St Andrews (Castle) - Fife - Scotland

St Andrews Links,
Pilmour House,
St Andrews,
Fife,
KY16 9SF,
Scotland


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Six years after St Andrews Links Trust purchased land at Kinkell Braes outside the town – just along from the Torrrance and Devlin (now called Kittocks) golf courses – the much-anticipated new Castle course welcomed its first paying customers at the end of June 2008.

Laid out on a cliff top with more than a mile of waterfront overlooking the town, the Castle was constructed by David McLay Kidd and his DMK design company. Lead shaper, Mick McShane, deserves much credit for turning featureless farmland (described as a “hillside of rotten rock”) into anything remotely resembling a golf course, in much the same way as he did at nearby Kingsbarns.

The new seventh member of the Links Trust’s portfolio may be seen by some as the black sheep of the St Andrews links family due to its unnatural links character but the design and feel of the new links-like course is such that it blends in superbly with the other courses on the roster.

Routed in two loops of nine, the holes on each loop of the Castle course rise up from the clubhouse to higher ground alongside the A917 Crail Road before tumbling back down again, with the closing three holes of each strung out along the coastline. Clever mounding ensures many of the holes play in isolation to the others, intensifying the expectation of what’s to come next.

The feature hole is the par three 17th, played across a ravine on the edge of the cliffs, into the prevailing wind from St Andrews. It really is an all or nothing hole where anything right is gone forever so the safe play is to aim left, where the contours will hopefully funnel the ball right to the putting surface.

It will be interesting to see what reviewers make of the new kid on the St Andrews golfing scene.

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Reviews for St Andrews (Castle)

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Description: The Castle course is the newest member of St Andrews Links Trust’s portfolio and may be seen by some as the black sheep of the family due to its unnatural links character... Rating: 7.4 out of 10 Reviews: 60
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Javier Pintos

In 2012 I first played The Castle Course and got a great impression of it, having played not bad and finding it tough to score. When with my friends we decided to go back, my good friend Gonzalo who turns to be the CEO of the group said this course was to be played. And the “official tour” started on May 28th at this course. We were all very excited and it was a St Andrews (Castle) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer great kick off for the trip, no rain, no cold, gentle breeze and 12 guys who have played golf together for the last 35 years with huge smiles in each of our faces. A nice touch from St Andrews Links to incentive play on the “other” courses was to give lunch to groups of 8 playing Castle or Jubilee, which we of course took advantage of. One of the nicest spots on this course is the views the Club House provides so some burgers and club sandwiches appeared before the birdies … sorry the bogeys!

I had a decent front 9 and an awful back 9, it looked like the long haul flight took my legs off (like Maradona in USA 1994).

The course is not only fun but challenge and shot making in every corner, you need to have distance control and imagination to play some of the holes. The greens are crazy? YES! Do I like them? A LOT, as this is an experience you don’t face every day just go there and play, at the end of the day the sensation of having played something unique will come to your mind.

St Andrews (Castle) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

Some shots you face are simply unbelievable: second to par 4 6th hole downhill, tee shot on 7th, par 3 8th, second at 9th all of these with awesome views of the Sea. 12th continues to be my own nightmare, 14th is an amazing tee shot where choosing the correct line is the clue, par 5 15th is a great 3 shots hole and the grand finale 17-18 where the par 3 is an all or nothing shot and 18th gives you the chance of take an aggressive line according to the distance you are able to carry with your driver. In very good shape, some greens not at the best but an experience to repeat and to recommend. Don’t feel The Old Course is the only girl in town, take a chance at Castle and you will end your round happy even having scored more bogeys than usual!

June 29, 2017
8 / 10
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Ed Battye

There’s no doubting that the Castle course doesn’t fit easily into the collection of courses that are administered by the St. Andrews Links Trust.

It isn’t located within town and it isn’t even really a links course, certainly not from the same mould as the other six anyway.

It recently received particularly strong criticism from respected architect Tom Doak in a recent publication and others may also question why this course needed to be built. The fact that the St. Andrews Links Trust themselves refer to it simply as their ‘seventh’ course doesn’t really help its cause either.

The other way to look at it is that this David McLay Kidd course, which opened for play in 2008, actually offers a welcome change from the classic, traditional links golf on offer at the other locations. And importantly, in my eyes anyway, if the course is good (and it is) why should it not have been created? I’d rather have it the way it is now than it still be farmland like it was before.

