Designed by Harry Colt in 1914, the Eden bears many of his hallmarks – more strategic than punishing – especially with the greens which established the benchmark for modern putting surface design. Colt built contoured greens to allow good drainage and the putting surfaces of the Eden course are said to be the most undulating of any of the St Andrews Links Trust courses.
Colt also included partially buried field boundary walls in the Eden design with a result that the routing is very natural and flowing. Deep pot bunkers are scattered liberally around the course to catch errant tee shots or approaches to the green.
Donald Steel produced a masterplan for St Andrews Links Trust in the mid-1980s, which involved reconfiguring the first two and last two holes on the Eden to make way for practice facilities for The Open and create space for the tented village.
Most fairways are generously proportioned; though out of bounds threaten wayward strokes on many of the holes. A sliced shot on the 417-yard, par four 3rd, for instance, will see you out of bounds and onto the Old course – don’t linger too long looking for it though as their marshals will soon know that you’ve gate crashed your way onto the tourist course!
The Eden may be one of the few low-scoring opportunities to be had at St Andrews, however, between the sloping greens, strategically placed bunkers and fairway humps and hollows, above average approach play and a good game plan will be required to make a net score around par.
Several holes are worthy of consideration: The green of the 144-yard, par three 5th has two tiers, with a seven feet slope in between that will severely test the very best of putters. The 350-yard, par four 14th and 170-yard, par three 15th feature a pond – added by Donald Steel in 1985 – which is the only inland water hazard on all of the St Andrews Links Trust courses.
The toughest hole on the course is the 432-yard, par 4 17th which is routed along the curve of the old railway line with out of bounds to the right of the fairway. The line for the tee shot is the most distant visible bunker. The green is relatively deep but there is not much room between the protecting bunker left and the out of bounds right.
One other good point about playing the Eden course is the use of the new Eden and Strathtyrum Clubhouse which affords a quiet respite from the masses who flock to the nearby clubhouse for the Old, New, and Jubilee courses.
The first nine holes are from the original Harry Colt layout. The 10th is a rather featureless, flat par three with just the one bunker and a narrow green. Index 2 is the par four 13th. There is plenty of room for the drive and whilst there are no greenside bunkers, the left features the path of the old railway line and to the right is heavy rough and then out of bounds.
From the 14th the course has somewhat less of a links feel, especially with the large pond running along the left for the last one hundred yards of the 14th and all the way on the left side of the par three 15th. On a windy day this course is no pushover. Whilst it has some good holes it would clearly rank in fourth place behind its more celebrated cousins, the Old, New and Jubilee.
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 that he played and 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.
I was really looking forward to playing the Eden but it did not impress me nearly as much as I had hoped. I played in the middle of December with a snell, biting wind blowing across the links from the west which did not help matters, I suppose but the early promise of a wonderfully contoured green on the opening hole was not sustained throughout the next seventeen, unfortunately. The 5th green too was wickedly contoured but many were pretty nondescript and, frankly, some of the holes – the 4th and 12th in particular – were pretty bland.
I liked a couple of old fashioned features; the fairways of the par three 5th and 8th holes criss-crossing and the blind drives to be played at holes 6 and 13. I even liked the pond between the 14th and 15th holes at the far end of the course (the surrounding land is very marshy at that part so I suppose a water feature was relatively sensible) and water really pressurises the approach to both holes.
A few holes, notably the ninth, had lovely sets of angled cross bunkers protecting the approach to the putting surface though bunkering immediately adjacent to greens was very light throughout. A disappointment was when I found out that there was one winter green on, at the par 5 seventeenth hole, which had had a number of fairway bunkers relined and some (artificial looking) mounding installed either side of the fairway.
All in all, considering the time of year and the recent wet weather, the greens were in astonishingly good condition – classic design will always shine through, I suppose. By all means play the Eden as a warm up before the serious business of playing the Old, New or Jubilee but don’t expect it to present the same test as the others.