Leven Links is located just off the promenade, about 10 miles south of St Andrews. Two clubs play over the course, the Leven Golfing Society (formed in 1957) and Leven Thistle Golf Club (founded in 1867). Keeping watch over them is the Leven Links Committee. The course was originally laid down in 1846 as a nine-hole layout, so those initial nine holes formed one of the oldest golf courses ever laid out for play. In 1870, the Standard Life Assurance Co. gifted the original Innerleven Golf Club (established in 1820)” a medal, which is still annually contested. This competition is now thought to be the world's longest running amateur stroke play championship.
Old Tom Morris was called in on 4th August 1865 to advise on the re-positioning and addition of new bunkers. In 1868, Old Tom was brought back again to extend the course from nine to eighteen holes, and to mark this occasion, an inaugural match was staged, which was won by Young Tom Morris. The status quo remained until 1909.
"Leven, a truly charming course, has, alas! ceased to exist in its old form," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles. “Nine of the old holes now belong to a new and reconstituted Leven, and the other nine belong to Lundin Golf Club. It is a sad pity, but the difficulty of two starting places made it in these crowded times inevitable.”
Today's Leven hasn't changed much since the division occurred in 1909. The course measures a modest 6,551 yards from the medal tees against a par of 71, but the wind often laughs in the face of the yardage figures. The best were tested at Leven in July 2005 when the course was used for Qualifying for the Open which returned to the Old course at St Andrews.
Leven is blessed with some fine holes and the first four run parallel with the delightful Largo Bay. But our favourites are the closing two par fours. A decent drive down the left of the 17th fairway will leave a short iron to the green. If you hit your drive down the right, you'll be faced with a tricky blind approach shot.
Bringing the round to an end is a truly memorable closing hole, measuring 455 yards. The wind will dictate the level of difficulty in terms of the length of approach shot. But whether it's an approach with a wedge, or with a long iron, it's certainly a nerve-jangling shot. A wide burn, called "Scoonie" (also the name of the hole) coils its way like a serpent around the front of the green, which seems to be supported in mid air by a myriad of railway sleepers. The green is positioned magnificently underneath the historic turreted Leven Golfing Society clubhouse. What a great finale.
There are many fine courses to play in the Kingdom of Fife, but no trip to this fabled part of Scotland would be complete without a round over historic Leven Links, host to Open Qualifying on numerous occasions, most recently in 2005.
Loved the 18th hole and the warm welcome that I received but on the whole, was disappointed. Better courses in the area to play.
We played at Leven after a blustery afternoon at Elie and before a sunny day at Lundin. In retrospect, this was the right choice as Leven’s greenkeepers were verti-cutting the fairways and Elie’s greens were not at their truest.
Maintenance hiccups aside, my understanding is that Lundin tends to have the upper hand over Leven when it comes to conditioning, so it probably makes sense to play Leven before Lundin to avoid disappointment if you plan on playing them both.
We played the course twice during the day, with lunch at Leven Golfing Society in between to recharge our batteries and also to wait out a rain shower. As a result our 3-ball played a late afternoon round in relatively calm weather at our own pace in just above three hours without rushing at all. This was a very different experience to the busy course we negotiated in the morning in just under four hours. Also made a big difference to know just how close certain tees and greens were to each other, to be able to better judge when to hit your approach and when to sensibly wait until the next tee was clear.
The layout is classical seaside links. Its 426 yard opener is not only long-ish, but the hole feels narrower than it actually is, at least taking into account that you have the whole 18th fairway to your left at your disposal. The second is much shorter but has a split fairway, so also feels narrower than it is. If what you dread is a slice off the tee then most of the front nine is probably going to be mentally tough for you.
As my typical miss is left and I hit it quite straight on the day, I felt that the course was relatively benign, but with a real sting in the tail. The 17th is clearly designed to catch you out if you have become slightly overconfident and pulled out your driver without thinking (as I did). There really is no reason to try to hit it past the bunker at 265 yards even with the wind behind as the fairway narrows significantly with gorse and high rough on either side. If you succeed as one of my playing partners did, you are just exchanging a full short iron for a pitch - in return for taking a big risk.
The 18th is a real brute at 457 yards unless of course you can regularly hit it 300-ish yards off the tee. The approach shot has to deal with a snaking burn at the front and to the right and out of bounds at the back and to the left. A daunting proposition if you need a significant club in the bag to reach.
Sometimes it is just right to lay up....
Leven Links, home to 2 clubs, Leven Golfing Society and Leven Thistle Golf Club that both proudly have splendid clubhouses overlooking the course. Formed in 1846 this is a truly magnificent championship links course that probably goes below the radar of most visitors to St Andrews area. A local sitting on the first tee told me that Leven claimed to be the very first course in the world to feature18 tees and 18 separate greens, a great fun fact.
The course is a six time Open Championship final qualifying venue, and its class and challenge is clear to see continues to host some leading amateur events and international matches to this day.
Best described as a traditional links, straight from the first tee you see that rolling fairways are commonplace, with a variety of natural humps and hollows make for a moon like appearance. Unfortunately they appear to have suffered in recent times from the weather or disease and were far from perfect but all the same playable. Fairway upon fairway are lined by natural antediluvian sand dunes, wee strategic and hidden burns, as well as the links style pot bunkers us golfers have a love/hate affair with. The putting surfaces were good as was the general surrounds and tees, so I can only imagine the fairways will soon be back to better shape soon.
