92. Fairmont Torrance. 9 Dec 2018.

American style resort “Links” designed by Sam Torrance, the Scottish former Ryder Cup player/captain     

Round £95.   Par 72.  Value (out of 5) – 3.5

The Torrance is one of two courses on the Fairmont hotel complex just outside St Andrews.  The resort was opened as the St Andrews Bay Golf Resort and Spa by the American pharmaceutical entrepreneur Dan Panoz in 2001, but has transferred ownership a number of times since.  The sister course is the Kitticks which I previously blogged.  Both courses are championship venues and have hosted major qualifying and senior events, albeit the Torrance is regarded the senior course, and is named after its designer the Scottish golfer Sam Torrance..

The 6th at The Torrance, Fairmont St Andrwews, with the hotel in view.

Both courses previously had a headline Summer rate of £140, although new management has repriced it at “only” £95.  I say “only” to highlight how crazy, in my opinion, golf prices in Scotland have become at the higher end of the market – Kingsbarns, only a couple of miles away, is £275 for a 2019 summer round!  Assessing “value”, my key course assessment, is inevitably subjective, especially considering the different types of golfers each course targets – Kingsbarns starter box has a toll free American number!  Comparing “value” between Kingsbarns (£275), St Andrews New (£90), Scotscraig (£70), Tain (£65), or the Kittocks at £95, is highly debatable….but good fun! (all 2019 prices)

Although playing in mid-December full tees and greens were in play, and the course was in good condition.  Like its sister Kittocks course, it is quite open with wide fairways. The greens are generally very large and fast.   

The Torrance course meanders around the hotel and takes in some great views, of the North Sea, the Tay Estuary towards the Angus coastline and from the 11th has great views across to St Andrews.

It is worth noting that, in my opinion, its not a true links as the turf is more arable, and certainly in other that the height of summer, the course wont necessitate any running links approach shots.

Best holes for me were the risk/reward par four 7th, which could be driven, otherwise a straight forward dog leg right requiring a hybrid off the tee; the dog leg right 10th hole, which the prevailing westerly wind will challenge the strongest driver, and; for the view, the short 11th with “The Auld Toon” in the background.

I played and scored better on The Torrance than I had on The Kittocks the year before. I shot 96, but only 44 on the front nine, which was my best nine holes of the year.

If you are looking for a golf resort whilst in St Andrews, the Fairmont offers a great location with the fees for unlimited golf on both courses during your stay being very reasonable and much better value than a single round.   I got a good deal with a winter fee of only £30, but my score of 3.5 represents a value at £95 per round.

Facts:

Course Type: Links

Par 72 (4 par 5, 10 par 4s, 4 par 3s)

Distance (yellow): 6051

Moly’s Gross score96

Moly’s scorecard at The Torrance – 96 for 30 Stableford points.
Posted in 18 holes, 3.5 star, 4 star, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Holes, Links, Overall Value, Price, Private, Region, Sam Torrance, Since 2000, The Kingdom of Fife, When Course Established, £80 - £99 | Comments Off on 92. Fairmont Torrance. 9 Dec 2018.

91. Musselburgh Links, Old. 23 Oct 2018.

The oldest golf course in the world. A Must Play 9 holes.

Round  £15.30.   Par 34.  Value (out of 5) – 5

Called either Musselburgh “Links” or Musselburgh “Old”, this course is the only one of the three ‘Musselburgh’ courses actually in Musselburgh, the East Lothian town 5 miles east of Edinburgh. If you are in any way interested in the history of golf, you have to play here because, quite simply, it is the oldest golf course in the world, recognised as such by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Moly and Fran at Musselburgh Links, The oldest golf course in the world.

People mainly associate the origins of the game with St Andrews, but there is a much richer history in Musselburgh Links. The record books for the course talk of Mary, Queen of Scots, King James VI and Oliver Cromwell; albeit if you check their dates of birth they certainly never played a 3 ball.

