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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Average Reviewers Score:
The expression 'one mans meat is another mans poison' is the impression I got about this course when I read the reviews prior to playing it on Saturday. Well it wasn't just a piece of meat to the eight of us who traveled up from east yorkshire, but the most succulent and perfectly cooked piece of fillet you could ever wish for. Yes the greens are undulating but they are playable and in a party of eight there was probably only a handful of four puts and two handfuls of three puts all day. The unanimous conclusion from our party, whose handicaps ranged from 9 to 28, was that it was one of the best courses we had ever played. And that is from a group of Ganton members who have played many of the top 100 courses including Kingsbarns & Royal Birkdale. The club house and welcome received was outstanding, the practice facilities superb and the whole experience can only be described as great fun. After all, that is why we play the game. Yes, the course is not a true links, yes some of the greens are very undulating but the views, the overall design and the quality of everything at the castle course makes me shout - 'go and play it'
A glance at the reviews of this course on this site seem to reveal a "love it or hate it" dichotomy about this course. I was looking forward to playing the Castle course, and I really wanted to like this course, but unfortunately I' m afraid I came in very disappointed. Caddies and locals I encountered we're almost unanimous in their dislike of the Castle, one caddie stating " I think they're beginning to realize they blew it with the Castle". I'm afraid I agree. The biggest problem, as many have mentioned, lies with the green complexes. In short many of the greens are almost unplayable due to severe slopes. The pins were placed in tight corners behind steep slopes that took skill out of the equation and made luck the prime determinant of outcome. In addition the ground did not drain well at all, and several times we had to drop out of casual water, which was a first for me on a seaside course. On the plus side 17 and 18 are wonderful holes, and the overall experience from tee to green was positive. I believe the course can be salvaged, but I would seriously advocate closing the course, dynamiting the greens and rebuilding them all. Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee. USA
8 golfers have just returned from st andrews, we had a wonderful time on strathtyrum, old and new courses. then the castle which i can only describe as mickey mouse golf. from the putting green to the rediculous pin positions.when i mentioned this to a marshall after 3 holes he said the greenkeeper must have got out of bed the wrong side.i cannot fault the location or the facilities and service. they were fantastic.on the thursday i shot net 72 on the old off 8 handicap and lost our comp on a card playoff. on the castle we had a pairs stapleford. the best was 31,29, 27 and 25 played on sat in clear, dry and fair conditions.are we the only golfers who feel like this? or does everybody love this course as printed in the visitors book.this course left us feeling a bit numb and quiet in the clubhouse and saturday a bit of a anti-climax after looking forward to playing this course for 18 months since we booked the winter package.this was supposed to be holiday golf but was far from it.i would,not imagine a pro anywhere near to the castle, let alone play a medal round on it.we are all club golfers from manchester and loved our st andrews trip, but we will not be returning to the castle course.
02 November 2012
The greens are ridiculous and the course is remarkably boggy for a 'links'. My advice is play it once for the views and then get yourself on a proper golf course. I believe St Andrews has a few!
Golf has been played for 400 years. Links courses are all over the UK with almost the same features and same pieces of land. The Castle Course designer was given a elevated piece of land with great views. Would you expect more of the same or something different, a course that has never been created before? I had the highest expectations before playing it and although climate was not that good, I loved to the highes point this course, despite many golfers argue about the severely sloped greens. In my case I found in the greens maybe the best feature of the course apart from the piece of land. Yes they are very severe and sometimes unfair, unfair is the exact word? NO! You just have to be accurate and place your ball in the correct spot. Castle gave me a totally different golfing experience, a challenging course, with many great holes, where tee shots are not that difficult and where again taking into account your handicap you need to choose the correct set of tees, length does not mean difficulty or easy, a good short par 4 can kill you (as 17th at Oakmont) and a long par 4 can be boring and easy. It is said that breaking 36 putters at Castle is impossible. I have to argue that and say that the fact is that these greens are a little bit tougher to read than usual and you need to concentrate more, just that. And in my golfing opinion, this course is great and I am with those who find it nice to see new and creative designs and not just more of the same stuff. Come and play it, be patient and enjoy the views, the course pays every cent spent on it.
Unfortunately the Castle is still a work in progress and to me overall a disappointing course on such a magnificent piece of land. A very quirky course, that doesn't always reward good play. I prefer a course like Kingsbarns or Carnoustie where nothing is hidden, the challenge is laid out right in front of you, which is not the case at the Castle. Far too many blind tee shots and greens that quite frankly should be dug up and re-designed. An interesting course that is certainly different from the traditional fare on offer at the New, Jubilee, Old or Eden, all of which are far superior tracks.
