee rate to revisit the course at Ladybank for the first time in seven years. It’s wasn’t nearly as flat as I remembered as there are some lovely subtle changes in elevation during the round, particularly on the testing stretch of par fours between the 14th and the home hole.
Excepting the four par threes – which are rather disappointing, apart from the beautifully bunkered 10th – all the holes kink one way or the other, placing an absolute premium on ball placement off the tee.
Greens are understated, lie of the land affairs with a few multi-tiered examples thrown into the mix for good measure – I particularly liked the stepped green at the 9th which lies behind a cunning dip in front of the putting surface.
Every single links-like fairway was in pristine condition, allowing plenty of roll for tee shots and running approaches to pin positions. All in all, Ladybank’s one of the best inland tracks in the country however, if I look at the current Top100 chart positions for Fife, I really cannot see how it is placed higher than four others in the district, namely the Duke’s, Jubilee, Lundin and Leven.
For me, it punches way above its weight in the rankings but good luck to the club for doing so in such a competitive region of outstanding golf courses.