Kingsbarns Golf Links
Designer: Kyle Phillips with Mark Parsinen
As Tiger Woods was breaking nearly every record imaginable at the 2000 Open Championship at St. Andrews, history of a different kind was being made just down the road. With the awarding of the Claret Jug a mere formality after the second day, many visiting connoisseurs of the game made their way to a nearby course that had strategically debuted just days before. What they found at Kingsbarns was unlike any links course built before or since, and this new kid on golf’s ancient block was met with near universal praise.
Although Kingsbarns opened at the dawn of the 21st century, golf on this corner of Fife dates to at least 1793. A known fact thanks to the diligent note taking of the Crail Golfing Society, who in that year documented their permission for the members of Kingsbarns to wear their own club blazers over the Balcomie Links. The Kingsbarns golfers played over a rudimentary 9-hole course off and on until World War II, when the land was requisitioned for the national defense. The area remained farmland for half a century, before Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen came together to breathe new life into the old links.
The rolling dunes and sweeping valleys that make links land ideal for golf were decidedly absent at Kingsbarns. Instead, a flat and featureless property had to be transformed with thousands of tons of dirt, and an untold number of hours sculpting the landscape. The end result is a man-made links that feels both entirely natural and as old as its illustrious neighbors.
Along with the painstaking work of creating natural looking dunes, Phillips constructed and routed the course over a pair of elevated shelves, which allows the sea to come into view on every hole. While the views are truly spectacular in places, so too is the golf. The 12th is perhaps the best example – an all-world par-5 that sweeps along the shore and has quickly become one of the finest in the game. Just ahead on the 15th, we find the quintessential “Kodak Moment” at Kingsbarns by way of a stunning par-3 played to a rocky finger of land that is surrounded by the North Sea on three sides.
While the 18th at some links courses serves as merely a connection between the heart of the course and the clubhouse, the final hole at Kingsbarns is anything but forgettable. An ancient burn was discovered short of the green during construction and rebuilt, adding just a touch of drama to the last approach of the round. Of course, the magnificent panorama from the final green is likely to provide all the drama one could ever need.
Kingsbarns stands as proof of what is possible when a grand vision is paired with the resources to make it happen. So good was the outcome that Kingsbarns was quickly added to the rotation for the European Tour’s annual Dunhill Links Championship, alongside Carnoustie and the Old Course. The R&A itself has also recognized its greatness, naming it as host of the 2017 Women’s Open Championship. The current links may lack the long history of its royal and ancient neighbors, but Kingsbarns has rightfully earned a place among the must play courses in the Kingdom of Fife.
Perfect Pairing with golf at Kingsbarns: a heaping bowl of chili in the clubhouse. We know. We spend a great deal of time trying to convince our travelers to sample the local fare and chili is, well, so American. Nonetheless, to go to Kingsbarns and not sample its chili would be to miss part of the complete experience.
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
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