Did the earth move for you? Well, its moved for all of us if you consider the number of new hunting grounds that have opened up around the British Isles for the travelling golfer in the last couple of years. And the even better news is that we are not talking about the fad for large American-style, water hazard-laden, highly-commercial courses that were all the rage at the turn of the last century. A closer look at the most recent additions reveals a return to the traditional roots of the game with a remarkable number of high-quality links courses opening their doors for play.
St Andrews, Inverness and Machrihanish have all explored as yet unchartered dunescapes to create layouts that are sure to appear at the top of the must-play lists of many golfers. Add to that some of the high profile arrivals such as the Twenty Ten course in Wales and Nick Faldo s Lough Erne venture in Ireland and there is plenty to get excited about.
The 10 golf courses share one thing in common — they're all less than two years old. several are due to open this year, but make it in because we know how good they are already.
CASTLE STUART GOLF COURSE
MARK PARSINEN/GIL HANSE, 2009
Location: Inverness, Highlands.
Course: 7,007 yards, par 72.
Green fees: £125-£150.
Details: 01463 795440, www.castlestuartgolf.com
Venting to create a Turnberry of the Highlands might sound like an ambitious target, but with his track record it seems unlikely that Mark Parsinen's latest project will fall short. The man who brought us Kingsbams has now put the finishing touches to what will surely come to be regarded as a classic links on the Moray Firth with fescue grasses, mature gorse, broom and heather defining a course that offers golfers panoramic views and yet another reason to book a flight to Inverness. It's due to open this spring.
THE TWENTY TEN GOLF COURSE
ROSS McMURRAY/ROBERT TRENT JONES, 2008
Location: Celtic Manor, Newport, Gwent.
Course: 7,493 yards, par 71.
Green fees: £80-£140.
Details: 01633 410263, www.celtic-manor.com
If do or die, risk/reward golf is what floats your boat then the intriguingly named Twenty Ten Course in the Usk Valley is on to a winner. It’s the sort of layout one might design on a computer game, full of devilish water hazards and strategic dilemmas, that will fit the bill nicely when this course has its moment in the sun in September next year. Purpose built to give an extra dimension to matchplay, the Twenty Ten welcomes the Ryder Cup teams on the next outing of that biennial extravaganza and, as such, we will be hearing quite a lot about it for the foreseeable future. To call it “new” may not strictly be true, however, since this is nine new holes merged to nine old ones from the original Wentwood Hills set-up.
THE RENAISSANCE CLUB
TOM DOAK, 2008
Location: Archerfield Estate, Lothian.
Course: 7,435 yards, par 71.
Green fees: By invitation only.
Details: 01620 850901, www.trcaa.com
For connoisseurs of golf course design, the very fact that Tom Doak’s name is associated with the latest addition to the Archerfield estate in the Lothians, is reason enough to take a closer look. The American is “minimalist” in his outlook, getting the best out of the natural surrounds by moving as little earth as possible, and Renaissance reflects that philosophy. The opening holes are relatively low key, forming a loop close to the clubhouse, but the layout moves up a gear as it heads for the higher ground closer to the Firth of Forth coast. Here, Doak fans will be rewarded with a couple of picturebook holes, including the 11th, an exquisite par 4 that is neatly framed by fairway bunkers and a lone tree by the green that stands out like a particularly succulent piece of broccoli.
LOUGH ERNE GOLF COURSE
NICK FLADO, 2009
Location: Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
Course: 7,261 yards, par 72.
Green fees: £95 (high season).
Details: 028 6632 3230, www.lochernegolfresort.com
Loch Erne opens its doors for business this year and only then will it be able to put the first blocks in place of a reputation that has the potential to climb on a very steep arc. Nick Faldo’s routing takes the golfer on a journey to points of high elevation with stunning panoramic views, to greens cut into the limits of the loch and the intimate seclusion of holes cut through mature woodland. The run for home starts with the 16th, a par 5 that could prove the talking point, and though Faldo might not like the term, a bit of a signature moment. A tee high above the fairway makes for a dramatic start and the hole turns gently round a bunker set on the left, while the waters of the loch peer through the scrub on the right. The finish, like arriving at a station, is played along a row of towered chalets.
MACREDDIN GOLF COURSE
PAUL McGINLEY, 2008
Location: Macreddin, County Wicklow.
Course: 7,173 yards, par 72.
Green fees: £50-£80.
Details: 00 353 402 369 999, www.macreddingolfclub.com
Paul McGinley’s first design is in the rolling hills of the Wicklow countryside, about an hour south of Dublin. Over a piece of land which has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Irish Ryder Cupper has been very hands-on in his approach to this parkland layout. There is talk of big tournaments eventually coming here, and he got his mother (a 24-handicapper) to try out most of the carries before deciding on their length; so much emphasis has been put on making it playable for everyone. “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” said McGinley, who has a house on the course and says he has drawn on his three favourite courses (Sunningdale, Royal Portrush and County Louth) in his design. Macreddin is a private course, but it is possible to pay a green fee at the moment, until they fill their membership.