I personally thought the golf was exceptionally good too and I really enjoyed the course. The green contouring has had a lot of negative comments but I found them to be perfectly acceptable, indeed rather fascinating. There are certainly some significant borrows, putting on them can be tricky and challenging but they fit in well with their surroundings and again, like the layout itself, they make for a refreshing change.

I can’t comment on how successful this new course has been since it opened, it was certainly much quieter than the other courses on the day I played, but it is one I think you should experience if visiting St. Andrews without question.

Because of the style and nature of the course I know some people won’t take my advice and others who do may not find it to their liking. It’s certainly not a course that will be universally loved but I don’t necessarily see that as a negative. I would suggest playing this course to break up your visit and not necessarily play it as your first or final round.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

May 22, 2017
8 / 10
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Tom Hargreaves

As a very keen golfer and one that looks forward to a trip months before I go, I search for the good before the bad when playing a new course. On a trip last week to St Andrew's we decided to put the Castle Course on our itinerary along with the Old, New and nearby Elie golf club.

As you arrive it looks great, fabulous views of St Andrews Bay, gorse in full bloom, sunny day and undulating turf - a golfer's dream.

Then you play it. I would say as a decent player I have never enjoyed a round of golf less. To me the course is just too hard, I hit it ok and didn’t see my ball land once off the tee. The greens have apparently been softened and they were still almost unplayable.

As we finished our torture, the friendly starter asked us how our round went, we told her what we thought and she had a resigned look on her face that this was not the first time she had heard this today. Over a well-deserved beer, the other golfers in the clubhouse had similar thoughts to us.

This course couldn’t be any different to modern links such Castle Stuart who have created a masterpiece by giving the golfer choices. Here it is execute the perfect shot or lose your ball.

May 18, 2017
2 / 10
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Tim Gorman

Played July 2016. Played mostly very well indeed and managed 34 points off 9. Quite breezy. Dread to think what I would be from the medal tees - 18/19. This is a very very tough course. Agree previous comments - adopt match-play, preferably 4BBB (more help the better for finding balls in the thigh-high rough, and try and enjoy the ride. Played a handful of inspired holes which will live forever in the memory - and that's a feature of a high-class course - playing great golf on a tough track = memorable experience.

March 26, 2017
8 / 10
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Vince Siy

Yes, some of the greens are a bit extreme, but I wouldn't call them unplayable. These enormous, undulating, multi-tiered complexes will definitely wreck your day though if you somewhat struggle with your short game. Despite this, I really enjoyed the layout of the polarising Castle Course. I found it very very scenic, while still needing a high level of golf strategy and shotmaking. High handicaps will have a hard time playing medal since they will definitely pick up on a hole or two especially if they get short sided. Great place for match play. It was very different from anything I've ever played, almost like an American links with Scottish conditions and alien greens. My recommendation is to forget the score and enjoy the views and experience.

July 08, 2016
8 / 10
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Brendan Blair
We played the castle course twice, both times in glorious weather. We wanted very much to like it, despite the grave warnings of our landlord that the course was awful. There is a general consensus in St Andrews that the course is a bit of a nightmare. The Castle is a wonderful setting, and has some outstanding holes. But, and this but unfortunately overrides the positives, the greens frankly render the course all but unplayable. They are in the main rejecting of approach shots, with massive undulations, mounds where the approach should be played, and drop offs, you are frequently left with no viable shot to the pin, and taking 4 from the edge of the green must be the norm. There are next to no medal rounds played there, because having a pencil in your hand would make a mockery of your handicap. Many of the holes have blind landing areas, and ridges in the middle of the fairways which offer bizarre options to locate elusive fairways. With proper greens the Castle course could be wonderful.
September 12, 2015
2 / 10
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David Davis
I’ll admit, David McKlay Kidd has some guts. St. Andrew’s is without a doubt one of the greatest golf towns in the world. Steeped in history and with more excellent golf courses around than you could ever tire of playing. Most of the courses are traditional links courses that are naturally laid out with the contours of the land the way mother nature created it, well almost. It seems that St. Andrew’s has it all. However, the argument could be made that not too many risks were taken as the land for the most part is fairly gentle and flat. Enter Kidd and his Castle Course. A lot has been said about it, unfair, too bold, greensSt Andrews (Castle) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer too radical, too difficult, too artificial, too much undulation, too tough a walk for the locals and it’s even been rated a 0 out of 10 by one his well known peers. So how much of this is true and deserved criticism? The beauty of this as they say is in the eyes of the player, perhaps one testament is that at least 4 of the greens have been softened to allow for more pin positions. On this lovely March day when I experienced his course for the first time I’ll admit that I was excited to see what all the controversy was about. Sure I realize the Castle Course was completely manufactured from cliff top farmland so perhaps gets knocked down by the purists but I’d have to say that for me it works to the extent that what’s there is a challenging and fun course.

