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What others say

Crail Craighead Links

Do you like a challenge? How about this one -- I challenge you to shoot your handicap on this golf course. Odds are you won't come close. This is one tough test of golf. With a typical Scottish wind, it's very, very tough. And situated as it is right next to the North Sea, it's almost always windy. Anyone who shoots his handicap is rare. Hosting the Fife Stroke Play Championship the best score was 77. These were fine golfers in the most famous golfing area of Scotland and the best they could manage was 6 over par. That's one tough golf course.(I don't know what the weather was like on that specific day, but I'll bet it was very windy.) Craighead is equal of any of the Open Championship qualifying courses in the area and I feel it will soon be added to the qualifying rota.

Crail--Craighead course, #10
You are always aware of the sea on this terrific golf course. This and the Balcomie course next door constitute the best one-two punch in golf.

Founded in 1786, The Crail Golfing Society is the 7th oldest golf club in Scotland. The Craighead Links is the second of their courses. The first and more famous Crail Balcomie links is one of my favorite courses and one of the best kept secrets in the world of golf. (I have a separate write-up on it.) The new Craighead links were completed in 1998. Considering the second St. Andrews course was opened in 1898 and it's called St. Andrews NEW Course, any golf course in Scotland as young as the Craighead links is considered an embryo. Be that as it may, this is a really fine layout--tough but fair--and one I absolutely recommend.

Best one-two punch in golf

Don't pass up the Crail Balcomie links to play this one. But if you are looking for a well laid out, imaginative golf course with wind and natural beauty abounding, one that will test your game to the utmost, this may be the one for you. And because it was designed to be different from the Balcomie course, you won't be playing the "same" course with a different name. Together the Balcomie and the Craighead links constitute a tandem that is one of the best values in Scotland. As an independent golfer you will be able to return to these courses as often as you wish. Because of the wind, the courses will be different each time you play them.

Crail Craighead course is routed so that the wind is constantly hitting you from a different angle. Situated as it is on the Fife Ness, which is the very tip of a piece of land with the North Sea on one side and the Firth of Forth on the other, winds are an ever-present challenge. The first tee is high above the sea and beach and the views are spectacular, giving the golfer a 100 mile radius of viewing. This layout is not as hilly as its older, adjoining sister, but the variations of elevations are subtly utilized to create imaginative holes. It's best if you can arrange a match with someone familiar with the course because many holes put a premium on position. A great drive to the wrong side of the fairway is not as good as a so-so drive on the correct side. Position golf is rewarded. When I played with a member he was extremely helpful and probably saved me from 3 or 4 bogeys.

Crail--Craighead course, #11
The greens run true but some of them have so many undulations you may think you're putting on a giant green potato chip..

Craighead starts out with a par 5 that, if the wind is in your face (which it usually is), needs three good shots to make the green. The green, like many on the course, is the inverted saucer shape that requires careful entry lest you roll off the back. The second is a favorite of mine--a severe dogleg right, it requires an accurate drive of sufficient length or else you have to come in over deep bunkers tucked close to the green. Without a good drive it's very difficult to par.

Crail Craighead has great greens

The greens at Craighead are terrific. Some holes have more humps and bumps than a Sharpei's face. The 5th, a 213 yard par 3 with a huge hump on the front of the green, looks as if it was laid out by Quasimodo. The 6th makes you feel you are putting on a huge green potato chip ("potato crisp" in the UK). The 12th has a big dip on the left side of the green. The 17th is the "spoiler" hole. The green is severely tiered so that a ball landing on the wrong tier will be a truly challenging putt. This hole, by the way, is my favorite. It's rated only the eighth most difficult, and I'm not sure why because according to Alasdair Busby, the former secretary of the club, it has destroyed more cards than any other on the course and is a holy terror with the wind blowing. At 197 yards you are hitting over monster bunkers to a severely tiered green that falls off front, back and sides. The only way I parred it was to make a 90 foot putt. (Yes, certainly I paced it off! Wouldn't you?)