Our fourball had between us experience of playing hundreds of course all around the world. Three of us agreed it was the best course we had played in Scotland, and that includes the Old Course, Muirfield, Kingbarns etc etc. The fourth thought it was an excellent course. I see no problem with the greens, many great course take the mickey out of you on the greens, it's part of the fun. Not a single 'bad' hole from start to finish. Each has something unique to offer, our favourite was the 6th with the views back to the town. So I guess here's the main points that may have helped us on our round, we were £25 each to play it, albeit mats or lift to the side (small issue, given we were rarely on the fairway) plus we had a cracking sunny day with little wind. Only gripe was the fairway view at 18, perhaps a few more fairway bumps being removed may help the look. Even still, it was a fine hole
I showed up at this golf course without a tee time during the busy month of May and was out on the course within an hour. The staff was very cordial and the starter was very helpful in getting a tee time for me. The weather conditions were terrible that day. High winds into the 50-60 mph range with rain/hail sporadically made it very difficult to even make a par. But I could not have asked for a better course to play. Through sun and rain, I pounded through the course and had the time of my life! It is definitely worth playing if you want to play at St. Andrews but are unable to play the "Old course."
I played here for the second time and having given the course a 6 ball rating earlier in the year I was eager to see if I still had the same opinion after my second round. For example, - had I just seen the course on a good day? Had the pins just been in sensible positions? Had the fact that my 1st round been in April meant that I was full of optimism for the year ahead?... Well if anything my opinion of the course is now even better than what I had before. I don’t think anyone could point to a single weak hole on the course, and the 17th and 18th are the two best holes I have ever played (and I’ve played 28 of the top 50 in Scotland as well as countless top courses in England and abroad). However, that is not where the detractors have a problem with this course - it’s with the greens. So let me make my point about this: Why should greens have to be flat? What is wrong with undulation? I have to say part of the fun for me was that having managed to get to the green in regulation you can’t just switch onto autopilot and have an easy two-putt par. You still have to use your skill and imagination to secure the par / birdie. OK you may have a 40ft putt that you only have to tap and you may have to aim 15ft outside the hole at points but that adds to the drama of a match and what fun it was. No other course I have played offers such an opportunity to be inventive with your shots from 50yards and in. Now - maybe the twice I have played it the pins were in sensible places but I only had 3 x 3-putts in 36 holes which I could manage on perfectly flat greens! For me this is better than Castle Stuart and possibly Kingsbarns (the only two other courses in Scotland remotely comparable to it) and should be hosting tournament golf, although even I would concede that you can’t get 4 sensible pin positions on each green. Which is a shame, because I would say this is the most fun golf course I’ve ever played, with some holes so jaw-dropping it seems like you are playing a video game (or Whistling Straits!!). My advice is go and play it and forget about your score. Just try to get round in less than your opponent and you could have one of the best matchplay ties ever!
Great review. I agree with pretty much everything you said although I don't think I could say that the 17th and 18th are the two best holes I've played as I couldn't see much of them due to the fog when I played here! Great fun course requiring lots of imagination and skill.
The course benefits from some epic topography and stunning views and some classy holes in the shape of holes 6-9 and 15-16. I understand that many of the fairways have had superfluous ‘tufty’ mounds removed and many greens have been remodelled with severe slopes removed. My playing partners will hope the 4th will get the treatment. I hope the par three 3rd in particular will get the same treatment one day. The first par three has such a severe mound on its left side that holing a downhill putt from back to front is impossible, so a player has to aim away from the hole to leave a flattish second putt. The green complexes present the greatest paradox. I imagine that many golfers playing here will be tourists on a golf pilgrimage to Fife, playing it for the first and only time. Yet the green complexes demand prior knowledge from repeated visits so that you approach from the best angle on the fairway to any given pin position. The kernel of a good course may be there but when playing in September 2011 the lack of Scottish accents among those playing became quickly apparent. The locals are probably playing reasonably-priced gems elsewhere in Fife while the Castle course brings in tourist revenue from far afield. I hope these tourists have other courses on their schedules too to show them what Fife has to offer.
We played the course yesterday having had our original tee time at Carnoustie cancelled on the day due to waterlogged course. We had no trouble getting a tee time at the Castle, the staff couldn't have been nicer nor more accommodating on arrival. The course is fantastic. Yes, the greens are undulating but they are true and in my view therefore fair. I consider slopey greens to be part of the challenge of golf, not a reason to spit your dummy out. The views from the cliff top based holes are stunning, and the condition (considering courses across the bay were considered unplayable) was excellent. All in all, I place this course as a must play course on a St Andrews based golfing break, it provides a different challenge to the bland driving challenge of the Old course. Plus it has the added benefits of ease of accessibility + excellent staff service thrown in
Sorry, Mr Phillips is neither Scottish nor the architect of the Castle course - your beef is with David McKlay Kidd and his team of shapers who produced the often wacky countours on the greens of this fine course.