I think the course adds great contrast to the Links Trust’s portfolio of excellent courses. Sure it’s tough and it’s a more difficult walk than St. Andrew’s Old Course but at the end of the round I could only say I enjoyed it a lot. There are 2 or 3 greens that were fairly radical in terms of shaping where I’d say enough pin St Andrews (Castle) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerpositions were questionable but at the speeds the greens were rolling probably about 8.5 – 9 they were near perfect and extremely enjoyable. Raise them up to 10+ and several would be unplayable in the wind. The greens were also by far in the best shape of all the great courses I saw in March. This likely due to the fact that the Castle Course closes during the winter which allows them to preserve their greens even more.

There are quite a few standout holes., too many to detail here but for those loving great views the front 9 and back 9 both finish along the cliffs with an nice run of cliff top views. The par 3 8th is a little drop shot par 3 looking out over the cliffs and water. The par 4 9th hole has a brilliant back tee that offers up a blind tees shot over the cliffs that simply dares you to cut off as much as you can chew and attempt to still find the fairway which runs down the cliffs at a diagonal angle from right to left away from you.

The par 3 17th is a dramatic long par 3 with a reverse redan green. I’ll admit this is too much hole for most as they will not think to play it safe St Andrews (Castle) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerand utilize the fairway left if the carry is too much. Most will likely throw up a hail marry in hopes of finding the green across the cliffs. Truth be told this hole could probably be played with a putter if one were simply to follow the fairway around.

In the end I’m guilty of going all the way to St. Andrews (been there before), just to see the Castle Course and mainly due to the controversy around it. I did enjoy the day as well as the my game with the very strong playing elderly member who was all too proud to tell me all about it. The only warning I’d offer to our readers is this, the Castle Course is very challenging and does have a dramatic, almost unnatural at times landscape, it’s tough, the greens are among the most difficult you may see at those speeds and it’s more suited to strong golfers. It’s definitely worth a visit, choose the right tees, the course is hard enough without having to hit 3 woods into all the par 4’s. Bring your imagination with you, you will need it around the greens both with chipping and putting and lastly play matchplay with your buddies. It’s a great course for it.
July 15, 2015
6 / 10
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brendan blair
September 11, 2015
I appreciate this reviewer is being charitable about the Castle. we tried hard to love it, but were defeated by impossible green configurations, wacky mound s and ridges barring entry to greens, and massive undulations that made 4 putts the norm. a shame. a potentially great lay out has been spoiled.
heffalump
What a great course.....what silly greens, spoiled it....could be as good as Kingsbarns....views great, lovely modern clubhouse......bonkers greens turn it into a lottery...shame
May 10, 2015
6 / 10
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P Davis
A brilliant golf course. It tests every part of your game to the full. When we visited the course was in great condition. I had the pleasure of playing with a course employee who could not have been friendlier or helpful.
April 26, 2015
10 / 10
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Brian Ward
This course seems to split opinion like few others with some loving everything about the place and others almost choking on their beer at the mere mention of its name. Our group of four all came away with many more positives than negatives from the experience even though the greens are without doubt the most undulating any of us had ever played. The course sits on a great piece of land overlooking the town and the warm welcome and comfortable modern clubhouse were of the highest order. Although some of theSt Andrews (Castle) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer mounding looks a little angular and unnatural in places the big, bold bunkering is visually magnificent. My only major criticism of the course would be that you can hit good approach shots landing close to the pin and end up 30 plus yards away due to the severity of many of the greens. Of course we sometimes see this at other courses too, but it happened on numerous occasions at the Castle. Maybe you just need to play it a few times to log in the no-go areas. Because of the severe undulations you will need to demonstrate great touch with the putter if you are to avoid a handful of three putts or worse. The architecture and routing is without doubt excellent and we couldn’t remember a poor hole when discussing our round in the bar afterwards. The run of holes from 6 to 9 are particularly good, offering stunning views and great golf. On the back nine there is no let up and the finishing holes from 15 onwards are excellent, particularly the par three 17th. None of us thought much of the visually poor tee shot at 18 but from then on the hole plays nicely downhill to a well protected and attractive double green. The winter deal is tremendous value with food included before and after golf for £59. Brian W
April 04, 2015
8 / 10
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