Tonight I unpacked my golf bag from last week’s Scotland trip. Honestly, I have no desire to play “American” golf right now. But duty calls, a charity golf tournament tomorrow morning. So I had to get my bag ready. Part of getting ready is installing my new Kingsbarns Golf Links putter cover. Brilliant! Speaking of Kingsbarns… This past Sunday morning the HOG World Tour and my friends “The Lads” spent a fantastic 18 holes on Kingsbarns Golf Links.
Kingsbarns Golf Links – 15th Hole at Low Tide
Kingsbarns is one of the best courses I’ve ever played. Easily in my top five and I’ve played many of the world’s best. The course design combined with the views of the sea are tremendous. Kingsbarns is a must-play for any golfers who are in St. Andrews. It’s just a few minutes away.
Below The Lads (and Lorna the Lass) are enjoying post round wee pints and some fantastic Kingsbarns food for lunch. My favorite is the chili.
Cheers to my friends at Kingsbarns and special thanks to Alan Hogg, a fantastic host.
For more, check out my Kingsbarns Golf Links review.
Day three of the tour in Scotland was one of the two 18-hole days. The others being all 36-hole days. The reason for only 18 on this occasion is due to the travel time required to get from up north in Cruden Bay down to St Andrews. While we could have played the renowned Carnoustie Golf Links a few hundred yards away, the Lads (our golf buddy group) decided to try a course we had not played before, Panmure Golf Club’s Barry Links. The Carnoustie area was chosen as it was on the way from Cruden Bay to St Andrews.
Panmure (1845) is a historic private club, one of the oldest in the world. The club plays over the Barry Links, a course so old that the course designer is unknown. The course oozes history, tradition, and old-school class. The clubhouse has probably been the same for 100 years. The course certainly has.
Panmure is known as being the course Ben Hogan chose to practice at when he was competing in his only Open Championship (USA translation: British Open) at Carnoustie in 1953. The course plays similar to Carnoustie and Hogan liked privacy. It is said that Hogan wanted the 17th hole to be modified to be more similar to Carnoustie, suggesting the green be cut shorter. The head greenkeeper gave Hogan a mower. Hogan cut the grass himself and cleaned the mower before returning it.
Panmure is a joy to experience from a pure golf standpoint. The holes are soft on the eye visually and feature many wide fairways, dunes, and unique green complexes. Errant shots can be severely penalized however, by long “barry rough,” deep bunkers and dunes.
©2016 by Tony Korologos
Despite being a short course at about 6,500 yards, scores at Panmure as an Open Championship qualifying venue, have been the highest.
My personal experience at Panmure was difficult unfortunately. Due to many technical issues I was not able to fully enjoy and soak in the experience and vibe. First, oddly, was that the weather was too good. Yes that sounds odd I’m sure. It had rained all morning right up to our 2:ooPM tee time. Right at 2:oo the clouds parted and the rain stopped. The sun started pounding on the course, and us golfers. Club rules do not allow shorts so I was playing in trousers (known as pants in the USA). I don’t normally wear trousers because of heat issues. The combination of the unusually warm temperature, the trousers, and nearly 100% humidity caused me to sweat profusely. The sweat led to physical discomfort, dehydration, and frustration due to not being able to grip the club with slippery hands. My half Greek half Scottish sweat was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for the flies. I was being attacked.
If the heat and sweat issues weren’t enough, I had some serious foot problems. I had to tape a couple of toes and my right heel by the back nine. I was wearing some new inserts for my feet to give me more arch support. After about five miles of walking in them that day I was hurting from the blisters and general aching from the hard supports in the inserts.
I’ve never actually done it, but I nearly walked off the course between the sweat and the feet. It was a shame to have my focus taken away from the course and its beautiful walk, but I did the best I could to absorb it.
Panmure seems to be a golf course and club that is frozen in time. It’s one of the purest and most unique experiences I’ve had despite my physical struggles. I hope Panmure never changes.