Crail--Craighead course #17 green
There's no way to roll your way onto the green at the par 3, 17th as the bunkers completely block your path.

Make note of the flag position and consult your yardage book on every approach. These greens force you to aim carefully lest you end up with an impossible putt. Other greens are more subtle with interconnected undulations that require a long read and steady nerves. I found that my read behind the ball was much different than my read over the ball. Too often after deciding on the line, I'd change my mind when I was over the ball. Trust your read behind the ball. Analyze the putt from all sides, decide on your line, then trust your decision and hit the ball where you decided to aim.

Also, be aware that most of the greens are crowned, that is they fall off on some or all sides. The impact of this is that anything a bit long or a bit short will just roll off the green and you will have a devil of a time chipping or putting back up.

Crail Craighead course, 7th green

The wind will affect you
Unless you're a long hitter, it's probably a good idea to play from the yellow tees. I always do. The back tees have three par 4s over 460 yards--one of which is 487 yards. Of course some of these are from elevated tees but nevertheless, they are quite long. Most mid-handicappers can't get there in two unless there is a strong wind behind them. If the wind is in their face these are par 6s! The par 3s from the championship tees are 233 yards, 198 yards, 197 yards, and 160 yards. Again, if you're a mid-handicapper, you'll be using woods or even drivers on some of these holes. If there is any kind of wind in your face, on a few of the par 3s you'll be using your driver just to lay-up! I play to a 12 handicap and am not a long hitter and play the middle tees, finding them challenging enough and all I can handle.


When I first played Craighead in 2002, the member I was playing with had a small wind gauge and he measured the wind at a steady 20 mph with gusts to 30. It was challenging to say the least and made for an interesting day. I was using driver on some par 3s and driver/3 wood/wedge on long par 4s. But with the wind at my back, I drove 10 yards past the green on the par 4, 10th hole! (Okay, okay, so it's only 283 yards from a very elevated tee and the wind was howling behind me and the ground was hard and the ball rolled forever...but let me tell you, it feels soooo good to drive the green on a par 4.)

Crail Craighead 13th green

There are breathtaking views of the sea from many holes, so even if you're having a bad golf day it will not be a good walk spoiled. Give yourself a treat and play this course if you have the opportunity. I played it for the first time in 2001 and now try to play it every time I'm in the area. If you decide to play it, be sure to bring your game.

Tee times and more info -- tel (0) 1333 450 686 . Speak with Reservations Secretary Doreen Mayes, who can book your tee time and tell you about the green fees and all the excellent golf/food packages.

Crail Pro, Graeme Lennie
The Pro, Graeme Lennie, is a member of The Shivas Irons Society and has also been voted by his peers as the Captain of the PGA Scottish region (quite an honor, as you can imagine).

Graeme Lennie is the Pro and is an outstanding source of information about not only his own two courses, but about all of the courses in the area. If you are going to be around for a while and want to play the "must plays" in and around Crail and St. Andrews, talk to Graeme. And if your game is not quite what it should be, Graeme is one of the finest instructors in Scotland. He'll diagnose your problem quickly and help you to have a better golfing holiday in Scotland.

Golf Nook Scotland rating --a very enthusiastic BIRDIE.

Website
www.crailgolfingsociety.co.uk
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Mary-Alice suggests ...
What to Do All Day in Crail

Some of my favorite places to visit are down in this enchanting area. But we'll start at the golf courses. Because the two Crail golf courses are in such a spectacular location, right at the elevated corner of land where the Firth of Forth (large estuary of the River Forth) meets the North Sea, I had to experience some of the courses myself. It was a raw day, with the Saltire (Scottish flag) standing straight out in the whipping wind. From my elevated position I could see virtually the entire layout of the Balcomie course. The Craighead course is located somewhat behind the Balcomie course, so I walked the first two holes with Richard to get a better perspective. Yet it was enough to give me a taste of how beautiful and how challenging the courses are.

