Scottish Links Golf
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St. Andrews area
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What others say
Ladybank Golf Club ©Tom Morris--both "Old Tom Morris" and "Young Tom Morris"--is a name that peppers the history of early Scottish golf. Old Tom Morris was a multiple winner of the British Open Championship and went on to become one of the most famous Scottish golf course designers. He assisted in the design of Ladybank Golf Club in 1879, helping to lay out the original six holes. At that time 18 holes was not the norm. In fact, the first tournament held at Ladybank Golf Club was a 12 hole match (won, incidentally, by none other than Old Tom Morris!).
Ladybank serves as final qualifying course for the Open ChampionshipLadybank Golf Club was chosen by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews as a British Open Championship qualifying course in 1978, 1984, 1995, and 2000 when the Open Championship was played at St. Andrews Old Course. In fact, the golfers who have qualified on this fine course are an international cast of characters, including Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Payne Stewart, Justin Leonard, Mark Brooks and Darren Clarke. A testament to the difficulty of Ladybank is the fact that among all the Open Championship qualifying courses, Ladybank typically has the highest scores recorded. Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros, both honorary members of Ladybank Golf Club, played a much remembered exhibition here when both were at the top of their games in 1983.
Ladybank golf course is not visited by the golf tour companies, a pity because it's a worthwhile play. Those independent golfers who have taken the time to read about the out-of-the-way courses such as Ladybank, are thankful to have discoverd it.
Okay, what about the Ladybank golf course?
Ladybank Golf Club is a picturesque parkland and heathland course that charms you with a profusion of beautiful trees and plants, many very unusual, lining each fairway. While not possessing the breathtaking beauty of some of the seaside courses, Ladybank has an understated loveliness that can be a soothing balm to those bogies you are bound to encounter while playing this excellent test of golfing skills. And excellent it is. Ladybank is one of those courses that can mug you without your seeing it coming or even knowing how it happened. For example, hole #9 is only 387 from the medal tees and there are no bunkers, no sand traps, no streams, and no lakes, Yet it's the number one rated hole. That's so typical of the subtle design of Ladybank. The premium is on position off the tee not distance off the tee. That's good news for not-so-long hitters like me who rely on their short game. Speaking of the short game, the greens at Ladybank are superb. They are not the exaggeratedly undulating monsters that some courses use to confuse and frustrate. Rather, the breaks are subtle and often difficult to discern. Take your time on the greens. Often what looks to all the world like a straight putt will break more than you can imagine.
The course begins innocently enough with a 346 yard par four. This "kindness" is short lived because the next hole is 528 yards from the visitor's tees and plays l-o-ong, especially if the wind is a factor. There are no bunkers on the fairway so you can swing away. But that beautiful foliage I spoke about? Much of it is gorse, so remember my admonishment--straight and a bit shorter is better than long and wild. Number 3 is a terrific hole. A severe dogleg right that you need to hit far enough on your drive to "make the turn" and see the green. You can boom a shortcut over the trees but then you risk running out of fairway when the ball lands and rolls. It's a fine hole and one you will enjoy. Typical of the clever design of this golf course is #5. It's the second easiest hole but the green is guarded by two large mounds on either front side of the green. These force you to loft your second shot high to land softly on the green or bounce it through the 20 foot opening between the two. Number 7 is another long hole at 527 from the visitor's tees. The fairway snakes its way to a bunkered green. Few holes on this course are straight ahead. It is filled with doglegs right and left and crooked fairways. The ninth, the number one-rated hole I mentioned with no bunkers or water, is a dogleg left with mounds in the fairway and a hard to see dip in front of the green. Describing it doesn't do it justice. Sounds innocent enough but when you play it you'll see for yourself why it is rated the most difficult on the golf course.
Ladybank has the equivalent of an "Amen Corner." Beginning on hole 14, the #2 SI hole, you will do well to keep a good game going. If you are playing poorly, hang on to your hat. I was not playing all that well and bogeyed my way in from there. But I can't say I wasn't warned. One of my playing partners warned me about this before the round began.
Driving is critical on Ladybank. The fairways are lined with trees and bushes and all sorts of trouble. Remember, a fairway wood or iron off the tee may make you work a bit harder for a par, but with a ball in the woods you're scrambling to get it back in play or you're hitting 3 off the tee. My other playing partner, a former Vice Captain of the club, used a 2 wood off each tee.
Ladybank has a solid reputation for keeping their course in wonderful shape.The greens and fairways are always impeccably maintained. It really is a pleasure to putt on such perfect greens. And by the way, both my playing partners told me the average round at Ladybank takes about 3 1/2 hours. We finished our round in 3:15 and did not rush at all.
I really like this golf course. My only caution is that if you're looking for a links layout you've come to the wrong place. But if you're looking for something different, exciting, and challenging to play, give Ladybank a try. It's reasonably priced, highly respected, and typical of the friendliness that Scottish golf clubs project is the statement on Ladybank's website: We can't guarantee the sun on your back but there should be no doubting the warmth of our welcome! Really, what more can you ask? On Kirkcaldy Road a half mile from junction of A91 and A92 (Melville Lodges round-about).
Golf Nook Scotland rating - BIRDIE
***FOR THE NON-GOLFER-- As this golf course is in a rather remote location, you may wish to remain in St. Andrews if you do not have access to a car. But if you DO, please see below because a special town awaits you.