Discover: St Andrews and Golf in Fife
Play the Biggest Name in Golf and four of Fife’s lesser known jewels
"6 night discovery tours featuring: 1 Bucket List Course and 4 Hidden Gems, unique experiences and great value!"
As someone who considers himself fortunate enough to now live in St. Andrews and to have travelled around the country to play both the monuments of the Scottish game and link up with the locals to play their provincial courses, I’ve come to appreciate both sides. Those marquee courses have that unmistakable sense of allure, but many of the lesser-known spots possess equal (if not unsurpassed) beauty, charm, and sheer enjoyment. You can have both in Fife.
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Day 1 – Arrive in St Andrews
Having arrived in Edinburgh and taken the relatively short drive through to St. Andrews, I recommend that you recharge your batteries and explore much of the famous old town. Remember, you need to be fresh in the morning for all that golf.
If you’re unsure of somewhere affordable to stay, the Ardgowan Hotel is situated a mere 200 yards from the 18th green of the Old Course, just along from the iconic Dunvegan. It is the ideal base for anyone looking for comfort but without the outlandish trappings of a five-star experience.
Once rested, you can emerge to have a look around the small place that has captivated the generations who have walked its beaches, attended its world-class university, or gazed upon its medieval castle and cathedral, which breath history. These are all worth seeing, as well as experiencing as many of the town’s restaurants and pubs as you possibly can.
However, you’re ultimately here for the golf and sampling “the essence” that has made the game so enduring. It should be said at this point that you can play these courses in any order you choose to, but I would suggest organising your Fife itinerary in this considered manner.
Day 2 – The New Course, St Andrews
Start the fun in St. Andrews, but not at the Old Course... Designed by the legendary Old Tom Morris, who oversaw the preservation and development of the links, the New Course is over 120 years old and sat just a matter of yards from its more esteemed older sister. It may lack the prestige of the iconic Open Championship venue, but it’s certainly not overshadowed in terms of quality.
Often described as being the locals’ favourite, the New is a challenging and enjoyable traditional layout that features several striking holes, most notably around the turn, with the treacherous par three ninth having felled many an unsuspecting player… including this town resident. It finishes just below the beautiful Links Clubhouse, which is incidentally an excellent setting for a post-round drink.
The New is the perfect prelude to the Old Course; you have experienced the style of golf, the feel of the turf, and most crucially have ingested the revered surrounds. You will be better prepared for stepping onto the first tee of the Old after experiencing its neighbour.
Day 3 – Balcomie Links, Crail
Just a few miles down the coast from St. Andrews is the renowned Crail Golfing Society, which is situated in a beautiful old fishing village. Its two courses have been popular with visitors for years now, but still fall under the radar when compared to the Old Course and nearby Kingsbarns.
The Balcomie is the more senior of the layouts, and is certainly the most memorable. Featuring stunning views across the North Sea from several vantage points, this is a quintessential links experience and among the most charming venues you could possibly hope to find.
It’s an enchanting place to play, a personal favourite, and a must-visit for anyone in Fife.
Day 4 – Elie Golf Links
Following your round at Crail and enjoying the welcoming hospitality in the clubhouse, I would suggest heading down the picturesque coastline towards Elie. You could play two rounds on the same day, or make it a separate event. However, whatever you decide, don’t forget to stop in the village of Anstruther, which boasts (arguably) the world’s best fish and chips.
Home of the legendary James Braid, Elie is a magical and elegant course. Like St. Andrews and Crail, golf has been played on these links since the 15th century, which is a huge part of the appeal. It feels untouched by time through its firm fairways and immaculate greens. Not a lengthy course in terms of yardage, but features more than enough of a challenge to satisfy purists, and its breathtaking setting will leave an impression. In terms of pure value for money, it doesn’t get better than this.
Day 5 – Leven Links
When people think of the great coastlines of golf in Scotland, they’ll typically mention Ayrshire and East Lothian, but Fife is right up there with them. Leven completes the set, and is yet another striking links course that’s not to be missed. Just 15 miles from St. Andrews, it’s certainly worth the journey and can be doubled up with the likes of Elie - depending on your preferences and budget.
The 18th is quite possibly the best finishing hole in the area, with a difficult tee shot being followed by an exhilarating approach over a burn to a huge and undulating green. It’s a memorable way to complete a rugged and high quality layout that is certainly underrated by most, but it’s a fine example of a consistently solid, understated and unique course that oozes charm.
Day 6 – The Old Course, St Andrews
There is the history and iconic imagery; the world-class holes and unique greens, but in my mind, what makes the Old Course truly special is how accessible it is. I love what it represents. There are no barriers. It’s open to all. And it’s deservedly regarded as a genuine “life experience” to play.
Standing on that first tee with the weight of history on your shoulders is an overwhelming moment to capture in words. It must be felt and savoured. The apparent “widest fairway in golf” doesn’t feel quite so cavernous when you’re looking at it with a club in your hand.
The course is a feast for the senses. Complex, fun, quirky and challenging, it can be appreciated on many levels, and each golfer will take away something different from it. Trying to replicate what the greats have done in previous championships is always a thrill.
Afterwards, take the chance to quench any post-round thirsts with a pint (or two) in the Jigger and Dunvegan, reflecting on what you have just experienced. When playing the most famous links of all, what you are discovering isn’t the course itself, but you are uncovering yourself as a golfer and just how much the game means to you.
Other Fife Courses to Explore
While you are in the area there are many other often overlooked courses worth playing. For instance, The Duke’s is a quite brilliant (albeit challenging) heathland layout in the outskirts of St. Andrews, perfect for those looking to sample something a bit different; illustrating that it’s not just about links in Fife. You could say the same for the stunning Aberdour, which is a beautifully presented parkland that offers breathtaking views across the Firth of Forth towards the capital of Edinburgh.
Golf in Scotland doesn’t always have to be about the biggest names. You can experience the game at its purest and best for considerably less expense and (arguably) even more fun. With St. Andrews and Kingsbarns, Fife has the signature courses, but it also has underappreciated gems. I loved visiting the county so much that I decided to make it my home. That’s the best endorsement I can make.
You too can experience it…
Prices for the above tour start from $1375pp when staying at The Inn at Lathones 4* in Largoward, or from $1585pp when staying at the Ardgowan Hotel 3* in St Andrews town centre. Includes all taxes and surcharges.
The package includes the following:
• 6 nights’ B&B at the Inn at Lathones 4* or the Ardgowan Hotel 3*
• 5 Rounds of Golf at: Old Course (St. Andrews), New Course (St. Andrews), Balcomie Links (Crail), Elie Golf Links, Leven Links
• Car Rental (self-drive)