Played the course in June. It is an excellent course in my view given the first rate design of almost all holes, the excellent course condition, the beautiful views, the super friendly staff and the modern and and high-end clubhouse. The one area where the course in my view does not deserve a top rating is the design of the greens which are hugely undulated, I don't think I have seen such undulations before on any course. However, I think they have deliberately reduced the speed of the greens to make it fairer and the greens were actually not too difficult to putt when we were there. Overall an excellent course in my view. We also played Kingsbarns during the same trip and I think the Castle is almost on the same level as Kingsbarns.
This is a completely awesome golf course and experience. It is the antithesis of the traditional and, you might say, un-inspiring links of St Andrews, in that it is at the forefront of course design and is packed with lay up areas, huge bunkers, cavernous fairways, infinity greens, genuine length and yes, extremely undulating greens (which I have to say are very enjoyable)
The first few holes are slightly remeniscent of the neighbouring St Andrews Bay courses (which I dont particularly rate) but holes 6-9 are fantastic - both on the eye and in terms of hole architechture. This pattern is repeated on the back 9, with the first few holes (i.e. those away from the cliffs) not as jaw dropping as the final four. The views and the carries on the final two holes really are unlike anything else in this country.
I have to say that the staff and starter were extremely friendly and added to the whole experience greatly. The clubhouse ia also amazing and the course is in SUPERB condition.
In summary, this is a very un-St Andrews course. Clearly this was just a field several years ago and has been sculpted to what the designer wanted and there is no elemnts of 'mother nature' design. Whilst this may not be to everyones taste, it is certainly right up the street of the Kingsbarns / Castle Stuart generation and this course certainly is the equal of those two.
I played here in the first week of July. What an experience! A great golf course! A managed to get aroung in 79 strokes in a three club wind. Thanks to a wonderful caddy who gave me the perfect lines of the tee and on the greens. And with respect to the later: yes they are difficult, but fair. Golf has to be a challenge to be joyful, and that is exactly what this course provides.
a fantastic potential course has been wasted by the greens--having now played it a couple of times with differing pin positions it is impossible to go round in any less than 36 putts
when they have amended the greens I'll be back as the layout and views are stunning
You could just try amending your putting stroke, I took 30 putts round here. This is a truely awesome track.
Played the course in mid-June. Stunning location but an absolute joke as far as the greens are concerned. Layout from tee to green is mostly fair and the views back over St Andrews are incredible. I think it says all you need to know about the course...tee times are always available and they are still advertising tee times during the Open. Only about six cars in the parking lot on a nice June day. Save the money and play New or Jubilee twice. Better courses at a better price. In three trips over 23 courses in Scotland the absolutely worst course we have played. No one in our group of nine would play again.
This is one of the most ridiculous reviews I have ever read. This course is what great modern architecture is all about, it comes very close to matching Kingsbarns and blows Castle Stuart out of the water. The bunkering is magnificent, the variety of holes excellent and the greens extremely challenging. The greens are too difficult for the average player but provide a magnificent challenge to the low handicaper. The staff are brilliant, I can't praise this course highly enough - stunning!
What a golf course, this was awsome, very difficult and a great test of ones all round ability. I would stress though, if your handicap is a high number you can expect a few 3/4 putts as the greens are very tricky. Almost as good as Kingsbarns. Staff really friendly and if i were to visit St Andrews again this course would definately be on my paly list. Pogs
Played this course 16th October on a beautiful day and what a stunning course. I am a little suprised by some reviews as I thought the course excellent and challenging but fair (I'm a 22 handicap and went round 1 over that). I will confess thet the pins were not in difficult positions and it's easy to see how some pin positions could easily lead to 3-4 putting. Also by the end of our round the wind got up and it's also easy to see how much harder it would be on a really windy day - but that's links golf. All in all this is most definitely one to play if in St. Andrews and a good contrast to the links in the town.
Played during the Dunhill Links on 3 October.2009
What an exelent course!!The design and routing is perfect.
We played in 40-60 miles wind...and it was extremly long on some holes!!
Exelent Club house and Staff.
