Crail Golfing Society
Designer: : Old Tom Morris
In 1786, a full year before delegates would gather in Philadelphia to craft the U.S. Constitution, a far more like minded group assembled in the corner of a bar to form what today is the 7th oldest golf club in the world – The Crail Golfing Society. A little over a century later, Old Tom Morris laid out their Balcomie Links on the easternmost promontory of Fife, fully exposed to the elements of the North Sea.
The opening tee shot on the Balcomie Links is one of the most inspiring in Scotland, with much of the course and the adjacent sea visible from this elevated perch. The equally exciting par-5 2nd hole plays alongside the beach to a thrilling green set out on a rocky point. Meanwhile, the 5th, known as “Hell’s Hole” was dubbed by Sam Torrence to be “the hardest par-4 in Scotland,” and if the wind is howling, one begins to understand both its name and reputation.
The back nine at Crail is a little kinder than the front, but certainly no less of a challenge, especially on a windy day. This side features four par-3s, ranging from the gruelling 215 yard uphill 13th, to the picturesque downhill 14th with the sea – which comes into view on every hole – playing the role of backdrop.
In addition to it’s place as one of the world’s oldest golf clubs, the Crail Golfing Society is perhaps best known for originating the most glorious sound known to golfers: that of a ball landing into the back of the cup. In the 1870’s, it is believed that Crail was the first to begin lining their holes with iron cases so as to prevent their damage. This bit of history is completely impossible to verify, but since no other club has claimed ownership of the feat, the Society is all too happy to claim it as their own.
The only thing to match the history and golf at Crail is the Good Life found after the round; specifically, the view from the clubhouse lounge. The sweeping panorama of the links and the North Sea is one of the best 19th hole views in Scotland, and pairs wonderfully with a spot of Mother Duff’s Punch – the concoction of choice during the meeting which established the club all of those years ago.
From the club’s rich history, to the splendid Balcomie Links, to the post-round cocktails with a view, a visit to Crail is a truly rewarding experience. The Crail Golfing Society may not be found along the beaten path, but almost anyone that takes this road less traveled is always glad they did.