After visiting the courses, wind your way back to the centre of Crail and park the car. You'll want to stop into the Tourist Information Centre in the heart of town because they have good info on local points of interest. [SPECIAL NOTE--in any town you visit, always look for the while letter "i" on a dark blue background. This is the tourist bureau.]

Crail Harbour, quaint fishing village
Picturesque Crail Harbour
Photo courtesy of www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk

Crail dates from prehistoric times and has much of interest, so you'll want to get started exploring. Turn left out of the Tourist Info and walk onto the High Street. Leave your car where it's parked and walk along the High Street (the main street of every town is referred to as the "high street."), turning left down Castle Street. Wind down to the harbour. There are signposts marking the way. Crail was once an important fishing port, and you'll enjoy the splendid view over the picturesque harbour and the Firth of Forth.

A visit to this and any of the otherquaint fishing villages is like traveling back through time. Many artisits and photographers are attracted by the ancient town of Crail. Don't be afraid to explore the tiny lanes and streets. It's literally impossible to get lost because every turn leads you to either the harbour or the High Street. It's all very close and small. This area of the Kingdom of Fife is called the East Neuk (east corner) and has some distinctive features on the houses. As you walk, keep your eye out for 1) forestairs (outside stairways), 2) crow (corbie)-stepped gables, 3) marriage lintels above the doors or built into the walls, which show the initials of the first owners and the date of the building or their wedding.

The Kirk -- A lovely, intriguing historical church in the town centre. Visit it. It's just up the street from where you will park.

If you're game to go a little farther afield --

Kellie Castle -- 7 miles from Crail, on B9171, just 3 miles north of Pittenweem. Locate it on your map and follow the signposts. The roads are empty here, so it's a quick hop. This is a superb 14th Century castle containing a fascinating Victorian nursery, an old kitchen, and a beautiful organic walled garden. My niece and I had planned to spend an hour there, and we ended up spending three. You'll be glad you went.

Scotland's Secret Bunker -- On the B940 just 4 miles west of Crail. Again, consult your map and follow the signposts. Here is the command centre from where the government and military would have run the country in the event of nuclear war. You can now visit the facility, which is hidden beneath a Scottish farmhouse. A tunnel from ihe house leads to 24,000 square feet of secret facilities, 100 feet underground and encased in 15 feet of reinforced concrete. Built on two levels, the Secret Bunker contains two cinemas, a cafe', an operations room, an RAF & Royal Ovserver Corps Centre, sleeping quarters, and much more. Open daily from April to November. Check them out at www.secretbunker.co.uk.

Anstruther -- This delightful little fishing village a few miles west of Crail, in addition to its Scottish Fisheries Museum, is the site of one of my favorite places to fisit, a place unknown to most visitors--the Royal National Lifeboat station. There are over 200 of these amazing lifesboat stations covering the entire coastline of the UK and Republic of Ireland. They are fascinating to visit and to learn all about the incredible rescues made by their courageous crews. This is all volunteer work and their boats are held in very high esteem by the people of Great Britain. The boats themselves are incredible, very high-tech and extremely costly. You really have to see one to appreciate it. Anyway, Richard and I always stop and visit an RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) site whenever we come upon one, and I heartily recommend this to you. It's a piece of Britain you might not ordinarily get to see. When the lifeboat centres are open there is always at least one person there to give you a personal tour. They are eager to show off their boat.

Scottish Fisheries Museum -- At the Anstruther harbour not far from the Lifeboat Station. A very well done exhibit.

And if you're hungry while in Anstruther, don't forget the award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar & Restaurant at 42 Shore Road for basic fish and chips.

There are other charming little towns and villages along the coast only a few miles west of Crail. Depending on your time, you can visit some of them during your day at Crail. So much to see and do when you are an independent traveler.