TORRANCE & KITTOCKS COURSES, ST ANDREWS

TORRANCE & KITTOCKS

To the north of St Andrews lies the Firth of Tay, and ‘Carnoustie country beyond’. To the south lies some cliffs overlooking the North Sea and the town itself. The fabled golf courses are located on a piece of genuine links land just north of the ‘auld grey toon’, at the head of the Eden estuary.

As golf became more popular in the 1890’s demand to relieve the pressure on the Old Course grew. The New Course was built, and was quickly followed by the Jubilee Course. In the twentieth century the Eden and Strathtryum courses were added, along with the nine-hole Balgove. There was little point in pretending otherwise however, the courses that had secured first use of the more conducive terrain were significantly better, despite all the advances in design paradigms and earth moving technology. Hemmed in on this narrow piece of land then, the scope for future development was increasingly limited.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s perhaps staggering to think that it only took golf nearly six centuries to complete the five mile migration from the town to the cliff tops, but this is what began to happen as the millennium approached.

The driving force for this was the St Andrews Bay leisure development, and the Fairmont hotel. Normally when a leisure developer gets involved with a golf course we might be forgiven for fearing the worse. A soulless corporate track is hardly unheard of, but the likes of Turnberry and Gleneagles offered some hope, as did the name of St Andrews. Put bluntly, if you put a sub-standard golf course into St Andrews, and one which has more eye on room fill than course design, you’re going to get slaughtered. Building on non-links land is a big enough risk as it is, without adding a poor quality development to the charge sheet. Tread carefully, but don’t compromise the golf!

Despite this though, the opportunity was tantalising. Was it possible to transpose a linksy design, to the cliff tops? Pebble Beach had already shown what drama might be possible. Cape Kidnappers had taken cliff-top design to new heights. History had neglected something and we were just beginning to realise it. The ‘home of golf’ actually had undeveloped cliff top locations. Not only that, the landscape was particularly favourable, and enhanced further by the views out to sea and some beguiling vistas stretching back into St Andrews itself to stamp a sense of ‘place’ on the product. The challenge couldn’t be allowed to go unmet. Out of this ambition was born the Torrance course, quickly followed by the Kittocks. If imitation is the finest form of complement, then it wasn’t long (2008) before the St Andrews Links Trust built their own cliff top track when the Castle Course was added to the portfolio to complete a trinity of this course type. All three have been accepted into the fold now, and are growing in popularity.
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Torrance Course

Built 2001
Yardage back tees 7320 yds
Par 72
Scottish Ranking 57th
Handicap Restrictions No handicap restrictions apply

 

The Course itself

The Torrance course, as the name suggests, was fronted by Scotland’s Sam Torrance, but it was equally a collaboration with Denis Griffiths and Gene Sarazen as the trio set to work on some promising, but largely flat farmland to give it a links feel. Host to The Final Open Qualifying in 2010 and home to The Scottish Senior Open between 2009 and 2014, the Torrance Course wasn’t slow in laying down a marker and is often regarded as having some of the best greens in Scotland.

The opening holes are routed around the Fairmont hotel. A burn is in play on the first and extra club is advisable to avoid the dreaded Scottish ‘roll back’. The second is a long par 4 that requires two mighty hits. A fairway bunker provides a good visual navigation. The third hole introduces water on the right flank, which hasn’t gone without comment. The greater threat comes from the fairway burn however that will dictate your choice of strategy with your second, take it on, or lay up? It’s not really the sixth can be particularly demanding. The seventh is an interesting dog-leg right, short par 4, with risk written all over the aggressive direct line. You’re given two distinct lines and a choice.

The ninth marks the beginning of a change as the course starts to go through its gearbox and crank things up. The tenth is a tough part 4 with balls being kicked to the right. The twelfth has been turned from a demanding par 4 into a demanding par 5.

