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 and Leven Thistle Golf Club. Keeping watch over them is the Leven Links Committee. The course was originally laid down in 1846 as a nine-hole layout, so the Leven Golfing Society is one of the world's oldest golf clubs. In 1870, the Standard Life Assurance Co. gifted the club a medal, which is still annually contested. This competition is now thought to be the world's longest running amateur stroke play championship.
Leven was extended to 18 holes in 1868 and to mark the opening, 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 Links. 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.
Returning to Leven Links after a gap of several years I found it even better than I remembered. Along with Brora this may just be the perfect example of a classic links golf course. No frills, no changes of elevation, humps and bumps on the fairways, well-placed penal bunkers, large, mostly flat greens and a lovely set of par 3s (three on the front nine, unusually). There is no hole on Leven that could be considered weak and several - 4, 8, 16 and 18 - that are outstanding. (Oh and yes, I did go into the burn at the last!) And you can see/smell the sea throughout the round! Leven is not quite in the class of Carnoustie, Muirfield and the other big beasts but it tucks in to the next category very comfortably. And to think I was able to play it on a pleasant September day for £20 thanks to a well-known website that offers discounted tee-times! It may well be the best-value round of golf I have ever enjoyed.
Sometimes you just fall in love with a golf course, and it happened to me at our last golf trip at Leven Links Golf Course.
I have to admit: it was the most beautiful afternoon: sunny and a modest 1 club wind. After a warm welcome at the caddiemaster and a short warm-up, we started our round and we enjoyed every hole Leven has to offer. Nice pure, old school links design, superb links turf and very good green complexes testing the short game.
The experts might claim that some holes are to short or to long for their liking, I just enjoyed the challenges the course threw at me. And as a welcome bonus: this course is apparently not on the radar screen of most visitors to Fife, offering a relatively empty track that can be enjoyed at a decent pace. Leven was high up on our ranking list of our week of golf in Fife.
After the round we decided to visit the clubhouse of Leven Thistle Golf Club for some drinks and a meal. Apart from the very friendly staff & members that made us felt very welcome, we found out that the bar prices at Thistle Golf are the last surprise that this venue has in store for you.
So if you card your hole-in-1 at Leven, your tab will be as friendly as the staff & members ;-)
If returning to Fife in future, Leven will be on my play-list for sure!
Leven Links, home to the Leven Golfing Society and Leven Thistle Golf Club, is just about as genuine a Scottish links as you can get. This old fashioned layout goes somewhat under the radar in Fife but it is a course you should seek out if heading to the Home of Golf.
The present day routing, which came into force in 1909 and plays to a par of 71 with a yardage of 6,551, takes us straight along the coast for four excellent holes with the shoreline never more than a lob wedge away on our right. We tee off close to the Promenade and the sound of coins clanging and crashing out of the penny slots in the nearby amusements before we pass a caravan park and then finally the landscape becomes more unspoilt and the beach and sea of Largo Bay can be seen in all their glory. The fifth tee is as lovely a spot as any in Fife.
The frantic opener introduces us to undulating broken ground before you play over sand to a green that falls rapidly away from you on a ridge. The second is a sublime hole with the option of playing down one of two fairways - your choices are the easy route to the right but you’ll be left with a blind approach or a carry of 200-yards over a pair of bunkers down the left for a better angle and visibility into the green. Meanwhile, holes three and four serve up more classic links golf and take us to the boundary wall shared by Lundin.
This opening quartet of holes is nothing less than superb and a wonderful introduction to the delights of golfing at Leven.
With its fine bents and fescues, its humps, bumps, hollows and wispy rough Leven could be well used as the very definition of a true links. And if you like this rustic type of golf it will be hard not to appreciate what this endearing course has to offer.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Interestingly, the short 5th runs parallel with the short 5th at Lundin on the other side of the fence. The next is by far the longest hole at 569 yards. Out of bounds by way of Silverburn Park on the right is a popular resting place for errant second shots.
The 12th should be an easy par five from the championship tee but it is a very difficult par four of 476 yards from the normal men’s tee. If you are playing Leven for the first time then beware of the burn at the back of the green.
The 18th at Leven is the hole you will most likely remember. It is a tough par four of 457 yards with the wide Scoonie Burn running right in front of the apron of the green. The green is on a raised area supported by wooden sleepers. If you are unlucky enough your second shot might clear the burn, hit the sleepers and rebound back into the water.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.