Move forward a couple of hundred years, the record book speaks of an early Open Championship venue, between 1874 and 1889, won by the likes of Mungo Park, Willie Fernie and Willie Park Jr.

The tough 6th green at Musselburgh Links

The Old Course at Musselburgh also must have another record. It has been the home of more golf clubs and societies than any other course; not any old clubs either and includes The Royal Musselburgh, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Royal Burgess Golfing Society and the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, all either formed or were based at Musselburgh. Plus a further 60 clubs or societies of note.

The club sits on Common Good land, and the land’s use was extended in 1816 by building a race track around it, which is still in use today.

The long par 3 8th hole at Musselburgh.

Which left me wondering whether a links course could be sited inside a racecourse? The answer is undoubtedly yes – this feels very much a links, with firm turf, deep revetted bunkering, whispy rough and wind! It was actually gusting over 40 mph when I played and unsurprisingly Fran and I were the only players! In the wind, my score of 45 against the par of 34 was about the best I’d played for a while.

The course is basically a clockwise loop of holes, with a out and back layout. It starts with a great par 3, then three par 4s of increasing length with the 4th hole, the stroke index 1, called Mrs Foreman’s, after the name of the pub behind the green. Then you turn for home, with the 8th on the way back being a long par 3, the most noteworthy.

This course is very well maintained and greens, fairways and bunkers being in really good condition.

The wind shows at the 9th at Musselburgh, with the racetrack grandstand in the background

Its also worth noting the world’s first golfing competition for women took place on New Year’s Day in 1811, competed for by the town’s fishwives. I wonder if the date was set by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers?

At just £15, this is unrivalled value to grab a piece of genuine golfing history.

Some Facts

Course Type: Links

Par 34 (1 par 5, 5 par 4s, 3 par 3s)

Distance:  2954 yards

Moly’s Gross Score  45

45 in a 45 mph wind was very good!
Posted in 4 star, 5 star, 9 holes, Before 1850, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Edinburgh & The Lothians, Holes, Links, Local Authority, Overall Value, Price, Region, Uncategorized, under £20, Unknown, When Course Established | Comments Off on 91. Musselburgh Links, Old. 23 Oct 2018.

90. Musselburgh. 22 Oct 2018.

The highest ranked of the three Musselburgh courses even though the other two are more historically significant

Round  £60.   Par 71.  Value (out of 5) – 4

Musselburgh is the largest of the towns in East Lothian, situated on the coast about 5 miles from Edinburgh and close to the start of the great North Berwick coastal run of courses which includes Muirfield.

1st at Musselburgh, a very typically picturesque example of this courses holes

But to say you’re playing ‘Musselburgh’ doesn’t really clarify matters, nor indeed is saying you’re playing in Musselburgh. There are in fact three named ‘Musselburgh’ courses: ‘Musselburgh Links’, which is in Musselburgh and recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest course in the world; ‘Royal Musselburgh’, the regally appointed course somewhat nearer to Prestonpans than Musselburgh and; plain old ‘Musselburgh’, which is actually in Monktonhall. Confused?

Given that the two other Musselburgh courses enjoy either a pedigree as the oldest course in the world or has a ‘royal’ appendage, I suspect many people are surprised to learn that the course simply called ‘Musselburgh’ is the highest rated of the 3 in most compilations of Scotland’s courses.

The well bunkered short 3rd hole at Musselburgh

This Musselburgh course opened in 1938 having been designed by James Braid as “a championship” layout. Off the back tees it’s over 6800 years long, and hosts many regional standard competitions, and in the past has held regional Open qualifiers and the Final Qualifier as recently as 2013, such is the best measure of this course.

Off the yellow tees, Musselburgh is still over 6200 yards, and given the amount of breeze on the day I played, presented a very stiff challenge. I shot 99, but 3 lost balls accounted for my scoring only 27 stableford points. I drove the ball well, and the often generous fairways allowed for that. The course was in good condition, although it was let down by the poor maintenance of the teeing areas and readers of my other blogs will realise this is one of my common misgivings, especially with a green fee of £60.