I’ve returned from the beautiful country Scotland; a tremendous golf travel adventure with four other “Lads” from the USA and with a few new and old friends in Scotland. I did not have much internet connectivity while in Scotland to post blog entries or photos and that’s fine. My time was spent on the golf course and experiencing Scotland.
Cruden Bay – ©2016 by Tony Korologos
I have hundreds of photos to sift through and many memories to share. Those memories will be flowing here for a while. Below are some statistics and a cliffnotes version of the adventure.
This year’s trip had two segments: the northeast coast and the Fife area which includes the town of St Andrews and the courses in the area. The Lads also played a warmup round in the Philadelphia area because golfers must warm up the day before playing 12 rounds on 11 courses in Scotland!
Courses Played in Order of Play
- Applebrook Golf Club (Philadelphia, USA)
- Fraserburgh Golf Club
- Royal Aberdeen Golf Club
- Cruden Bay Golf Club (photo above)
- Panmure Golf Club
- New Course
- Old Course
- Jubilee Course
- Castle Course (photo below)
- Eden Course
- Old Course
- Kingsbarns Golf Links
- Balcomie Links (Crail)
Castle Course – ©2016 by Tony Korologos
- 18-hole rounds: 13
- Courses played: 12
- Holes played: 235
- Miles walked: 122.7
- Steps taken: 323,928
- Foot blisters: 7
- Golf balls used: 18
- Pounds lost: 5
- Wee pints consumed: Too many to count
- New Scottish friends made: dozens
- Fond memories: Too many to count
- Yard sales:4
- Bags of pepper and haggis flavored crisps (chips in the USA) consumed: 1 (need more)
I did document with detail a day or two of the trip and I will be doing the same for the rest of the days as time permits. My recaps of the trip will obviously not be in chronological order. I will surely be posting many shorter random thoughts and photos from the 2016 HOG World Tour trip to Scotland here at Hooked on Golf Blog as well as the HOG Twitter @HOGGOLFBLOG, my personal Twitter @TheGolfSpace, and on Facebook.
Stay tuned. If there are any questions you have about any of the courses or Scotland golf in general, ask away. I’ll light up with excitement no doubt.
Day five of the HOG World Tour trip to Scotland had two courses on the menu. We called to find a slot on the Jubilee Course and the only available one was in 15 minutes. What to do when you’re a 20 minute walk to the course? Book the time and walk fast! We made it.
The Jubilee Course (first photo below) is right next to the Old Course and New Course. It was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1897. Many say it is the toughest course of the three. We had a fabulous time on this great links course. I had some serious pressure to overcome as I had forgotten to reload my bag with golf balls. After losing a coupe of balls to the gorse monster, I found myself with one remaining ball on the 9th tee. I’m proud to say I managed to finish the round despite a 3-club wind.
The afternoon round was at the newest course in town, the Castle Course (photo below). Not a local favorite probably due to cost and it not being a “natural” design, we have never found the Castle to be overly crowded. The incredible dunes, elevation changes, and views of the north sea make it one of the funnest rounds of golf one could have in St Andrews.
At the end of the day, the 5th day mind you, we had walked over 18.4 miles, the equivalent of 89 flights of stairs in elevation change, and 43,319 steps!
In the evening our group stayed in our rented flat (more later on that) and cooked up a carb-rich spaghetti dinner and enjoyed some wee glasses of red while conteplating the day’s golf.
Dornoch, Scotland born Donald Ross began his golf career as an apprentice to Old Tom Morris at the Old Course in St Andrews. Old Tom was the greenskeeper for the Old Course in St Andrews and had designed many of the most famous courses in Scotland and the UK including Carnoustie, Prestwick, Muirfield, Machrihanish, Jubilee, and Balcomie Links. I’ve played a few of those.
