Check the wind forecast and prepare accordingly on this historic links!
Summary: Cost £50. Par 71. Score 97. Value (out of 5) – 3.5.
Leven Links golf course lies on a beautiful piece of links land running almost exactly in the south-westerly prevailing wind direction between the towns of Leven and Lundin Links on the north bank of the Firth of Forth. Many a round here will be strongly influenced by the prevailing conditions; I was level bogies over the 9 holes played with the wind and 18 over for the nine holes played into the wind, which was only about 10 mph!
The course has a key place in golfing history, tied strongly with its “Siamese Twin” neighbour, Lundin golf course, and well documented in the History of Scottish Golf web site. A 9 hole golf course was laid out in 1846 by Old Tom Morris in the ground between Leven and the course’s current eastern boundary marked by the Mile Dyke. The most significant part of the history though is that in 1868 this original course was extended by laying another 9 holes to the east of the Mile Dyke towards the town of Lundin Links; as the resulting layout had no double greens, this was arguably the first “modern” 18 hole links golf course in the world.
This historic 18 hole course lasted until 1909 when the volume of players forced a division at the Mile Dyke with Lundin G.C, thereby creating twin 18 hole courses; Lundin and Leven Links. Of the current Leven Links course, the opening 5 holes and also the incredibly challenging 13th and 18th holes are part of that original 18 holes.
Like a number of the links courses on the east coast of Scotland, Leven Links is managed separately from the 2 golf clubs using it, Leven Golfing Society and Leven Thistle Golf Club. Both clubs welcome visting golfers.
The golf course is laid out around the natural dunes and grasses of the links land and this makes for a very interesting first few holes especially for those new to this format of the game. I suspect many people will find that their approach shots end up through the green at the short par 4 2nd and 3rd holes. Many of the greens call for pitch and run shots running onto the green.
After a relatively straight forward start the short par 3 5th green can be very difficult to find played through the prevailing left to right wind. Then comes the small matter of the 6th, a par 5 of 555 yards off the yellow tees – as the pro said to me before my game “it’s normally a drive, two 3 woods and then an iron to the green!”. I was actually in a greenside bunker in 5, but finished with a 30 foot putt – I cannot remember feeling happier with a 7! The 6th also has another characteristic of Leven Links – very large greens.
The stretch from the 13th to 18th, where all bar the 17th are into the wind, offers some great challenges, however the best is kept till last. The 18th is a par 4 of over 450 yards, with the dominating Scoonie burn laying in wait for the approach shots, which for almost all average players will be their 3rd shot. I met up with a local member who said it was statistically the second hardest par 4 in Scotland. This was quite believable, however the course stroke indexes are not and are the most strange I have encountered, best exemplified by the short par 5 12th, at 504 yards, played normally with the wind being SI 1, but the 18th, the “second hardest par 4 in Scotland”, being SI 9…..go figure?
Due to location and historical interest Leven Links is a very heavily played course and I think this was the main reason the course being a little bit worn in condition when I played, in particularly several fairways were chewed a bit and the bunkers needed a bit of care. Due to this, it was very difficult to assess a value rating at the stated green fee of £50 for a weekday round; historically the course demands a 4+, but the condition and price merited only 3.5. It is really worth playing though as its a really great layout.
Leven Links has hosted many national and international competitions as well as hosting local final qualifying many time when St Andrews hosts The Open.
I thought I played pretty well for a gross 97 and 30 stableford points (off current 17 hcp).
Course Type: Links
Par 70 (2 par 5s, 12 par 4s, 4 par 3s)
Distance (yellow): 6309
Moly’s Gross score: 97.