Scotscraig Golf Club was founded in 1817 and therefore it’s officially the 13th oldest golf club in the world. It’s situated at Tayport in the north of Fife, a mere ten miles from St Andrews, the "Home of Golf".
James Braid redesigned the present gently undulating Scotscraig layout in 1923 and it measures 6,669 yards from the back tees with par set at 71. There’s plenty of heather and gorse to catch the wayward shot, not to mention the ever-present coniferous plantations. Scotscraig doesn’t sit exactly beside the coastline so it is one of those enigmatic courses, which are hard to categorise, as it is neither true links nor heathland or even moorland, but instead is an interesting combination of them all.
Scotscraig is a test of accuracy rather than length and it will reward the player who plans each stroke with the next one in mind. The large rolling greens and well-positioned bunkers will present a serious challenge to all golfers. Since 1984, the course has been chosen as one of the local venues to host Final Open qualifying when the Open is held at St Andrews.
Needless to say, Scotscraig Golf Club has a great deal of history and a mere 17 years after its formation, their 1834 gold medal had to be played at St Andrews because the Scotscraig course had been ploughed up. The following year, the members had to play their autumn meeting at Montrose and thereafter the club seemed to disappear for half a century!
Club fortunes turned around when land on which the original course was built was sold to Admiral Maitland-Dougall in 1887 and the club was reconstituted under its original name. The Admiral was a formidable golfing force in those days, winning no less than sixteen Royal & Ancient Spring and autumn medals over the Old course at St Andrews. The first hole at Scotscraig is named ‘The Admiral’ in his memory. A merger with the Newport Golf Club took place in 1890 and a new clubhouse was erected in 1896 to accommodate the enlarged membership. The course was extended to 18 holes in 1904 and then James Braid later altered these when the members bought the course outright nearly twenty years later.
As golfers are spoilt for choice when choosing where to play on the east coast of Scotland, Scotscraig often gets overlooked for other more illustrious places in Fife or nearby Angus. This is a big mistake as the hospitable Scotscraig Golf Club can hold its own against the more renowned local courses.
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Having returned from our annual Scottish sojourn, I have to say that Scotscraig proved to be a disappointment. I had expected more having read some of the reviews, but, as with all first-time courses, i turned up with an open mind. Scotscraig is certainly a tale of two 9's - it's starts well with a strong par 4, and I was instantly impressed, but after this, apart from the 4th it gradually goes downhill. One or two nice par 3's, and a course better for knowing, the back 9 is pretty forgettable...the 14th being the only stand-out hole. The course was in OK condition, and the greens were fair and true, but one or two dangerous tee boxes located close to greens also detracts from it's layout. Unfortunately, the pro-shop was not overly inviting, and the customary ball-marker was completely overpriced. Members were totally anti-socal, not a smile or a hello all day. It claims to be the 13th oldest golf course in the world - I'd consider that it's only selling point....play Ladybank, it's far superior.
As part of a little tour to Fife, played at Scotscraig for the first time in mid-June in very benign conditions of warm sunshine and minimal breeze. Scotscraig reminded me of Tain with a lot more pine trees – narrow gorse-lined and undulating fairways without being able to view the sea. Scotscraig starts with a moderately difficult 1st hole but the finish is relatively straightforward from the 15th onwards. Favourite holes were the 4th, 7th and 14th. Scotscraig would have rated a 4-ball score but I am giving it a 3 since the greens were in very poor condition. Was forewarned by the pro that the greens were ugly but nevertheless ran true. Would agree with his first assertion but not his second. Would I go back again? Probably not.
Scotscraig are in a transitional stage with their greens,having sprayed them in May with Rescue Herbicide to counter the problem of poor grasses, in particular Yorkshire fog. Unfortunately this work cannot be done until the growing season and there will be a few months this season whereby the putting surfaces will be uneven. Seeding and top dressing is continuing to speed up the process. Other courses up the east coast have used Rescue to encounbter this problem with success. Despite a few months upheavel the Council of Scotscraig Golf Club are convinced this will benefit the greens in mid-long term.
Even though I played like the rear end of a pantomime horse, I loved my day at Scotscraig. But that is not surprising, as Scotscraig is a warm, welcoming, embracing course where playing well is a bonus, but participating is a privilege. Scotscraig reminds me a lot of Western Gailes in that it can often be overlooked for seemingly more illustrious neighbours. Believe me, this is a mistake that no golfer should make, Scotscraig can hold its head high in any company.