DAVID McLAYKIDD, 2008
Location: St Andrews, Fife.
Course: 6,759 yards, par 71.
Green fees: £82 (April), £117.50.
Details: 01334 477036, www.standrewslinks.org
The most eagerly anticipated opening in years, the Castle Course arrived last summer in a blaze of gorse-clad glory and was an instant hit. Designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd - he of Bandon Dunes fame, and Golf World's Designer of the Year (see panel, left) - the Castle was the first new course commissioned by the Links Trust at the Home of Golf in a century but it's a wait that has been worthwhile. Kidd's efforts on essentially flat farmland a mile outside St Andrews are nothing short of spectacular, with sweeping holes, whiskery pot bunkers and mind-blowing views of the Auld Grey Toon making it an unforgettable experience. The rough-covered fairway mounds and extremely contoured greens caused some outcry, but having revisited the site over the winter, Kidd has tweaked the rough edges of a venue that he expects to be a perpetual work-in-progress. A must-play this summer.
KILLEEN CASTLE GOLF COURSE
JACK NICKLAUS, 2008
Location: Dunsany, County Meath.
Course: 7,700 yards, par 72.
Green fees: tbc. Details: 00 353 1689 3000, www.killeencastle.com
You’re going to hear a lot more about this Jack Nicklaus design in the next year or two, as it prepares to host the 2011 Solheim Cup. It plays from 6,300 to 7,700 yards and rambles over 350 acres – more than twice the average acreage for a championship course. The greens feature a unique blend of pure bent grasses, inspired by Augusta and the same blend used in Nicklaus’ own course in Muirfield, Ohio. No detail has been overlooked and in keeping with the Nicklaus philosophy of working with the natural landscape, the course features stonework which was quarried from the site. It’s also home to the first Dave Pelz Scoring Game School outside the USA. It opened last summer and specialises in teaching shots from 100 yards in.
MOYVALLEY GOLF COURSE
DARREN CLARKE, 2007
Location: Enfield, County Kildare.
Course: 7,370 yards, par 72.
Green fees: £40-£60.
Details: 00 353 469 551009, www.moyvalley.com
Darren Clarke’s first design project has received many plaudits since it opened last year. The sand-based inland links layout is mature beyond its years, and the greens are worthy of a Tour stop. It’s a great matchplay venue, with seven lakes or streams in play. Clarke says: “We created a course to be enjoyed by the weekend golfer as well as the tournament professional. With this in mind there is considerable variation between the championship tees and the front tees. I am especially delighted with the greens. We created gentle slopes which will make you and other golfers think about where to place your approach shot, especially when the greens are fast or in windy conditions.” Moyvalley is a members’ course, but residents of the 54-room hotel can also play here.
ASKERNISH GOLF COURSE
OLD TOM MORRIS, 1891 (REDONE 2008)
Location: Isle of South Uist, Outer Hebrides.
Course: 6,164 yards, par 72.
Green fees: £25
Details: 07900 387167, www.askernish.com
For a course that opened in 1891 to be included in this list might seem a little strange, but having been designed by Old Tom Morris the links of Askernish went missing for the best part of half-a-century after the land was used by the military during the war. Fortunately for the golfing world, this masterpiece was merely dormant, lying untouched beneath the undergrowth – all it needed was uncovering. And now it has been, by a determined band of folk whose mission it became to restore the links to its original state. It’s not a modern version of Old Tom’s course… this is Old Tom’s course as he would have played it and since it reopened last September golfers have been making the pilgrimage north to take a trip back in time. Golf, but not as we know it.
MACHRIHANISH DUNES GOLF COURSE
DAVID McLAY KIDD, 2009
Location: Mull of Kintyre, Argyll.
Course: 7,300 yards, par 72.
Green fees: £98
Details: 01586 554411, www.thewaygolfbegan.com
Old Tom Morris recognised the potential for great courses in this corner of Western Scotland 130 years ago and today another Scot, David McLay Kidd, has built a very impressive looking layout just down the road from Tom’s classic. Kidd’s new course features six greens and five tees right on the Irish Sea, all with spectacular views out over the Paps of Jura and the north coast of Ireland. When Kidd first saw the site, there were 23 “natural” holes, and he picked his favourite 18. It is the first course to be built in Scotland on a Site of Special Scientific Interest in over 100 years and promises to be worth the wait. Kidd (our Designer of the Year) has an impressive pedigree, so the expectations are high.