The whole experience was great
Played castle course on a brilliant day, 18 degrees and no wind. Course was fantastic, everything about the place was excellent. We were worried about the greens that have took so much criticism but they were excellent and the undulations made them excellent test to putt on. Best course in the area and better than Old course and Kingsbarns by far
I'm afraid I cannot add anything that has not already been said about The Castle Course. Our group of twelve pllayed it on a day (September 6th) that even the caddies found unusually blustery and cool for the season. The layout, I think, was very good. The greens, at least some of them, simply were too difficult to be called fair. Number 10 was, for me, a good example. The hole was placed far left and I was pin high, twenty feet to the right on the same level. I did not have a line to the hole that would have enabled me to have a reasonable par putt, let alone a birdie chance. Having said all of that, we were told that there is already a plan in place to recontour five greens. With work, this will be considered a truly fine course. Also, we were treated very well by all at the course, and our caddies were extremely good. One coincidence, perhaps interesting only to me: One of the caddies in our group (Graham) had caddied for me at Pebble Beach in 1999. He was excellent then and still is.
Interesting - the course has 4/5 excellent holes with the 17th being the signature - par 3 over water with a gaile of the left. Of our group many were not big enough and ended up in a watery grave - but once over the green it is akin to a low mountain range - not good or fair I feel for such a long par 3. This was tipickle of the course there were several spots where you just could not get up and down. The course is good and we undwerstand that they will be reducing the severity of the green - once done worth a vistit - still pricy at over £140 per round. Oh yes and be aware the practice balls are only available for pre round as one of our number wished to have a practice post round (to get the shanks out of the system) and was not allowed - black mark !
I walked off this course in a bit of a daze, to be honest. I think if you want to experience what playing on fast greens with big slopes (similar to Augusta) is like, you should play the Castle Course!! Along with my playing companions we were sometimes made to look foolish on this course, where it is very easy to misjudge a putt and see it roll off the green. It also starts to make you nervous on approach shots, as big numbers are easily made from around the greens! There are some terrific holes here, and the views are great, but I would think they will have to tame down the greens if they want to see tournaments played here. Plus, I would still rather play Kingsbarns, The Old Course, and the New Course above this one.
I just played this in June and I really liked the course. The locals to a man do not like it. True, the greens still need some work as the slopes on some are just plain unfair, but the view over 18 holes is outstanding - better than Tralee. 17 and 18 are memorable. The staff is friendly and the logo is something your kids would love. Buy the 3 day ticket and pay the extra 40 to play the Castle Course - and don't worry about your score. This course will only get better with age. ANDYMAC
"The locals to a man do not like it" This is not strictly true. I have a friend who lives in St Andrews and he says the Castle Course is superb and is getting better and better by the month. I can't wait to play it on the day before the Open starts on the Old Course.
I was looking forward to playing The Castle Course particularly as a new entry into The Top 100. It was OK - some spectacular vistas but just thought the greens were ridiculous - too much going on!!!
Just returned from St. Andrews with 3 friends having played the New and Jubilee courses (have played both before) and on the last day the Castle course. We got very negative views of the Castle course from local people we spoke too but went with an open mind. The course layout is fine but the greens are a complete joke. All that was missing was a few windmills etc. to complete the crazy golf theme. Understand that they are being dug up and redesigned in a couple of years time. Would not recommend this course to anybody until this work is completed.
There are some questions that fully deserve answers. Questions like what do you get when you fall in love? And, why do birds suddenly appear every time I am near? (crows mostly). Both important questions, I am sure you will agree? But not nearly as important as why The Castle is only rated as a gem? As Toyah Wilcox opined, it’s a mystery! The seventh course at the home of golf is a tour de force, albeit with some contentious greens (I found putting at 4, 12, 14 and 16 like playing the circus wall of death and if PT Barnum had been tending the pins at these holes I wouldn’t have batted an eye lid ) and this undoubtedly may have a bearing on peoples opinion of the place but I feel that this is only part of the overall picture which yields brilliant routing and fantastic bunkering all played out before the stunning backdrop of the Auld Grey Toon. Providing a masterpiece where the standard never drops from the first drive to the last putt giving proof, if proof is needed, that there is quality at the often perceived unglamorous side of St Andrews. MPPJ
“Bewitched, bothered and bewildered” was an old Sinatra song my dad used to play on his record player but the words also apply to the state I got into today putting on the greens here, leaving me both bamboozled and befuddled. I have honestly never had such difficulty with a putter on any course I’ve played before – and that was after having first played here 12 months ago, so I should have been prepared!
