KINGSBARNS - 18 POINTS
There can be no doubt that Kingsbarns is one of the top courses in the UK. The hospitality is amazing and the course is great.
Arriving at the course the welcome is tremendously warm and you are processed on by the avuncular meeter and greeter in suitable style. The driving range is one of the best I have come across in the UK and the clubhouse does a wonderful Scottish breakfast. By the time you have made your way to the first tee you feel suitably set up for a great few hours golf. And it will be a few hours - 5 hour rounds are not atypical at Kingsbarns. That's not because the course is particularly brutal, but the scenery is great so people do stop and smell the roses a little and there are a fair few walks between green and tee which all add up.
The opening is a gentle one, a lovely wide fairway and inviting green on a relatively short par 4 (rescue and 9 iron should do the job) and then you are off. The first 4 holes are probably the least spectacular on the course as they wind their way between large dunes but by the time you get to the 5th tee you can see the rest of the course laid out before you and it really is a great feeling knowing that you have all those holes waiting.
Forget your links courses like St Andrews and Muirfield where you barely see the sea, Kingsbarns ensures that you get a great view of the water from pretty much every hole and that definitely contributes to the sheer exhilaration you feel when playing. It really isn't the hardest course in the world and that's great, it means you can enjoy the whole package without sweating a la Carnoustie over every shot.
Many of the tees are elevated and you can always see what you have to come in front of you. It would be easy to wax lyrical about so many holes but the par 5 10th is sure to be one you remember for a long time to come as it hugs the ocean all the way around the dogled left. The par 3 14th is probably the signature hole, with a long carry over the crashing waves and rocks. 18 has been criticised before as a lightweight finish but to be honest that is really splitting hairs. For the shorter hitter on a windy day it is a hole you may have to lay up in 2 on but there's still the chance of an up and down for a happy finish.
After the round there are few better places in golf that sitting at the window looking over the course seeing how your fellow golfers cope with their putts on the undulating 18th, it really is a wonderful place.
And yet..... it's not one of THE greats of Scottish golf. It's no St Andrews, Dornoch or even a North Berwick. And that's because Kingsbarns is basically resort course golf, it's Disney on Links. And that provides a great, fun, experience but it's not authentic and it feels strangely like it's missing something as a result. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't turn down an invitation to play tomorrow - I'd be there like a flash - but you just know you are playing 21st century links, which isn't too bad!
BOOKING THE COURSE
How wonderfully egalitarian Kingsbarns is. Anyone can play. The green fee is a mere £288 (!!!!) in the summer. The course is closed in the winter but you can get the reduced green fee of £240 in April. What a steal. You will find all details here.
There are a couple of other ways to improve the value. If you are a Scottish 'local' you can get on cheaper, but only at 2 weeks notice so availability will be very limited (and yes, before you try a Scottish accent you do need proof of residence). Another option is if you want another round within 7 days of your first then it's half price. At the least that reduces the average you pay!
You need to book a long way in advance to get a good team at Kingsbarns so do plan ahead. However, it is a 7 days a week option for a golf tour which is helpful if you are trying to fit a game around the Old Course.
There are more caddies than you can shake a stick at and they will set you back but hey, in for a penny in for another £55 (plus £20 tip).
If you are adding Kingsbarns onto your itinerary then it would be crazy not to see St Andrews and I would recommend basing yourself there, it's only 20 minutes drive away. Therefore hop across to my St Andrews page for some advice on how best to make the most of your time there and what other courses to consider playing.
Phone: +44 1334 460860