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. Ladybank is one of those courses that really should be a Top 100 regular, because it is one of Scotland’s very 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. The layout was extended to nine holes in 1910, and in 1962, to 18 holes. Does anybody know who the architects were behind the new holes? Whoever it was, they did a fine job because it is hard to distinguish between the old holes and the new.
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 seriously challenging course – keeping the ball in play will pay dividends and save you from losing loads of 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. This is an absolute must-play course.
I played the course in early April when it was obviously still being prepared for the forthcoming Open qualifying rounds for St.Andrews 2005. The fairways were not as secluded as I imagined and there were several points on the course where it opened out and a number of greens and tees came together. It payed to keep to the straight and narrow because there was plenty of gorse just off the fairways to catch errant shots.
Many of the bunkers had just been relined and topped up with fresh sand so they were also to be avoided. After the par three 12th hole, there is a very strong, demanding stretch of closing holes, beginning with a par five and ending with an intimidating tee shot to the long par 4 eighteenth.
The clubhouse facilities were first class with separate visitors changing area and an informal, well appointed lounge. Heathland golf at Ladybank was a very pleasant alternative to the links golf normally played when visiting the Kingdom of Fife.