Ross moved to the United States in 1899 where he began arguably the most successful architectural career in the history of golf. Ross is credited for designing 600 golf courses. Amongst those 600 are some of the world’s most famous and respected courses, which still stand the test of time. A few of Ross’s most notable courses include Pinehurst No. 2, Seminole, Oak Hill and Oakland Hills. A couple of others I like to add to the list are ones I’ve had the pleasure of playing, Burning Tree and Aronimink Golf Club. Ross’s courses are known for being natural and taking advantage of the lay of the land, not the “earth mover” type of golf architecture.
The Ross Course at French Lick opened for play in 1917 and has recently undergone a $5 million renovation to bring it back to Ross’s original design. Golf courses, like living beings, grow and change over time. In the renovation, bunkers which lost their nearly 100 year battle with the elements and nature were restored to their original specifications.
The Donald Ross course at French Lick is a par-70. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it is short or easy. In fact, the course clocks in at 7,030 yards which is long even for a par-72 course. The rating from the tips (the Gold Tees) is a strong 72.3 with a slope of 135. A solid test of golf. To accommodate players of all abilities and ages, there are four total sets of tees, the shortest measuring 5,050 yards.
The way each hole presents itself from the tee of the Ross course is so visually appealing. The landscape is hilly and features some very large elevation changes. The tees challenge the golfer to execute an accurate shot or find strategically placed penal areas including bunkers, hazards, long native grassy areas, and trees. Some tee shots are blind and the help of some course knowledge or at the least, a local caddy is a great thing to have.
The numerous sets of tees are not boringly arranged on one flat piece of ground a few yards apart. Rather, each tee set offers the golfer different yardages, elevations, and angles to the target. Regular golfers could create a very different playing experience by simply changing tees from round to round, or even making up their own combo set.
The fairways at the Ross course are welcomingly wide. That said, there are very few flat areas on the property. The golfer will be challenged to hit a straight from the fairway due to the undulations and uneven lies.
Strategically placed bunkers can and will penalize shots which are not placed in the fairway.
Donald Ross is well known for his amazing greens at courses like Pinehurst, Oakland Hills, Aronimink. Ross’s greens at French Lick are truly amazing; the prime feature of the golf course. Many of the greens feature the Ross trademark “upside down soup bowl” design, where any shot or even putts too close to the edge are rejected and end up rolling off into collection areas or false fronts. Those upside down bowl greens (photo below) present some very difficult challenges in the short game. The player can try hitting a high soft shot, bumping a low shot into the hill and onto the green, or my default choice which is putting. Getting up and down from greenside at the Ross Course is an accomplishment.
In fact, getting in the hole in two putts is an accomplishment. Due to the undulations, slopes, tiers and bowl edges, putting the Ross greens is the biggest challenge of the entire golf course. A two-putt on any green feels like a birdie. 3-putts can actually be a solid play.
Stay below the hole at all costs. Because of the speed of the greens and the incredible slopes and undulations, shots which end up above the hole are most often dead. Stay below the hole, even if that means missing the green short.
The clubhouse at the Ross Course oozes history and class. The pro-shop is full of great equipment and apparel and a great staff who are extremely helpful and pleasant to interact with.
Hagen’s Restaurant has a large indoor and outdoor seating area (right side of above photo). I enjoyed great food and great service between rounds on a 36-hole day. Hagen’s is named after Walter Hagen, who won the PGA Championship there in 1924.
The Ross course has an adequate putting/chipping area with a fantastic view (first photo), and very close to Hagen’s to insure the frosty beverages are topped off.
One drawback to the Ross and my only critique: there is no driving range.
The Ross Course is a pristine gem, full of history and personality. It will challenge golfers of all abilities and especially those like me, who consider themselves good putters. Be sure to plan a trip to French Lick to experience this historic golf course. The French Lick Pete Dye course (review coming soon), the Ross Course, and the French Lick Resort and Casino make for a tremendous golf buddy trip.