On the day that we played the tee was block booked for the morning by the SPGA (one of the fourballs containing Ronan Rafferty), so if that is not a ringing endorsement then I don’t know what is. I have to admit to a bruised golfing machismo as on the day that I finally got to rub shoulders with the Pros my driving was so poor that Wee Jimmy Krankie would have crushed me in the longest drive competition. Stand out holes for me were the 1st, no gentle introduction here, the magnificent 4th, which would grace any golf course, the 7th (wee tip, driver may not be the sensible play) and on the back 9 the 12th and 14th. I didn’t enjoy having to play from mats on some of the holes but that minor complaint can be heavily offset by the superb greens which were firm and fair and a credit to the club. Scotscraig is a timeless classic, understated and enduring, a simple honest to goodness quality track which golfers of all abilities will love which, on no account should be missed. MPPJ
I returned five years after I first played Scotscraig and was just as enchanted by the place second time around. It definitely has the feel of a fine moorland track rather than a classic links, with many tight fairways bounded by gorse and small copses of trees. I loved the way the routing often brings ridges running across fairways into play, causing havoc with the measurement of distance to some of the flags – exemplified at the fabulous short par four 4th where the elevated green sits at an offset angle behind a diagonally running raised strip (with a pronounced dip in front of the putting surface for good measure). Who says holes have to be long to be tough? It’s absolutely no surprise that this little cracker is number 1 on the stoke index and rightly so.
I hope the club can do something about holes 11 to 15 on the back nine which have more of a parkland feel to them to bring them more into line with the others. I see that some tree and shrub planting has been started along the edge of these fairways so maybe they will blend in better over time. Back at the clubhouse, it was nice to see the club displaying a good number of golf artifacts from times gone by - letters from Harry Vardon, James Braid and George Duncan adorn the walls of the lounge, for example - as tangible evidence of the pride the club has in being regarded as one of the oldest golf societies in the world. Jim McCann
excellent course.Thought it would be harder to play than it actually was.Some of the rough has been cut down for the course to be more user friendly.Greens are fast but superb.All the par threes are tricky especially with the wind.My favourite hole, but the hole i played the worst was the 4th,difficult green to get onto and stay on,fair course overall with excellent club house and staff.Highly recommended for any level of golfer.
Looks like there are around twenty courses in Fife that are featured on the Top 100 website and I imagine most visitors would not have Scotscraig on their itinerary as the bigger names close by will have a bigger pull. Well I can safely say that the course will not disappoint and this is a great course to play without getting beaten up. A pretty inland course that I really enjoyed and like I say it is a good test to handicap without the constant big course challenge of locals Carnoustie, St Andrews or Kingsbarns. Best holes I thought were the par-4 7th, named ‘Plateau’, with just that at about 250 yards off the tee and also the par-5 14th. This hole makes you think on all three shots to the green – a drive down the left is best, then negotiate the burn and stay left to approach the green without having a copse of trees to play over. A lovely clubhouse atmosphere with an unbelievable amount of historic memorabilia of Scotscraig’s life (13th oldest club in the world) – do take time to have a look around.
A really enjoyable course. Played last week in glorious weather, the course was in great condition with just a couple of small bare patches caused by lack of rain (believe it!). This is a great members course with some fine holes but overall a four ball ranking as despite the condition and the history it didn't quite have the same feeling of wanting to play it again straight away which you get on the really good or excellent courses. If your staying in St.Andrews for a tour this course is well worth a visit over some of the overplayed town courses.
Scotscraig lacks the visual appeal and challenge of the classic links but it is a decent day's golf for all that. The 1st is extremely difficult and many a ball is lost here. The best hole by some way is the 4th with its narrow drive and raised green. I've played here a few times and never regretted it.
Played Scotscraig with a friend on a May afternoon in 2004. Takes about half an hour to get to from St.Andrews. The large, old fahioned clubhouse with separate visitor changing room was well appointed and staff served up a lovely evening meal after our round. The course has more of a heathland feel to it than a true links. I've thought before (even, dare I say it, at Muirfield !) that if you can't see the sea you sometimes wonder if you are playing a links and as we never got a sniff of a sea breeze here you only had yellow gorse (which was everywhere) to remind you. My mate said the layout reminded him at times of Ladybank, which is no slight with the reputation that course has. Glad to say I have played a course that has a high ranking in Scottish lists and would recommend playing to others, especially if you take advantage of their participation in one of the 'two for one' discounted golf schemes so you can pay around twenty quid for a round.