Torrance served his coup-de-grace for the final holes however as the round builds to a finale. Things become progressively dramatic as the cliffs are brought more into play. The closing stretch of holes are especially scenic and challenging with greens that play right on the edge. The sixteenth invites you to drive the ball to Norway as the target sits precipitously on the cliff edge. An over-hit here will see you sail through the back and 100 feet below you might find your ball. The seventeenth is another stunner. A par 3 with views of the St Andrews skyline and mountains beyond. A stonewall also protects

The closing assignment is a par 5 that offers you a chance of defending or going out in glory. If you take the view that you can reach in two, then its time to open your shoulders and risk falling short into a heavily bunkered zone. The more restrained option leaves a relatively gentle pitch to a two tiered green

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Kittocks Course

Built 2002
Yardage back tees 7192 yds
Par 72
Scottish Ranking 72nd
Handicap Restrictions No handicap restrictions apply

 

The Course itself

The Kittocks opened a year later than the Torrance and aspired to achieve many of the same objectives. It is perhaps something of a hybrid. It makes greater use of links style deep revett faced bunkers and undulating greens. It also weaves a couple of links staples such as stonewalls and burns into the design. In a nod to the American market however, it’s introduced some man-made lakes though which purists haven’t always warmed to. Finally of course, the location pretty well determines that it is a cliff top course. The Kittocks was subjected to a refurbishment in 2009 and gained a couple of holes from the Torrance to reinforce it.

The first four holes are a relatively gentle start. The Kittocks explodes however from the fifth onwards, a par 5 that begins your association with the along the edge of the ‘Kittocks Den’, a deep ravine between two cliff systems, as the terrain begins to rock and roll. It all becomes a decidedly treacherous mixture of inspiring open expanse with the ever attendant knowledge that playing towards the sea means danger lurks just beyond

The par 4, seventh is a delight. The hole is set into the rugged coastline with an approach that beckons you towards the North Sea. The green grimly claws onto a promontory that prevents it crashing into the waves below. The eighth brings vegetation into the defence, whereas the ninth is another played to an infinitely view of the sea from an elevated tee with an out of bounds towards the back of the green (as if it were needed) the drop onto the beach suffices!

The fourteenth marks the beginning of a long march stretch home. Not unlike the Torrance course, the Kittocks also finishes strongly. The fifteenth is a dog-leg that draws you towards a hanging cliff top green, requiring you negotiate stone walls and some capricious fairways contouring first however. Torrance has allowed to be known that the seventeenth is his favourite hole on the property. The second shot will leave an indelible impression on the memory, or forced carry over a cliff edge to a large cliff top green. The final hole is no less tricky if not quite so heroic. Control is the secret to getting home without any further punishment. The fairway narrows in places but the secret probably lies in understanding the contours of the green

One question that having two courses in such close proximity naturally invites, is which of the pair is the better? In truth they’ve largely been designed to be of equal status and to persuade the visiting golfer to play both in a single day with lunch in between. This isn’t actually a bad strategy. Note how we’ve avoided the answer? The reason is largely because we don’t know. At the time of writing, the Torrance course marginally out scores the Kittocks in the rankings, but most of the anecdotal opinion we’re increasingly hearing suggests that the Kittocks is held in higher regard. We think we’d probably lean towards the Kittocks, but we’re happy to sit on the wall on this one (so long as it isn’t the wall at the 17th, as falling off would ruin our day!). We suppose that the Torrance might have the greater highlights, but the Kittocks has the depth

Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs

When playing Scotland you are very much in the heartland of the sports traditions. In some cases this needn’t extend to 20th century inventions such as buggies/ carts. You are invited to take a step-back into history. Being a resort complex however of recent vintage the two Fairmont courses are much more obliging in this field and were designed accordingly.

 

Driving Range Available Yes
Rental Carts Available Yes
Rental Trolleys Yes
Caddies Yes – gratuity at own discretion
Rental Clubs Available Yes
Pro Shop Yes
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