History and Location
Scotscraig Golf Club is the 13th oldest club in the world. At 206 years old, it was founded in 1817 by members of the St Andrews Society of Golfers, which later became the Royal and Ancient Club of St Andrews.
The course is located in the north east of Fife, just over the Tay Bridge from the city of Dundee and is just over 11 miles from the golfing mecca of St. Andrews. While it sits slightly inland, the course is a mix of heathland and links which means plenty of heather and gorse to avoid!
Both Old Tom Morris and James Braid were involved in its design and subsequent renovation meaning the course is steeped in the history of the game. Play here and you really are walking in the footsteps of legends.
The course has held a number of National Championships and has been used as a Final Qualifying course for the Open Championship when it has been held in St. Andrews.
The Championship Course
As with many of the historic and traditional courses, Scotscraig is not overly long. The course yardage ranges from 5783 yards to the back tees at 6698 yards. On advice from the assistant in the pro shop, we chose to play from the white tees at 6559 yards.
The approach to the opening hole
The first hole is a strong opening hole. At 402 yards, it was playing into a stiff breeze. Our opening tee shot found the fairway on the left side, which left us a semi-blind second shot as the pin was on the left side of the green. We hit our 3 hybrid and aimed at the bit of green we could see. It finished on the right side of the green and two putts later we started off with a par.
The first par 3
The third is the first par 3 on the course. At 214 yards, the breeze was hard from right to left. We opted to go with the 3 hybrid and proceeded to hit our tee shot left of the green. As we were unsure of what was over there, we hit another ball, even further left. We found neither ball in the rough, heather and gorse bushes and felt a bit deflated as we walked to the 4th tee.
The short 6th hole
The 6th hole, at 145 yards is the shortest hole on the course, although playing into the wind it was no pushover. We hit a solid 7-iron just left of the flag and just short of pin high. Our putt was slightly downhill and came up just short of the hole. Another safe par.
Lucky Tee Shot
Our second shot to the 7th
The 7th hole was a hole where we had great difficulty picking a line off the tee. It looked as if there was a fairway down the left but we could see gorse bushes about 250 yards off the tee. As we couldn’t decide the line, we hit 3 wood to the right of what we thought was fairway. By more luck than judgement, we finished in the perfect place and had a clear line into the green. If we had hit the driver, it would have been pot luck finding a decent lie for our second shot. As it was we hit a decent 6 iron onto the green and escaped with a par.
The par 5 9th hole
The 9th hole is the first par 5 on the course and at 484 yards should have given us a birdie opportunity. However, a poor tee shot meant we laid up with a 5 iron to avoid the fairway bunkers. This left us with a 9 iron to the green and we made a solid par. A decent tee shot should give you a chance of going for it in two.
The Back Nine
The back nine begins with two strong par 4’s. The 10th is 404 yards but beware of the fairway bunkers which we found off the tee. They are deep and we could only play out sideways. We would suggest sacrificing distance to stay on the fairway. This will leave a medium to short iron into the green.
Approach to the 11th green
The 11th is the longest par 4 on the course at 453 yards. Your second shot plays slightly downhill. We hit the driver off the tee and went with a 5-iron for our second shot. It crept onto the front edge and we two-putted for par. Our first birdie of the day came at the 12th, a 393 yard par 4. A decent drive left us 135 yards to go and after a good 9-iron second shot finished 15 feet from the hole and we finally holed a putt.
The 13th hole
After our birdie, we stood on the 13th tee. The breeze was helping slightly so we went with a 7 iron. Unfortunately we absolutely flushed it and went through the green just left of the flag. Fortunately we had a decent lie and were able to get up and down for our par.
The second shot to the par 5 14th hole
The 14th hole is the longest par 5 at Scotscraig. At 516 yards, you need to hit a good tee shot to have the opportunity to go for the green. Our tee shot finished just off the fairway on the right which left us 232 yards to the front. We needed to hit a fade with our 3 wood and we managed to hit what was probably our best shot of the day onto the front edge. Two putts later and we had our second birdie of the day.
The 15th hole
The 15th is the last of the par 3’s on the course. At 175 yards, it’s a tricky hole. The green has a tier running across the green and the pin was back right. We chose our 4 hybrid and pulled it into the back left bunker. With a restricted backswing, we did well to get it out the bunker. Two putts later and we recorded an easy bogey.
Approach to the 17th
After making a par at the par 5 16th, we thought we might have a chance of a birdie at the 377 yard 17th. We were wrong. Into the breeze we hit a high block with our driver, almost on to the 18th fairway. We were blocked out by a couple of trees and tried to hit a fade with a 6 iron. The fade didn’t come off and we missed the green left and on the short side. A flop shot that Phil Mickelson would be proud of, and an 18 inch putt and we escaped with a par.
Approach to the 18th
The last hole was playing downwind. At 396 yards, all you have to do is hit the fairway and leave yourself an easy shot in. We hit 3 wood and pushed it. It landed right of the bunker and disappeared into the trees. We chipped out and hit an 8 iron through the green. A pitch and putt and we finished with a bogey and ended up one over for the back nine.
Scotscraig has the look and feel of a historical club and course. It’s a popular destination for both local and international golfers and being only 11 miles from St. Andrews, it’s in the perfect location to attract all types of golfers. It’s not overly long and on the day we were there, there was a mix of people playing. We saw kids practicing, older members with buggies playing as well as Americans visitors with caddies.
The greens were excellent with plenty of subtle borrows to confuse you. We didn’t hole many putts but that was due to our reading of the greens as the ball was running true. They were not quick, more medium paced but quick enough in the stiff breeze. The bunkers are small and deep, proper hazards. Avoid them at all costs!
If you are someone who likes the history of golf and wants to tick off one of the oldest clubs in the world, then do not miss the opportunity to play here. Thank you to Liam Greasley for organising our visit to Scotscraig.
At a Glance:
- 18 hole championship course
- Final Qualifying course for the Open Championship
- A mix of heathland and links
- 206 years old and the 13th oldest club in the world
- Practice area, putting green and short game area
- Well stocked pro shop
- Just across the Tay bridge from Dundee and 11 miles from St. Andrews
Jim Callaghan has been a Category One Golfer for over 45 years. Recently retired from Club Management, he now walks the fairways of some of the best golf courses in the UK, Ireland and Europe and writes about the experience of playing and staying at them for worldsbestgolfdestinations.com
Now in his 60’s, he is still carrying his bag, although maybe not for much longer!
If you would like Jim to write about your venue, email him at [email protected] or call him on 0044 (0) 78522 88732