Kingsbarns: American inspiration in Scotland

March 07, 2012
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, [click here].

There is something sacred about St. Andrews and all of the land around this small historic Scottish town that gave birth to the game of golf. This is a part of Scotland where change is unheard of and everything stays as it has always been, because it must, especially when it relates to golf.

So back in 1997 when talk of a new links course in the area started circulating, there were more than enough skeptics. After all, who would be foolish enough to even attempt to bring a new course to the six historic layouts already located in town? Ranging in age from 600 years to a little more than a century old, St. Andrews is world-renowned for it's historical importance to the game of golf and certainly no place for some modern day layout.

Kingsbarns set a new standard for links courses.jpg
Kingsbarns set a new standard for links courses.
Ranked No. 54 among The World's Top 100 Courses, Kingsbarns is a must play for all.jpg
Ranked No. 54 among the world's top 100 courses, Kingsbarns is a must-play for all.
Kingsbarns may contain a few shades of Pebble Beach, but this is pure Scottish links golf.jpg
Kingsbarns may contain a few shades of Pebble Beach, but this is pure Scottish links golf.
Don't be deceived by the good looks, Kingsbarns is serious links golf at its best.jpg
Don't be deceived by the good looks, Kingsbarns is serious links golf at its best.
Packed with an endless array of tough challenges, Kingsbarns is one for the memory book.jpg
Packed with an endless array of tough challenges, Kingsbarns is one for the memory book.
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No doubt when the locals learned it was Americans who had this crazy, unworkable and even unthinkable idea, the jokes began to fly. And fly they did - continuously for the seven years it took for those crazy Americans to gently cajole the St. Andrews fraternity, convincing those who refused to be convinced that a new course to be called Kingsbarns would be an asset to St. Andrews.

After endless public hearings and debates, impact studies and innumerable planning and building permits, construction started and Kingsbarns eventually opened in July 2000. Demonstrating a little Yankee marketing ingenuity, opening day was planned to coincide with that year's British Open, being held just a few miles down the road at St. Andrews famous Old Course. Adding some well-deserved good luck to the mix, this was the year Tiger Woods won The Open (his first) bringing an even higher level of attention to St. Andrews and this brand new, upstart links course.

Californian developers Mark Parsinen and Art Dunkley had accomplished a remarkable feat, made all the more so by the artistry of American architect, Kyle Phillips, whom they had brought in to design his very first Scottish links course. Immediately accepted as a masterpiece, in a country renowned for spectacular links, even the most dyed in the wool skeptics were instantly converted into believers and Scotland had gained a course openly lauded as the best design of the past 50 years.

Further success came quickly to the new boy on the block. Within a year Kingsbarns had worked its way onto the prestigious, Top One Hundred Courses in Britain and Ireland rankings, a position it has consolidated ever since and is now firmly ensconced among the top 15 in the British Isles.

Kingsbarns is a born winner, already standing shoulder to shoulder with Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch, Turnberry and even St. Andrews Old Course. Inevitably it will some day break into the most elite list of courses in existence, those treasured links elected to be a part of The British Open Circuit.

A big step in that direction was accomplished in 2001 with the inauguration of the European Tour's, Dunhill Links Championship, an annual event played over three of Scotland's best links courses, St. Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie and, you guessed it, Kingsbarns.

Now in its 12th year the Dunhill Links Championship has grown in both stature and prize-money to become one of the European Tour's most prestigious and richest events of the season, with Kingsbarns rightfully taking kudos for the impressive role it continues to play in the Dunhill Links Championship. And the accolades keep rolling in.

Golf Magazine's most recent ranking of their "Top 100 World Courses", places Kingsbarns in 54th position. Golf Digest Magazine puts the course in the # 12 spot in their "Top 50 Courses in Britain and Ireland" rankings and Golf Week Magazine rates Kingsbarns as the best modern course (built after 1960) in Great Britain and Ireland.

Despite the American influences, Kingsbarns remains as pure a thoroughbred Scot as any links to be found in the entire country. If, as many believe, this is one of the very last links to be added to the world's richest inventory of such courses, what a grand finale Kingsbarns has turned out to be.

As impressive as the course proved to be on opening day, twelve years of aging has only added to its appeal -- Kingsbarns has matured and mellowed with true Scottish style.

Strikingly handsome, with picture postcard ocean views from practically every hole, don't be misled into thinking good looks conceal any shortcomings in the challenge department. This is a layout that has everything you expect from a traditional links and then some -- the talents of Kyle Phillips have simply produced a better mousetrap.

The traditional out and back design is filled with a mind-boggling variety of challenges, yet there is nothing disjointed about Kingsbarns and everything blends perfectly into a layout that has an almost gracious and thoroughly natural flow. But in spite of the spectacular good looks and amazing views, a round at Kingsbarns will never be known as a walk in the park.

The bunkering is formidable and there is an array of bushes and rough that is nothing less. Majestic sandhills complicate the effects of a cantankerous wind coming in from the sea that can befuddle and confuse the accomplished as well as the novice links player mercilessly. The greens cling passionately to the natural terrain, which fills them with contours and undulations, sometimes subtle, other times not. The fairways with their pure links turf are a delight, with plenty of opportunity to open the shoulders and drive as far as you are able. Measuring well over 7,000 yards from the tips, Kingsbarns is ready, willing and able to challenge the best.

Since that July day in 2000, when Kingsbarns was introduced to the world, no trip to St. Andrews is complete without experiencing this course considered to be at least the equal of any links in the British Isles -- it's a challenge and experience not to be resisted.

Kingsbarns has established itself as a definite, must play course, to be included in any visit to St. Andrews, but for more suggestions on how to make this stunner a part of your Scottish golf trip, contact the Scotland experts at Golf International by calling toll-free, 1 (800) 833-1389, or click here.

©2012 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.