The ‘hidden’ hazard behind the difficult par 4 15th hole at Musselburgh

Apparently, the golf course was laid out in open parkand, but visionary tree planting during the 1950s has transformed this into a mature parkland setting and I benefited from the late autumnal colour.

Fran drives at the inviting fairway on the 17th at Musselburgh

The greens were in great condition and very true to putt on, but you needed to be careful with the greenside bunkering, which I thought was the best feature of this nice layout. With the trees fully matured and the constant changes in direction, one needed to keep track of the wind direction.

My favourite holes were the short 3rd, the slight dog leg right 9th, which had a ditch which long drivers needed to be mindful of, and the tough par 4 15th where a water hazard lies at the back of the green which I found having hit my longest 7 iron of the season!

The last hole is a very long par 4 uphill to a welcoming clubhouse. Its worth mentioning the friendliness of the staff in the bar.

The brutish finishing uphill par 4 to the awaiting and impressive clubhouse at Musselburgh

Some Facts

Course Type: Parkland

Par 71 (3 par 5s, 11 par 4s, 4 par 3s)

Distance (yellow)   6241 yards

Moly’s Gross Score  99

Moly’s Musselburgh scorecard – 99 for 27 points
Posted in 18 holes, 1901 - 1945, 3.5 star, 4 star, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Edinburgh & The Lothians, Holes, James Braid, Overall Value, Parkland, Price, Private, Region, When Course Established, £60 - £79 | Comments Off on 90. Musselburgh. 22 Oct 2018.

89. Saline. 10 Oct 2018.

‘Salin’ feels like an intrinsic part of Scotland where community and golf are as one entity

Round  £15.   Par 34.  Value (out of 5) – 3

Courses like Saline, pronounced ‘Salin’ by the locals, somehow define Scotland, not just Scottish golf.

The Cleish Hills provide the backdrop to the par 3 8th hole.

Saline is a village in Fife, not far from Dunfermline. Its elevation on the western slopes of the Cleish Hills, mean that any visitor will get spectacular views of the Forth Valley estuary and river. However, for the great views, you have to work hard to walk to the top of the course, but it’s well worth it.

The magnificent Forth backdrop from the 6th tee at Saline

The club was founded in 1912, but as the club’s own website admits there is virtually no history documented about the course and club development, which is clearly a shame.

The village on the other hand, with a declining population, now around 1000, down from the almost 2000 in its heyday, has an interesting history as a weaving centre. It still has several listed weavers cottages, as a legacy to its former glory.

The 1st at Saline, which gets the heart pumping from the first minute.

The 9 hole course, was in fair condition when I played, along with my wife Fran. The fairways were lush and wide enough to allow for an errant drive or two, but the greens were a little bumpy, which could have been down to the amount of recent rain.

There were some decent holes as well. The steeply uphill par 4 5th at 368 yards is a really tough 2 shots, where I suspect most will require driver and fairway wood to reach. The par 3 8th is a great short hole, against the backdrop of the Cleish Hills; it required much less club due to the drop and it’s better playing long due to the front bunkers.

The tricky par 3, third hole at Saline, at over 160 yards

The golf club bar, acts as a community hub and social club, and from looking at the notice boards it was clear that the bar is an important part of the community. The welcome was extremely warm from the barman/host, and this alone would “hasten ye back”.

Some Facts

Course Type: Parkland

Par 34 (0 par 5s, 7 par 4s, 2 par 3s)

Distance (white)   2700 yards

Moly’s Gross Score  46

Moly’s card at Saline – 46
Posted in 1901 - 1945, 2 star, 3 star, 9 holes, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Holes, Members, Overall Value, Parkland, Price, Region, The Kingdom of Fife, under £20, Unknown, When Course Established | Comments Off on 89. Saline. 10 Oct 2018.