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.
Old Tom Morris was called in on 4th August 1865 to advise on the re-positioning and addition of new bunkers. Again 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.
I played in the Leven Thistle Open in 2003. Like at Elie, there is more than one club with playing rights over the course. and Leven Thistle (like Earlsferry Thistle at Elie) are the 'poor relations' who do not occupy the big, old fashioned, rather crusty-looking clubhouse overlooking the 18th green.
Instead, they have more of a working mens social club just round the corner (or along the 18th fairway at Elie) and you'll have great craic in here after your round with the locals who are only too willing to talk golf, especially with someone who has travelled a way to play.
The course itself is relatively short but definitely tight – on that Open day, our three ball took over SIX hours to complete our round – much of that time being held up, or us holding up others, looking for lost balls.
It has a cracking 18th across the burn (like Carnoustie) and it's certainly in the 'tough track to play' bracket. Compare and contrast to the Lundin Links course across the Mile Dyke that separates the courses and you'll have a brilliant day's golf in The Kingdom.