Updated: May 21, 2015
Castle Course St. Andrews Review:The Castle Course is the newest golf course to be added to the St. Andrews Links. It is one of seven public courses available to play in St. Andrews and I played it in April 2010. We had an early morning tee time and the entire course was covered in a heavy fog. We waited for about 2 hours and the fog lifted leaving an amazing landscape with some of the most beautiful golf holes we would see on the entire trip. The course was designed by David Kidd, the same guy who created Bandon Dunes on the Oregon Coast. I live in Portland so I have played Bandon many times and this was a good chance for me to compare Scottish links golf to the courses we have in Oregon. The Castle Course is not even 2 years old, yet it will probably become a classic amongst Scottish golf tourists. The yellow tees put us at about 6400 yards total and that was plenty for us to test our skills. Most of us were 14 to 18 handicaps and even with good weather we had trouble on several holes. The greens are what make this course so tough, I 3 putted 7 of the 18 holes and felt like an amateur.
Is the Castle Course worth it? As part of booking the Old Course in April we had to select another course amongst the St. Andrews Links to play. The second course we decided on was the Castle Course. We had heard great things about the course and thought it would be a good challenge. The rugged coastline that the course goes along helps make for some spectacular photo ops. The par 3 third hole killed me as the flag was back left and the green is sloped so severely I had trouble holding the green with 2 bunker shots. The payoff on the course is the 6th hole (par 4) that goes down towards the coast. On a clear day like the one we had - you can easily see the town of St. Andrews in the distance. Take photos from this spot or on the next tee box as they are very memorable. Weather in this region is definitely hit and miss, so if you get clear skies take advantage of the course. In talking to locals, when the rain or wind pops up, the Castle Course is a beast in all senses. We had 1 in our group break 100, playing it a second time would surely lower some scores as we fell victim to some spots on the course that we would avoid next time. You can take out a caddie, but it's really not necessary unless you don't want to lug your clubs up and down. I have to say it was a real workout on the back nine as you climb up the hills and gain some elevation. Take your time, enjoy the views, and have fun. The pace of play was a touch slower on the Castle Course versus the Old Course, but we were never hassled by the course marshals. Expect tough bunkers with whispy, nasty looking grass surrounding them. The bunkers are more an addition to the fairways than their own entity (much like you see at Bandon Dunes). You can see an entire breakdown of the course online at http://www.standrews.org.uk/The-Courses/The-Castle-Course.aspx. They have a hole by hole guide available online, although you get a yardage book when you check-in with the starter which has similar write ups on the holes. In mid April the course had very little play on it and only a few foursomes were playing in the afternoon. We finished up around 4 PM and went to the unique looking clubhouse and had a drink before leaving the course. The restaurant serves up some decent food - breakfast or lunch is reasonable.
Castle Course Green Fees:How much is it to play the Castle Course St. Andrews? As with all these courses, the time of year that you play will ultimately dictate what you pay. We hit the shoulder season in April and paid something like 85 GBP ($135 US), but it goes up almost 50% once you hit high season which of course runs through the summer. If possible, play in the early spring as the course is beautiful with the gorse in full bloom. The Castle Course is open on Sundays (unlike St. Andrews), so we fit the course in on Sunday and played the Old Course on Monday. Tee times were given to us via our initial application to play the Old Course. This meant that we didn't choose our exact times or day, we just took what they gave us. You can play just the Castle Course and book a tee time online and pay for it in advance. They have a pretty good Internet booking system where you can see availability and pick a time. I would say the Castle Course green fees are reasonable for what you get. Everyone in our group agreed the course is scenic with incredible views and well worth the money.
Castle Course St. Andrews Location - Directions:Lots of people have asked us where the course is at. It's not as evident as you may think as the Castle Course is not bunched in with the other St. Andrews Links that are right in town. You have to travel a few minutes south on A917 to get to the Castle Course. Go past the Fairmont Hotel and you will see signs for the course on your left hand sign. If you Google the location you can get directions that way. Also, if you don't have a rental car, take the FREE shuttle bus offered by the St. Andrews Links that will take you from the practice range to the courses. It's very efficient and often a better choice than driving yourself. There is plenty of parking at the course if you drive.