Not far from the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland is a fabulous, authentic, old-world links course in the town of Crail called Balcomie Links. Balcomie Links is one of two courses on the property. The other course is Craighead Links which opened in 1998. Craighead Links was designed by Gil Hanse, one of today’s most popular golf architects, and the architect of the 2016 Rio Olympics golf course.
Old Tom Morris is the architect of Balcomie Links. Old Tom finished up Balcomie the same year he finished up the “New Course” in St Andrews, 1895. The course plays to a par of 69, and a total yardage of 5,861. If you are a yardage snob you’ll have to adjust a wee bit. Once you do, you’ll truly appreciate the splendor of this course and the overall par and length will matter not.
The personality of Balcomie Links is fantastically understated. The pro shop has to be the coolest shops I’ve ever seen. I imagine golfers sitting on this bench as children, learning to golf from mom and dad. They grow up sitting on this bench. They grow old sitting on this bench, and life is good for them. I’m envious.
Located a 20-30 minute drive from St Andrews, Balcomie Links is located on an unbelievable stretch of land which borders the North Sea. I can’t think of more than one or two holes which don’t have a view of the North Sea, and most of the holes are right on the water. If this course was in California it would give Pebble Beach a run for its money.
In fact, the whole time we played the course my group of pals kept playfully looking around and saying “Pebble who?”
Tee shots at Balcomie Links are so enjoyable and fun. Tom Morris was quite creative with the layout, and there are tee boxes in some very interesting places. Some tee boxes are by old buildings (below), while others cross holes. Some are by mortar and rock OB walls that must be hundreds of years old.
The fairways at Balcomie links welcome golf shots and don’t provide too much penalty if they’re not perfect. The wide fairways provide an enjoyable walk, but on rare occasions present challenging angles and blind shots if the ball finds the wrong resting place.
Some fairways, in old Scottish links golf style, cross each other. Keep a keen eye open for other players and rest assured the locals who know the course will do the same for you.
Due to typical high winds, the greens at Balcomie Links only run between a seven to a nine on the stimpmeter. In other words fairly slow. American golfers may be used to faster greens, so it takes a few strokes to get used to whacking putts that hard.
The greens are not severe, but are tastefully protected via bunkering and other hazards, like the North Sea! A few holes feature some strong elevation change approaching the green.
Crail Golfing Society
The town of Crail is the home of Crail Golfing Society, the 7th oldest golf club in the world. The clubhouse overlooks the links, with the beautiful blue water in the background. Crail Golfing Society was kind enough to allow us to enjoy their fine food and a wee pint following our round. One of the best meals I had on my last Scotland trip was accompanied by one of the best views, as seen below.
When trying to come up with words to describe the experience at Balcomie Links the first two which came to mind were “authentic” and “true.” Golf here is authentic, as are the people. There’s nothing gaudy or commercial here. Balcomie Links is about TRUE and traditional Scottish links golf and is uninfluenced by the outside world.
Boy is it a world I’d love to live in.
See the whole gallery of Balcomie Golf Links images!