The Takeaway: Kingsbarns is one of the visually stunning courses in Scotland and an absolute blast to play. The generous fairways and greens are further complimented by less areas of serious trouble outside of the short grass compared to other links courses which creates a great chance of playing with the same golf ball all round long. In the end, Kingsbarns is one of the most spectacular golf courses in the world and an absolute must play when visiting the St Andrews area. Grade A+
Designer: Kyle Phillips in 2000
Cost: £268.00 (Caddie £55 plus gratuity or forecaddie for group £80 plus gratuity) Click for current rates
Phone Number: +44 (0) 1334 460860
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Kingsbarns Golf Links's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Kingsbarns, St Andrews, UK KY16 8TB
Accolades: Ranked 4th in Scotland by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: Since opening at the turn of the century in the summer of 2000, Kingsbarns has experienced both the blessing and the curse of being located just minutes from famed St Andrews. As a blessing, its close proximity to the home of golf makes it easy to incorporate as part of a trip. As a curse, it is always tough to be the new kid on the block; especially in the shadow of golf royalty. Is Kingsbarns worthy of its esteemed location? Without question! In fact, Kingsbarns enjoys a better piece of property and much better views than you'll find at St Andrews. Kyle Phillips did a great job taking advantage of the scenic property by designing holes along the cliff edges with expansive vistas across the sea as well as interior holes with plenty of intrigue. In addition, Phillips wanted the course to be playable no matter what conditions you might face and designed the track to be generous with wayward shots as well as providing huge undulated greens as targets. There simply isn't a bad hole on the property as plenty of creativity and variety is incorporated in the design from start to finish. From a conditioning standpoint you'll be hard pressed to find a course in better shape with immaculate fairways and pure greens to enjoy. The result is one of the most fun, scenic, and engaging layouts you'll ever come across. Frankly, I love everything about Kingsbarns. The design, setting, and service has few equals. While some may not claim it as a true links, it's a weak argument trying to come up with some kind of fault. Kingsbarns is easily one of the best golf courses in Scotland as well as the world and a trip back to the home of golf that doesn't include a round here is borderline unforgivable.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 15th Hole – 212 Yard Par 4 – One of the most scenic and stunning holes in Scotland greets you on the 15th. Tipping out over 200 yards but playing as short as 110 yards from the front tee, "Rocky Ness" sits on a peninsula that juts out into the sea with the green traveling away from the player at a 45 degree angle. From the tee it is difficult to realize just how deep the back right portion of the green is compared to the front left, but a full 50 yards can separate pin positions in these areas. As such, taking aim anywhere right of the greenside bunker is flirting with disaster considering how much further you must carry the ball and how little forgiveness is afforded at the end of the peninsula. The trees left of the hole can hide the strength of the wind and give you a false sense of security standing on the tee, so if you are going to err one way or the other, do it by taking more club than not. This is just a flat out beautiful hole that is fun and memorable; a great combination.
Best Par 3: 8th Hole – 168 Yards – This hole is a great example of the creativity Phillips used at Kingsbarns. At just 168 yards and relatively simple terrain to work with, Phillips dug out a formidable bunker 15 yards short of the green, carved in a chipping bowl left of the sand, and put a sharp tier in the putting surface that creates a distinct separation between the left third of the green and the right two thirds. On the scorecard a short hole like this appears to be a great scoring opportunity, but if you get lazy with it things can get crazy quick. As a side note, the trees behind this hole create a nice backdrop that you don't often get on the linksland of Scotland.
Best Par 4: 5th Hole – 426 Yards – After having an early introduction to North Sea by playing along it on the 3rd hole, players take a step inland and up to higher ground on the 4th and 5th holes. The 5th is a slight dogleg right that features a pair of bunkers on the inside of the turn around the 225 and 300 yard marks with at least one of them being in play depending on the direction of the wind. Tee shots should be played to the left side of the fairway in order to have a look at the green since the right side of the putting surface is guarded by a pair of shagging mounds and a sod faced bunker. The green features some severe swells which puts a premium on your approach shot whether they come in through the air or along the ground.
Best Par 5: 12th Hole – 606 Yards – The grandest hole at Kingsbarns and one of the best par fives in the UK greets you at the 12th; and an impressive greeting it is. The toughest walk on the course leads you to the tee box where players must hike up a steep hill before the hole unveils itself to your view. This larger than life cape hole bends right to left around the North Sea and features a huge fairway to work with initially. With little chance of reaching this green in two, wisdom should overtake valor in your approach to this three-shotter. Tee balls played up the right side will keep the North Sea out of play and allow for the slope of the fairway to take the ball back towards the center. The second shot should be played between the fairway bunkers on the right to set up a short wedge shot into the green. Going for this green in two, even downwind, is such a risky proposition as it would require a hard draw that threads between the ocean and the large dune framing the entrance to the putting surface. The 65 yard long triple tiered green provides a fitting finish to a hole of this scale. If there are two holes you are sure to remember at Kingsbarns it is #12 and #15 and their connection to the North Sea.
Birdie Time: 6th Hole – 338 Yard Par 4 – Going back through the holes and reliving my round at Kingsbarns reminds me how much I like the course how absolutely fun it is to play, and the 6th hole is one of those reasons why. I love drivable par fours and this one had me gitty standing on the tee box. The safe, and not near as fun way, to play this hole is by going up the left fairway which is a wider target to hit but an inferior angle to the green. Playing to the upper plateau on the right requires carrying the center bunkers and then being rewarded with a sloping fairway that will chase balls down towards the green. The putting surface spans an impressive 50+ yards as it slopes from front to back before terminating just short of the water hazard behind the green. Bottom line, this is yet another great hole at Kingsbarns that you are sure to enjoy and likely score well on.
Bogey Beware: 18th Hole – 444 Yard Par 4 – The closing hole at Kingsbarns is a fine design and an even better test. The fairway bends from right to left but the inside of the turn is protected by a series of bunkers to discourage players from trying to cheat some distance off. The biggest challenge here is with the approach shot that plays to a left-to-right tiered green and is fronted by a wide burn. Players taking too much club to clear the water hazard may find themselves in the rear bunker beyond the green staring at a tough up and down. In match play this is a great finishing hole that will test your merit up to the last stroke.