A lot of good strong holes run right through the layout and there is something to catch the eye and appeal of every golfer. The strength of a course for me a lot of the time lies in the final 3 holes, the 16th with penal rough awaiting tee shots trying to foreshorten the 393 yard sweeping par 4 with the wonderful name "circus" certainly ensures you focus on accuracy which is the number one priority on 17, which at 416 yards still requiring a tee shot of some length but straight enough to avoid the bounteous spread of gorse bushes demarking the fairway. Then the final hole, a classic, requiring a long tee shot to leave a medium to short iron to give any chance of a birdie opportunity playing over the gaping Scoonie burn protected further by a punishing sleeper complex.
Overall a wonderful way to finish a few days in the excellent part of the world, and without question I would recommend the small detour from St Andrews to play the links.
Decent track. Fairways were not the best (I met a Europro Tour player doing some prep work for the upcoming tournament at Leven, and he said "like the course but greens and fairways make things a bit down to chance. Liked the split fairways on first couple of holes. One pet peeve of mine is not seeing the green on a par 3 - in this case on the 7th, a huge gorse bush has been grown right in the line of the green from the tee about half way to the green, to such an extent that only the top of the flag is visible. I am not sure if this is the intention but ignoring this issue, the hole is very attractive. The 18th must be on the list of toughest finIshing holes in Scotland - 450 yard par 4 which a sizeable stream guarding the front of the green. Overall, I enjoyed the course.
Proper Links Golf. No frills, not manicured! Demanding and/or strategic tee shots off almost every tee. Hidden bunkers everywhere. Leven Links is the reason people should come to Scotland to play Golf.
The standout hole is without doubt the 18th. Over 450 yds to a green fronted by water with OOB at the rear. Those with the ability to do so will attempt to be on the green in 2 and will do so at their peril. Those with less lofty ambitions will play for bogey by laying up short of the water, wedging on to green and accepting a two putt.
The wonderful old Clubhouse provides a fitting back drop to the 18th and is a great place to sit and watch those approaching what is one of the best 18th holes out there.
If Leven Links is the reason people should come to Scotland to play Golf, but only worth a 3.5 ball rating, then I don’t feel quite so depressed about being stuck with just Dutch golf over the past 18 months - Thank You!
No frills classic links course. Comparisons with neighbouring Lundin are inevitable: Leven feels a little less polished, but I actually preferred the layout, it feels more pure links-like than next door.
Some really interesting holes here. You need to start well as the first 4 have OOB down the right to the beach, unfortunately an ugly caravan park spoils some of the beach views, but then you turn back and play the 6th back into the wind with more OOB down the right! It's then more dunes and gorse and bunkers all the way home.
Can't finish this review without mentioning the 18th: Even though I nailed my drive, the carry over the burn in front of the green was tempting, but just seemed too risky for me playing into the wind. It's a cracking finishing hole.
Although not the most polished course i have ever played Leven Links caused a lot of gray matter to be used and a lot of head scratching. Do you bomb the gorse or do you down club and play low in between.
The wonderful aspect about these traditional links is that you have to think out each hole. They follow the undulation of the land rather than the undulation of a 50 tonne bulldozer. The greens were lightning and true, the fairways were still suffering from the dry early summer. Did this stop the round being great fun - goodness no. With a stiff breeze our groups stableford winner was 35 and that was a good score in the conditions.
If you're in the area play it.
Leven is a ‘rough and ready’ links. Its fairways are still in bad condition post-2018 drought, but the greens were good and the layout provides a solid test of golf. The par 3s are particularly memorable.
The layout heads along the sea before meeting the stone wall separating Leven and Lundin. It’s a strong start, but for me it flagged a bit in the middle as the longer holes merged into one. The finish picks up again from the 14th, with the most interesting green on the course. That day the flag was on a plateau which encourages you to go at the flag and miss long, whereas playing short and sensibly is the better option.
You have to be accurate as there is a lot of gorse, rough with tangly reeds, and OOB – usually on your right. So overall it was for me a stern test worthy of its past Open qualifying, rather than a fun layout you’d want to go straight back to. It was also put in the shade by my round at neighbouring Lundin afterwards.
Played the course with my old buddy Bri McInnes who's a member at Leven. Played in great weather and so wasn't tested by the prevailing wind which would no doubt be a card wrecker/ The course is a real treat with some class holes, maybe one or 2 weaker holes. 18 is a very tiough par for finish. A great day all round and I hammered Bri [email protected] in his own back yard. Course, clubhouse, catering staff, Proshop and members are all toop guys and gals!
An excellent complement to its neighbouring Lundin Links, to which it feels like the artisan club. Leven is unpretentious and a little rougher round the edges, but offers excellent natural, traditional Links golf and very friendly hospitality from either of the attached clubs. Feels quite tight sometimes with some narrow blind shots, plenty of gorse, burns and other natural landform hazards to keep you on your toes. As per the main article, the 18th is a brute of a hole and you will be pleased to score on it. Will be returning this Summer.