One of the world's oldest golf clubs, Crail Golfing Society was founded in February 1786 and initially comprised membership of just 11 local golfers. The club's original home was located at Sauchope just outside the picturesque fishing village of Crail and it was not until 1895, with the help of Old Tom Morris, that they relocated to their present home at Balcomie Golf Links.
With the hardships of the First World War, the local town council had to come to the rescue of the club when they took over the lease of the links, which they eventually purchased in 1924. And as with many Scottish courses, the links was requisitioned for military use during the Second World War but by 1946, golf at Balcomie Links was restored. Jointly run by both the council and the club for a time, in 1973 Crail Golf Club purchased the entire facility for the sum of ?30,000.
Crail boasts two links golf courses - the Craighead Links and the Balcomie Links. And while both are excellent tests, it is the Balcomie Links that is recognised as the slightly better layout. Even with a par of 69, the Balcomie Links at Crail is not particularly long but it is a truly beautiful venue with superb views of the sea from every tee. The course is always in immaculate condition and boasts crisp links turf and greens, which can become dangerously fast during the summer months. Far removed from the bustle of everyday life, many fairways climb and tumble alongside the water's edge and the rocky outcrops of the Forth shore.
As befits a classic links, each hole has its own character - a feature that always ensures a fascinating round of golf. The successive par fours at the 4th and 5th offer tempting shortcuts across the shoreline, with the latter aptly called "Hell's Hole", representing a fearsome 459-yard par four, where it's make your mind up time as to whether you try to carry the beach or take the sensible way around. Measuring less than 3,000 yards, the homeward journey offers some of the finest short holes anywhere and the memory of the back-to-back 13th and 14th will linger for a long time. Like many top courses, the last few holes will test the most accomplished golfer but no matter how well or badly you fare, you will remember Crail as a stunning golfing experience.
Several of the fairways wind alongside golden sandy bays and rocky outcrops of the Firth foreshore. They come into play at the 2nd, 4th and Hell's Hole - the 5th, where you must make up your mind whether to carry the beach or take the east way round.
You will love the challenge and no doubt take with you everlasting memories of the 13th and 14th. Like so many top courses, the last few holes will test you, but no matter how badly you fare, you will remember Balcomie as one of your finest days on any golf course.
American designer Gil Hanse studies, plays and is a mine of information on Scottish courses and Craighead features many of the best aspects of Scottish classic links.
It has panoramic seascapes and country views and is perfectly located just south of the present clubhouse.
Gil has made this a testing but fair challenge, however be warned - there are hungry bunkers aplenty. No two consecutive holes face the same direction and with constantly changing conditions, there is enough of a variety of shots to test any golfers ability. We think you will agree that Craighead is a worthy neighbour of Balcomie.
Played it in a one-club wind with my 15yo daughter (handicaps are +1 and she's off 3). She skated round in 69 without having to use her driver all day so it wasn't too taxing and neither of us could figure out how the par was 72 for the ladies; just as baffling was the SSS69 off the men's back tees. Too many short holes (six par 4s of less than 300 yards for the ladies) which makes the par 72 even more unbelievable. I read somewhere that the ladies club champion played off 10 which would be 15 or 16 anywhere else. It's a decent start with nice views for the first few holes before it turns inland but too many par 3s and a silly 200 yard par 4 from the red tees (13th hole). I shot 66 without breaking sweat and using the driver just four times. It made a pleasant interlude from the longer and more challenging nearby tracks such as St Andrews New and Jubilee course and of course Kingsbarns and I'd say Crail is fortunate to be located so close to these great courses for without that there would be few who would make the trip. Ideal for holiday, fun golf and for the double-figure handicap players whether male or female but not for the serious golfer. Sorry everyone but I'd give it 2 stars out of 5 for the test of golf.
Favourite Hole: 18
Last Played: 06 September 2015.
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