Greens apart - and it’s hard to dismiss their effect on a round when nearly half the shots on your scorecard are taken with a putter - The Castle is a fantastic track with a wonderful routing that returns the front and back nines to a (relatively level) double putting green in front of the very chic, modern clubhouse. The SGU offer members a special discounted 4-ball green fee which is excellent value for money and one that all golfers who relish a challenge should snap up. The scorecard gives the course a SSS of 74 against a par of 71 from the back tees and I’ll bet that the three over par rating is rarely matched, even on days when pin placings are kind (if that’s possible) and the weather conditions are benign. For all that green baize whingeing, it’s still worth a 6-ball rating as it's a great course with not a single weak hole. Jim McCann
Prior to playing in April 09, I read an article by the architect saying that he wanted to create a course that was fun and, provided he achieved that objective, he didn't care if he received some criticism. Well, in my foursome, no one approached their handicap despite fine weather and what the locals probably call a breeze...but we all really enjoyed ourselves and found some fantastic golf holes (with 6 and 17 obviously real stand-outs) on great land. It was very hard - between 5 and 10 shots harder that the Old Course in our opinion - with some of the greens verging on the ridiculous (the 10th and 14th spring to mind). Apparently, the Trust will make some adjustments when the contract with the architect ends soon; if they tone down the most extreme of the greens then they will have the putting surfaces that the very good course, top rate facilities and stunning location warrant.
i played this last in the first week in may. although the tees and greens were in excellent condition the fairways were poor esp for a course charging over £100 for a round. its a decent length course with a lot of blind shots and a fair bit of trouble in the way of rough and bunkers but to be honest they shouldn't realy bother most players. the greens are a big problem. they are not suiable for this type of course. there is barely a flat area on any of the greens with steps of at least 4-5 feet. when these greens settle in they will be almost unplayable. with no where to pitch the ball to and no way to play a bump and run. the staff where all very friendly esp he rangers on the course. if you are in the area then go to Carnoustie or Kingsbarns or save yourself some money and try some of the "lesser" courses such as Lundin
Played in August 2008 in 20-30 mph wind.
I thoroughly enjoyed this course, it was in good condition. It is different than the other links trust courses and I liked the variety. The greens were actually fun to hit into, using the contours to play the shots. I hope they don't soften the greens, it sounds like some of the fairway grass mounds are being removed/softened. The views of the bay and town are spectacular. Very nice clubhouse as well.
Played the Castle Course in 2-3 clubs of wind after having played Kingsbarns the day before. My and a number of other players on that day I talked to, felt the course and especially the greens are just too difficult.
I have two objections.
1. You should not be panalized when hitting good, straight shots.
2. The greens were just too undulated. I have never played a course with more undulated greens.
It feels like they have combined the most difficult aspects of links golfs with the most difficult aspects of US target golf courses.
It would be interesting to hear what the pros would say if they played a pro-tournament on the course with the most difficult set up.
Go to Kingsbarns instead, that is probably one of the 5-10 best courses in the world.
Fantastic golf course and first-class set-up. Friendly welcome and excellent facilities. The whole place reminiscent of Kingsbarns just down the road. Like Kingsbarns, some may find the links-like set-up a little manufactured, but for me, they’ve done a great job. Plenty of memorable holes – particularly those closest to the sea. Holes 6, 7, 17 and 18 in particular were first class. 17 especially a belter. Only slight criticism was that a few of the greens were a bit excessively (and maybe unfairly) contoured – notably 4 and 10. But overall, fantastic and worthy of a place high up in future top 100 lists
First of all, I was taken aback by the drop in elevation from the main road down to the clubhouse (at least a couple of hundred feet) as publicity photos seem to flatten out the terrain. Secondly, I was surprised (and delighted) by how well the clubhouse merges into the landscape, in total contrast to St Andrews Bay next door. What of the course itself? The fairway and greenside bunker complexes are big and bold, incorporating the current trend of jagged edged design. Sand-capped fairways roll and tumble tumultuously, causing some tee shots and approaches to be played semi-blind. The rough, if you stray from the fairway, is wild and heavy and the links quality greens – well, I’ve seen some contoured putting surfaces over the years but these are amongst the largest and most undulating I’ve come across (the L-shaped 4th is one of the whackiest I’ve ever seen). I’m sure the greens will not please everyone as some pin placements are impossible to get close to so I cannot see too many St Andreans trying to maintain a handicap over the new course. The views towards the Auld Grey Toon at the 3rd and 6th are fantastic and the run of holes from the 15th (with its burn in front of the putting surface) to the 18th (which shares its green with the 9th) thrilling. Amongst these holes is the par three 17th which goes straight into my top 18 holes played in Scottish golf – simply sensational. I think the architect has delivered 18-holes unlike any other in the country that will tease and torment those who take it on. I for one will be following with great interest the comments from fellow reviewers in the months to come – For now, I think the Castle is not bad for a course that was built round the town s*** pit! Jim McCann