On my second day of my first trip to St Andrews we were to play the castle course. I hadn't done a great deal of research and so was massively surprised when we arrived to see a clifftop course with a real holiday vibe. The clubhouse was very modern and stylish and the welcome was of the first class.
After a delicious Scottish breakfast we took to the range which is included in the green fee. Balls were stacked awaiting us in pyramid form, a real classy touch. There was a starter on the first tee and we also encountered 2 more assistants on the course who around the 6th hole told the group in front that we would be playing through on the next tee. Service is of the highest order especially for the mid range price of the green fee.
Opening up what really stands out is the rolling fairways, deep white sanded bunkers and beautiful coastline views. I especially liked the stroke index 1 par 5 5th, and the coastal holes 7 to 9. The greens we struggled on and the balls rejected any shot that wasn't perfectly struck and aimed. Basically if you struck an iron shot to 10/15 feet you'd be ok , but anything short or slightly pushed/pulled often left you putting from 30/40 feet away, sometimes off the green with little to no chance of getting the putt close.
The back 9 has a more inland feel but its at hole 17 right on the cliff edge where the stand out signature hole awaits. A long par 3 over a deep ravine with the pin situated on the right barely 10 yards from the cliff. The safest shot is to the left with the slopes carrying the shot back to the centre of the green. The 18th is also very dramatic and an excellent finishing hole with the view of the plateau green sitting amidst a blue sea background.
The castle course is a bit of an enigma. After about 3 holes I was thinking that this could be one of my favourite courses and after the 5th I was sure it was. By about hole 11 my attitude had changed and I had become frustrated with the greens and their ridiculous design. What started as quirky fun quickly became a frustrating drag. At times they are impossible, proven when my playing partner decided to have a second go at a long putt. He then putted the ball on the opposite line to the first and it ended up touching his first putt. He repeated this with 3 more balls and 3 different lines and paces and all 5 putts ended in the same position. Its a complete head-scratcher.
My playing partner and I loved the layout and challenge that the course put up. The views are stunning and most holes took advantage of its picture perfect setting. I would definitely play here again when visiting St Andrews and we still had loads of fun and great memories. You also get the feeling that larger groups would enjoy the castle course and although difficult at times it does offer something for all abilities.
However I do put a high value on the state of the greens when grading the course. I have tried but have found it difficult to look past its monumentally flawed greens. They linger long after the round which is such a shame because I truly believe that this is a top 50 Uk and Ireland course. The greens have not too distantly been altered to address some issues and hopefully they will try again. I would suggest a reworking.
Date: June 09, 2021