Away From the Sea
|Marvelous views from The Duke's, overlooking
the town of St. Andrews
The Duke's St. Andrews is owned by the Old Course Hotel St. Andrews Golf Resort
and Spa. Yes, the very hotel you have to hit over
when you tee off on the 17th
hole of St. Andrews Old Course. A hotel's golf course is usually right
next to it, but considering that the hotel
is in the middle of the St. Andrews Trust's
six courses, it was impossible to obtain
the land to build aother golf course. Instead,
the hotel purchased 333 acres of farmland
on the outskirts of town and in 1995 opened
The all-new redesigned Duke's Course is in
I was very pleased to find it is now in excellent
shape--and getting better by the week. Thousands
of heather shrubs have been planted, trees
trimmed and bunkers redesigned and added.
The fairways have matured so that every ball
that lands in the fairway has some grass
underneath. The ball rolls true on the excellent greens and
the bunkers add a touch of fear as you eye
up each shot . And the layout has changed
quite drastically. Par 4s and 5s have been
changed to add to the flow of the course.
For instance, the last four holes were pars
5,4,3,4. They are now pars 4,3,4,4. The last
hole in particular used to be a 381 yard
par 4 slog up hill. Because of the change
in elevation and the 3 foot high wall about
25 yards in front of the green, there was
no rolling your second shot to the green
so the hole played as if it were closer to
450 yards. And with a stiff wind in your
face it became a par 6 for a mid-handicapper
like me. Now it's been redesigned into a
more manageable finishing hole and one I
have at least a chance of parring.
|First hole, a par 5, on the newly re-designed
Duke's Course St Andrews.
And thanks to The Duke's manager, David Scott,
for the photo.
Peter Thomson, five-time Open Champion, was
the original designer of the Duke's Course.
Thomson's philosophy is quite charming: "Golf is a game of strategy…the real challenge
should be getting to the green, not just
landing on it. Once there putting should
be fun on generally flat surfaces, just as
you find on classic golf courses." He's my kind of golf course designer!
Thompson's hero is Alistair Mackenzie, among
the finest ever golf course designers. In
quoting Mackenzie Thompson said, "He intended holes to be 'enjoyable',
'tempting', free from irritation and torment,
and certainly 'free from the humbug of lost
balls.'" Don't you just love that "free from
the humbug of lost balls!" Ben Hogan, one of the greatest ball strikers
ever to play the game but not the best putters,
thought whoever landed closest to the pin
should win and that putting should be eliminated
from the game.
|View from the 6th tee--a 567 yard par 5 slight
dogleg right with ten bunkers
ball. Oh, and don't forget
the big bad wolf
in the forest.
The Duke's course is no pushover
The Duke's is a full-fledged championship course, greens
included. The International European Amateur
Championship--one of the four majors in the
world of amateur golf--was played here in
2014. In contrast to most of the other course
in the area, however, it is not a Scottish
links course but rather an inland, heathland
course with lots of hills and trees and changes
in elevations. What it does share with St. Andrews Old Course is plenty of bunkers--many of them pot bunkers
and all of them grizzly looking
and as au natural as they would have been a century ago. Another
aspect it shares with Scottish
is that on many holes you can
putt from far
off the greens. So many inland
like the courses in the USA,
i.e. the apron
around the green is usually cut
than the grass on the green itself.
makes it unlikely you will choose
from off the green and so you
up using a lofted iron to chip
onto the green.
Not so in Scottish links golf
or golf at
many holes on The Duke's Course. Often you can putt from quite far off the
green. And, by the way, it's a good idea
to putt every chance you get. Next time you
find yourself off the green and the grass
is short enough, put that wedge away and
try your putter.
|This is far and away the finest and most
helpful yardage book I've ever seen. The
top photo in the book as you hold it (on
the left side of the above photo) is the
view of the entire 11th hole from the perspective
of the tee. It shows yardages from tees to
various bunkers. The bottom half (right)
shows a closer view of the green and approach
from the perspective of your second shot
and gives you distances to the front edge
of the green. It also includes advice on
how to play the hole. If you don't have a
caddie, this book is a must.
|Enlargement of top part of yardage book showing
a photo of the entire 11th hole including
distances to bunkers, etc.
||Enlargement of bottom half of yardage book
showing photo of approach area of 11th hole
plus advice on the best way to play the hole.
