Image by Kevin Murray.
To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
The game has been played across the historic Elie golf links since the 15th Century and given the panoramic views and superb setting it is little wonder the course has established itself as such a firm favourite for visitors over the years.
Despite it’s apparent lack of yardage, Elie is not a course that gives up good scores easily and the patient player that crafts their way around these cultured links will always fare better than the thoughtless golfer who tries simply to overpower them.
Before advances in technology enabled the professional players to hit the ball out of sight, the quality of the course at Elie saw it chosen to host many notable tournaments. These have included: the British Seniors Championship, the Scottish Professionals Championship, the Scottish Ladies Championship and qualifying rounds for the Open Championship when it was being played at nearby St Andrews. By way of footnote, James Braid was born in 1870 in Earlsferry, which is the adjoining village to Elie. Braid was an early professional but most renowned today as a prolific course designer. He is arguably the most famous son of the area.
|Ranking||50th in Scotland|
|Handicap Restrictions||28 for gentlemen, 36 for ladies|
The Course itself
The ‘fun’ at Elie starts early at first tee. The opening shot involves a blind tee shot over a thirty foot high rise in the ground to a fairway beyond. It is here that you’ll find one golf’s charming quirks. To the uninitiated it looks like a small scale drilling rig, but starters hut has an unusual contraption, a periscope salvaged from a Royal Navy submarine. HMS Excalibur was revolutionary British design, the only submarines powered by high test peroxide (HTP). The words “revolutionary” and “British design”, rarely prove to be an enduring marriage however. HMS Excalibur was no exception. By the end of 1968 she’d been scrapped due to the volatility of HTP as a power source, but the periscope was put to good use at Elie. It gives the starter a perfect view over the hill at the first hole and having made sure the group in front are well on their way, he can then safely invite golfers on the tee to ‘play away.’ Visiting golfer’s are encouraged to take a view, indeed, the canny golfer will also take a moment to see just where the hole on the second green has been cut for the day!
After you’ve chalked up the opening assignment, you move onto the challenging second. The green is in range for the big hitters, but out of bounds on the right and deep greenside bunkers mean the percentage tee shot is to play short and for the middle of the fairway. It’s an early introduction to the types of questions that Elie asks, and teases you into biting. From here it’s only a short iron in, but there are still the bunkers to contend with and a steep run off through the back. From this high point on the course, looking across the Firth of Forth to Muirfield, North Berwick and beyond is a joy in itself.
The third is your first par 3, ‘Wickets’. Depending on the strength of the wind you will need anything from a mid-iron to a driver to reach the green. Short and wayward shots will be mopped up by well-placed bunkers right and left.
After negotiating a few humps and hollows, and out-of-bounds, the course starts to reveal another side to its personality at the sixth as it sweeps down to the coast. Playing over the crest of a hill some 180 yards off, a driver is likely to land you in one of the medley of bunkers that lie out of sight and protect the entrance to the green.
The seventh is one of the more forgiving tasks on the links. This is a short par four that plays down the prevailing wind and can often be reached with a well-struck long iron. A crested fairway means the large green is out of sight. By contrast the eighth ‘Neuk’ is ranked number 1 by stroke index. The rough down the left and the path down the right angle in towards each other to create the visual impression of driving into a narrowing fairway. Play into this apex and your second should take you over the raised path and then on to the generous green behind. A brute of a bunker squats front and right of the green. You complete the outward nine at ‘Martins Bay’, a par 4, often played directly into the prevailing breeze. This hole plays every one of its 440 yards.
You turn for home at the tenth, ‘Lundar law’ which involves yet another blind drive over a hill. If you fail to scale the summit, you will have a tricky blind second, on to the green that slopes wickedly away to the sea.
You now begin a small run of coastal holes which will always inspire. Standing at the water’s edge, the ‘Sea Hole’ leaves little to the imagination of this delightful par 3. This rugged tee is as beautiful and dramatic as any in Scottish golf and has a vague echo of Turnberry about it.
The twelfth, ‘Bents’, is the second toughest hole by SI. It sets a familiar Scottish puzzle. The drive here is all about holding your nerve as the beach juts in from the left. Try to cut too much off the dog leg and the shore lies in wait; but shy away from it entirely and there is a well-placed bunker out right. It’s not quote Machrihanish in so far as it doesn’t involve driving over the beach, but the question of how much of the apple you dare bite is similar.
The thirteenth is a beautiful hole. The ideal drive will land you right of centre on the fairway, leaving you to contemplate your second to the wide and narrow raised green that rests underneath the steep cliffs behind. The approach into this hole is another of the signature shots at Elie and you have to carry it all the way if you do not want to end up in the hollow that lies in front.
The fourteenth sees us turning again and playing back inland. The hillside field bordering the left side of this hole is out of bounds and the ideal driving line is over the top of the small ditch that protrudes from the right into the middle of the fairway. ‘Suckielea’ is one of the tougher asks at Elie. The fifteenth sets what will by now have become an all to familiar challenge. Playing towards the crest of the hill, only the big hitters can get over and down towards the green beyond. Land your drive on the right hand side of the fairway and you will give yourself a sight of the green for your second. Like an upside down umbrella, this concave green looks very inviting, but it is easy to slide off the back and into the bunker behind.
The sixteenth, ‘Grange’, is the last remaining hole that could be described as difficult. Driving over a gentle rise, the rough on the right is pitted with bunkers. Further ahead the fairway is pinched between two grassy knolls before opening up to the green beyond. Four greenside bunkers and out of bounds through the back put a real premium on both line and length with your second. The seventeenth invites the prevailing wind to lend you a hand at this long par four. Accuracy is everything with out-of-bounds and a driveable bunker waiting down the left. Finally, you’ll stand on the eighteenth with a smile on your face we hope. Out of bounds flanks the right side of this final fairway and a straight, solid tee shot is needed to avoid the bunkers that lie both right and centre. Once safely on the plateau beyond, two cross-fairway bunkers then sit 50 yards in front of the large green. A little hollow at the front edge will gather up anything short, (think the valley of sin at St Andrews), whereas a fence at the back is out-of-bounds
The Elie golf links is one of the most highly regarded courses in Scotland and the historic links terrain effortlessly combines undulating fairways with large, fast and firm greens. It also has some sensational views for golfers to enjoy and these play an important part in creating what is one of the most wonderful golfing experiences. Indeed, Peter Thomson, winner of five Open Championships, calls Elie a jewel amongst Scotland’s elite courses, and says:
“It’s quirky and it’s the most enjoyable course I know. If I had my way I’d build Elie’s all over the world.”
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Rental Carts Available||Yes, but restricted in number|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|
When playing Scotland you are very much in the heartland of the sports traditions. In a lot of cases this won’t extend to 20th century inventions such as buggies/ carts. You are invited to take a step-back into history to a large extent and play a round in the manner more akin to how the game was originally conceived. Elie is one of the less physically demanding courses