The Duke's is a thinking person's golf course
Management 101 -- First off, get yourself a yardage book before
going out. The Duke's yardage book is the
best I've ever seen bar none. It is a bit
pricy, but if you don't have a caddie or
are not playing with someone who knows the
golf course, it's worth every penny. Next,
match your game to one of the five available
tees. They go from the Blue tees which play
to 7,002 yards to the Red tees at 5,216.
(The competition Black tees which play to
7,512 yards? Fuggedaboudit!) Pay particular attention to the flag location
and the terracing of the greens. If you are
at the wrong end of a terraced green, you
have little hope of one-putting and a good
chance of three putting. And speaking of the greens, many of them are
inverted saucer-shaped, so be careful coming
in. You don't want to come in hot and fall
off the back or hit short and not be able
to roll onto the green. This is a thinking
person's course, and If you manage the course
properly you can save quite a few strokes.
|View from the 3rd tee. It's 159 yards over
a huge "Sahara Desert" sand area
to a green surrounded by 3 very large bunkers.
There are punishing bunkers on many holes.
These are not slap-on-the-hand bunkers, they
mean business and can easily cost you 2 strokes
or more. As you can see from the photo below,
they look like the outside of an old man's
ears! If you're heading for a bunker pray
that it lands in the sand and doesn't stop
shorty in the "ear hairs!" And
if you do manage to get caught in one, the
first rule is to get your ball out. "Duh,"
you say? Believe me, if you've never been
in a Scottish pot bunker you don't know how
punishing they can be. Rule #1 is "just
get out." Even if you have to hit backwards,
just get out. Don't try to get too fancy,
it will cost you big time (one more time!)
JUST GET OUT! And as you will note below,
some holes have plenty of bunkers.
|No, that's not poor maintenance. These unusual
bunkers are meant to look the way they looked
a century ago. Just pray your bad shots get
to the sand and don't get hung up in the
There are many memorable holes.
I really like the look of the 11th, a par
5 with a SI of 1. It's a real beauty--physically
and tactically. (See photos of yardage book above.) The fairway is long and undulating and calls
for a long, straight drive. Any
an eagle calls for another long
a creek that is only 45 yards
from the front
of an inverted saucer green.
It is downhill
but at 501 from the whites and
613 from the blues, I doubt there
eagles on this beauty. My advice,
par here and be happy. The 13th
is one of
those driveable par 4s because,
it's 363 yards from the white
tees and 405
from the blues, you are teeing
off from far
above the green (with wonderful
the adjoining countryside to
the north) and
there's nothing to stop a well-struck
drive from rolling onto the green.
what goes down must go up. The
15th is a
severe uphill test of aerobic
and endurance and with six bunkers
the green and an SI of 3, is
quite a test.
By the way, unlike most golf courses in Scotland,
electric buggies (golf carts) are allowed.
Those who have trouble walking will definitely
want to take advantage of this service on
this hilly golf course.
|Note the severe terraced 18th green. If you're
not on the same plateau you'll have a "helluvaputt."
So what's the verdict? If this golf course
were anywhere else but in Fife with all the
truly great Scottish links golf courses in
the area, I would make it a "must play."
But golfers don't usually come to Scotland
to play inland courses. They want to experience
links golf. And that's too bad because there
are some really fine inland courses like
Boat of Garten, Scottscraig, and others.
Included in this group of fine inland courses
has to be The Dukes. If you're in the area
for only a few days, you may want to play
some of the others links courses I've written
up before playing this one. However, if you
want a good 2nd course for the day, this
is ideal because you can rent a buggie and
not have to hoof it around another 18. And
if it's your second trip to the St Andrews
area, be sure to give it a try. It's a championship
golf course all the way. It's kept in fantastic shape and if you give it
a play, I believe you'll have a challenging
and fun day of golf .
The Golf Nook rating -- BIRDIE
There is a terrific bar/restaurant--a nice
place for an after-round drink or meal. It's
inexpensive and the food is well prepared,
good tasting and served by a very friendly
David Scott, Manager
The Duke's is in the finest hands with David.
Formerly the Head Professional at Kingsbarns,
he is a veritable font of knowledge for all
the courses in the area.He's a great guy
and easy to talk to.
has been the Head Golf Professional at the
Dukes St. Andrews for many years. Don't be misled by his youthful
appearance, he's a man of great experience.
A true gentleman, he has a wealth of information
about the other golf courses in the area
will be happy to share his knowledge with
|Oops!!! Probably best to do your Scottish
golfing in spring, summer and fall.
But aren't The Duke's clubhouse and golf
course beautiful even in the snow?
Thanks to David Scott,
Manager of The Duke's,
for his fine photo.